Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, July 2, 2019, 12:24 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: The G20 Summit has ended and I now feel relieved. I do not have any particular opening remarks today.
Review of Export Control for the Republic of Korea (ROK)
NHK, Okuzumi: I would like to ask a question about the ROK. The Government of Japan has clarified that the export control regulations concerning the ROK are not retaliatory measures, but I believe that the ROK side does not see the matter that way. Can you please explain why they are not retaliatory measures? Also, the ROK seems to be preparing to present a case to the WTO, so how will Japan respond, and what is your reaction to the situation where this issue is affecting diplomatic relations?
Minister Kono: I believe that it needs to be carefully explained that they are not retaliatory measures. Ambassador Nagamine and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) have provided these explanations between the diplomatic authorities of our two countries.
With regards to the export control, I believe that the regulatory authorities feel that it is quite difficult to maintain the current operation of the export control system while the regulatory authorities of Japan and the ROK have not been able to exchange views and information for a long time. It is not a case of wanting to create a poor environment, but rather the case where treatments were already favorable in various ways in comparison to the regular standards, and that we are now returning to regular standards since it had not been possible to exchange information between regulatory authorities or since there were some inappropriate cases. Japan’s trade regulatory authorities act in accordance with WTO rules, so I do not believe this would be subject to dispute at the WTO in the first place.
Jiji Press, Echigo: I would like to ask a related question. You have just explained that exchanges of views have not been possible between the regulatory authorities of Japan and the ROK, but during which period it had been so, and is it correct to understand that the ROK side did not accept Japan’s request for some sort of dialogue? Another question, can you please explain what you meant by “inappropriate cases”?
Minister Kono: Please refer to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) for that. I believe that METI will probably not be able to comment publicly on cases involving individual companies, but I would like to request you to ask the METI authorities.
Jiji Press, Echigo: I think this is fundamentally a matter for METI, but it also naturally affects diplomatic relations. I believe there were consultations or explanations to MOFA in advance, and on that occasion, what views were expressed from the diplomatic authority?
Minister Kono: I understand that various exchanges of information were conducted between METI and MOFA, and that as a result such measures had to be taken. While there are currently various issues between Japan and the ROK, we would like to separate what can be separated from the rest and make it possible to firmly handle issues individually.
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: In relation to this, the Government of Japan has explained since the judgments made by the ROK on the so-called civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula that this is in violation of international law. Is it your recognition that this is not a countermeasure against the situation of being in violation of international law?
Minister Kono: That is so.
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: I have one more question. You mentioned separating what can be separated. As the arbitration process is currently going on, I believe you probably had the process in mind when you made that statement, so how do you intend to respond to that?
Minister Kono: I said “separate” because I believe that we need to be careful so that completely separate issues including those regarding export control regulations or issues of health and hygiene, are not mixed up with the issue of former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula, which is troubling governments of both Japan and the ROK. While I exchanged views with Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha following the G20 Summit dinner banquet on the issue of the former workers from the Korean Peninsula, it is the understanding of diplomatic authorities that they will continue to exchange each other’s views. Although this is a difficult issue for the diplomatic authorities, we will firmly advance toward a resolution.
Assessment of the Japan-China Summit Meeting at the G20 Summit
China Youth Daily, Zhang: Thank you. Firstly, I would like to offer congratulations on the success of the Osaka G20 Summit. I have two questions. The first is what are your thoughts on the success of the Japan-China Summit Meeting in Osaka and the appropriate steps to take to further develop bilateral relations?
As my second question, on June 28 at the G20 Summit Meeting, President Xi Jinping of China referred to several viewpoints and proposals in his statements. Examples include the strengthening of the global multilateral trade system; mutual respect and trust among all countries; further opening of the Chinese market, trade expansion, and facilitation of the business environment; and active participation in international cooperation in the digital economy. I would like to ask those two questions if there is no objection.
Minister Kono: I would like to express my gratitude to President Xi Jinping for having attended the G20 Osaka Summit. Also, the Japan-China Summit Meeting was held in a very relaxed atmosphere. Both leaders confirmed cooperation toward the success of the G20 Osaka Summit, and held a candid exchange of views on extensive fields.
In addition, during the meeting, Prime Minister Abe invited President Xi Jinping to visit Japan as a State Guest next year when the cherry blossoms bloom, meaning in the spring. President Xi Jinping accepted the invitation in principle.
I believe that it was a major outcome that we were able to exchange views and confirm concrete cooperation on wide-ranging fields including the economy and people-to-people exchanges. I am also very grateful that President Xi Jinping attended not only the main part of the G20 Summit but also the side event on digital economy, where he also made a statement and celebrated with us the launch of the Osaka Track.
Situation in Iran
Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: I would like to ask about the situation in Iran. Iran has indicated that its stockpile of uranium has exceeded the amount set in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Is it your recognition that this is a plain violation of the JCPOA? Also, Iran has indicated that it will soon increase the degree of concentration of its uranium stockpile, so how would the Government of Japan respond in such a case?
Minister Kono: Iran has indicated that the amount of its enriched uranium stockpile has exceeded the amount agreed in the JCPOA, and I believe the IAEA has verified this. Japan believes that the JCPOA is extremely important. We have repeatedly communicated to Iran that although we understand various situations and conditions that Iran has faced, it is important that Iran maintains the JCPOA. In particular, Japan has repeatedly requested that Iran do not exceed the amount of enriched uranium that was agreed upon. I do not know if the excess in amount was temporary or not, but it is extremely regrettable that the amount agreed upon was exceeded. Japan will continue to urge Iran not to further increase its stockpile or the increase the degree of concentration.
Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: Amidst predictions that the situation will become even tense, does the Government of Japan have any plans for protection of Japanese nationals in Iran?
Minister Kono: The Embassy of Japan in Iran and the Consular Affairs Bureau are currently conducting various analyses of the situation regarding the protection of Japanese nationals. Please refer to the Consular Affairs Bureau for details, but at this point, it is my understanding that we are still not in a situation that necessitates any specific actions.