Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono
Thursday, August 22, 2019, 10:06 p.m. Central Entrance Hall, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: On November 23, 2016, the Governments of Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) signed the Japan-ROK General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), in order to ensure protection of classified military information, and the Agreement came into force on the same day. Under the recognition that the GSOMIA has been strengthening cooperation and collaboration in the field of security between Japan and the ROK and contributing to regional peace and stability, it has been automatically extended each year since its conclusion in 2016. Despite this, the Government of the ROK has decided to terminate the GSOMIA, which is a response that completely misjudges the current security environment in the region. The Government of the ROK, within the context of national security, linked its decision to terminate the GSOMIA with Japan’s recent review of export control. However, these two matters belong to completely different dimensions, and the ROK’s claim is totally unacceptable. We would like to resolutely protest that this decision was made by linking such matters belonging to completely different dimensions. Japan-ROK relations continue to be in an extremely severe situation because of the series of exceedingly negative and irrational actions that the ROK side has been taking, including this decision. Nevertheless, the Government of Japan, based on our consistent position on various issues, will continue to strongly urge the ROK to pursue prudent handlings. Just a while ago, I summoned the ROK Ambassador Nam Gwan-pyo, conveyed Japan’s position, and protested against the fact that various decisions have been made by linking these completely different issues. That is all from me.
Reporter: Has the ROK side actually already notified the termination of the GSOMIA?
Minister Kono: Not yet.
Reporter: What is the outlook concerning this afterwards?
Minister Kono: Please ask the Government of the ROK about that.
Reporter: Please tell us your candid reaction to the termination of the GSOMIA.
Minister Kono: Considering the current issues including North Korea, I believe anyone can probably understand the importance of the GSOMIA. I cannot help but say that connecting the GSOMIA with the review of export control is a response that completely misjudges the current security environment in the region. I would like to resolutely protest that such a decision has been made.
Reporter: How did the ROK Ambassador respond, such as saying he would convey this to his country?
Minister Kono: He said he would convey this accurately to his country, and left.
Reporter: What are your thoughts on this situation where the confrontation between Japan and the ROK has expanded beyond historic issues to the fields of economy and security?
Minister Kono: The most outstanding issue between Japan and the ROK is the continued breach of international law caused by the ROK Supreme Court’s decision regarding the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula. Various talks are being conducted between the diplomatic authorities of Japan and the ROK in order to share the recognition that Japan-ROK relations should be normalized by firmly remedying the breach. Although there are difficult issues, our diplomatic authorities agreed to continue talks and that was also agreed at the recent Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. Hence, through this dialogue, I would like the ROK side to handle the issue prudently.
Reporter: If the ROK will actually terminate the GSOMIA, specifically how do you think it will affect Japan-ROK and Japan-ROK-U.S. security cooperation going forward?
Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from answering based on speculation.
Reporter: You met with Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha yesterday. At that time, were you expecting to a certain extent such an outcome or a response from the ROK side, or was it beyond expectations?
Minister Kono: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has prepared to be able to respond to any situations.
Reporter: You met with Foreign Minister Kang on August 1 and yesterday. What is your response to such a result?
Minister Kono: I have agreed with Foreign Minister Kang that the ROK’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs at least will recognize the importance of Japan-ROK relations and that we will continue talks to resolve the issues. Although we are in a difficult situation, the diplomatic authorities of our countries will firmly manage Japan-ROK relations and continue efforts to improve our relations.
Reporter: Although you have agreed to maintain mutual communication, this situation has occurred. Is communication still important?
Minister Kono: I believe that no matter what the situation may be, diplomatic authorities should continue dialogues to firmly manage bilateral relations.
Reporter: If there are such relations between the diplomatic authorities of Japan and the ROK, then does this decision of the ROK mean that there was a lack of communication between the ROK’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Presidential Executive Office?
Minister Kono: I believe it would be best for you to ask the ROK side about domestic matters in the ROK.
Reporter: Did ROK Ambassador Nam not say anything else beyond that he would convey the message to his country?
Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from commenting here on anything beyond that.
Reporter: To confirm, is it correct to understand that you lodged a protest today at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?
Minister Kono: I summoned the Ambassador earlier and spoke with him.
Reporter: Amidst this, although it was agreed to maintain communication, how do you think it would be best to break the deadlock?
Minister Kono: There are many matters that the ROK must handle, so I would like to firmly discuss those matters and request the ROK side to handle the issue prudently.
Reporter: Taking into account the termination of GSOMIA, what communication took place with the U.S. side, at various possible levels?
Minister Kono: I would like to firmly continue various diplomatic efforts.
Reporter: Have you not had a telephone talk with Secretary of State Pompeo yet?
Minister Kono: Communication is being conducted at various levels.
Reporter: You lodged a protest today. Has Japan’s response for tomorrow and beyond been decided?
Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from commenting publicly at this point.