Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, April 16, 2019, 3:17 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Minister Kono’s Visit to the United States
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I am scheduled to visit the United States from April 18-21. I am going to attend the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee (SCC) (Japan-U.S. “2+2”) with Minister of Defense Iwaya on April 19, and would like to hold discussions regarding the future ideal form of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, cooperation toward enhancing deterrence and capabilities, and more based on what has been established in the basic policies in the fields of security and defense between Japan and the United States, including the National Defense Program Guidelines.
Also, taking this opportunity, I am scheduled to hold a Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.
(2) Issuance of a Message of Condolences for the Fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France
Minister Kono: Last night, I sent a message of condolences addressed to Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of the French Republic Le Drian regarding the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Notre Dame Cathedral probably has a profoundly deep historic legacy for many Japanese people who visited Paris, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It can be said that this fire is an extremely major loss not only for France but the entire world. We would like to cooperate if there is anything Japan can do for aspects such as the repair.
Japan-U.S. 2+2 andChina
Kyodo News, Niwa: During your recent visit to China, you confirmed with the Chinese side the recognition that Japan-China relations have returned to a path of normalcy, and indicated your will to build a new era between Japan and China at the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense of the House of Councillors today. At the Japan-U.S. 2+2 on April 19, from the perspective of the United States and security, what recognition would you like to share regarding China?
Minister Kono: There was a continued period of the Japan-China relations in which various dialogues and exchanges were frozen, but through high level mutual visits, including Premier of the State Council Li Keqiang’s visit to Japan, Prime Minister Abe’s visit to China, and the expected visit to Japan of President Xi Jinping for the G20 Summit this year, various dialogue level exchanges between Japan and China have been restored. In that sense, I believe it is fine to say that relations have been normalized.
On the other hand, it cannot be said that the East China Sea issue has been resolved. I have stated this during foreign minister’s meetings as well, and the reality is that there are issues that need to be resolved including the East China Sea and joint resources development. I would like to have firm discussions on these between Japan and the United States as well.
Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: I believe you will meet Secretary of State Pompeo after quite some time at the Japan-U.S. 2+2 and the Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, so what points would you like to confirm regarding North Korea, such as maintaining sanctions?
Minister Kono: Through telephone talks and more with Secretary of State Pompeo, I have always been confirming the recognition of the North Korea issue. Nothing has changed, but we will probably mutually confirm everything thus far.
Case Concerning Former Ambassador to Iran Kinichi Komano
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: In March this year, criminal charges brought by a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) staff member were accepted to be lodged because she says she was sexually harassed by the former Ambassador to Iran. Can you please confirm the facts of the case on behalf of MOFA and explain the response thus far?
Minister Kono: MOFA recognizes that criminal charges have been filed. The victim has told MOFA various things, and MOFA has responded closely with the victim.
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: Did MOFA warm the former ambassador regarding sexual harassment?
Minister Kono: I believe that of course occurred.
Fuji Television Network, Sato: There are reports about suspicions of sexual harassment committed by the former Ambassador to Kenya. What is the reaction of MOFA regarding this phenomenon continuing and diplomacy personnel representing Japan committing such acts?
Minister Kono: Sexual harassment is something that cannot be forgiven, and this is clearly stated to MOFA personnel, including ambassadors. MOFA handles cases in which sexual harassment is confirmed with severe punishment.
TV Asahi, Anzai: The victim told us, and also wrote in her statement, that in her exchanges with MOFA, she was requested to “forget that dirty old man” and cancel everything. Do you think that MOFA’s response was a correct action?
Minister Kono: I am not aware of this. It is my recognition that MOFA has responded closely with the victim through now.
TV Asahi, Anzai: You always state that there are severe responses to sexual harassment and power harassment. Is it fine to say that if the facts of the case are recognized, the response of MOFA would be the same as this?
Minister Kono: I am not aware of the details of the response by MOFA. I am not aware of what you just stated.
Malaysia’s Continued Railway Project with China
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: In regard to the railway construction by China in Malaysia, Prime Minister Mahathir finally decided to implement with the cooperation of China the railway project that would connect Malaysia from east to west, which had been temporarily frozen to be put under review. There were concerns such as about the soundness of their debt, but these ended and it was decided to implement the project. What are the thoughts of Japan about this decision, particularly because Japan advances high-quality infrastructure under various principles?
Also, at the recent Japan-China Economic Dialogue, I believe cooperation with third party countries was another major focus. For advancing such cooperation, what effect do you think the decision by Malaysia will have?
Minister Kono: I have stated through now regarding infrastructure matters that it is welcomed if advancing projects in a manner in conformance with international common concepts, including openness, transparency, fiscal soundness, and the soundness of the debt of the target country, contributes to the regional economy as well as the world economy. I do not have any particular comment regarding the decision by the Government of Malaysia, but I believe it would be a good thing to develop infrastructure in such a manner as I stated.
Japan believes that infrastructure developed in this manner with firm cooperation with private companies contributes to regional development.
Minister Kono’s Visit to the United States
NHK, Okuzumi: In regard to the bilateral meeting at the same time as the 2+2, you mentioned earlier North Korea in your discussions with Secretary of State Pompeo. There are various matters in regard to North Korea, China, sanctions on Iran, and the Middle East, but what points would you like to discuss in particular? As another question, there are many people in the United States besides Secretary of State Pompeo such as National Security Advisor Bolton. Can you please tell us the status of coordination of meetings with such people and what you would like to discuss if meetings are realized?
Minister Kono: There are still a few days until the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, so during this time I would like to make decisions in order of precedence in a firm manner. It will be on Good Friday during Easter so a long amount of time will not be possible, but I would like to carefully discuss high priority matters. Regarding meetings, what will be announced and not announced is now being coordinated.
Situation in the Middle East
PanOrient News, Azhari: I would like to ask about the Middle East. I think yesterday Japan sent two observers from the Ground Self-Defense Forces to Egypt to observe the truce. That’s the first contribution from Japan oversea in this regard. Do you have a plan to send more troops and some observers to the region, especially to Syria? And how do you evaluate the Middle East Peace process now, especially with the recent clashes and expansion of settlements by Israel?
Minister Kono: The peace and stability in the Middle East is very important for Japan, as well as global economy and global situation. Especially for us, our energy depends on oil and gas from the Middle East, so it’s a vital to the Japanese economy. Right now, there are lot of foreign fighters coming back to Asia, we need to work together to prevent spread radicalism through these people. I think it is a good idea for us to participate in MFO, as it’s a part of, a foundation of peace and prosperity of the region, and the truce between Israel and Egypt. So I think it is a good opportunity for us to participate. If we are sending any other member to any other organization, we have not considered those things yet.
Submission of the “Kyoto Appeal” by Professor Takashi Shiraishi, Chairman of the Meeting of the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: Today, you received the appeal conceived of by the members of the Meeting of the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament. What would you like the input to be for the upcoming Preparatory Committee of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference?
Minister Kono: I have heard about the Kyoto Appeal, and I am aware that it was worked on aiming for input at the upcoming meeting. Japan will firmly provide input at the meeting.
Japan-U.K. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
Mlex, Sakamaki: Can you please tell us the content of the Japan-U.K. Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, what statements there were regarding Brexit, and what the response was from the U.K. side?
Minister Kono: It was agreed to hold the Japan-U.K. Foreign and Defense Ministerial Meeting (“2+2”) as quickly as possible. In regard to Brexit, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Hunt provided an explanation of the current situation as well as the future direction. In addition, we had a quite frank exchange of views regarding various matters concerning both Japan and the United Kingdom.