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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Monday, July 22, 2013 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga

  • Prime Minister's plan to visit Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines

Prime Minister Abe, circumstances permitting, is scheduled to visit the three countries of Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines from July 25 to July 27, where he will hold summit meetings with the leaders of each country. In the case of Malaysia and the Philippines it will be the first time in approximately six years for a serving Prime Minister to make an official visit, and in the case of Singapore it will be the first time in approximately 11 years. Following the Prime Minister's visits to Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia in January, and Myanmar in May, this will be the third visit to Southeast Asia this year. The aim of the visit is to further strengthen bilateral relations with each country and also further enhance Japan-ASEAN relations, given that this year marks the 40th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation.

While in Singapore, during the afternoon of July 26, the Prime Minister is scheduled to deliver the Singapore Lecture, which has a long tradition. In addition, during his visit to Singapore the Prime Minister is scheduled to receive a courtesy call from Vice President Biden of the United States, who will be in Singapore at the same time.


  • The House of Councillors election
  • Constitutional revision
  • Okinawa
  • The TPP
  • The lifting on the ban on internet-based campaigning

REPORTER: In yesterday's election for the House of Councillors the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and New Komeito between them secured 76 seats. This result ensures a stable majority for the ruling parties and eliminates the contortions caused by the divided Diet for the first time in three years. Can I ask for your reaction to this result and your analysis of what the reasons were for victory in the election?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The election result means that the contortions caused by the divided Diet have been eliminated, thus giving stability to Japanese politics and I would like to express my profound gratitude to the voters of Japan for expressing their confidence in the Abe administration in this way.

At the same time, I believe that in expressing confidence in the Government and eliminating the contortions caused by a divided Diet in this way, the people have also bestowed on us a heavy responsibility to work hard to advance politics. The Government will therefore further brace itself as we endeavor to advance politics in this country step by step.

With regard to the reasons for our victory in the election, I think it is the case that the Japanese people have showed their high evaluation of the stance taken by the Abe administration since its inauguration seven months ago in thoroughly and single-mindedly working to implement the three pillars of the revitalization of the Japanese economy, reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake, and thorough crisis management. In particular, with regard to the revitalization of the Japanese economy, the policies that have come to be known as "Abenomics" were a major focus in the election campaign, even for opposition parties and I believe it is for policies such as these that we gained the approval of the people of Japan, who now expect us to advance politics forward resolutely. We will take on these expectations with a due sense of seriousness as we work diligently to tackle measures one by one.


REPORTER: With regard to the amendment of the Constitution, Prime Minister Abe made little mention of this issue during his campaign speeches around the country, and only raised it as an issue in his last speech of the campaign that he gave in Akihabara. In a speech that you gave in Fukuoka in April you also stated that following the election the first task would be the amendment of Article 96. What are your thoughts concerning the future schedule for amendment of the Constitution?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In the recent election the party line that was followed was the one that has always been the case, namely that since the formation of the LDP the party's position has been to seek to formulate its own Constitution. I think that against this backdrop the prospect of amendment of the Constitution has come to be recognized by the public as a realistic political issue.

However, in realistic terms a situation has not yet come to the point where national discussion on the issue of constitutional reform has reached a state of maturity. Therefore I believe that it will be important to further deepen national discussion on this issue.

REPORTER: You have just referred to deepening national discussion on this issue and in a television program yesterday you stated that finally a stage has been reached in which realistic discussion can take place and that from now the Government seeks to create an environment where the issues as a whole can be debated one by one. How do you intend to create such an environment and how will you go about it?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As you have noted there are still three remaining issues regarding national referenda. I believe that it will be important to start by tackling these areas.

REPORTER: How do you intend to work together with New Komeito in implementing amendments to the Constitution, given that New Komeito is seeking to include new stipulations in the Constitution?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The LDP has made an announcement concerning the Constitution. I believe that the best way to go about constitutional reform would be for all parties to clarify their views on amendment, and then go on to engage in discussions. Each party naturally has its own stance, and given that New Komeito is part of the ruling coalition, it will be important to first engage in mutual efforts to accommodate each other's concepts.

