Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Friday, April 26, 2019, 1:43 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: This is my final press conference during the Heisei period. There are still a few days remaining in the Heisei period, which has been a peaceful period of no war for Japan. I will work hard during these remaining days so that the peaceful period will continue and the next Reiwa period will be one of peace for Japan with no war.
(1) Minister Kono’s Visit to Saudi Arabia
Minister Kono: From tonight to April 29, I am going to visit Saudi Arabia. During this visit, I would like to reaffirm Japan’s support for reform for the future generation of Saudi Arabia and strengthening the strategic partnership through the steady implementation of “Japan-Saudi Vision 2030.”
There have been various incidents related to Saudi Arabia, but it is my recognition that the judicial authorities are working to conduct investigations and prevent recurrence. At the same time as conveying to my counterpart that Japan will not waver in its stance of firmly supporting this reform in Saudi Arabia, I would like to hold discussions toward regional stability with Saudi Arabia, a cornerstone for stability in the Middle East region where the situation is now greatly changing.
In addition, Japan will hold the G20 Osaka Summit this year, and I would like to confirm close cooperation with Saudi Arabia, which will hold the G20 Presidency next year.
(2) Minister Kono’s Visits to Angola, South Sudan, and Ethiopia
Minister Kono: If various circumstances permit, I am scheduled to visit the Republic of Angola, the Republic of South Sudan, and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia from May 2 to 6. This will be the first visit to Angola by a Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs in 17 years. There is active investment from Japan, it was decided to adopt the Japanese digital terrestrial television broadcasting system this March. I would like to strengthen cooperative relations toward business promotion, one of the main themes at TICAD this year, as well as other matters.
I believe that my visit to South Sudan will probably be the first by a Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs. Japan Self-Defense Forces personnel are working on planning as headquarters staff at the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS). It can be said that peace and stability by Africa itself are being put into practice there, so I would like to hold discussions centered on Japan’s support for the peace process in a firm manner.
Regarding Ethiopia, Prime Minister Abiy has been leading the peace and stability in the region known as the Horn of Africa, including resolving the dispute with Eritrea and restarting diplomatic relations after 20 years. I would like to firmly support such initiatives by Ethiopia, and would like to have firm discussions and exchanges of views in Addis Ababa with the African Union Commission (AUC), a joint sponsor of TICAD.
(3) Explosion Incidents in Sri Lanka (Ideal Reporting Methods)
Minister Kono: In regard to the explosion incidents in Sri Lanka, there is currently major coverage of the Japanese victims as well as the movements of their families and relatives. However, the reality is that the victims and their families strongly wish for their identities to not be revealed. Much has been happening, but I would like to request your understanding so your reporting considers the wishes and sentiments of the families and relatives.
(4) Implementation of Safety Measure Announcements On Airplanes During the Long Holiday Period
Minister Kono: I believe that many people plan to take overseas vacations during the long holiday period of 10 days starting tomorrow, and I would like them to take prudent caution regarding terrorism and crime while enjoying their travels.
With the cooperation of Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways, during Golden Week announcements will be implemented aboard airplanes on all the subject routes of both airlines regarding safety measures during overseas stays.
In any event, in order to have safe overseas travel, I would like people to register with “Tabi-Regi,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ overseas safety information transmission service, confirm recent public safety information and more, and take all safety measures.
Russia-North Korea Summit Meeting
NHK, Okuzumi: I would like to ask a question in relation to the Russia-North Korea Summit Meeting yesterday, during which President Putin referenced the Six-Party Talks. What are Japan’s thoughts on these talks and the necessity of this framework? Also, President Putin stated that North Korea needs to ensure safety and its regime security, so what is the reaction of Japan to this point?
Minister Kono: Regarding denuclearization of North Korea and the Korean Peninsula, Japan has close cooperation with the United States as well as Japan-U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) cooperation with firm understanding, and also of course would like to cooperate with China and Russia in a firm manner.
In regard to North Korea’s regime security, former Secretary of State Tillerson already made such a statement and it is clear there is no intention of changing the regime, so I believe this is not a new discussion.
Minister Kono’s Visit to Russia
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: There was already an announcement of the schedule of your visit to Russia at the beginning of Golden Week. It seems that perhaps it has been a difficult journey to meet Foreign Minister Lavrov again and conduct peace treaty negotiations, so how would you like to make a breakthrough? Also, this overlaps with the previous question, but Russia and North Korea just conducted a Summit Meeting, so I would like to hear your thoughts about which points you would like to confirm for cooperation with Foreign Minister Lavrov toward denuclearization of North Korea.
Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from answering on the peace treaty negotiations. But in regard to Russia and North Korea, I have heard about the discussion from the Russian side. Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a shared goal of Russia and North Korea, so I would like to have firm cooperation toward this.
Import Restrictions on Oil from Iran
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: I have two questions. Firstly, in relation to Iran, recently Secretary of State Pompeo announced that the special measure approving of import of oil from Iran for eight countries including Japan would be stopped on May 2. Was there an exchange regarding this at your recent meeting with Secretary of State Pompeo? Also, I believe you requested that that there be no impact on Japanese companies, so how will you discuss this with the U.S. side going forward?
