Press Conferences

Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Tuesday, June 18, 2019, 5:32 p.m. Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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

Opening Remarks

(1) Message of Condolences Sent in Response to the Earthquake in Sichuan Province in China

Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: I have sent a message of condolence to State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi today in response to the earthquake that occurred last night in Yibin City, Sichuan Province, China. I would like to send my condolences to the families of the victims and also express my sympathy for the people who were hurt. Japan is prepared to provide necessary support. I would like to express my prayers for the rescue of as many people as possible, and the early recovery of the disaster-affected area.

(2) The Diplomatic Archives Special Exhibition “150 Years of Japanese Diplomacy”

Minister Kono: Based on the fact that this year is the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from Tuesday, July 2 a special exhibition entitled “150 Years of Japanese Diplomacy” will be held at the Diplomatic Archives. It will exhibit records that convey the progress of Japanese diplomacy over 150 years, centering on treaties concluded with various countries and more, so I would like for many people to visit them. Original documents including the Anglo-Japanese Treaty of Commerce and Navigation of 1894 and the Hull Note of 1941 will be exhibited. It is our hope that a lot of people will visit the exhibition.

Issue of the Former Civilian Workers from the Korean Peninsula (Arrival of the 30-Day Deadline for Committing to Arbitration)

NHK, Okuzumi: I would like to ask a question about the Republic of Korea (ROK). One month has passed since Japan requested the ROK to set up an arbitration panel, but the ROK side has still not appointed an arbitrator for the panel. I believe today is the deadline under the Agreement, so has there been any response from the ROK side? Also, you have previously stated that you think the ROK will respond, so what response will be taken by Japan if there is no reply by the deadline?

Minister Kono: There is still time until the deadline, so I think that the ROK side will sincerely respond according to the Agreement.

Kyodo News, Fukuda: The Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the ROK stipulates the method of establishing an arbitration panel in which both Japan and the ROK entrust arbitration to three selected personnel from third-party countries. If Japan does not receive a reply from the ROK, will it advance the process according to the Agreement?

Minister Kono: We have not yet reached the deadline for arbitration, so I believe that the ROK will sincerely respond based on the Agreement.

Mainichi Shimbun, Kihara: You have occasionally exchanged views with Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha until now and valued the Japan-ROK channel, so from tomorrow, what exchanges do you think are necessary with the ROK regarding the issue of the former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula, and how do you intend to work on resolving the issue?

Minister Kono: If the ROK side accepts arbitration, then naturally we will enter the arbitration process.

Yomiuri Shimbun, Yanada: The process has begun for establishing an arbitration panel with the ROK, but on the other hand, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon stated that the ROK is considering some sort of countermeasure, and the option can also be considered of Japan taking some sort of opportunity for a retaliatory measure. How is a process besides an arbitration panel positioned now and what decision is being made?

Minister Kono: Being in the arbitration process does not rule out other options. I spoke with Foreign Minister Kang at the recent OECD Ministerial Council Meeting in Paris and our dialogue has continued. So if the ROK presents some sort of solution, it would be quite possible to have discussions on that in parallel with the arbitration process or to conduct outside discussions. Therefore it is absolutely not the case that being in the arbitration process would rule out other options.

Visit to North Korea by President Xi Jinping of China

Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: In relation to North Korea, President Xi Jinping of China will visit the country on June 20 and 21. What is your reaction to this? Do you think it will lead to denuclearization by North Korea?

Minister Kono: It is the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and North Korea, and I think Chairman Kim Jong-un has visited China four times, so I believe these are reasons why the Chinese side will visit North Korea. We expect that dialogue between China and North Korea will push North Korea to take a step toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) (Countermeasure by the Government of Iran)

Asahi Shimbun, Kiyomiya: In relation to Iran, the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran announced yesterday that on June 27, its stockpile of low-enriched uranium will surpass the limit in the JCPOA. However, you and Prime Minister Abe visited Iran last week and have been requesting Iran to comply with the JCPOA for some time. What is your reaction to this movement as well as the on the deepening conflict between Iran and the United States?

Minister Kono: I believe it is extremely important for Iran to firmly abide by the JCPOA framework. The Supreme Leader and President of Iran made it clearly understood that they do not have the intention of possessing nuclear weapons, so this deviance from the JCPOA is not good for Iran either, and I fear that it could jolt the non-proliferation system. Japan wants Iran to firmly abide by the JCPOA framework, and will continue to request this.

North Korea

Sky TG24, d'Emilia: My first question is about the visit of President Xi Jinping to North Korea. Do you think Japan should do something to get out of the deadlock between Japan and North Korea? Trump has met Kim Jong-un already twice. Don’t you think there is something to be done between Japan and North Korea? And, personally, would you wish so if there’s something going on? Can you elaborate on this?

Minister Kono: The Prime Minister has been reiterating that he is ready to see Chairman Kim Jong-un to address the abductee issue. According to the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, Japan is ready to normalize the relationship once the nuclear and abduction issues are cleared. So, nothing has changed our position since then.

Japan-ROK Summit Meeting at the G20 Summit

Dong-A Ilbo, Kim: I would like to ask about the G20 Summit. Will a Japan-ROK Summit Meeting be held at the G20 Summit, and what is the view of Japan?

Minister Kono: The leaders of 27 countries and nearly 10 international organizations will attend the G20 Summit, so coordination is still being conducted including the schedule of bilateral meetings.

JoongAng Ilbo, Yoon: Will the response by the ROK side and future exchange regarding the composition of the arbitration panel affect the holding of a Japan-ROK Summit Meeting at the G20 Summit?

Minister Kono: As I just stated, the leaders of 27 countries and nearly 10 international organizations will attend the G20 Summit, and coordination is currently being conducted including the schedule of bilateral meetings.

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