REPORTER: In yesterday's election the LDP candidate for the Okinawa electoral constituency lost to another candidate. What do you think were the reasons behind this defeat and what will the impact be on the relocation of Futenma Air Station? In addition, given that there is still a disjoint between LDP headquarters and the LDP of Okinawa, what measures will LDP headquarters be taking from now to respond to this situation?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The fact that the LDP candidate in Okinawa lost was an extremely regrettable result. However, it is also a fact that the LDP candidate was successful in reducing the margin of votes cast between him and the winning candidate Ms. Keiko Itokazu.

In the previous election the margin of victory was 100,000 votes and in yesterday's election this margin was reduced to 30,000 votes. In that sense, the Government will continue to work hard to do everything that needs to be done, bearing in mind the Japan-United States agreement and the need for deterrence capability, while endeavoring to reduce the burden of bases on Okinawa and eliminate the dangers presented by Futenma Air Station.


REPORTER: Japan is scheduled to join the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement negotiations from tomorrow. The LDP won yesterday's election by a significant margin on a policy pledge to protect those areas that should be protected in the TPP negotiations, so do you think this pledge will have an impact on negotiations?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I think that is precisely the case. The Government intends to protect those areas that should be protected and seek to gain what should be gained, making the most of our strong negotiating power in our response to the TPP negotiations.

REPORTER: With regard to the TPP, although following the election the issue of the divided Diet has been resolved, it would appear that there are still some divisions within the LDP itself. For example, the winning LDP candidate for Kagoshima, Mr. Hidehisa Otsuji appeared on a television program that you had also appeared on and stated that he would stake his life on opposing the TPP. He has stated that he will make every endeavor to oppose the policies that have appeared on the billboards of the ruling coalition parties. This is someone who was elected from the LDP itself and such divisions within the party could be seen as deceiving the public. What are your frank views on this point?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We have a belief that the LDP never issues pledges that are impossible to implement and therefore the pledges for the election announced by the party were those that will be implemented. It is a fact that there are various discussions within the party itself concerning this issue, but I would remind you that a little while ago many in the mass media and among the public doubted whether it would really be possible to issue an announcement concerning Japan's participation in TPP negotiations. Notwithstanding these doubts, the issues were laid out and discussed within the party and the Government before coming to a decision. We will now progress steadily forward with confidence, and in line with what was decided.

REPORTER: The TPP negotiations in which Japan will participate will take place during the Prime Minister's overseas visit. Could you tell us the specific aims of the Prime Minister's upcoming visit?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have already stated, it is a fact I was surprised to learn myself that the official visits to Malaysia or the Philippines by Japan's prime minister will be the first time in six years and the first time in approximately 11 years in the case of Singapore. Given the notable growth in the ASEAN region, Japan seeks to further deepen ties and cooperation with the region, focusing on economic relations, and this is the main aim of the visit on this occasion. This year also marks the 40th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation and the Government is also seeking to further develop bilateral relations and a sense of trust with each country.

REPORTER: Malaysia and the Philippines in particular are engaged in territorial disputes with China, so are there any plans to discuss such issues in addition to economic matters?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government's aim for this visit is as I have just stated, namely to mark the 40th anniversary of ASEAN-Japan cooperation, deepen bilateral ties and focus on economic relations. There is no intention to engage in discussions with a specific country in mind.

REPORTER: Following the election victory of the LDP and New Komeito, have you received any reaction from overseas or will the Government be contacting certain countries following the victory?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Following the election victory, the Government received a congratulatory message from President Obama of the United States. In the message President Obama conveyed his congratulations for the election victory and also expressed his intention to work with Prime Minister Abe in dealing with the issues currently faced by Japan, the United States and Asia (message dated the evening of July 21).


REPORTER: Yesterday's election was the first national election for which election campaigns were permitted to use the internet. According to surveys implemented by media organizations it seems to ultimately have been the case that not many people referred to the internet-based campaign messages. As you look back on the campaign what is your view of the use of internet-based campaigning? Are there any issues that have emerged that you think will need addressing in the future?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I have not yet analyzed the difference in voting rates between different age groups for this election. The lifting of the ban on internet-based campaigning was implemented with the aim of encouraging more young people to take an interest in elections and seek to participate themselves. As the election has only just concluded, from now we will implement analysis and then make an appropriate response.


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