Minister Kono: I held an exchange of views regarding the situation of Iran at the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting at the recent Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee (Japan-U.S. “2+2”). I have held various exchanges of views through now with Secretary of State Pompeo regarding the policy that there be no impact on Japanese companies, and I would like to continue exchanges with the U.S. side at various levels.
Minister Kono’s Visit to Saudi Arabia
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: I have another question in relation to your visit to Saudi Arabia that you mentioned during your opening remarks. Although it is being stated that a precise response and investigation is being conducted regarding the murder case of a journalist, during your visit this time, do you plan to make references such as requesting an investigation of this matter? Also, the United States is restricting imports of oil from Iran, so do you foresee having discussion concerning oil imports with the Saudis or discussions in regard to Iran?
Minister Kono: I will of course have an exchange of views regarding Iran and the general situation in the Middle East. I already conveyed Japan’s views regarding the Khashoggi case to the Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs when I met him either in Munich or at Davos. I apologize but I do not clearly remember now, but I believe it was at Davos.
Minister Kono’s Visits to Angola, South Sudan, and Ethiopia
Kyodo News, Fukuda: I would like to ask about your visit to Africa that you announced in your opening remarks. Angola and Ethiopia both have large amounts of debt with China, and it has been pointed out that they have fallen into a debt trap. Can you please tell us your views on how best to support such countries and how Japan will differentiate itself from China?
Minister Kono: It is not our intention to have a support competition. Japan will firmly do what it can. I believe China and Japan have various respective areas of strength, and various support is necessary in line with international standards, including infrastructure investment in accordance with international standards.
TV Asahi, Anzai: There are two months until the G20 Summit. You stated previously that preparation is being conducted for the G20 Summit including assistance from other ministries and agencies. What is the current situation?
Minister Kono: Excuse me, but I would like you to ask the G20 Summit Secretariat.
TV Asahi, Anzai: Also, this is the first time for it to be held in Japan and I believe the preparation is advancing steadily, but can you tell us if you have any concerns and so forth?
Minister Kono: I was National Public Safety Commission Chairman at the time of the Ise-Shima Summit, and as those of you who are from the area know, there were considerable traffic regulations. Compared with that time, I believe the scale of regulations will grow this time. There will be many participating countries and international organizations, so there will be traffic regulations as such people move about. This will thus cause various troubles to local people, but I would like to request their understanding of the significance of the G20 Summit and to receive their cooperation. We will firmly cooperate with the police to not trouble local people as much as possible, but in any event necessary measures such as traffic regulations must be taken, so we will firmly give explanations to receive understanding for this.
International Solidarity Tax
Tokyo Shimbun, Osugi: I would like to ask about an international solidarity tax. You previously stated that you would bring up an international solidarity tax at the G20 Osaka Summit. What are your thoughts on that now? Also, can you please give your thoughts again on the necessity of an international solidarity tax, and about the relation between the tax and the preamble of the Constitution, as Constitution Memorial Day is approaching?
Minister Kono: In order to achieve the SDGs, $2.5 trillion in investment is needed every year – I am not sure if that number is accurate, and maybe it was that a funding gap of $2.5 trillion needs to be overcome. This gap would not be covered if Japan doubled or tripled its ODA, so it is not something Japan alone can do. It would not even be covered if all the world’s countries doubled or tripled their ODA, so I believe how to cover this $2.5 trillion gap is an extremely major issue.
In addition, although the Cold War is over, last year had the greatest number of refugees and evacuees of 70 million people since World War II. It is easy to predict that natural disasters and evacuees are further increasing due to the effects of global warming, so it is necessary to give humanitarian aid to such people. On the other hand, it is not a situation in which Japan can rapidly increase ODA above financial limitations. Many countries have financial limitations and cannot increase various forms of support now, so what we need to do is think of fundraising methods that are a little creative. Thus, Japan will hold the presidency of the Meeting of the Leading Group on Innovative Financing for Development this year.
Amidst this, Japan will be at the forefront of the international community and lead discussions on a new mechanism for fundraising. I would like to firmly take up such matters at the Foreign Ministers’ Meetings at the G20 Summit, and to have such discussions at the G7 Foreign Ministers Meetings and other meetings. The topics to be discussed at the G20 Summit have not been definitively decided, but Japan will raise this at various international occasions.
To speak about the relation with the Constitution, I believe it is necessary from the perspective of world peace and for all people to live with human dignity, so rather than text or provisions, I believe that spirit should be included.
Minister Kono’s Visit to Saudi Arabia
PanOrient News, Azhari: Thank you very much Mr Kono. It’s my honor to be asking the last question of the Heisei era. I would like go back to your Saudi visit. Are you going to discuss security issues and nuclear energy cooperation with Saudi Arabia? There are some reports that they are planning to have some reactors in cooperation with the United States. Does Japan have some plans to cooperate nuclear energy in the Middle East and do you have any plan to discuss about that plan?
Minister Kono: I don’t think I will be particularly talking about the nuclear issue with Foreign Minister or anyone in Saudi Arabia, but I think energy is an important topic between the two countries, so energy in general may be on agenda.