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HOME  > Past issues  > 2018 December 12 - 18  > Foreign minister ignores reporters' questions on ‘Northern Territories’
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2018 December 12 - 18 [POLITICS]

Foreign minister ignores reporters' questions on ‘Northern Territories’

December 16, 2018

Foreign Minister Kono Tato, responsible for the Japan-Russia talks on the territorial issue and the conclusion of a peace treaty, keeps ignoring questions from reporters and refuses to comment on the “Northern Territories” issue in the Diet.

The press conference on December 11 gives the best example. A reporter said to Kono, "The other day, regarding the conclusion of a Japan-Russia peace treaty, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, 'The first step will be for Japan to recognize the outcome of WWII.' Any comments on this?" Kono, however, passed over this question in silence by saying, "Next." Including this one, he ignored Northern Territories-related questions four times in a row.

Territorial disputes are a matter affecting national sovereignty. The press serve the people's right to know. To ignore the reporters' questions is tantamount to ignoring the people, the sovereigns of the nation. Kono in the Diet also did not answer to opposition party lawmakers, saying, "I will refrain from commenting on Japan-Russia negotiations as it would go against our national interests."

He stated to the people and the Diet that he will not explain anything. This is astonishingly arrogant and very anachronistic.

It is understandable that diplomatic talks may touch on topics that need not be made public. Nonetheless, to keep even the country's basic approach to diplomatic dialogue over the territorial issue involving national sovereignty away from the public eye is not acceptable in democratic Japan. Only by gaining strong public support under an explicit diplomatic policy based on historical facts and international law can the territorial talks move forward.

Behind FM Kono's stance is none other than Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. PM Abe, through "summit diplomacy" with Russian President Vladimir Putin, aims toward concluding a peace treaty on the return of only the two islands of Habomai and Shikotan.

However, this will demarcate a border between the two countries and it will no longer be possible for Japan to further negotiate the return of other islands. Successive Liberal Democratic Party governments have insisted on the return of the four islands of Kunashiri, Etorofu, Habomai, and Shikotan. What PM Abe intends to do is deny the governments' earlier stance and give in to Russia completely.

Because the Abe-Putin talks include an important turning point for Japan in its diplomacy, both news reporters and Dietmembers have been questioning the government about the country's basic stance in the negotiations.

FM Kono's disregard for public concern has led the people to doubt his capability as Foreign Minister. At the same time, his attitude is the accepted attitude of the Abe government which conducts a form of secret diplomacy.

Past related articles:
> Gov’t must not conclude with Russia a peace pact to have only Habomais and Shikotan returned: Shii [November 16, 2018]
> Abe's failure to counter Putin's proposal makes it difficult to resolve territorial issue [September 13, 2018]
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