Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, June 4, 2019, 2:40 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
ASEAN- JAPAN Day in Hanoi, Viet Nam
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Today, ASEAN-JAPAN Day is being held in Hanoi, Viet Nam. At the symposium being held today, broad discussions will be held regarding cooperation in political, economic, and social fields, which cooperation is expected in the coming days including high-tech agriculture, smart cities, and aging society.
In July, as part of cultural exchange, a music event is also planned to be held with participation by artists from both ASEAN member states and Japan. For example, I have heard that ATSUSHI from EXILE is planned to participate from Japan. It is expected that there will be further strengthening of mutual understanding and cooperative partnership between Japan and ASEAN through such opportunities.
30 Years Since the Tiananmen Square Incident
NHK, Okuzumi: Today, it is exactly 30 years since the Tiananmen Square Incident. There has still been no change to the Chinese Government’s position that suppression through the military was justified. Can you please give your thoughts on the 30 years since the incident, as well as your views on the current situation where criticisms towards the Chinese Government are thoroughly suppressed through Internet regulations and the control of speech?
Minister Kono: I believe that values such as freedom, fundamental human rights, and the rule of law should be shared globally. I believe that is probably the same in China, and that it is considered that freedom, fundamental human rights, and the rule of law should be ensured in China as well. As Japan, although not yet restarted with China, there are frameworks such as the Japan-China Human Rights Dialogues, so we would like to have dialogues about such issues in various settings.
Kyodo News, Eto: What is your reaction to the current human rights situation in China?
Minister Kono: Concerns regarding human rights in China have been conveyed to them at Foreign Ministers’ Meetings and Summit Meetings. Although our political systems are different, I believe that fundamental human rights, the rule of law, and freedom are international and universal values which can be shared with China.
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: Relations are currently improving between Japan and China, but for example, it has been pointed out that confrontations concerning values have been growing considerably between China and the United States as well as European countries. What role do you think Japan can play in inducing China to engage with the international community? Also, it has been 9 or 10 years, since the Japan-China Human Rights Dialogue you mentioned has been suspended. What do you think should be done for it to be resumed, or should it be resumed? I would like to ask your thoughts on this.
Minister Kono: Regarding the Japan-China Human Rights Dialogue, Japan is proposing to China that it should be resumed. I think that Western values and Asian values are the same at the most fundamental level, but it seems to me that there are also various differences. For example, although the Chinese political system is a little different thus that should be taken into account, I think it is important for Japan to somewhat emphasize the Asian ways of thinking. On the issue of democratization in Asia, for example, Western countries and Japan have been discussing from slightly different positions at the G7 Foreign Minister’s Meeting and other opportunities. Of course, China and Japan share considerable cultural aspects, but I would like to continue discussions between Japan and China in terms of universal values which can be shared between the two despite different political systems.
Japan-North Korea Relations
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: I would like to ask about North Korea. The North Korean media have criticized you by name, and have said it is impudent to hold a Summit Meeting without conditions. What is your reaction to this? Also, the Ulaanbaatar Dialogue, an international conference, will be held this week, so if North Korea comes, what will be communicated if contact will be made?
Minister Kono: I do not have comments on individual North Korean reports, but Prime Minister Abe has stated that action will be taken to seize all opportunities to resolve the abductions issue as quickly as possible amidst the aging of the abduction victims’ families. Prime Minister Abe has repeatedly stated until now that he is prepared to meet directly with Chairman Kim Jong-un.
As stated in the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, there is absolutely no change to Japan’s policy to comprehensively resolve the nuclear, missile, and abductions issues and normalize relations, so we will act in accordance with that policy. There is no change to the fact that we will follow the policy if there is contact in Ulaanbaatar or wherever.
Situation in Iran
Mainichi Shimbun, Akiyama: I would like to ask about the situation in Iran. You have indicated recently that both Iran and the United States should exhibit self-control, so what points has Japan been urging during recent contacts with the United States? Also, last year Secretary of State Pompeo clarified 12 demands for Iran as part of the U.S. basic policy, so how do you assess this?
Minister Kono: Japan will firmly contribute to the regional stability as much as we can, and I believe it is certainly true that regional stabilization through dialogue is necessary. There is currently not much to be commented externally regarding various exchanges, but if there is a role Japan should play, then we will firmly fulfill it.
30 Years Since the Tiananmen Square Incident
Kyodo News, Saito: I would like to return to the matter of Tiananmen Square in China again. You previously stated that there are differences between the West and Asia regarding the ideal concept of democratization. You mentioned the Asian concept, and I would like to ask about that. Can you give your thoughts on the Asian concept of democratization and human rights which are different from the West in simple terms?
Minister Kono: It has been many years since the West established its current concepts of freedom, democratization, and fundamental human rights. Many Asian countries began new political systems after they were liberated from colonization, so it has still been a short time compared to the West.
As I stated previously somewhere, the Roman Empire withdrew from the United Kingdom approximately in the year 400, and then the United Kingdom formed its current political system over hundreds of years. It has still not even been 100 years since the United Kingdom withdrew from Myanmar, so it is quite difficult to do something similar immediately with such a difference in the time period. It is important to steadily proceed one step at a time, as it would be impossible for a crawling baby to run like Usain Bolt. However, sooner or later, it will stand and take toddling steps, so it is important to stand by and lend a helping hand if necessary so it does not fall.