Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Friday, June 7, 2019, 1:40 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

(1) G20 Ministerial Meeting on Trade and Digital Economy

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: On June 8 and 9, I will attend the G20 Ministerial Meeting on Trade and Digital Economy held in Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture.

I understand it is the first time in G20 history that both Trade Ministers Meeting and Digital Economy Ministers Meeting take place at the same time. I feel this reflects the increasing importance of international collaboration on trade matters in response to the growing digital economy. I will serve as the chair for the two sessions on trade: “Current International Trade Situations”, and “Promotion of Trade and Investment that Contribute to Sustainable and Inclusive Growth”. In addition, I will speak on the priority matters on international trade which Japan places importance as the G20 chair country, including the importance of World Trade Organization (WTO) reform. I would like this meeting to lead to the G20 Summit Meeting at the end of the month.

Taking the opportunity of this meeting, as there are countries that have restrictions on Japanese food products, I will firmly highlight the fact that the safety of Japanese food products are ensured through strict safety management. I will particularly make an appeal to countries that still continue to have import restrictions on Japanese products. As for the meals served at dinners, working lunches and receptions, we would like to serve dishes using extensive kinds of agricultural and fishery products from Ibaraki Prefecture. Through such efforts, I would like to promote a better understanding of the safety of Japanese food products among the participating countries.

(2) Minister Kono’s Visits to Sweden and Iran

Minister Kono: If circumstances permit, I will visit Sweden and Iran on June 11-14.

In Sweden, the Stockholm Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) will be held, which I plan to attend. I will exchange views, taking the 2020 NPT Review Conference into account and disseminate Japan’s initiatives.

As for Iran, it is the 90th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Iran. While the tensions in the Middle East are rising, I would like to encourage Iran, a major regional power, to mitigate such tensions as well as to comply with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and play a constructive role for regional stability. A meeting with Foreign Minister Zarif is being coordinated for this week.

Minister Kono’s Visit to Iran

Mainichi Shimbun, Akiyama: With regards to Iran, what do you think Iran should do to ease tensions in the region?

Minister Kono: I would like to exchange opinions on various topics.

President Putin’s Statements Regarding the Negotiations for Concluding a Peace Treaty

Sankei Shimbun, Rikitake: At a press conference yesterday with foreign media, President Putin made a remark that Japan-U.S. military cooperation is making it difficult to conclude a peace treaty. Such a remark did not just begin now, but rather he has been saying this ever since he was inaugurated as President. In response, I believe the Japanese side has been requesting for understanding. But, what is your recognition of the current situation in which the Russian side’s concerns have not been swept away?

Minister Kono:> I would like to refrain from commenting on individual statements to the media on behalf of the government.

Passport Applications by a Freelance Journalist

TBS, Hashiguchi: A freelance journalist Junpei Yasuda submitted a passport application to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), but there are some reports that five months have passed and his application has not been approved. Can you please tell us the facts of the matter?

Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from publicizing personal information.

The United Kingdom’s Exit from the EU

NHK, Okuzumi: Prime Minister May will step down today as the leader of the ruling Conservative Party, but currently there are various rumors about candidates for the successor party leader. Whoever it will be, what would be the things Japan expect for the next leader, and how do you view the influence on other countries caused by the chaotic situation in the United Kingdom?

Minister Kono: Japan has repeatedly conveyed to the United Kingdom that a “no-deal Brexit” should be avoided, and I think this point sums up everything. Rather than the current confused situation, whoever becomes the next Prime Minister in the future, I would like to encourage the person to make full efforts to prevent a “no-deal Brexit” from happening.

Situation in Sudan

Mainichi Shimbun, Akiyama: In Sudan, the citizens’ demonstration against the military government has been continuing even after the resignation of the former president, and it is reported that there have been a large number of casualties. TICAD will be held soon, so what is your reaction to the situation in Sudan?

