Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Tuesday, July 9, 2019, 1:51 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

Letter of Protest from Sankei Shimbun Co., Ltd.

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I received a letter of protest from Sankei Shimbun Co., Ltd. dated July 9. It was about the recent round-table conference organized by Naigai News. I have reiterated that I will not comment on the content of Japan-Russia negotiations, and that I would neither deny nor confirm, which I believe you all understand well. Also, following the round-table conference, I gave a detailed explanation on this issue to the reporters who attended this event.

However, I still received a written protest, so if my phrasing was insufficient, I will sincerely reflect on that and would like to apologize. I will be very careful not to repeat something like this.

Letter of Protest from Sankei Shimbun Co., Ltd.

Sankei Shimbun, Harakawa: You mentioned “if my phrasing was insufficient” in your opening remarks, but specifically which part do you refer to? Also, the fact is that you were given a question at the round-table conference organized by Naigai News: “With regards to the issue of the Northern Territories, do you have absolutely no thoughts of restarting the negotiations by returning to the historic justice of return of the Four Northern Islands?” to which you answered: “That is absolutely not what I am thinking about.” The verbal exchange was written in the article. As it is pointed out in the letter of protest, and as I have just stated, we covered the actual verbal exchange, and it was neither a fabrication nor misinformation. Do you still think it was a fabrication? If so, please tell us the basis for that.

Minister Kono: After the conference, I gave a detailed explanation to all the journalists. So I believe all the journalists who were there understood the true meaning of my statement.

Sankei Shimbun, Harakawa: The letter of protest requests a deletion of the tweet stating that it was a fabrication, an awful fabrication, and a withdrawal of your statement in a later press conference that it was misinformation. How will you respond to those points?

Minister Kono: If my phrasing was insufficient, I will delete the tweet.

Sankei Shimbun, Harakawa: Will you do the same for your statement in which you said it was misinformation?

Minister Kono: It is really regretful that the fact that I gave a precise explanation was not mentioned.

Guidelines Based on the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA)

Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: I would like to ask about the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation based on the Japan-U.S. SOFA. There are reports concerning the revision of the Guidelines with accidents involving U.S. military aircrafts in mind. There are also reports that the governments of Japan and the United States agreed to the revision, and that there will be a meeting of the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee this month. Can you please tell us how the facts stand and the timeline going forward toward the review?

Minister Kono: The Japan-U.S. SOFA and various related matters are continuously reviewed by the authorities of Japan and the United States, and they are being discussed. It is not the case at present that there was a new agreement.

Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: I believe you have already mentioned the need for the review. It has also been pointed out that when accidents occur, the Japanese side basically cannot enter the restricted areas and that even when it is possible there is a time difference, so can you please tell us again your understanding of the problems regarding responses after accidents established under the current Guidelines?

Minister Kono: It is my understanding that currently necessary onsite investigations are conducted.

Kyodo News, Fukuda: Defense Minister Iwaya stated in regard to the revision of the Guidelines at a press conference following the Cabinet meeting that he expects to be able to reach an agreement soon. Do you have an idea of the timeline for this?

Minister Kono: Nothing has been decided yet.

Situation in Iran

PanOrient News, Azhari: My question is about Iran. Yesterday, Japan has demanded Iran to return to the nuclear agreement and not to increase the percentage of uranium enrichment. Iran’s position is that it is because of the pressure from the strengthening of the American sanctions that they are doing so. What is your view on the position of Japan on the American sanctions against Iran, and how do you think the situation will evolve, especially with Japan’s increased involvement in the Middle East?

Minister Kono: Japan has been reiterating that Japan supports the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). I have spoken with Foreign Minister Zarif of Iran and asked him to observe the JCPOA. Japan would like to call for all related countries to help ease tensions in the region, and we hope that peace and stability in the Middle East will be maintained.

Review of Export Control toward the Republic of Korea (ROK)

Jiji Press, Echigo: I would like to ask a question regarding the ROK. Yesterday, President Moon Jae-in requested the repeal of the export control measures recently introduced by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan, as well as discussions with Japan. What is your view on this statement?

Minister Kono: I believe there is no need to comment on each statement, but I have heard that the ROK side is requesting Japan to verify the circumstances of the export control measure. Japan only takes actions in accordance with World Trade Organization rules and this export control is a matter of extreme sensitivity concerning national security, so we will continue to firmly take actions in accordance with the rules.

Jiji Press, Echigo: The Government of Japan is explaining that this matter is not a retaliatory measure against the issue of former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula. However, regarding the so-called former civilian workers issue, the deadline next week is approaching for 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. How has the ROK side reacted so far? Also, if the deadline will be broken, the conflict resolution procedure would be over within the framework of the bilateral agreement, so what are your thoughts on what will happen afterwards?

Minister Kono: Speaking firstly about the measures taken this time, it is necessary from the perspective of security to take effective measures regarding the export of sensitive materials and technologies that can be diverted for military supplies. Therefore, it is a natural necessity worldwide that reviews of required measures be conducted continuously. This and any other issues are completely separate.

With regards to the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula, the arbitration process is going on with the ROK side, and we believe that the ROK side will firmly respond based on the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation.

Guidelines Based on the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA)

Kyodo News, Niwa: I would like to confirm one point. You stated in regard to the Guidelines on aircraft accidents between Japan and the United States that “currently necessary onsite investigations are being thoroughly conducted.” If that is true, does that mean you do not think that there is anything specific to be improved?

Minister Kono: Necessary investigations are already being firmly conducted, so if there is a clear need for such an investigation, it would naturally have to be taken into consideration. In addition to that, various discussions are being conducted between Japan and the United States regarding the SOFA as well as the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, but at present no agreement has been arranged for this issue.

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