Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Monday, July 29, 2019, 1:45 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Start of Acceptance of Online Visa Applications at Japanese Diplomatic Missions in China
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: From the perspective of simplifying visa application procedures, optimizing visa issuance work at diplomatic missions, and strengthening border security, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) plans to start accepting online visa applications for single-entry visas for group tourists and individual tourists at seven diplomatic missions in China except Hong Kong from April 2020 sent from travel agents that have been designated by the respective diplomatic missions. At the same time, we plan to introduce electronic visas.
In advance of this, from the end of May this year at the Embassy of Japan in Beijing, a test was conducted for online applications for single-entry visas for group tourist and individual tourist from certain designated travel agencies. In view of the results, acceptance of online applications for single-entry visas for group tourist from all travel agencies will start from July 30. Based on the results of its operation, we are planning to start accepting online applications for single-entry visas for individual tourist.
MOFA will continue to work on improving convenience for visa applications toward the realization of Japan as a “tourism-oriented country,” while at the same time firmly making efforts for application examinations as a part of border security.
Revision of Administration Exchange with Japan by Busan City
Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: I would like to ask a question about Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) relations. Busan City announced it would review exchange projects with Japan. You have always stated that people-to-people exchanges are important. If we look at the statistics of the Japan National Tourism Organization and others, compared with last year the number of people travelling from Japan to the ROK fell, and I believe that people-to-people exchanges have begun to be affected. What is your reaction to this point?
Minister Kono: Although the Governments of Japan and the ROK are facing difficult issues, I believe that it is precisely at these times that people-to-people exchanges are important. Out of all this, exchanges between municipalities are the pillar of people-to-people exchanges, and I would like them to be firmly conducted in such times alongside cultural exchanges and sports exchanges.
Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: You have repeatedly emphasized the necessity to continue dialogue or diplomatic channels. On the other hand, although Foreign Ministers’ Meetings have been repeatedly held since the Supreme Court judgment at the end of October last year, I would venture to say that results have not been produced. While it is not possible to see means toward resolving this situation, what are your thoughts on how to produce results going forward?
Minister Kono: I would like the Government of the ROK to swiftly remedy its breach of international law.
Strait of Hormuz Coalition
NHK, Koizumi: I would like to ask a question regarding the matter of the coalition. In an interview last week, Secretary of State Pompeo revealed the request made for several countries including Japan to participate in a coalition. In what form did Japan receive the request, and what is the policy on when and how Japan will respond to this request?
Minister Kono: The Strait of Hormuz is a crucially important region for Japan’s energy security. Therefore, Japan will consider its optimal response while firmly conducting information-gathering.
NHK, Koizumi: What about my question on whether Japan received a request?
Minister Kono: As I stated.
Launch of a Flying Object by North Korea
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: North Korea launched a flying object on July 25, and the ROK analyzes that it was a new type of a short-range ballistic missile. If that is the case, I believe it would be a violation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions, so what is the reaction and response of Japan?
Minister Kono: My understanding is that the Ministry of Defense is currently gathering information and conducting analyses.
The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF Treaty)
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: Secretary of State Pompeo once again indicated that the United States would withdraw from the INF Treaty by August 2. It is expected to expire on August 2. Japan has highly appreciated the treaty until now and mentioned that it should be expanded to multiple countries. Can you please tell us your reaction again?
Minister Kono: I believe the INF Treaty is an extremely important treaty that has played a major role in disarmament. Japan would like both the United States and Russia to continue to inherit its spirit. Japan would also like the United States and Russia, as well as China, the United Kingdom, and France, which make up the P5, to earnestly and firmly discuss future responses.
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: By “inherit its spirit,” do you mean to inherit the spirit of the treaty even if it would expire?
Minister Kono: The INF Treaty is an extremely important treaty for Japan, and there is no change to its hope that the treaty be maintained and developed.
Work Style Reform at MOFA
Sankei Shimbun, Harakawa: I would like to ask about work style reform at MOFA. It will soon be four months since the entry into force in April of the Act on the Arrangement of Related Acts to Promote Work Style Reform, by which an upper limit on overtime work was set. Until now, what efforts have been undertaken at MOFA based on this act, and can you tell us the main efforts? Furthermore, going forward, if there is a need to continue the reform and if there are any major hurdles for that, can you please also tell us about them?
Minister Kono: MOFA has implemented reforms contributing to work style reform such as ways of conducting various meetings and follow-up in different bureaus and divisions, and I would like such movements to be firmly sustained.
However, despite this, there is no change to the situation where there is an extremely large number of officials whose overtime exceed 100 hours per month. MOFA also has to deal with global time differences, so this is by no means a simple matter, but I believe that MOFA must firmly undertake work style reform while seeking cooperation with various partners.
What I would like to say is that the employment process of ministries and agencies has started, but the situation is striking among all governmental agencies that employment is becoming difficult as the number of applicants is decreasing. Fortunately MOFA still attracts an important number of candidates, but still, compared with the situation in the past, I believe we are in a situation where we cannot be optimistic. I think work style reform is extremely important for gathering good human resources in the Government of Japan.
Northern Territories Issue (Russian Prime Minister Medvedev to visit Etorofu Island)
Hokkaido Shimbun, Nishina: I would like to ask about the Northern Territories issue. A plan has been reported for Russian Prime Minister Medvedev to visit Etorofu Island in Hokkaido on August 1 and 2. The Government of Japan is said to be gathering information, but as this is coming up in three days, I would like to ask about the explanations from the Russian side and the responses from the Government of Japan until now.
Minister Kono: Such a matter is incompatible with the position of the Government of Japan.
The INF Treaty
Tokyo Shimbun, Osugi: I would like to return to questions on the INF Treaty. A disarmament framework will disappear while there is still no new framework, so what effect could this have on Japan’s security? Also, can you tell us about what kind of efforts were made toward disarmament, what kind of discussions were held between diplomatic authorities until now, and what will be done going forward?
Minister Kono: I believe the INF Treaty has been an extremely important treaty from the perspective of disarmament not only for Japan but also for the world. On the other hand, the situation has been that countries that were not subject to the INF Treaty have continued armament expansions. In case of the INF Treaty would expire, I believe there will be a need to create a new framework for the P5 countries. Japan will continue to make such appeals to the world.
Japan-ROK Summit Meeting, Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
TV Tokyo, Sakaida: There are some reports of a policy to not hold a Japan-ROK Summit Meeting. Amidst the situation in which it is quite difficult to have a meeting between the leaders of Japan and the ROK, I believe the significance of the Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting will increase, so will you meet with Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha in Bangkok? How do you position this Foreign Ministers’ Meeting?
Minister Kono: Nothing has been particularly decided on what will be or will not be done with regards to a Japan-ROK Summit Meeting. Japan-ROK Foreign Minsters’ Meetings have been held quite frequently since I became Minister for Foreign Affairs two years ago. The final coordination for visits going forward is being conducted now. If various circumstances allow, I would like to attend the ASEAN-related Foreign Ministers' Meetings held in Bangkok, but nothing has yet been decided about bilateral meetings there.