Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Tuesday, July 23, 2019, 5:00 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs
(1) The Passing Away of Mr. Yukiya Amano, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Yesterday, the IAEA announced the passing away of Director General Yukiya Amano. I described Director General Amano’s significant achievements in the Foreign Minister’s Statement, but I would like to once again praise Director General Amano’s leadership and achievements, and express profound gratitude for his efforts and dedication during his life. I would also like to express my condolences to his family and offer my prayers for him.
Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) Relations
Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: I would like to ask about Japan-ROK relations. Last week during your meeting with Ambassador Nam from the ROK, you had a quite harsh verbal exchange including saying, “That is rude.”
You used harsh wording when the judgement concerning the issue of the so-called former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula was first announced last year, but after that you have consistently emphasized the exchanges between Japan and the ROK as well as what can be done between the diplomatic authorities of the two countries. Can you please explain your intention for using harsh wording again at this point?
Also, there are upcoming events where the foreign ministers of both Japan and the ROK are planned to participate including the ASEAN Plus Three Foreign Minister’s Meetings next month. I believe you will meet Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on such occasions, so how would you like to respond as head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of Japan?
Minister Kono: Although the governments of Japan and the ROK face a severe situation, I have been stating for some time that I would like people-to-people exchanges between our two countries to continue despite the situation. We would like exchanges between municipalities, cultural exchanges and sports exchanges to be sustained. There is still no change to the situation where the ROK is breaching international law, so I would like the ROK to swiftly take measures to remedy the situation. With regards to the proposal from the ROK side, it would not remedy the violation of international law, so the Japanese side has stated from the beginning that it could not be a subject of discussion. Rather than repeating that proposal, we would like the ROK side to firmly take measures to remedy the breach of international law.
Airspace Violation by Russian Military Aircraft near Takeshima
NHK, Koizumi: I would like to ask about the matter involving the ROK and Russia. This morning, an announcement was made that warning shots were fired because a Russian military aircraft violated the airspace near Takeshima in Shimane Prefecture. I hear that the Government of the ROK issued a severe protest as well, but Japan claims Takeshima as its territory, so what is your reaction to this series of events and how will the Government of Japan respond?
Minister Kono: Japan has issued a protest regarding the violation of Japanese airspace by Russia. I would like the Russian side to firmly take measures so that such a violation does not occur again. In addition, the measure taken by the ROK side cannot possibly be accepted by Japan, and we have also issued a protest stating that to the ROK.
Kyodo News, Fukuda: The final part of what you have just said was that Japan “also issued a protest to the ROK side.” Does that mean it was a “protest” and not a “severe protest”?
Minister Kono: I do not know the exact wording, so please ask the division in charge for the details.
Jiji Press, Echigo: Can you please explain again the reason for which Japan issued a protest to the ROK side?
Minister Kono: That an action incompatible with the position of the Government of Japan was taken.
Case of Intrusion and the Demonstration by Students at the Consulate-General of Japan in Busan
Sankei Shimbun, Harakawa: Recently in the ROK, there have been successive disturbing movements including the suicide of a man by self-immolation outside the Embassy of Japan in Seoul, and six students who intruded into the Consulate-General of Japan in Busan yesterday. What is your reaction to this? Also, I believe there is spot information and warnings regarding the respective matters on the MOFA website, but is MOFA considering raising the danger level of the travel advisory?
Minister Kono: We are requesting the ROK side to securely guard the Embassy, Consulates-General, and other locations. Spot information has been issued so that Japanese nationals who are traveling will not be involved in such incidents, but we do not intend to raise the travel warning level at the moment.
Idea for a Coalition
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: I would like to ask two questions. The first question is that the United States held an explanatory meeting on July 19 regarding navigation security in locations including the Strait of Hormuz, so what requests did the Government of Japan receive? Also, I believe the Government of Japan is being requested to respond, so what consideration and responses will be undertaken?
