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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Wednesday, December 25, 2013 (AM)

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

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga

I would like to speak concerning the Prime Minister's schedule. On December 27, Friday, the Prime Minister is planning to visit areas in Miyagi Prefecture affected by the earthquake to inspect the current state of reconstruction, among other matters. More specifically, the Prime Minister will visit the joint oyster processing plant in Ishinomaki City, which commenced operations in October this year. At the plant, the Prime Minister will inspect the state of reconstruction of the fishing industry and encourage Japan Fishery Cooperative-Miyagi staff who have been working hard for reconstruction of the industry. Furthermore, the Prime Minister will also visit a construction site for public housing for disaster victims, which will be the first housing of its kind in Shiogama City. The Prime Minister will then visit Tagajo City to inspect the leading-edge joint R&D initiative for the reconstruction of the industry, which is being undertaken by local businesses and Tohoku University.

・The issues related to Okinawa
・The issues related to South Sudan
・The achievements of past one year since the inauguration of the administration and onward
・The issues related to the recommendation by the Parliamentarians' League concerning nuclear power plants

REPORTER: The Prime Minister and Governor of Okinawa Nakaima will be meeting this afternoon. What explanation will the Prime Minister give to Governor Nakaima?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Reducing the burden placed on Okinawa is one of the Government's highest priority issues, and we view this as extremely important for the Japan-US Alliance as well. Governor Nakaima recently presented us with a number of requests, and in response, the Government has been deploying practical measures and has been working whole-heartedly and responsibly to fulfill those requests of the Governor that the Government is able to satisfy. Today, Prime Minister Abe will inform Governor Nakaima of the outcomes and the opinion of the Government. We have communicated to the Governor that we will duly take his requests on board and make every effort possible towards fulfillment of the requests, and consequently today, the Prime Minister will speak directly with the Governor.

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question on a related topic. I understand that Okinawa asked for Futenma Air Station to be shut down within the next five years, for the entire site of Camp Kinser to be returned within seven years, and for revision of the Japan-United States Status of Forces Agreement. Will the Prime Minister respond to each of these requests?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that there are requests which we are able to respond to and some that are very difficult, as many of the requests depend on another party. Therefore, in light of this, I believe that the Prime Minister will inform the Governor of the progress of negotiations and inform him of the actions that the Government is taking.

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question concerning the South Sudan situation. The United Nations Security Council has adopted a resolution to double the presence of peacekeepers and police officers following the intensification of armed disputes caused by racial conflicts. Firstly, could you share with us your thoughts?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, as was just raised, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution to temporarily enhance the military units. Japan welcomes the swift action of the United Nations Security Council to adopt the resolution following the recommendations of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in order to stabilize the situation in South Sudan. Additionally, we anticipate that the operation by peacekeeping forces in South Sudan, which will be reinforced following this recent resolution, will lead to the calming of the situation.

REPORTER: I have a question on a related topic. Japan's Self-Defense Force (SDF) has been deployed to South Sudan, but it has been reported by some media sources that withdrawal of the forces may be explored, due to the intensification of the situation. Could you please share the facts with us?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: It is not true at all that the Government is exploring withdrawal of the SDF from peacekeeping operations in South Sudan. As I stated just now, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted the resolution to reinforce operations in South Sudan, which is the opposite of the reports you mentioned. The international community has announced that they will thoroughly address the situation. Together with the international community, Japan will continue to contribute to the building of South Sudan while taking the utmost care to ensure the safety of peacekeepers.

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question concerning the same topic. To confirm, do you have any updated information on the security of Juba, where the SDF is based?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I have been informed that the situation in South Sudan is unpredictable, and that in regional cities, anti-government forces are gaining strength. However, I have also been informed that Juba, where the SDF is operating, is stable.

REPORTER: Please allow me to ask another question on this topic. In relation to the SDF that were deployed for peacekeeping operations, is there any possibility that additional SDF personnel will be deployed?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: That has not been discussed.

REPORTER: I have a question concerning the supply of ammunition to the Republic of Korea (ROK) military engaged in peacekeeping operations. It has been reported in media that the ROK Government has again contacted the Japanese Government over concerns that Japan is using the opportunity to supply ammunition to ROK peacekeepers as a means of expanding its military presence, even though the ROK accepted the ammunition indirectly as nothing more than operational support. Is this report true?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First, let me clarify the situation. I will provide you with the facts once more. Following the request via diplomatic routes and in South Sudan as well, the Japanese Government decided to supply ammunition after deliberations by the Cabinet Legislation Bureau for the purpose of urgent emergency humanitarian support. More specifically, in the morning of December 22nd, Japan local time, the commander of the ROK unit asked the commander of the Japanese unit to supply ammunition, due to insufficient stocks in South Sudan. A few hours later, the United Nations in the Republic of South Sudan Headquarters also made the same request to the commander of the Japanese unit. Furthermore, as I stated yesterday, in the late afternoon of December 22nd, the ROK Embassy in Tokyo assured the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that it was a request from the ROK Government. As for the handover of ammunition, this was completed by the United Nations. Following the handover, the commander of the ROK unit expressed his gratitude over the phone to the commander of the SDF. That aside, the ROK Government has not expressed any gratitude specially. This is what took place.

