Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Saturday, May 18, 2019, 7:33 p.m. Dushanbe, Republic of Tajikistan
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: This is the first visit by a Japanese Foreign Minister to Tajikistan since the visit by Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi in 2004.
At the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting today, I held a robust discussion regarding cooperation in the fields of tourism, trade and investment, development, regional security, and more. The results are as stated in the earlier joint press conference. Amidst the rising opportunities for regional cooperation among Central Asian countries, I believe that this Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held at a very appropriate time. It was significant for Japan to contribute to regional stability and prosperity as a “catalyst” promoting regional cooperation among Central Asian countries. Today, I paid a courtesy call on President Rahmon, held bilateral Foreign Ministers’ Meetings with Uzbekistan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, and Afghanistan, and met with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan. These were my first meetings with these foreign ministers, besides the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic who used to work as Ambassador to Japan.
Foreign Minister Rabbani of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan participated as a guest in the third session of today’s Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and I also held a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with him. I stated that the Government of Japan will firmly support the peace initiatives of Afghanistan, together with cooperating with the international community to boost initiatives toward Afghanistan’s self-reliance and stability. We agreed to continue to advance various forms of bilateral cooperation.
I agreed with Foreign Minister Kamilov of the Republic of Uzbekistan to advance schedule coordination toward the visit to Japan of President Mirziyoyev, and to further boost exchanges between our two countries including exchanges in the field of tourism that have been rapidly expanding recently and exchanges between municipalities.
I agreed with Foreign Minister Aidarbekov of the Kyrgyz Republic to cooperate to further activate exchanges in the economic field, including advancing work for trade agreement negotiations.
I agreed with Foreign Minister Atamkulov of the Republic of Kazakhstan to continue to advance bilateral cooperation, including cooperation in the international arena such as those for nuclear disarmament, under President Tokayev, who was recently inaugurated, and to work toward improving the investment environment.
I received a courtesy call from Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Hajiyev of Turkmenistan, and we agreed to seek cooperation for steadily implementing various projects by Japanese companies in Turkmenistan, and to cooperate for further development of bilateral relations.
Although these were my first meetings with most of these foreign ministers, I had various discussions in a harmonious manner with the respective foreign ministers from the beginning, in the waiting room, during the coffee breaks, and at lunch. I believe these were very good meetings for deepening exchanges with Central Asia going forward. That is all from me.
Reporter: In regard to Central Asia that you have just mentioned, this was your first visit, but this is a region where China has been very actively entering economically. In regard to this, what were your impressions on attending this time, and how do you think Japan should be involved in the long-term?
Minister Kono: The Central Asia region used to have the connection with the Soviet Union, so it has a very long history of relations with Russia as well as with the neighboring country, China, through various channels such as the Silk Road. Thus, it is natural that the countries in Central Asia have very strong relations with Russia and China. Amidst this, although Japan is located far away in terms of distance, all the Central Asian countries share strong pro-Japan sentiments. Japan has welcomed over 10,000 people for training since the independence of Central Asian countries, and probably over 3,400 Japanese specialists have come here, so Japan will firmly work on fostering of human resources in the long term. I would like to strengthen relations through fostering human resources. In addition, infrastructure cooperation has begun with several countries. Japan will provide cooperation in the form of high-quality infrastructure.
Reporter: This was the first meeting in seven years between the foreign ministers of Afghanistan and Japan. The activities of the Taliban as well as the Islamic State are getting more active in Afghanistan. How does Japan intend to contribute to improving the security situation in Afghanistan?
Minister Kono: I also visited Afghanistan from Mazar-e-Sharif to Sari Pol in 2002, and the increase in narcotics and terrorism in the region will have a large effect on the surroundings as well. I believe that Japan must cooperate with the international community to firmly implement countermeasures against terrorism and narcotics. In addition, the presidential election is scheduled in Afghanistan, and Japan will provide various forms of support for the self-reliance and stability of Afghanistan. We would like to conduct firm bilateral cooperation with Afghanistan centered on enhancing law enforcement capacity and in the fields of health and education.
Reporter: I would like to ask about the Japan-Russia relations. In regard to the matter of House of Representatives Member Hodaka Maruyama’s statements concerning the Northern Territories, there was a comment today from the Russian embassy in Japan that this would not backtrack the Japan-Russia relations. What is your reaction to such a statement by Russia, and how will you advance negotiations between Japan and Russia?
Minister Kono: I do not believe any effect will emerge, and there is no need to comment on such things one by one. There is no change in the policy of persistently negotiating to be able to resolve the attribution issue and conclude a peace treaty in a firm manner.
Reporter: I have one more question on a different matter. Although this is not about diplomacy, in a recent press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga stated that if a no-confidence motion were to be submitted in the House of Representatives during the current Diet session, it could be justified to dissolve the House of Representatives. There are various rumors about a same-day double election of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors, due to its submission, but I would like to hear your reaction.
Minister Kono: I have always been told by senior members that because there are dissolutions of the House of Representatives, we have to be “battle ready” at all times since the first election. We have always been acting with this in mind, so I am not surprised about anything in particular.
Reporter: What are your thoughts on the feasibility of a same-day double election of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors?
Minister Kono: It's not what I am supposed to decide.
Reporter: The schedule for important diplomacy is packed in summer such as that of the G20 Summit. If something like that occurred, what do you think its effect would be on diplomacy?
Minister Kono: As Minister for Foreign Affairs and the person responsible for Japan’s diplomacy, I must firmly do what should be done.