Minister Kono: The Strait of Hormuz is an important location for Japan’s energy security, so the Government of Japan is currently exchanging information with the countries concerned.
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: An explanatory session will also be held on July 25, so is there a plan to dispatch participants?
Minister Kono: I have heard that a meeting of the United States Central Command will be held in Tampa on July 25. If the Government of Japan were to participate, it will probably be someone from the Ministry of Defense.
5th Meeting of the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament
Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: Yesterday was the second day of the 5th meeting of the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament, and at the end of the meeting you proposed to submit the Chairman’s summary around September. You also proposed to continue Track 1.5 meetings, but do you and the Government of Japan intend to continue Track 1.5 with the Group of Eminent Persons going forward toward the NPT Conferences in 2020 and 2025? Also, you mentioned the significance and the difficulties of the Group of Eminent Persons, and that it is particularly difficult for the Group of Eminent Persons to reach a consensus regarding challenging issues, so can you please explain again its limits and significance?
Minister Kono: Going forward, I believe the outcome will be compiled by Chairman Shiraishi. Although we would like to end this series of meetings of the Group of Eminent Persons at this point, of course, this does not mean all activities will cease, and if possible I would like to further deepen discussions by launching a 1.5 Track.
Members with different positions participated in the meeting of the Group of Eminent Persons this time. Although their positions differed, many members expressed their view that extremely significant and constructive discussions were conducted. In that sense, although it is difficult to say that the differences in positions were completely bridged, I believe that continuing this dialogue would be extremely significant.
In addition, the recent Kyoto Appeal was extremely well-received around the world. I believe it is important for Japan, as the only country to have suffered from atomic bombs in war, to firmly speak about nuclear disarmament as well as non-proliferation focusing on 2020 and beyond, and if possible, I would like discussions to be firmly continued in the form of Track 1.5.
General Council of the World Trade Organization (WTO)
Dong-A Ilbo, Kim: There will be a meeting of the General Council of the WTO today. Director-General Yamagami of the Economic Affairs Bureau of MOFA is participating on behalf of Japan. I would like to ask what Japan’s strategy and position will be toward the ROK.
Minister Kono: I do not believe there will be anything in particular that will be discussed between Japan and the ROK. Director-General Yamagami is being requested to give a report on the G20 Summit.
Nishinippon Shimbun, Shioiri: I would like to ask a question in relation to Japan-ROK exchange. Today, Mayor Oh Keo-don of Busan in the ROK criticized Japan’s strengthening of export control regulations against the ROK as being an unjust economic sanction, and announced that a complete review would be conducted about Japan-ROK exchange events managed by Busan City. Busan City is close to Japan and has sister city agreements with cities including Fukuoka City and Shimonoseki City in Yamaguchi Prefecture. A major effect is anticipated if Japan-ROK exchange events are suspended going forward. What is your reaction to the situation in which such exchanges between municipalities and people-to-people exchanges are already being affected, and how will MOFA respond?
Minister Kono: We are facing difficult issues between our governments, but that is precisely why I believe that firmly continuing people-to-people exchanges at this juncture is extremely important for bilateral relations. Various exchange projects have been conducted for many years by many municipalities between Japan and the ROK, including sister city relations, and I would certainly like these exchange projects to be continued.
Protest Regarding the Airspace Violation by a Russian Military Aircraft near Takeshima
Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: I would like to confirm a point about the matter of Takeshima. I may have misheard something. A protest was issued to the ROK, but what response by the ROK was the protest about?
Minister Kono: That a measure incompatible with the position of the Government of Japan was taken.
Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: Does that mean the warning shots?
Minister Kono: A measure was taken that is incompatible with the position of the Government of Japan.
Asahi Shimbun, Kihara: I do not understand what you mean by the position of the Government of Japan. Why won’t you explain that?
Minister Kono: Takeshima is Japanese territory, so it is Japan that should respond to the airspace violation by Russia. Thus, it is incompatible with the position of the Government of Japan that the ROK should take any measures.