Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Tuesday, April 23, 2019, 11:30 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.

Opening Remarks

(1) Diplomatic Bluebook 2019

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Diplomatic Bluebook 2019 was circulated at the Cabinet meeting today. It is scheduled to be available for sale in June. This is the Diplomatic Bluebook of the first year of the Reiwa period. I encourage everyone, including those who have never seen the Diplomatic Bluebook before, to pick up a copy and deepen their interest in diplomacy. Various efforts were made to make it accessible to the public by including content, such as the activities of Ambassador in Charge of the Promotion of Tabi-Regi Registration Kendo Kobayashi, the experiences of Chefs for Ambassadors/Consuls-General of Japan at their places of assignment, and the schedule of the foreign minister during overseas visits.

At the same time, the book fully informs Japan’s position regarding promotion of a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” issues regarding history, among other matters. Regarding the issue of comfort women and the issue of former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula, boxed articles have been newly included that provide a clear explanation of the Government’s efforts to date.

In addition, for young people aspiring to work at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) or international organizations, such as the United Nations (UN), the book contains an overview of the recruitment system and the Junior Professional Officer (JPO) program as well as comments from people who play active roles in the international community.

As I stated earlier, it is scheduled to be available for sale in around June.

(2) Traffic Regulations During the G20 Osaka Summit

Minister Kono: In connection with Japan’s hosting of the G20 Osaka Summit, the Hanshin Expressway will be subject to large-scale traffic regulations for a long period for four days beginning on June 27.

The G20 Osaka Summit to be held on June 28 and 29 will be attended by the heads of 37 countries and organizations, making it the largest summit in history hosted by Japan. It will bring international attention to Japan and will be an opportunity to increase awareness about the Japanese spirit of omotenashi hospitality and the attractions of Japan.

We are working closely with Osaka in steadily carrying out the preparations. In order to minimize the impacts on socioeconomic activities and the lives of citizens while securing smooth traffic flow, including for the leaders attending the summit, it is essential that the use of vehicles is avoided as much as possible to significantly reduce traffic volume during this period. We would like to ask for everyone’s understanding and cooperation for the inconveniences in order to make this summit successful.

During the G7 Ise-Shima Summit, I was Chairperson of the National Public Safety Commission and was responsible for the security and traffic. At that time, the summit was held extremely smoothly. As Foreign Minister, I would like to once again ask for the understanding and cooperation of the people of Japan and the local people in Osaka.

(3) WTO Dispute Settlement Proceedings for the ROK’s Import Restrictions on Japanese Fishery Products

Minister Kono: In today’s news, it may have been Asahi Shimbun, there was an article which somewhat lacked accuracy and could raise concerns over the safety of Japanese food products. In the report of the Panel, the Panel acknowledges that the safety of Japanese food products is ensured through Japan’s establishment of appropriate standard levels, monitoring, and proper management of shipping restrictions, and that because of such efforts, the concentration of radioactive cesium in Japanese food products is below the standard levels established by Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK).

In Paragraph 7.309 of the Panel’s report, it states clearly that, “The experts confirm that the data provided by Japan reasonably supports a conclusion that by 2015 the levels of caesium concentration in Japanese food, generally, returned to levels below 100 Bq/kg. Korea admits in that regard that none of over 188,000 consignments of Japanese food imported into Korea contained caesium in excess of 100 Bq/kg.” In the report of the Appellate Body, it is stated that, “We do not express a view on the Panel’s assessment of factual matters that are not challenged on appeal,” and makes it clear that the Appellate Body does not express a view.

We firmly ask the media to make accurate reports to ensure that they do not give rise to incorrect doubts regarding the safety of Japanese food products.

Explosions in Sri Lanka and Overseas Travel Safety During End of April–Early May Holiday

Jiji Press, Echigo: I have a question concerning the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka. Can you tell us the latest information regarding the safety of Japanese nationals? Secondly, a ten-day national holiday is coming up, during which the number of Japanese people traveling overseas will likely increase. What is your message to them if any?

Minister Kono: One person has passed away, and four people are injured. We have issued “spot information” for Sri Lanka. There will probably be many people traveling overseas over the ten-day holiday. I urge everyone to visit MOFA’s Overseas Safety website and check out the security situation in their destinations. At the same time, I would like to reiterate that travelers should register with Tabi-Regi. I hope everyone enjoys their travels at their own risk.

