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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Thursday, May 29, 2014 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


  • An explosion aboard a tanker ship in the waters off Himeji
  • The Japan-North Korea Government-level consultations

REPORTER: Apparently there was an explosion aboard a tanker ship in the waters off Himeji in Hyogo Prefecture. It was announced that the Prime Minister issued instructions during his response to questions at a committee meeting. Can you tell us more about the details of this and the current situation?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I received a report that at around 9:25 am this morning there was an explosion and fire aboard the Japanese-flagged tanker ship Shoko Maru in the waters off Himeji in Hyogo Prefecture. Seven of the eight crew members were rescued, but the final individual believed to be the captain remains missing. I also received a report that three of the seven members that were rescued have serious injuries. This ship was not carrying any oil or other cargo, and the Japan Coast Guard is currently continuing their search for the missing individual and making every effort to put out the fire. The cause of the explosion, among other details, remains unknown at the present time, and the Japan Coast Guard will be investigating the cause. Following this incident, an Information Liaison Office was formed within the Crisis Management Center at the Prime Minister's Office at 9:40 am today, and this office is currently gathering information, among other activities. Additionally, at 10:20 am, the Prime Minister issued three instructions to the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary for Crisis Management. These instructions were: confirm damages and quickly rescue crewmembers, secure the safety of surrounding ships to prevent secondary damages, and swiftly provide information to the public. Based on the Prime Minister’s instructions, the relevant ministries and agencies are currently making every effort to gather information and carry out rescue activities.

REPORTER: I have a question about the Japan-North Korea Government-level consultations. These talks were held last night and are continuing today, but the North Korean side is focusing on the issue of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan. As you have said, this is a judicial issue for Japan, therefore it is a very difficult matter to address. What is your outlook for subsequent talks? 

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I have yet to receive an official report. Given the details of the previous discussions, I am aware that the current talks were serious, concentrated and frank with regard to the broad range of issues that both parties have a mutual interest in, despite the rather severe atmosphere. The Japanese side raised the same issues as before at the talks, including the abduction issue, missing people whose possibility of being abducted cannot be ruled out, the remains of Japanese people who died in the North Korea, Japanese nationals left in North Korea, and Japanese spouses. I believe thorough discussions took place with the North Korean side with regard to Japan’s fundamental stance. I understand that both parties have agreed to continue these talks. I look forward to the delegation’s return today and receiving a full report. In any case, I am sure the Japanese side has clearly explained our position, which is that the Government will not interfere with any matters that have entered into judicial proceedings.

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