Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Sunday, June 16, 2019, 9:45 p.m. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: It is the first time in 9 years for the Japanese Foreign Minister to visit Mongolia. Although it was a very short schedule of only one day, I believe this has been a significant visit for deepening the Strategic Partnership with Mongolia which shares universal values including freedom and democracy with Japan.
With regards to the meeting with Foreign Minister Tsogtbaatar this morning, it is as already conveyed at the joint press conference after the meeting. At my courtesy call on President Battulga and Prime Minister Khurelsukh, we agreed on deepening the wide-ranging cooperative relations between our two countries, and in particular I requested cooperation for the smooth and swift opening of the new airport.
In the afternoon, with Prime Minister Khurelsukh, I attended the opening ceremony of the Mongolia-Japan Teaching Hospital, which was established through Japan’s official grant assistance. I hope that the hospital develops as the symbol of the bond between our two countries. Japan will continue to assist Mongolia in terms of human resource development.
At night, I was able to have long and frank discussions with Foreign Minister Tsogtbaatar over dinner in a Mongolian Ger in the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar. I have met Foreign Minister Tsogtbaatar in various settings as he has already visited Japan twice and I had also met with him in India. I would like to build great relations between Japan and Mongolia with him. That is all from me.
Reporter: I believe you reconfirmed close cooperation toward the early resolution of the abductions issue at the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting today. What kind of cooperation do you think will be available, given Prime Minister Abe’s indication that he is willing to meet with Chairman Kim Jong-un without preconditions?
Minister Kono: We have devoted quite a long time to the North Korean issue and we had in-depth exchanges. Though nothing has been decided yet about a Japan-North Korea Summit Meeting, we are in touch via various communication channels. In cooperation with various countries including Mongolia, we will make all efforts to make progress toward the resolution of the abduction issue without missing any opportunities.
Reporter: As for Iran and the United States, since the tanker attack, they are criticizing each other; the United States accuses Iran’s responsibility and Iran denies their involvement. Moreover, they are actively trying to diplomatically persuade related countries. Given the situation, how does Japan intend to deal with the issue?
Minister Kono: We are currently sharing and exchanging information with related countries. As Japan heavily relies on the Strait of Hormuz in terms of its crude oil and natural gas import, continuation of such an incident would be a serious problem for Japan’s energy security, and it would also cause the entire international economy serious damage. As such, Japan strongly condemns such actions. We will identify what has actually happened by exchanging information with related countries and carefully examine the options to address the issue.
Reporter: In relation to this, in terms of information-sharing, the US side has disclosed various evidences including a video clip. Does the Japanese side request the United States to provide a more definitive evidence to back their claim?
Minister Kono: We are conducting various exchanges with various countries. I would like to refrain from commenting on diplomatic exchanges at present.
Reporter: As the G20 Osaka Summit will be held soon and many countries will participate, is there a possibility of exchanging opinions with related countries regarding the situation in Iran, and if so, what kind of commitment will Japan make and what will you insist on?
Minister Kono: First, I think we need to understand what has actually happened in the Strait of Hormuz.
Reporter: In relation to this, I believe that the United States would be the most reliable source of information. But currently is it the case that Japan does not necessarily agree with the American statement?
Minister Kono: As stated before, I would first like to firmly conduct information-sharing with related countries.
Reporter: Today, there was an incident in Suita City, Osaka, in which a police officer was stabbed and his loaded gun was stolen. This has, as a matter of course, caused distress for local residents. For the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as this happened just before the G20 Summit, what is your reaction to it and what measures will the Japanese government take?
Minister Kono: I would like the perpetrator to be arrested as soon as possible and I want this incident to be resolved. Regarding the Osaka G20 Summit, maximum security measures are being implemented to prevent problems from happening, so we would like to firmly monitor to prevent any incidents from happening.
Reporter: Regarding the issue of former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula, I believe that the day after tomorrow is one of the deadlines for appointing the membership of the arbitration committee. What response has the Republic of Korea (ROK) side indicated at present, and if there has been one, can you please tell us about it?
Minister Kono: I would like to state my strong expectation that the ROK will respond to the arbitration process based on the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the ROK.
Reporter: With regards to the arbitration panel concerning former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula, I believe it would be a bilateral agreement. If the ROK does not participate in appointing the membership of the arbitration panel, there could be consideration of extending the deadline. At this stage, do you have any thoughts on how to proceed if the ROK will not appoint anyone when the deadline is reached?
Minister Kono: I believe that the ROK will comply with the arbitration process according to the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems.