Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, May 7, 2019, 12:12 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) Minister Kono’s Visit to Russia
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I am visiting Moscow from May 9 to 11. I plan to hold a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov on May 10 in Moscow, and I would like to have an exchange of views regarding bilateral issues such as concluding a peace treaty, urgent international situations such as North Korea, and other matters.
(2) Opening on Saturdays of the Diplomatic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (MOFA)
Minister Kono: I would like to observe the situation involving opening the Main Building Reading Room and Annex Exhibition Room of the Diplomatic Archives of MOFA limited to the fourth Saturday of each month from May 25. I recall that the Exhibition Room was opened during special exhibitions on Saturdays previously, but I believe this will be the first time opening the Main Building Reading Room on Saturdays.
An internet search service for the archives in the collection was started in December 2018, and I believe that even people who are far away will be able to utilize the Diplomatic Archives if they use that service in conjunction with the Saturday openings.
The Exhibition Room will be open for viewing to anyone who comes from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and the Reading Room will be open on a prior appointment basis from 11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Please see the website and other sources for details. It is set up so that if you apply for a record you would like to see, it will be prepared and you will be able to see it immediately after arriving. The openings will be on the fourth Saturday of each month, namely May 25, June 22, July 27, and August 24, and I would like to observe the situation until then and then make a decision for going forward.
Japan-North Korea Relations
Asashi Shimbun, Kihara: I would like you ask about measures on North Korea. Yesterday at the press conference following the Japan-U.S. summit telephone talk, Prime Minister Abe indicated that he is aiming for a meeting with Chairman Kim Jong-un without conditions. Prime Minister Abe has stated until now that there would be no meeting unless it contributed to resolving the abductions issue, thus putting conditions for a meeting, so does this mean that the policy of the Government of Japan has changed? I would like you to first answer regarding this point.
Minister Kono: There is no change to the policy. As stated in the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, diplomatic relations will be normalized when the nuclear, missile, and abductions issues are comprehensively resolved, so there is no change to the policy of aiming for this in the end.
Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: In relation to this, at your press conference which I believe was on May 5th in Ethiopia, you stated that it is not the case that the abductions issue would be raised as the entry point to a Japan-North Korea Summit Meeting. I would like to ask again how diplomatic efforts will be made to aim for a Japan-North Korea Summit Meeting going forward without placing the abductions issue as the entry point.
Minister Kono: Resolving something for the abductions issue is not the entry point, but naturally the exit would be the comprehensive resolution of the nuclear, missile, and abductions issues. There is no change to this.
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: Prime Minister Abe mentioned a meeting without conditions, but on the other hand comprehensive resolution of the nuclear, missile, and abductions issues is a prerequisite for normalizing diplomatic relations. What will the thinking be for conforming with that when making plans toward normalizing diplomatic relations going forward?
Minister Kono: As you know from seeing the U.S.-North Korea meeting, North Korea is a country where many decisions are made at the top level. So naturally when Japan considers resolving the abductions issue as well as the nuclear and missile issues, it is clear that there is a need for a Japan-North Korea Summit Meeting before considerable restoration of diplomatic relations. There is no change to this as in the past.
Kyodo News, Fukuda: I would like to ask again about Japan-North Korea relations. Is it correct to understand that there are preparations to conduct a Japan-North Korea Summit Meeting even if, as Prime Minister Abe stated, there is a risk that progress is unlikely to be made in the abductions issue?
Minister Kono: In short, having no movements regarding the abductions issue would not prevent holding a Japan-North Korea Summit Meeting, so the abductions issue is not placed before the entry point. Naturally the exit would be the comprehensive resolution of the nuclear, missile, and abductions issue.
Jiji Press, Echigo: I would like to ask a related question. You previously stated that North Korea is a country where many decisions are made at the top level. If that is so, then in the context of Japan and North Korea, are you thinking of the possibility of suddenly having a top level meeting like the ones between the United States and North Korea, without accumulating administrative work?
Minister Kono: There are several routes for this and this would be appropriate.
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: Resolving the abductions issue will not be placed as the entry point stage, so do you have the impression that repeatedly holding Japan-North Korea Summit Meetings will lead to the resolution of the abductions, nuclear, and missile issues?
Minister Kono: Nothing has been decided yet.
Launch of a Flying Object by North Korea
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: Yesterday, North Korea launched a flying object, and I believe analysis is currently being conducted on that. What is your reaction to such a launch amidst the agreement between the United States and North Korea for complete denuclearization? Also, if it was a ballistic missile, what are your thoughts on it being a possible violation of the sanctions resolutions?
Minister Kono: I believe it is as you stated. Currently the Ministry of Defense in Japan and the Pentagon in the United States are gathering and analyzing information.
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: Please tell us if you have a reaction at the present point.
Minister Kono: Information analysis is being conducted at this time, so I would like to wait for that.
Foreign Policy in the Reiwa Period
PanOrient News, Azhari: With the start of Reiwa, thai is translated by MOFA as beautiful harmony, I am wondering how does the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan is seeing the way to achieve harmony in its diplomacy. Do you have such mission that diplomacy, especially towards East and West Asia where harmony is really missing?
Minister Kono: As the former Emperor mentioned in his speech at the 30st Anniversary, Heisei was the era when there was no war involving Japan, and I think we all need to put more efforts in Reiwa so that this peaceful era should continue. As Japan does not use any military forces for diplomatic efforts, and our ODA is steadily decreasing, I think need to increase capability of diplomatic power of Japan. I think Foreign Ministry need to improve individual capacity of our diplomats, and I think we really need to share this aim with other countries. And hopefully we can solve the two issues that left for Reiwa, namely the peace treaty with Russia and return of abductees from North Korea, I think that have been left unsolved since the end of the war and for many decades for abductees. So I think we really need to push those two issues forward.
Issue of the Former Workers from the Korean Peninsula
Jiji Press, Echigo: In regard to the Republic of Korea (ROK) concerning the so-called former workers litigation, during the consecutive holiday period, the plaintiffs group requested the ROK court for realization of assets. MOFA immediately lodged a protest, but if realization of assets proceeds, it will produce real harm. I believe that opposition measures by the Government of Japan, which had been considering this, have now entered the field of vision, so what is the stage at the current point?
Minister Kono: There is no change to this issue. The Government of the ROK needs to make appropriate efforts to resolve this situation that is in violation of international law. There is no change to those circumstances.
Japan-North Korea Relations
Dong-A Ilbo, Kim: I would like to ask about the problem of North Korea. I am not sure if this is just my personal impression, but I feel that critical views have decreased a little compared to before, so I would like to ask if this is to aim for a Japan-North Korea Summit Meeting.
Minister Kono: Nothing in particular has changed.
Kyodo News, Fukuda: I would like to confirm a point regarding Japan and North Korea. Can you please tell us the reason for deciding to not make the abductions issue, which has been Japan’s maximum priority, the entry point? Was it decided that the families of the abduction victims are aging so firm efforts need to be made for this issue? Please explain the reason for deciding to not place this as the entry point.
Minister Kono: Nothing in particular has changed. As I have stated earlier, many decisions are made at the summit level in North Korea, so if we take the stance that we will not hold a summit level meeting unless a decision is made, then nothing will be resolved. There is no change to this.