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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Friday, May 17, 2013 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga

  • Prime Minister's plan to visit Oita, Saga and Fukuoka prefectures

Prime Minister Abe is scheduled to visit Oita, Saga and Fukuoka prefectures from tomorrow, May 18 to May 19. Specifically, the Prime Minister is scheduled to visit companies engaging in sixth industry promotion (collaboration of primary, secondary and tertiary industries), which have newly entered the field of agriculture by making use of deserted arable land.  He will also engage in an exchange of opinions with businesses involved in tourism and visit the "Yukemuri Power Generation" project, which utilizes geothermal hot-spring energy to generate electricity. Furthermore, the Prime Minister will visit a heavy particle radiotherapy facility used in cancer treatment, a therapy in which Japan possesses world-leading knowledge, as well as engaging in a "hometown roundtable talk" and attending a forum for promoting the efforts of young people and women.


  • The comfort women issue
  • Avian influenza in China
  • The oversights in safety checks at the Monju nuclear reactor

REPORTER: I have a question concerning the Government's view of the statement made by Japan Restoration Party Diet member Shingo Nishimura in a meeting of Diet members. I feel that his comment in such a public forum was inappropriate, and after stating that Japan is still teeming with "comfort women" from the Republic of Korea (ROK) and that all of these people should be referred to as such, he immediately withdrew the comment. However, regardless of whether he withdrew the comment, the fact that an opposition party Diet member made such a comment in the first place is likely to create a diplomatic issue and draw a protest from the ROK. What are your views concerning a Diet member making such a statement?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: It is regrettable in the extreme, and the statement is not even worthy of being commented on.

REPORTER: On a related note, the 1993 Kono Statement on the issue of comfort women, which the Government has never denied, makes it clear that the Government of Japan was complicit in the establishment of comfort stations and the recruitment of comfort women. When Japan ratified the 1921 International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children it specifically made reservations to the convention in order to exclude its colonies such as Taiwan and Korea and engaged in actions involving comfort women there. Therefore, this issue is ultimately a matter relating to reflecting on and showing remorse for crimes of war and aggression and has nothing to do with night-time culture and prostitution. This fact is one that various politicians seem not to understand, as witnessed by their various statements on this issue. I believe that these statements stem from the regrettable and ambiguous comments made by the Prime Minister, who asserted that the definition of "aggression" has yet to be decided and referred also to reflecting on Japan's wartime aggression. What are your views on the relation between the various comments?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Rather than singling out the Prime Minister, I have noted on frequent occasions in this press conference that the Abe Cabinet has never once attempted to deny the fact of Japan's aggression. As I have just stated I do not believe the statement made by the Japan Restoration Party Diet member to be worthy of comment.


REPORTER: The recent comment by Diet member Shingo Nishimura was preceded by comments by co-leader of the Japan Restoration Party Toru Hashimoto and you have stated that these comments made by the leader of an opposition party are not worthy of further discussion. However, if these comments continue there is a possibility that they will be brought up by the overseas media as comments by Japanese politicians, and that such reports could suggest that all Japanese politicians harbor the same kind of opinions, which would ultimately be detrimental to the interests of Japan. Does the Government intend to call on politicians to refrain from making such statements?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I do not think that it would be appropriate for the Government to call on House of Representative members to refrain from making comments. However, the position of the Government with regard to this issue has been made clear in the Diet. In addition, the Abe Cabinet as the government administration that represents Japan will endeavor to explain the Government stance clearly and thoroughly through diplomatic channels and other means. Japan is a country that respects freedom of speech, but I believe that these recent statements are not worthy of any further discussion.

REPORTER: With regard to the view of the Government, which is responsible for Japan's response to this issue, you have just stated that the Government has never once attempted to deny Japan's wartime aggression. However, this issue was originally sparked by discussion on the review of the Kono Statement. Can I ask therefore for the Government's view on the issue of "comfort women"?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I wish to make clear right away that the Government has never once issued any statement concerning revisions to the established stance. With regard to the "comfort women" issue, I have explained the Government view here in this press conference on numerous occasions. During the course of history there have been many wars that have violated the human rights of women. It is of the utmost importance to ensure that the 21st century is one in which there are no more violations of human rights and Japan seeks to make every effort to that end. With regard to the "comfort women" issue, when we think of the women who experienced immeasurable pain and suffering we are deeply pained. I have frequently stated the Government's view that the Abe Cabinet shares the same recognition as that of previous cabinets and that we should not turn this issue into a political or diplomatic issue.

REPORTER: I apologize for being persistent, but are we to understand that the Government recognition of this issue is that it has nothing to do with prostitution today but relates to war crimes committed during the course of Japan's wartime aggression, whereas in the comments made by Mr. Nishimura and Mr. Hashimoto, the "comfort women" issue was associated to prostitution today?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Japan is a country that respects freedom of speech, but as I have already noted, I do not believe these comments made by other persons to be worthy of further discussion.

REPORTER: What is the Government's view of the current status of avian influenza that has spread from China? Also, could you tell us about the Government's response to the new coronavirus that emerged in the Middle East and is showing signs of spreading to Europe?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Type A (H7N9) avian influenza in China has at the current time infected 131 persons, of whom 35 are confirmed to have died. However, looking at the trends among the people infected, from April 24 to May 1, 20 people were infected, from May 1 to May 6 two people were infected and from May 6 to May 13 one person was infected. Therefore the current status is that the frequency of infection has reduced considerably. Nonetheless the Government will continue to make every effort to collect information on the status of avian influenza. With regard to the new coronavirus that has emerged in the Middle East, from September last year up to the present time, a total of 40 persons have been infected, of whom 20 have died. Limited person-to-person infection has also been reported. The Government continues to monitor the situation in consultation with the World Health Organization and other bodies and will provide information to the public, particularly to those persons who are returning to Japan after visiting countries on the Arabian Peninsula. The Government is committed to making a continued response to the situation, collecting information from domestic medical organizations and developing a testing structure in the regions of Japan.


REPORTER: President Atsuyuki Suzuki of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency has resigned to take responsibility for the oversights in safety checks at the Monju nuclear reactor. Could I ask for the Government's reaction to the resignation?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I am aware of the reports that President Suzuki has resigned. Whatever the case, the Government of course seeks to give the utmost priority to the safety of nuclear power and therefore it is only natural to expect that the safety checks are implemented thoroughly to allay the concerns of the public with regard to nuclear power. The recently reported oversights in safety checks at the Monju nuclear reactor are therefore highly regrettable. The basic stance of the Government is to continue to make robust responses across the entire Government to ensure safety at nuclear power stations. It is regrettable in the extreme that the checks that should have been implemented at Monju were not performed and I am sorry for the Japanese people that this has been the case.

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