WTO Dispute Settlement Proceedings for the ROK’s Import Restrictions on Japanese Fishery Products

Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: My question is in regard to the WTO issue you discussed in your opening remarks. It may overlap slightly with what you have already stated. At your press conference on April 12, you stated a number of times that “the science-based safety of Japanese food products has been recognized.” The report does not contain such wording. Is it correct to understand that you said the safety was recognized based on science because the cesium concentration is below 100 Bq/kg and so on? Secondly, I understand that the Appellate Body has not made a judgment regarding the safety recognized by the panel of first instance. Is it appropriate to assert that the Appellate Body adheres to the judgment of the Panel? Can you please elaborate?

Minister Kono: With regard to the Appellate Body, it is as you stated. Anyone with scientific expertise will understand from reading the wording of the Panel’s report that Japanese food products are safe based on science.

Diplomatic Bluebook 2019

Kyodo News, Fukuda: I have a question regarding the Diplomatic Bluebook 2019 which you reported to the Cabinet meeting, as you mentioned in your opening remarks. In the 2019 edition, I could not find the wording, “the Four Northern Islands belong to Japan,” contained in the 2018 edition. What was the objective of this change?

Minister Kono: The Diplomatic Bluebook is written by comprehensively taking into account Japan’s diplomacy in the relevant year. Needless to say, there is no change in the legal position of the Government of Japan.

Minister Kono’s Visit to Russia

NHK, Okuzumi: I would like to ask about the schedule of your visit. A material submitted yesterday states that you will visit Russia from May 9 to 11 for a Japan-Russia foreign ministers’ meeting. I believe it was previously announced that Minister of Foreign Affairs Lavrov will visit Japan for a foreign ministers’ meeting. Can you tell us the background that led to your visit to Russia and what you expect from this foreign ministers’ meeting?

Minister Kono: The next foreign ministers’ meeting between Japan and Russia is now being arranged.

Number of Countries Visited by Minister Kono

Kyodo News, Fukuda: I would like to change the topic to your overseas visits. You have visited a total of 99 countries and regions so far, and the next visit will be your 100th country and region. You have constantly emphasized the importance of diplomacy where you physically visit the places and hold face-to-face discussions. Can you please share your thoughts if any with regard to reaching the milestone 100th country and region?

Minister Kono: There are 193 member states of the UN alone. The 100 figure you just mentioned is probably the total. I believe the actual number of countries I visited is 63, still less than one-third of the number of member states. The current international community or international organization is structured such that each country has importance for the various matters, such as reform of the UN Security Council. As Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, I believe I must engage in diplomacy with the spirit of not leaving any country out.

In addition to the destinations, it is also vital for Japanese diplomacy that Japan has been invited to or asked to co-chair international meetings, such as the Ministerial Meeting on United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the Jordan donors’ conference, and the Aqaba Process meeting hosted by His Majesty King Abdullah of Jordan.

As I have stated repeatedly, the amount of Japan’s official development assistance (ODA) has decreased. Furthermore, Japan must conduct diplomacy that is not backed by military power. Japan’s true and raw diplomatic capabilities are being tested. In the course of engaging in various efforts under these circumstances, it is extremely important that the Japanese foreign minister steadily attend international meetings and deepen bilateral relations. I am committed to continuing these efforts.

Diplomatic Bluebook 2019

Dong-A Ilbo, Kim: I would like to return to the Diplomatic Bluebook. The wording “future-oriented” was removed from the section on the Japan-ROK relations. I would appreciate if you could please explain.

Minister Kono: “Future-oriented” was removed? As I have stated from before, the wording in the Diplomatic Bluebook is chosen by comprehensively taking into account the situation in the relevant year. I do not have this year’s Diplomatic Bluebook with me right now. But with regard to the Japan-ROK relations, the year covered in the 2019 edition saw the decisions by the Supreme Court of the ROK regarding the issue of former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula, an announcement by the Government of the ROK regarding the intention to dissolve the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation, among other developments. It was a year in which there was a succession of negative moves by the ROK, and as a result, the Japan-ROK relations faced a severe situation.

Meanwhile, in view of the North Korean issues, it remains unchanged that Japan-ROK and Japan-U.S.-ROK coordination are essential, and it remains unchanged that we must work closely together. While I do not have it in front of me and cannot read out the relevant section, such matters are also published in the Diplomatic Bluebook. As I have stated repeatedly, people-to-people exchanges between Japan and the ROK now exceed 10 million people, and the number of mutual visits is at their highest right now in the nearly 2,000 years of history of Japan-ROK relations. We expect that once these difficult issues are resolved, we will once again be able to take a variety of actions to build future-oriented Japan-ROK relations.

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