Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Tuesday, May 14, 2019, 2:35 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

(1) Enactment of the Hague Convention Revised Legal System

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: On May 10, the Hague Convention revised legal system was enacted. The main purpose of the Hague Convention is the swift return of children who have been taken away crossing national borders. Japan was steadily implementing the Hague Convention based on its basic principle of putting the interests of children first, but at the same time it had been pointed out that review was necessary regarding the enforcement of returning children. It is expected that this revision will enhance the swiftness and efficiency of enforcement.

This year is the fifth anniversary of Japan’s conclusion of the Hague Convention, and a commemorative symposium is planned to be held on June 10. I would like to request everyone from the media to participate.

Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (OECD Ministerial Council Meeting)

Jiji Press, Echigo: There are some reports that a Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting is being coordinated in Paris, which you will visit for next week’s OECD Ministerial Council Meeting. Can you tell us the facts of the matter and what themes you would like to take up if it will be held?

Minister Kono: My visit schedule is still being coordinated.

Statements by a House of Representatives Member Participating in a Four Northern Islands Exchange Visit Project

NHK, Okuzumi: I would like to ask a question in relation to Russia. Yesterday, House of Representatives Member Hodaka Maruyama of the Japan Innovation Party asked the group leader for visa-free exchange visits questions such as whether he would support a war to recover the islands. This was criticized, so he withdrew his statements and apologized. What is your reaction to such statements, and what are your thoughts on whether this could affect the negotiations on a peace treaty between Japan and Russia?

Minister Kono: The Government is conducting the negotiations, so I do not believe there will be an effect, and I have heard that he apologized and withdrew his statements. I would like to be very careful about my statements.

President Trump’s Statements Regarding the Missile Launches by North Korea

Kyodo News, Fukuda: I would like to ask a question regarding President Trump’s statement concerning North Korea’s missile. In an interview with Politico on May 10, President Trump stated that because the ballistic missiles recently launched by North Korea were short-range ones, he does not consider it to be a breach of trust by Chairman Kim. He indicated that he sees short-range missiles as trifling and quite ordinary, and does not consider them a problem. Are Japan and the United States in agreement regarding the point that this is not considered a problem?

Minister Kono: I do not make comments regarding each and every one of President Trump’s tweets and comments. However, Japan and the United States call on the international community to firmly implement the United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and are in agreement that measures such as those to close the loophole of “ship-to-ship transfers” must be implemented with utmost efforts. I called for such things regarding the North Korea issue at yesterday’s Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and my meeting with the Secretary-General of ASEAN.

Visit to Japan by Member of the Central Politburo of the Communist Party of China Yang Jiechi

Shanghai East Television, Song: Member of the Central Politburo of the Communist Party of China Yang Jiechi will soon visit Japan. It seems that the Japanese side has set various meetings for that time, so what are your expectations? Have meetings also been set in locations outside the Tokyo Metropolitan Area?

Minister Kono: Member of the Central Politburo of the Communist Party of China Yang Jiechi is planned to visit Japan, I think from May 16-18. Nothing has been decided yet regarding the schedule including meetings.

Statements by a House of Representatives Member Participating in a Four Northern Islands Exchange Visit Project

Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: Returning to the statements by House of Representatives Member Maruyama, he made those statements after drinking alcohol during the visa-free exchange this time. What is your reaction to such an attitude during visa-free exchange built with the relationship of trust with Russia, and do you consider it to deserve resignation from the Diet?

Minister Kono: Diet positions are determined through elections, so I believe he himself will decide the course of action. Japan and Russia are currently conducting various negotiations on a peace treaty, and my true wish so to conduct those negotiations amidst as peaceful an atmosphere as possible. Frankly, I absolutely do not believe that such statements and actions amidst this can be a positive. I would like him to take a more serious attitude in a firm manner.

Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: Also in relation to the matter of House of Representatives Member Maruyama’s statements, if we look at the implication of his statement about needing to go to war, this viewpoint would mean that the Northern Territories will not be returned unless the situation is changed and the means of war is taken. He is not a member of the administration but he is in public office, but his statement seems to negate the administration’s assertion that the current situation is illegal occupation. What are your thoughts on this point as the person currently in charge of negotiations on behalf of the administration?

Minister Kono: The statements were made when he was drunk on alcohol, so the administration does not have any particular comment.

Situation in the Middle East

Mainichi Shimbun, Akiyama: I would like to ask about the situation in the Middle East. Currently concerning Iran, the United States and Iran, as well as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are saying that their respective country’s ships have been sabotaged in some way, and tensions are rising. What is your view of the current situation, and does Japan intend to make any sort of appeal?

Minister Kono: I consider the situation which is developing in the area of the Strait of Hormuz, which should be said to be the lifeline of Japan’s energy supply, is extremely grave, and we are closely monitoring the situation. Currently investigation is being conducted, but Japan has been raising various questions since before regarding the possibility of the closure of the Strait of Hormuz. In the case that it seems that the Strait of Hormuz will actually close, the Government will serious consider what response would be best to take.

Preparatory Committee for the NPT Review Conference

Chugoku Shimbun, Tanaka: I would like to ask about the recent meeting of the Preparatory Committee for the NPT Review Conference. In regard to the recommendations toward the Review Conference next year, unfortunately the gap between nuclear- and non-nuclear weapon states has not been filled in, and it ended with the recommendations not being adopted. Some people have pointed out that the Government of Japan is not sufficiently fulfilling its role as a bridge-builder, so I would like to ask your thoughts regarding this. In addition, I received the impression that the United States placed great importance on its assertion at the committee this time that building a new security environment is necessary for advancing further nuclear disarmament. What is your reaction to this?

Minister Kono: It is unfortunate that the recommendations did not reach adoption. I believe it would have been good if Japan had fulfilled its bridge-building role a little more, but if we look at what has happened thus far regarding adopting the recommendations, various discussions have come out. So I believe there is no need to be pessimistic, but I also do not believe it is a decidedly good situation.

The United States is raising various initiatives, and I believe there are areas in which Japan can make a contribution including the results of the so-called Group of Eminent Persons. Thus, I would like to firmly look over and consider content including participating in the initiatives by the United States.

Situation in the Middle East

Kyodo News, Saito: You made a statement earlier about the Strait of Hormuz. I would like to ask an addition question about this matter. You stated earlier that you would like the Government to seriously consider how to respond in the case of closure, but what efforts do you think the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and you yourself should take to avoid such a situation? Also, in the case of such a situation, although I believe it is quite difficult to imagine, can you please comment on what viewpoint you think the entire Government should take to overcome the problem?

Minister Kono: I cannot comment publicly on everything the Government of Japan is doing now. However, in regard to the situation concerning Iran, Japan has been importing Iranian oil and has built traditionally good relations with the country, so we will continue to exert efforts to alleviate the situation a little.

Specifically, avoiding a situation in which the strait is closed is firstly important, and various practical things could be done. If something happens including considering such things, it will probably be necessary to consider not having a direct effect on the Japanese economy or a recoil effect on the world economy.

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