Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Friday, July 19, 2019, 10:47 a.m. Central Entrance Hall, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Taking into account that a situation has arisen in which the Republic of Korea (ROK) is breaching international law due to a decision taken by the Supreme Court of the ROK in 2018, Japan requested consultations in accordance with the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the ROK in January 2019. Consultations were not conducted, so Japan started the process to refer the dispute to arbitration in accordance with the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems on May 20. However, necessary procedures including the designation of arbitrators or the selection of third-party countries were not carried out before the deadline, and the breach of international law has not yet been remedied. It is regrettable that the arbitration process could not be carried out, and I would like to strongly request that the ROK side swiftly remedy its breaches of international law. This will be later issued as a Foreign Minister’s Statement. That is all from me.
Reporter: How did Ambassador Nam react to your statement?
Minister Kono: He made a statement that mixed up the issue of the ROK Supreme Court decision with another issue that has no relation to it, but I would like the ROK side to make precise explanations to its domestic audience so that the issues are not mixed up together. The ROK side also made a proposal, but this proposal would not remedy the breach of international law, so during discussions between the foreign ministries, it had already been stated that it would unfortunately not be a solution. Thus, unfortunately, it is not possible to discuss and come up with a solution based on that.
Reporter: What response is the Government of Japan considering in the future, including the referral of the case to the International Court of Justice?
Minister Kono: I would like to firmly make appropriate responses as necessary. Also, if harms are to be made on Japanese companies due to the decision taken by the ROK Supreme Court, we believe that necessary measures would be appropriately taken.
Reporter: The deadline for renewing the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) is next month. I believe there will possibly be effects on the security relations, so what are your thoughts on that point?
Minister Kono: I believe that regional security must be enhanced through firm cooperation between Japan, the United States, and the ROK. That recognition is shared among our countries’ foreign ministries, and it is my understanding that the same recognition is shared among the defense ministries.
Reporter: The deadline for Article III. 3 of the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems has passed, so is it correct to understand that the Government of Japan will not further request arbitration? That is my first question. Also, when you mentioned taking necessary measures if Japanese companies are harmed, is it correct to understand that there is consideration for making a claim to the Government of the ROK for compensation in accordance with international law?
Minister Kono: It is extremely regrettable that it was not possible to resolve the issue through the arbitration process. I would like to firmly conduct dialogues between the foreign ministries, but I would like the ROK side to swiftly take necessary remedial measures. I would like to refrain from disclosing Japan’s considerations regarding the timing and content of the necessary measures.
Reporter: You mentioned that unrelated issues are being mixing up. Did you have Japan’s export control regulation in mind? Also, although Japan is explaining that they are different issues, the ROK is completely mixing the issues together, and the bilateral relations are worsening. What is your view of this situation?
Minister Kono: The issue of export control, as one might say, is entrusted to Japanese domestic laws, so naturally Japan conducts necessary reviews. Conducting a review has absolutely no relation to the decision by the ROK Supreme Court. We would like to call for attention so that the issues are not mixed together when they are being explained.
Reporter: During the meeting, there was a scene where it was consciously mentioned that the ROK had been proposing a solution that the Japanese side cannot possibly accept. What are your thoughts on this scene?
Minister Kono: The ROK side made a proposal, but I immediately stated that Japan cannot accept it because it would not contribute to resolving the issue or remedying the breaches of international law.
Reporter: You have been repeating that the export control has absolutely no relation to the Supreme Court judgment. However, when Japan announced the export control in the beginning, Minister Seko and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) mentioned this issue as a cause that is undermining the Japan-ROK relationship of trust, so is it not an exaggeration to say there is absolutely no relation? There is probably no direct relation, but is there not at least an indirect relation?
Minister Kono: There is no relation.
Reporter: So what was the initial explanation then?
Minister Kono: Please ask METI.
Reporter: Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga also said something similar. He said the issue of the civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula was one of the issues in the background, so how do you explain this inconsistency?
Minister Kono: It is our understanding that dialogues are supposed to be properly conducted on export control between export control authorities of the two countries, and that those negotiations were not conducted. This has absolutely no relation to the Supreme Court decision of which our two countries’ foreign ministries are working on the solution.
Reporter: If that is so, doesn’t that mean that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and METI are making different assertions?
Minister Kono: They are not different.
Reporter: Your reaction earlier, when the ROK side once again made the same proposal as before, was to criticize it in a very strong tone saying that it is extremely rude. How did the ROK Ambassador respond to this, when he replied to your criticism?
Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from making public the discussion after that.
Reporter: I believe it is quite unusual for the Japanese side to interrupt a statement by the ROK Ambassador and say his conduct is rude in a considerably loud voice. What is the explanation for that?
Minister Kono: It had already been stated that the ROK’s proposal would not contribute to resolving the issue between the foreign ministries of both countries. Japan had previously objected that it is inappropriate for the ROK side to make such a proposal publicly.