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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Friday, November 15, 2013 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


  • The expectation to Ms. Kennedy, the new U.S. Ambassador to Japan
  • Japan-ROK Relations
  • The issue related to the revised Self Defense Force Act
  • The issue related to the school textbook authorization system
  • The safety of Japanese nationals in the Philippines affected by the typhoon

REPORTER: The new U.S. Ambassador to Japan, Ms. Caroline Kennedy, has arrived in Japan. Japan and the U.S. share a number of major political challenges such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Futenma Air Station issue. What kind of role and competence do you expect from her?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Ms. Caroline Kennedy has assumed her new role as Ambassador of the United States of America to Japan. I have said this several times during previous press conferences, but the Ambassador's father, the late President Kennedy, is the President with whom Japanese people have the strongest affinity. I would like to sincerely welcome Ms. Kennedy to her new position.

The Japanese Government hopes that new Ambassador Kennedy will help to facilitate fresh change across many fields and we will closely cooperate with the Ambassador to steadily continue to develop the Japan-U.S. Alliance, which is the cornerstone of Japan's foreign diplomacy.

REPORTER: It is said that Ms. Kennedy has such a close relationship with President Obama that she is able to call him directly. The Futenma Air Station issue and TPP are some of the major political challenges faced by the Abe administration. In what way do you expect Ambassador Kennedy to help address these issues?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I think no other Ambassador has had so much expectation placed on them prior to taking up their position. It is said that Ambassador Kennedy is able to call the President directly, so I believe that for Japan, she will be a great Ambassador for the further development of Japan-U.S. relations.

REPORTER: As you just said, people in both the U.S. and Japan have extremely high interest in and expectations of the Ambassador. On the other hand, Ambassador Kennedy has no prior experience in politics or foreign diplomacy. She is being inaugurated under the current climate where Japan-China relations are very strained due to issues like the Senkaku Islands and some Japanese and U.S. experts have expressed their concern. What are your thoughts?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Ambassador Kennedy has experience working as an attorney, and I have heard that she has very strong ties with politics in the U.S. as well as strong relationships with the President and mainstream lawmakers. I expect that even amidst the current difficult situation surrounding Japan, Ambassador Kennedy will be able to succinctly communicate Japan's positions and views to the President and other senior U.S. officials.

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question concerning Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) relations. During the meeting with the Japan-Korea Cooperation Committee (JKCC) today, the Prime Minister said that cooperation between Japan and the ROK is strategically crucial. On the other hand however, the ROK is upset at media reports of the Prime Minister saying that the ROK is only a foolish country. Could you share with us any thoughts you may have on this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The ROK is an extremely important neighbor of Japan and we share the same fundamental values. Therefore, we will of course continue to develop the relationship between the two countries. Could you please repeat the second half of your question?

REPORTER: A weekly magazine reported that the Prime Minister said that while China is an outrageous country, it is at least still possible to play the game of foreign diplomacy rationally; while the ROK on the other hand is simply a foolish country. There has been a strong backlash in the ROK to these comments.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: This is the first time I have heard about this article in the weekly magazine, but there is no way that the Prime Minister would ever have said that.

REPORTER: More specifically, an article in yesterday's Shukan Bunshun reported that the Prime Minister made a comment in relation to China and the ROK, saying that the ROK is a foolish country that cannot even negotiate. In response, both the ruling and opposition parties of the ROK Government as well as the ROK media have criticized these alleged comments. Am I right to understand that the Japanese Government's official stance is that the Prime Minister never made these comments?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Of course the Prime Minister would never have said anything like that. The media reports various things and I too am susceptible to having things misreported about me. Therefore, we will remain calm and our official stance is that it is impossible that the Prime Minister would have said something like that.

REPORTER: Reports of these comments, which have caused controversy in the ROK, have come just as the JKCC is holding its 50th anniversary general meeting, which is supposed to be a celebratory occasion. What are your thoughts on this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I am not certain how large the controversy is, but it is not based in fact. From the Japanese Government's perspective, there is no way that something like this could be true, so we would like to remain calm.

REPORTER: Today the revised Self-Defense Forces (SDF) Act was enacted. Could you share with us your thoughts on this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Following the terrorist attack involving Japanese nationals in Algeria in January this year, we had a strong will that the SDF Act had to be revised to ensure the protection of Japanese nationals in such times of emergency. Today the amendments to the act were finally enacted. Today's revision will give us more flexibility to transport Japanese nationals residing overseas in times of various types of emergency. There are many Japanese citizens living or traveling overseas, so the Government welcomes this long-awaited revision. We will make efforts to ensure that the SDF will be able to accomplish its missions appropriately while taking into consideration the objectives of the supplementary resolution of the act.

REPORTER: You mentioned at the end that the Government will take into account the supplementary resolution and if I am correct, the supplementary resolution refers to consideration of the appropriate use of arms. What kind of timetable do you have in mind for Governmental discussions on this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, the protection of Japanese nationals is extremely important. When SDF troops are deployed to assist Japanese nationals overseas, because their activities are taking place in a foreign country, they must first gain approval from the respective government. The issue of the use of arms in high-risk situations remains unaddressed and the supplementary resolution has been adopted to ensure appropriate protection of Japanese nationals. Therefore, we will proceed with discussions with this understanding.


REPORTER: On a different topic, I would like to ask a question concerning the school textbook authorization system. Minister Shimomura announced a policy to revise authorization standards, which will request that the publishers maintain balance on topics with competing academic views. Before the Prime Minister took office, he often expressed his opinion during speeches and in academic articles that the idea behind the revision of the Basic Act on Education had not been fully incorporated into the subsequent changes in the education system during these past few years. Am I right to understand that this is one of the manifestations of the Government's decisiveness?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Today Minister Shimomura announced the textbook reform plan. While the first Abe Cabinet was in office, the Basic Act on Education was revised for the first time in 64 years. In the interest of providing children with better textbooks to study from, the party has made such propositions, and it was something included in the party's campaign pledge for the election. In light of this, I understand that the reform of the textbook authorization system will be pursued as per the plan.

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question on a related topic. You said that the publishers will be expected to maintain balance on topics with competing academic views, but more specifically, am I right to understand that you are referring to the Nanking Incident and comfort women?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I do not know the specifics, but I have been informed that the reforms of the authorization standards are expected to ensure balance.


REPORTER: In relation to the safety of Japanese nationals in the Philippines, could you share with us any new information that you may have?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As per the latest reports, of the 133 Japanese nationals residing on Leyte and Samar islands who have been registered with the residence reporting system, 58 people have been confirmed safe. That is all the information I have for now.

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