REPORTER: Am I then right to understand that the ROK Government did not communicate any concerns to Japan?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: That is correct; they did not communicate any concerns.

REPORTER: I have another question on the same topic. Some media sources reported that the ROK Government asked the Japanese Government not to disclose the supply of the ammunition. Could you share the facts with us?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that in the period leading up to when the UN handed over the ammunition to the ROK unit, it really was to remain undisclosed. I believe that inaccurate information was reported in media somehow. Therefore, I made a statement on the matter only after the handover had been completed.

REPORTER: I have another question on this topic. You just stated that the Japanese Government supplied ammunitions following a request from the ROK Government for the purpose of urgent emergency humanitarian support. I believe this is the official view or explanation of the Japanese Government, but contradicting this, the spokesperson of the ROK Ministry of National Defense stated that they had sufficient ammunition. The ROK Government has presented a view that completely contradicts that of the Japanese Government. What are your thoughts?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I have no understanding of this. However, in reality, a request was made in the manner that I just described. We sincerely considered the request, given the Three Principles on Arms Exports, and made the difficult decision to grant the request after administrative officials worked practically all night and sought out the opinion of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau. Under these circumstances, we made the final decision to supply the ammunition for the purpose of urgent emergency humanitarian support.


REPORTER: Tomorrow marks exactly one year since the inauguration of the administration. Over the past year, there were a number of notable events and decisions, such as the decision to increase consumption tax, the participation in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, and the hostage situation in Algeria. Which, if any, left any particular impressions on you?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I recently happened to read an article that said that one year passes so quickly, just like a flying arrow. Reflecting on the past year, I feel that it did indeed go very quickly, and at the same time, I feel that so many unexpected things happened one after another. However, amidst this, I believe that the Abe Administration presented to the nation three priority items as its agenda, those being the revitalization of the Japanese economy, reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake, and finally, thorough crisis management. The Government very single-mindedly worked tirelessly to achieve this agenda over the past year. In light of this, of particular note was the terrorist attack in Algeria. The Government faced an issue that we had never before had to deal with, and we were forced to respond to an extremely challenging situation. I must also note that this matter and the arrows of Abenomics have contributed to the recovery of the economy, just as the Prime Minister claimed they would. Stock price gains have risen to approximately 70%, and public pension fund profits have been ensured for about 18 trillion yen since the inauguration of the Abe Administration. These are true signs of economic recovery. Indeed, the Abe Administration aggressively implemented the three arrows in a unified manner, enabling the economic growth rate to trend upwards four quarters in a row. This has convinced me that we have been able to allow the economy to take off like a rocket. I must also note Japan's participation in the TPP negotiations, which we swore to do in our campaign pledge. In light of this, we engaged in negotiations with the US. I believe that we were able to make a significant contribution to the strengthening of the Japan-US Alliance through this. Additionally, I would also like to mention Tokyo’s successful bid for the 2020 Olympics. This was another significant event. I also think that the decision to increase consumption tax, implemented together with our economic package, was another significant achievement. Looking back, these events and decisions to date during the administration what stood out most to me.

REPORTER: The Abe Government's second year in office will soon begin. I believe that throughout the course of this year, you often talked about the economy. Do you intend to place the highest priority on the economy as you continue to fulfill your responsibilities?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There is no change concerning the order of priorities. It will soon be exactly one year since the inauguration of the administration, and we have powerfully let fly the three arrows. As a result, statistics show that the economy is recovering as figures have swung positive. SMEs and businesses in regional cities are finally displaying signs of recovery, so we will increase consumption tax by 3% next April. Under these circumstances, a strong economy is truly the source of strength for a nation. Therefore, we will assuredly place the highest priority on the economy, to ensure that it will not suffer any adverse impact of the consumption tax increase. We do not intend to change this stance.


REPORTER: When the Liberal Democratic Party's acting Secretary-General Hosoda, who leads the Parliamentarians' League, visited you yesterday, you commented on the restarting of nuclear power stations. In relation to another recommendation made by the Parliamentarians' League concerning additional construction, extension, and renovation of nuclear power plants, will these be included in the Basic Energy Policy, which the Government is planning to finalize next month?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Yesterday, Mr. Hosoda, who heads the party's Parliamentarian's League for the promotion of stable electricity supply, and other individuals, came to see me to present their requests. In response, I said that we will consider their thoughts and pursue a responsible energy policy. As for the Basic Energy Policy you just mentioned, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is actually currently soliciting public opinions. Additionally, we will duly take public opinions into consideration, and also pursue constructive discussions at the meetings of the Inter-Ministerial Council for Nuclear Power, which is chaired by myself, to gain Cabinet approval sometime in January.



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