National / Politics | CABINET INTERVIEW

Kono warns of 'loopholes' in North Korea sanctions, urges strict implementation

by Tomohiro Osaki

Staff Writer

Newly appointed Foreign Minister Taro Kono on Tuesday advocated for the “strict and thorough” implementation of U.N. sanctions against North Korea to further squeeze the reclusive regime, saying “loopholes” undercutting their effect must be eliminated.

If U.N. Security Council resolutions “are thoroughly implemented, I believe we can stop the flow of money into North Korea worth more than $1 billion,” Kono said in a joint interview with media outlets.

“But there are lots of loopholes. For example, coal exports rejected by China have now found their way into Southeast Asia instead. The resolutions must be carried out strictly and thoroughly,” he said.

Likewise, Kono stressed the importance of a strengthened alliance among the United States, Japan and South Korea in order to maximize the effect of pressure on Pyongyang.

On China, Kono repeated his assertion from an Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Manila earlier this month that the world’s second-largest economy “must learn to behave” in accordance with international law.

But at the same time he emphasized that Japan and China should work “shoulder to shoulder” in tackling global challenges, including climate change and cross-border epidemics.

“Geographically speaking, Japan and China can’t move away from each other for the next million years, so I believe we need to get along with each other,” he said.

Kono’s appointment was initially well-received by the nation’s neighbors, largely due to the fact his father, Yohei, issued a landmark apology in 1993 for the predicament of “comfort women,” a euphemism for the mostly Asian women who were forced to work in Japanese Imperial military brothels before and during World War II.

Kono said he wants to “make the most of” the favorable global reputation he inherited from his father in harnessing relationships with China and South Korea.

His participation in the ASEAN summit, Kono said, convinced him that South Korean Foreign Minister, Kang Kyung-wha, is a “very easy person to communicate with.”

Although stressing his commitment to improving Japan’s economic and cultural relationship with the country, Kono stood firmly by the government position that a landmark 2015 accord with Seoul — which purportedly resolved the comfort women issue once and for all — needs to be implemented as agreed.

The South Korean administration of Moon Jae-in has expressed eagerness to rework the deal, which was struck under the leadership of his predecessor Park Geun-hye.

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