Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, July 30, 2019, 10:00 p.m. Dhaka, People's Republic of Bangladesh
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: This is my third visit to Bangladesh in two years as Minister for Foreign Affairs. This was also the first time for me to see H.E. Dr. A.K. Abdul Momen since he was newly appointed as Foreign Minister, and we held a very fruitful exchange of views during the Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.
Japan has built friendly relations with Bangladesh since the country’s independence. Based on Prime Minister Hasina’s visit to Japan in May 2019, Foreign Minister Momen and I confirmed further promotion of the “Comprehensive Partnership.”
Bangladesh is achieving an economic growth rate of over 7%, and the figure is predicted to exceed 8% this year. In the last five years, the number of Japanese companies operating in Bangladesh has increased by 1.5 times. While conveying my expectations for improvement of the investment environment, I requested further efforts for ensuring the safety of Japanese resident nationals.
It was decided to resume direct flights by Biman Bangladesh Airlines by December 2019, and I would like to welcome this as being extremely positive.In addition, I would like to welcome that preparation had been completed for the signing of the memorandum of cooperation regarding specified skills worker.
Today, I visited the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp. I also went there two years ago in November, when it was directly after the border crossing of an enormous number of displaced persons, but the atmosphere this time was greatly different compared to two years ago. My first impression was that the greenery has increased considerably. Also, although I had been very worried last year that disasters would possibly take place during the monsoon season, I thought that there has been considerable preparation this time through the “cash for work” activities by the displaced persons enabling various construction work aimed for disaster prevention. However, I believe that the living condition in the camp is still very severe. I would like to express gratitude for the dedicated continuous efforts by international organizations and NGOs, including those from Japan. In addition, the burden on the Government of Bangladesh and the local communities has become considerably large, so I believe that donor countries including Japan need to firmly make efforts to relieve the burden in such areas.
In cooperation with the United Nations, I would like to work toward realizing the swift return of the displaced persons in a safe, voluntary, and dignified manner. I will visit Myanmar tomorrow, and thoroughly exchange views regarding this issue with the Government of Myanmar.
However, a very large part of the population in the camp is children, who could become a lost generation if they will not be reliably educated, and the spread of violent extremism due to such an environment must be prevented. I believe their swift return is desirable, but I also felt that this situation might be prolonged compared to two years ago. While aiming for the swift repatriation of the displaced persons, I believe that the need has arisen to appropriately respond to the issues of the living environment and education. That is all from me.
Reporter: I have a question regarding your last comment. While the early repatriation of the displaced persons will be a challenge, how does Japan intend to give help or support?
Minister Kono: First of all, it is important that Japan continues to provide steady support to the camps and local communities. We also need to support Myanmar in preparing to receive the displaced persons, and to fully communicate the status of the preparations to the displaced persons. Recently, government officials from Myanmar came to the camps and provided an explanation. Conversely, it would be needed that representatives of the displaced persons be invited to Rakhine State, see the situation there, and communicate to those in the refugee camps what they saw. In addition, ASEAN countries are seeking to enhance their engagement in this issue. Having seen the local situation, as ASEAN-related meetings will be held in Bangkok, I intend to exchange views with ASEAN countries, and Japan will cooperate with ASEAN countries wherever possible.
Reporter: With regard to the Rohingya issue, what were you able to agree on at today’s Foreign Ministers’ Meeting?
Minister Kono: We exchanged various views regarding the necessary efforts. I asked if there are any messages from Bangladesh that I should convey to Myanmar. I received some, and I intend to surely convey them to Myanmar. In particular, the burden on local communities has become quite significant. In this regard, I believe that Japan needs to fully consider what support it can provide outside of the camps.
Reporter: At today’s meeting, did you discuss Japan’s policy to continue infrastructure development, including the port development around the Bay of Bengal?
Minister Kono: Japan intends to support the development of necessary infrastructure in the order of priority, including infrastructure in Matarbari and South Chittagong or the MRT in Dhaka through ODA loans and other means. Bangladesh is currently the third largest recipient of Japanese ODA loans and will likely become the second largest recipient in the future. The Government of Bangladesh has been implementing projects while carefully managing its government debt. Japan, for its part, intends to coordinate with Bangladesh on infrastructure development by hearing their priority.
Reporter: I believe you exchanged views with displaced persons today at Cox’s Bazar. What requests did they make? Also, while Japanese organizations are providing support there, what was the reaction on the ground? What was your impression?
Minister Kono: I met today with members of Japanese NGOs as well as Japanese nationals working for UN agencies. They are all working very hard. In particular, we are extremely grateful that Japanese people I saw the last time I came here are still here and are working hard. The displaced persons stated that they wish to return as quickly as possible but have a number of concerns, and they asked for such concerns to be addressed.
Reporter: Will you convey these points to Myanmar at tomorrow’s meeting?
Minister Kono: I hope to fully discuss such matters with Myanmar.
Reporter: A moment ago, you expressed Japan’s intention regarding infrastructure development. Does that mean this topic came up during today’s meeting?
Minister Kono: Yes, we had discussions on various issues.
Reporter: I would like to change the topic to North Korea. The Government of Japan determined that the two flying objects that have just been launched by North Korea were short-range ballistic missiles. First, can you comment on the fact that North Korea launched ballistic missiles?
Minister Kono: The launch of short-range ballistic missiles is a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions. During my recent telephone talk with Secretary of State Pompeo, the United States clearly stated that the launch of short-range ballistic missiles is a violation of UN Security Council resolutions. In steadily advancing the U.S.-North Korea process, we desire that North Korea will take necessary actions.
Reporter: On the other hand, President Trump indicated that he does not consider the recent launches to be a problem. The President expressed the same view following the previous launch of short-range missiles. Does this not mean there is a disagreement between Japan and the United States?
Minister Kono: President Trump makes various instantaneous remarks. The Governments of Japan and the United States share the view that the launch of short-range ballistic missiles is a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions and that this must be fully brought up with North Korea. Therefore, we do not see any particular issues.