Minister Kono: I am extremely concerned about the situation in which the participants of the demonstrations have been fired upon and a considerably large number of casualties has occurred. Since Sudan’s stability is directly connected to the stability of unstable regions including South Sudan or the “Horn Of Africa,” thus I believe it is important to protect regional stability, democracy, the rule of law, and respect for fundamental human rights. Japan will monitor the situation while thoroughly exchanging views with related countries.

Minister Kono’s Visit to Iran

Kyodo News, Niwa: With regards to your visit to Iran you mentioned earlier, Iran is confronting the United States, and President Trump says he wants to have a dialogue. During your meeting with Foreign Minister Zarif, do you intend to encourage them to have a dialogue with the United States?

Minister Kono: Coordination is now being conducted for a meeting with the Foreign Minister, so there have been no firm decisions made on the topics of discussion.

Passport Applications by a Freelance Journalist

Kyodo News, Saito: I would like to ask about the issue of Mr. Yasuda discussed earlier. I think you would not be able to answer if I ask you in terms of proper noun, which makes it about a specific issue, so let me ask you a general question. Previously – though I forgot the date – I have asked you about your views on war reporters, mentioning the names of Mr. Taizo Ichinose and Mr. Kyoichi Sawada. And I clearly remember that, at that time, you have expressed your respect for the journalists who work in combat areas.

I believe it would be reasonable for MOFA to provide various forms of support, in terms of the passport issue for instance which would make it easier for journalists, to whom the Foreign Minister has shown his respect, to travel abroad freely. I am asking a general question, so what are your thoughts?

Minister Kono: Generally speaking, I believe that the freedom to travel abroad must be respected to the maximum extent. Matters of specific occupations and industries, particularly what support MOFA should provide, should be treated as a separate issue.

Kyodo News, Saito: I would like to ask another general question. In cases in which certain people cannot get their applications approved and are in trouble, would there be any filling of objections or relief measures?,/p>

Minister Kono: Generally speaking, there probably would be cases that require separate prudent review.

Minister Kono’s Visit to Iran

NHK, Okuzumi: I apologize for returning to the discussion on Iran. Amidst the regional tensions that are certainly rising, what are your thoughts on the significance of your visit to Iran at this timing and the influence on the international community?

Minister Kono: The Middle East is an energy supplier for Japan, and the stability of this region is directly connected to the stability and prosperity of the international community and the global economy. If there is anything Japan can do to contribute to easing tensions in the region, we will firmly exert efforts for it.

Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: I believe that there are many countries with an interest and sense of impending crisis regarding the current situation in Iran, including not just the United States and countries concerned with Iran, but also various countries in Europe which are directly concerned with JCPOA, China, Russia, and others. What kinds of exchanges and cooperation are needed with such countries? Also, do you think there is a need for you to conduct direct exchanges of views with your counterpart ministers of neighboring countries?

Minister Kono: I have been having close exchanges of views with the foreign ministers of countries related to the JCPOA and other countries in the region. I would like to continue to have firm cooperation in necessary areas.

Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Relations

NHK, Akiyama: I would like to ask about Japan-ROK relations. Criticism has been voiced within the Liberal Democratic Party and people outside the party regarding Defense Minister Iwaya’s recent meeting with the ROK Minister of National Defense at the Shangri-La Dialogue. What are your thoughts on this?

Minister Kono: Because of the North Korea issue, I believe it is important to have firm Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation as well as Japan-ROK cooperation. Particularly, the Japan Self-Defense Force (SDF) and the ROK Ministry of National Defense, they are on-the-ground professionals, so it is necessary to have firm cooperation between them. Defense Minister Iwaya met with his counterpart from the ROK at an early stage as possible and, while holding an exchange of views regarding matters including the flag of Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and the incident of an ROK naval vessel directing its fire-control radar at an MSDF patrol aircraft, indicated that he would like to closely advance Japan-ROK cooperation. I believe the Defense Ministerial Meeting was probably conducted in such context. I think that having firm discussions between professionals, coming to an understanding, and building cooperative relations contribute to Japan-ROK diplomatic relations in general.

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