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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Tuesday, May 14, 2013 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga

  • An overview of the Cabinet meeting
  • The 3rd United Nations World Conference on Disaster Reduction
  • Cabinet approval on the invitation to the Prime Minister of India and his wife as an official working visit

I would first like to provide an overview of the Cabinet meeting. The meeting approved five general and other measures and the promulgation of a treaty and legislation, as well as cabinet orders and personnel decisions. With regard to statements by ministers, Minister Furuya and the Minister for Foreign Affairs each made a statement concerning the host city and the timing of the 3rd United Nations World Conference on Disaster Reduction.

At today's Cabinet meeting it was decided that the 3rd United Nations World Conference on Disaster Reduction will be held in Sendai in March 2015 and that the Government will work as one for its preparation. We believe that it is extremely meaningful that this meeting will be held in one of the areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake as we will be able to share with the international community the lessons and experiences that Japan has learned. The Government will work in close cooperation with the United Nations and Sendai City, and make every effort to ensure the meeting's success.

At today's Cabinet meeting, approval was given to invite to Japan H.E. Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India, and his wife to pay an Official Working Visit from May 27 to 30. India is a major power in South Asia with which Japan shares basic values such as freedom, democracy, basic human rights and the rule of law. In recent years, India has been increasingly developing interests in the Asia Pacific. India is located on the sea lane of communication between the Middle East and East Asia and is therefore a nation of strategic significance to Japan. Since 2005, the leaders of Japan and India have visited each other almost every year and this year Japan will invite Prime Minister Singh to Japan. Through this we hope to further bolster and expand our strategic global partnership in a wide range of areas, including politics, security and the economy.


  • Comments by Japan Restoration Party co-leader (Mayor of Osaka City) Hashimoto in relation to comfort women during wartime
  • Japan-ROK relations
  • The comfort women issue
  • Constitutional revision

REPORTER: Japan Restoration Party co-leader Toru Hashimoto yesterday said to journalists, in relation to comfort women during wartime, that comfort women were a necessity. He also stated that the comfort women system was necessary at the time in order to maintain army discipline, putting aside the issue of whether it was against the will of the women. Could you share with us your thoughts on these comments?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The comments were made by the co-leader of another party and I would therefore like to refrain from commenting. However, the stance of the Government on this issue is that, as we stated previously, we are deeply pained when thinking of the women who experienced immeasurable pain and suffering. On this point, the Abe Cabinet has the same position as prior Cabinets.

REPORTER: During the same press conference, or rather the same doorstep interview, Mr. Hashimoto also commented on the U.S. Marines based in Okinawa. He said that when he visited Futenma Air Station he told the base commander that they should make more use of the sex industry, to which the commander was lost for words and in response was only able to force a smile. What are your thoughts on the fact that a leader of a political party made this kind of comment?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I would also like to refrain from answering this question as a representative of the Government.

REPORTER: Please allow me to ask another question. I am aware that you have a strong commitment to the issues concerning the Futenma Air Station and Okinawa, but what are your honest thoughts on the opinion that the sex industry of Okinawa should be utilized in order to prevent crimes committed by U.S. service people?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I have no intention of supporting that idea.

REPORTER: The comments by Mr. Hashimoto have brought on criticisms from the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the U.S. Some members of the ruling parties have expressed concern over the implications that the comments might have for foreign diplomacy. What impact do you believe this will have on Japan's future foreign diplomacy?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The comments were made by a co-leader of an opposition party and we have always made our stance on this matter very clear. I believe that the most important thing is to consistently explain the Government's stance via diplomatic routes.

REPORTER: Please allow me to ask another question on the same topic. It has been reported that Japan has not been asked to attend a diplomatic seminar that will be hosted by the ROK Government in June in Seoul. Could you tell us if the Government has knowledge of this? Also, could you tell us what the Government believes is behind this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I'm aware of these reports in the media but we have not been informed of any details. In this sense, I will refrain from making any comments. However, I have stated on numerous occasions that close cooperation between Japan, the U.S. and the ROK is extremely important as we address the North Korea issue. Furthermore, since China has the strongest influence over North Korea, I believe that cooperation with China is also important. Moving forward, Japan will continue to enhance its cooperation with those nations.

