Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Tuesday, July 16, 2019, 11:35 a.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

(1) Summer Safety Campaign for Overseas Traveling

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: We expect the number of people traveling abroad would increase during summer vacation. Thus, we designated July 20 to September 1 as the period for “Summer Safety Campaign for Overseas Traveling,” where awareness-raising activities will be reinforced to raise safety consciousness.

Specifically, during the campaign period, announcements on safety measures will be made during international flights departing Japan which are operated by Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA), and we will also plan to increase the number of overseas safety quizzes available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) website, make publicities online, and make publicities for “Overseas Travel Registration (Tabi-Regi)” on the Government of Japan’s information TV programs available through satellite broadcasting. In addition, we plan to launch new projects on social media, and will make efforts for an understanding of the necessity of overseas safety measures.

During the campaign period, we aim to have 200,000 new Tabi-Regi registrations, which is 30% more than the number attained during the same period last year.

For travelling abroad safely, while being prepared for “self-help,” we would like everyone to take all safety measures including gathering safety information on travel destinations using the MOFA Overseas Safety Website, sign up for “Tabi-Regi,” and purchase overseas travel insurance.

(2) 5th Meeting of the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament

Minister Kono: On July 22 and 23, the 5th meeting of the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament will be held in Tokyo. I will also participate and would like to exchange views with the group members.

This time, following the meetings in Nagasaki and Kyoto, we would like the discussion to focus on difficult issues in disarmament and national security that must truly be overcome towards the elimination of nuclear weapons.

The Government of Japan will continue to contribute to the forming of a shared foundation enabling efforts agreed upon by the international community toward a world without nuclear weapons, based on the discussions by the Group of Eminent Persons.

(3) Visit to Japan by Young Politics-Oriented Cambodians

Minister Kono: Ten young Cambodian politicians will visit Japan from July 17 for about one week upon the invitation of MOFA.

Japan will firmly support the democratic development of Cambodia. This visit has been implemented so that participants can study about Japanese multi-party democracy, and during this third visit, the group is planned to include participants from the Cambodian People’s Party (the ruling party), the former Cambodia National Rescue Party, and other opposition parties.

While deepening their recognition on democracy, we hope that these young Cambodian politicians will exchange views with each other for their country’s development, and that this will be an opportunity for fostering their solidarity.

Issue of the Former Civilian Workers from the Korean Peninsula

NHK, Koizumi: I would like to ask a question concerning the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula. It was recently revealed that the plaintiff side will soon begin to seek a new court order for the sale and liquidation of assets of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. What is your reaction to this? Also, the final deadline for holding the arbitration committee is day after tomorrow and is approaching, and it seems there has still been no reply from the Republic of Korea (ROK). How will the Government of Japan respond after the deadline if there will still be no reply?

Minister Kono: I am strongly requesting the ROK side to remedy this breach of international law. I have also demanded the ROK side that no harm should be made to Japanese companies. In case Japanese companies are to be harmed, then necessary measures will have to be taken, so in order to avoid such a situation, I would like to strongly request a response from the Government of the ROK. With regards to arbitration, it is an obligation based on the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the ROK, so I believe that the ROK side will respond.

Update of Export Control toward the ROK (Statement by President Moon Jae-in)

Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: In relation to this, I would like to ask about Japan-ROK relations. President Moon made a statement yesterday that the Government of Japan imposed the export control on the basis that there were violations by the ROK of sanctions against North Korea. He made it sound as if the Government of Japan reversed its statement made at the beginning, so my first question is if that is really the case. Also, President Moon used quite a strong expression saying that this is a serious challenge to the ROK. What is your reaction to this statement?

Minister Kono: In regard to your first question on whether the Government of Japan made such a statement, I believe that that was not a statement made by the Government of Japan. I would like you to verify that.

Export controls concerning national security are domestic actions that all countries must firmly carry out, and so Japan will carefully carry out necessary domestic actions. We believe this is nothing more than necessary actions related to the national security being appropriately carried out.

Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: What about the expression that this is a serious challenge?

Minister Kono: These are domestic actions, so these expressions are absolutely not applicable.

Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: I have also heard that there have been movements in the ROK, in response to the Government of Japan’s export control, for boycotting Japanese products including Japanese clothes. You have always emphasized that people-to-people exchange is important, so what is your understanding of this situation which is affecting citizens, and how will it be resolved?

Minister Kono: We believe that the Government of the ROK needs to explain to its citizens that Japan is appropriately carrying out export control for security. Japan will also make efforts for giving explanations about its actions.

Issue of the Former Civilian Workers from the Korean Peninsula

Dong-a Ilbo, Kim: I would like to ask two questions in relation to this. In President Moon’s statement yesterday, he said that the plan shown by the Government of the ROK in relation to the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula was not the only measure, and he requested that Japan return to a diplomatic resolution. What is the reaction by the Government of Japan to this? Also, if the Government of the ROK does not accept to convene an arbitration committee, what are the possible countermeasures?

Minister Kono: The current situation is that the ROK side is breaching international law, and we have been continuously requesting the Government of the ROK to remedy this. I would like the ROK side to firmly respond. Also, although there is an arbitration process, if the ROK side remedies such breach of international law, then there will be no need for an arbitration. If it does not, since it is an obligation under international law, then naturally the Government of the ROK should move based on this process.

Minister Kono’s Visits to Thailand, Myanmar, and Bangladesh

Kyodo News, Fukuda: There are reports that you will visit the three countries of Thailand, Myanmar, and Bangladesh from the end of this month to the beginning of next month, and that a Japan-North Korea Foreign Ministers’ Meeting is being sought to be held in Thailand. Can you tell us if that is true?

Minister Kono: Nothing has been decided.

Situation in Iran (Plan Concerning Formation of a Coalition of the Willing)

Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: Chairman Dunford of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States indicated the idea to form a coalition to protect tankers in locations including the Strait of Hormuz on July 9. Has MOFA and the Government of Japan heard about this, and is participation being considered? Also, Japan traditionally has friendly relations with Iran, and has not specified the perpetrator of the tanker incidents, so do you think it is appropriate for the Government of Japan to consider a dispatch?

Minister Kono: Discussions are regularly being conducted regarding Japan-U.S. security, but I would like to refrain from commenting publicly on each one of them.

Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: The Strait of Hormuz has always been considered an important route, so do you think the current situation requires such a dispatch?

Minister Kono: Discussions are being conducted between Japan and the United States, but I would like to refrain from commenting publicly on each one of them.

Jiji Press, Echigo: I would like to ask a related question. What is your analysis of the recent tension around the Strait of Hormuz? Also, at a press conference after the Cabinet meeting this morning, Defense Minister Iwaya indicated that he does not believe there is a need to immediately dispatch Japan Self-Defense Forces. Is this the unified view of the Government of Japan?

Minister Kono: The reality is that tensions in the Middle East are rising in various areas, including the around the Strait of Hormuz, as well as issue of Yemen, Syria, and Libya. Thus there is no change to the belief that it is necessary to ease tensions throughout the Middle East. I would like you to ask questions regarding the Ministry of Defense to them directly.

Visit to Japan by Young Cambodian politicians

Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: I would like to ask a question regarding the Cambodians you explained in your opening remarks. The visits have been held quite a few times, and each time members of the ruling and opposition parties have been invited. What is your view of the results and issues that have been accumulated thus far? Also, I believe that Japan’s position still differs from the views of western countries on Southeast Asian countries, so how will you work on that point?

Minister Kono: This program has been conducted several times, and has received a very positive reaction from the participants. However, the process of democratization for one country requires the participation of many people and a lot of time. Thus, we are not yet in a situation where this process can cause rapid changes, but we would like to firmly continue support that the Cambodian people can someday look back on and say that that was a major factor in the democratization of Cambodia.

It’s certainly true that if we look at democratization not just in Cambodia but in Asia, from the perspective of the western process, it can be said that it is taking time. But in the United Kingdom, for example, the Romans withdrew in 410 A.D. and it took a considerably long time for the democratic system to be established; the process extended over many centuries. I do not mean to say that it is fine for so much time to be taken, but Japan will work closely with Asian countries so that at the very least democracy does not regress there, and it will slowly but surely progress.

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