Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Saturday, June 22, 2019, 5:02 p.m. Naha City, Okinawa Prefecture
This is a provisional translation by an external company for reference purpose only.
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I have come to Okinawa to attend the Memorial Day ceremony tomorrow. I would like to offer my sincere prayers for all the victims of the Battle of Okinawa.
Today, I first held a lunch meeting with mayors in Okinawa and listened to voices of those on the ground on subjects such as the Think of Okinawa’s Future in the United States (TOFU) program conducted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and English education support. MOFA will firmly support internationalization and human resources development in Okinawa.
Then I met with and listened to frank views of high school and university students who participated in the TOFU program, and university students who had participated in an internship program at MOFA.
Afterwards, I met with the Governor of Okinawa at the prefectural office and we exchanged views regarding the reducing of impact on Okinawa as well as the internationalization of Okinawa. MOFA would like to proactively work on reducing the impact on Okinawa, taking into consideration the views of the Governor of Okinawa and Okinawan mayors, and would also like to strengthen its initiatives toward the internationalization of human resources who will lead further development of Okinawa as well as internationalization of Okinawa itself. Prime Minister Abe has also given instructions that everything possible be done to mitigate the impact on local communities, so we would like to do all that is possible for impact mitigation. Also, MOFA would like to firmly work on internationalization and development of human resources for further development of Okinawa.
Reporter: I suppose that the Governor of Okinawa have just requested once again that the relocation to Henoko be suspended and canceled. Can you please tell us how you responded to this in the meeting?
Minister Kono: It is as the Governor stated at the beginning of this conference. MOFA would like to continuously work to reduce the impact on Okinawa in accordance with Prime Minister Abe’s instructions to do everything possible for impact mitigation.
Reporter: Did you give a response on the land reclamation at Henoko?
Minister Kono: MOFA would like to continuously work to reduce the impact on Okinawa in accordance with the Prime Minister Abe’s instructions to do everything feasible for the impact mitigation.
Reporter: The Governor requested that construction work be suspended and an opportunity for dialogue be created. What is your reaction to this?
Minister Kono: I believe that both Okinawa and the Government of Japan share the idea that the indefinite use of Futenma has to be avoided. Therefore, the Government will make further efforts to avoid the indefinite use of Futenma Air Station.
Reporter: What is your view on whether or not to create an opportunity for dialogue to convey the Government’s position that it is necessary to immediately relocate Futenma to avoid its indefinite use?
Minister Kono: I believe that there are various frameworks for dialogue under the Chief Cabinet Secretary who is in charge of Okinawa. MOFA would like to firmly advance initiatives in cooperation with the U.S. side to reduce the impact on local communities.
Reporter: The Governor requested that the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) be revised. How did you respond to that?
Minister Kono: The Government is working to carry forward and improve various frameworks including SOFA, using the most effective methods. We will continue to steadily conduct this work going forward.
Reporter: It has been conveyed that the Governor is advancing a study on status of forces agreements in other countries. Will MOFA support this prefectural initiative for researches on conditions in other countries?
Minister Kono: I understand that the Okinawa prefectural office will conduct various studies, so once that is compiled, I hope to read it and exchange views.
Reporter: Did you have specific discussions today regarding the content of the previously released report?
Minister Kono: Not in particular.
Reporter: I believe that Okinawa Prefecture handed to you a list of 17 requests today. Can you please tell us if you specifically referred to any of the items?
Minister Kono: We did not discuss any specific item.
Reporter: You have just stated that everything possible will be done to reduce the impact on Okinawa. Other than the measures the Government of Japan is currently carrying forward, what else can the Government do to reduce the impact?
Minister Kono: For example, for perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) that the Governor mentioned today, the contract has ended to replace machines using PFOS in Kadena Air Base, and PFOS has not been used in Futenma Air Station since 2016. Coordination is currently being conducted to ensure the same treatment for Kadena. We will discuss each matter carefully with the U.S. side.
Reporter: Rather than the U.S. side doing the coordination, will Japan and the U.S. undertake this together?
Minister Kono: Japan is firmly requesting a response, and I believe the U.S. side is carrying it out based on our request.
Reporter: Let me ask about a different matter. I apologize for changing the subject from Okinawa, but I would like to ask about the situation in Iran. This morning, President Trump announced on his Twitter account with regards to the case of Iran shooting down a U.S. surveillance drone, that he ordered an attack and then called it off 10 minutes beforehand. What is your reaction to this?
Minister Kono: I will not comment on each of President Trump’s tweets. However, amidst the rising tensions in the Middle East, Japan will conduct information sharing with the countries concerned so that an inadvertent incident does not develop into a war.
Reporter: I believe that discussions are being conducted on this matter at the United Nations Security Council as well, so how is Japan maneuvering?
Minister Kono: Unfortunately, Japan is currently not a member of the Security Council, but we will exchange views and information beforehand and afterwards with the member states.