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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Friday, December 20, 2013 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (PM)(Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

・The issues related to Okinawa
・The issues related to Japan and the Republic of Korea relations
・The Recommendation of Liberal Democratic Party East China Sea Resource Development Project Team


REPORTER: I would like to ask a question concerning the budget. In relation to the budget for the economic promotion of Okinawa, it was decided during ministerial negotiations that a budget exceeding the amount which was requested will be allocated. Could you tell us the Government's aim in making this decision?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We did not have any particular aim in making this decision. When the budget request was made, the change to an 8% consumption tax rate had yet to be finalized. Therefore, I understand that the budget for Okinawa was settled after making allowances for this change.

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question on a related topic. The deadline for Governor Nakaima's decision on whether to make the approval for a landfill application is quickly drawing near. Am I right to assume that the budget decision was made with this in mind?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: It is often said that 76% of U.S. military bases in Japan are indeed located in Okinawa. So we placed ourselves in the positions of Okinawans, making today's decision based upon our belief that we should naturally meet the expectations of Okinawa's budget request.

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question concerning the Futenma Air Station. During a press conference, Minister of Defense Onodera expressed his intention in relation to the timing of the return of Futenma Air Station, to advance the schedule by reducing the construction time of alternative facilities. How seriously will the Government pursue this ambition?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We will be 100% serious. Minimizing the burden of military bases in Okinawa as much as can be done, and removing the risks associated with Futenma Air Station are objectives that absolutely must be achieved. However, ensuring that we maintain a deterrence capacity is extremely important, in order to protect the security of the state and the lives and assets of the people.

 In this context, we are currently addressing the issues with a determination to do everything that can possibly be done.

REPORTER: Speaking of the United States; for instance, Ms. Caroline Kennedy, who is said to be close to President Obama, assumed the role of U.S. Ambassador to Japan. What do the current negotiations with the U.S. involve?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that both the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are participating in negotiations at full strength to meet the expectations of Okinawans. However, the situation is extremely difficult because the U.S. also has objectives, but I am confident that both ministries is firmly taking the lead in advancing negotiations.

REPORTER: It has been reported in media that a meeting involving Japan and the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) Vice-Ministers for Foreign Affairs will be held in Seoul in January next year. What are your expectations for this meeting?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I am not aware of such media reports, but holding a meeting like this as necessary is naturally a must for both nations.

REPORTER: I have a question on a related topic. With regard to the Japan-ROK relations, the joint public poll conducted by Yomiuri Shimbun and Gallup of the U.S. revealed that 72% of Japanese respondents said that they cannot trust the ROK, which strikes me as an extremely high figure. Could you share with us your thoughts on the situation of Japan-ROK relations?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I must admit that there are a number of issues between Japan and the ROK, because we are neighboring countries. However, the ROK is an extremely important neighboring nation with which we share the same values. Therefore, we must always keep our door open to dialogue and bearing this in mind,  thoroughly pursue the exchange of peoples and cultures, and of course political exchange.

REPORTER: I believe that the greatest issue between Japan and the ROK is probably the issue of the understanding of history, as claimed by the ROK. Unless this issue is resolved, I do not believe that we have any prospect for improvement. With what attitude, for example, does the Japanese Government intend to attempt to resolve the issue of the understanding of history?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Different countries have different understandings of history, and Japan has our own views. Therefore, I think that it is important for both sides that we engage in exchanges, acknowledging that we have these views.


REPORTER: Recommendations proposed by LDP East China Sea Resource Development Project Team as a response to actions taken by the Chinese Government include taking the matter to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and the International Court of Justice. According to the brief by the Liberal Democratic Party, you made a very positive comment with regard to this. Could you tell us whether it is so?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In response to the recommendations, I stated that the Government would duly take them on board and examine the matter from a strategic perspective.


REPORTER: I understand that today, Minister for Foreign Affairs Kishida met with the Chinese Ambassador to Japan. Could you share with us the reason for their meeting?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As far as I am aware, the Chinese Ambassador to Japan paid Minister Kishida a courtesy call. In light of this, I have been informed that they reaffirmed the basic stance that Japan-China relations are extremely important for both nations, and therefore Japan and China must pursue a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests through dialogue. I was also informed that they exchanged views on recent Japan-China relations.

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