National / Politics

English-fluent Foreign Minister Kono makes international debut at ASEAN gathering

Kyodo

New Foreign Minister Taro Kono made his debut on the world stage — with his English fluency on display — during a series of Association of Southeast Asian Nations-related meetings in Manila lasting through Monday.

Kono, a graduate of Georgetown University in Washington, spoke English in all of the multilateral gatherings he attended, a government official said, a rare choice for Japanese foreign ministers.

The official called it “meaningful” for Kono, who assumed his post last Thursday, to create relationships of trust with his counterparts by communicating closely with them in English.

Later Monday, Kono, who is said to have connections with U.S. officials and lawmakers, held a news conference for foreign reporters at the international media center, also a rare move for Japan’s top diplomat.

“I succeeded my predecessor, Mr. Fumio Kishida. He had served as foreign minister for four years and eight months. This is my day five. Please allow me to be a little bit nervous,” Kono said at the news conference in English, drawing laughter from reporters. Kishida is the second-longest-serving foreign minister in the postwar era.

Kono spoke through an interpreter, however, when he answered questions regarding contentious issues such as North Korea and the South China Sea.