REPORTER: Returning to the topic of the comments made by co-leader Hashimoto, China and the ROK have already expressed their objections. Could you tell us what impact you believe this will have on Japan's foreign diplomacy? Also, regarding the recent comments of Chair of the Policy Research Council Takaichi, I believe that her comments clearly differ from the stance the Government has taken. I believe that her position of Chair of the Policy Research Council is extremely important but am I right to understand that each Cabinet Member is entitled to make up his or her own mind on this issue, as is the case with the Yasukuni Shrine issue?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As for the Yasukuni Shrine issue, as I have said on numerous occasions, developing a sense of respect for those who sacrificed their lives for the nation occurs in any nation. As it is a matter of the heart and concerns freedom of religion, Cabinet takes the stance that it will not interfere with decisions to visit, or not to visit, the Yasukuni Shrine. As for the comments of Chair of the Policy Research Council Takaichi, as I said yesterday, we have made the Government's views very clear during these press conferences. Therefore I spoke with Chair of the Policy Research Council Takaichi on the phone yesterday to communicate the view of the Cabinet. I understand that the Secretary General and Vice-President of the party also shared similar thoughts about the Chair of the Policy Research Council.


REPORTER: A question was raised earlier in relation to this topic, but it has become apparent that the ROK Government has only suggested strategic dialogue with the U.S. and China in addition to not inviting Japan to the international conference. Some view these decisions by the ROK as a deliberate move to exclude Japan. Could you tell us how the Government is planning to address this situation?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The ROK is always an extremely important neighbor of Japan, so we are therefore determined to advance foreign diplomacy while maintaining a broad perspective in which we consistently explain the stance of the Japanese Government and seek understanding.

REPORTER: I believe that in 2007 the Abe Cabinet stated that there was no proof that women were forcibly taken by the authorities and the military. Does the current Cabinet still hold this same view in relation to the comfort women issue? Could you also tell us if I am right to understand that not only the Cabinet, but in fact the Government as a whole believes that there is no such proof?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I have actually explained the stance of the Abe Cabinet during these press conferences on many occasions. There have been many wars in which the rights of women were violated. Understanding this, we are determined to ensure that there are no violations of human rights in the 21st century. This is an extremely important task and Japan is committed to making every effort to make sure we are successful. As for the comfort women issue, as I stated earlier, we are deeply pained when thinking of the women who experienced immeasurable pain and suffering. This understanding is an understanding that the Abe Cabinet shares with previous cabinets. Furthermore, we believe that we should not turn this issue into a political or diplomatic issue. Following the Cabinet decision made by the previous Abe Cabinet, various research has been undertaken by both Japanese and foreign historians and experts. Therefore, the stance of the Abe Cabinet is that further research of this issue is desirable from an academic perspective.


REPORTER: I would like to return to the topic of the Constitution in order to obtain some clarification. After hearing statements made by the Prime Minister in the Diet, I have come to understand that the Prime Minister was planning to revise Article 96 prior to making changes to any other part of the constitution. However, am I right to understand that the Abe Cabinet has not necessarily decided to pursue revision of Article 96 ahead of any other revision?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As the Prime Minister often says, if there is an objection by one third or more of the members of the House of Councillors or Representatives, citizens are not entitled to vote and therefore we have always put forward the goal of removing this barrier. Our party has developed a blueprint or draft for constitutional revision. Thus, I believe the decision as to how we will proceed to constitutional revision is still to be decided.

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question on a related topic. In relation to constitutional revision, the Prime Minister once expressed an understanding on a commercial TV program that substantial time and effort should be devoted to this particular issue after the House of Councillors election. Does the Government share this same understanding?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that during the past 67 years since the end of the war, the Constitution of Japan has taken root in the lives of the Japanese people. However, Japan is the only country in the world whose Constitution has never been revised. Revising the Constitution after society has seen such significant change so as to better suit the era and current situation is indeed in keeping with the spirit by which the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was formed. The idea of taking ownership of building a constitution is a philosophical belief of the LDP. We have maintained this goal for many decades, and especially when considering that we developed a draft Constitution last year, we will naturally include this as part of our electoral campaign, just as we did for the previous House of Representatives election. However, we face a number of issues, including economic issues, reconstruction following the earthquake and the challenge of ensuring thorough risk management. We believe that these are also extremely important issues and we understand that the public desires us to first address these issues before we tackle constitutional revision.


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