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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Friday, August 8, 2014 (AM)

Press Conference by the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


  • The announcement of the authorization of air strikes in Iraq by US President
  • The deployment of Osprey aircraft to Saga Airport
  • The situation in Ukraine
  • The issue of Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever

REPORTER: President Obama of the United States announced that he has authorized air strikes in Iraq. Can I ask you for the Government’s thoughts in this regard?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: I am aware of the announcement, which was made just a short while ago, at 9:30 pm local time on August 7 in the United States, that President Obama has authorized the U.S. military to carry out limited airstrikes, if necessary, against Islamic extremists in northern Iraq. ISIL and other armed insurgents have aggressively occupied a number of cities, resulting in large numbers of casualties. The Government of Japan is deeply concerned by this situation and we have strongly condemned these attacks by armed insurgents. We continue to join the international community in firmly condemning terrorism in any form and to support the fight against terrorism by the Governments of Iraq and the United States. Furthermore, it is our understanding that the Government of Iraq has previously requested the support of the Government of the United States in fighting terrorists. That being said, the recent announcement refers to steps to be taken as needed and at this stage, no concrete actions are underway. As such, I do not think we are in a position to comment at the current time.

REPORTER: My question concerns the deployment of Osprey aircraft to Saga Airport. There are reports that the American side has expressed reservations, and I would like to ask both for the Government’s reaction and what influence this might have on the deployment of Osprey aircraft by the Self-Defense Forces.

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: Concerning the use of Saga Airport by the U.S. Marine Corps, it is my understanding that the matter was raised during Vice Minister of Defense Tokuchi’s visit to the United States in the context of discussions about a realignment of U.S. forces in Japan, including the alleviation of the burden on Okinawa. However, I wish to refrain from making any specific comment on the content or particulars out of respect for Japan’s relationship with the United States. In any case, we hope to continue to discuss with the U.S. side the effective use of Saga Airport by the U.S. Marine Corps, which would be part of efforts to relocate Osprey training exercises, from the standpoint of seeking to alleviate the burden on Okinawa.


REPORTER: If I may I would like to ask about an issue that is still somewhat in the future. August 13 marks the tenth anniversary of the crash of a U.S. military helicopter at Okinawa International University. Futenma still continues to be used, and I would like you to comment on the situation as it currently stands.

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: I was able to visit the site of that crash myself immediately after it happened and felt the sense of danger firsthand. It is for such reasons that Okinawa Prefecture has made various requests that its military base burden be reduced through steps such as suspending operations at Futenma Air Station within five years. As I have said before, it is fundamental to the Abe administration that the Government of Japan listen carefully to the people of Okinawa and make utmost efforts. From this standpoint I hope we can continue to work with all our might toward reducing the military base burden.

REPORTER: I have a related question. In the upcoming gubernatorial election in Okinawa there is a possibility that a candidate who is opposed to the relocation of Futenma to Henoko may become Governor. If that happens, it could bring plans for Henoko to a halt. In terms of removing the dangers posed by Futenma, is the Government considering any options other than Henoko?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: The Government’s policy has already been determined and procedures are moving along accordingly. I am afraid I have forgotten the exact wording but the other day the Governor gave his approval for construction, which is now moving forward, and I expect we will continue to make steady progress.


REPORTER: I have a question about the situation in Ukraine. Yesterday, Russia announced the retaliatory measures it is taking in the wake of sanctions placed on Russia. Could you comment on the fact that Japan was excluded from these measures?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: I am aware that Japan was not included on the list of countries subject to import restrictions on agricultural and other products recently announced by the Government of Russia. The Government of Japan is not in a position to comment on the reasons for this. In any case, it is our hope that Russia will react to the sanctions not with retaliatory measures but instead by moving constructively toward implementing a cease-fire, peace talks, cessation of the inflow of weapons and fighters across the border, tightening of border-control measures, and cessation of intimidating actions near the Ukrainian border.

REPORTER: In a related matter, Russia has announced that it is considering banning EU and U.S. carriers from flying over Russian airspace on routes that they operate between Asia and Europe. What is the Government’s reaction to this?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: I am aware that Prime Minister Medvedev, in a meeting of the Russian Government yesterday August 7, announced the decision to prohibit Ukrainian air carriers from flying over Russian airspace. Furthermore, it is my understanding that while he mentioned the possibility of other retaliatory measures such as prohibiting the use of Russian airspace by EU and U.S. air carriers for through flights, this is something that is still under review.

REPORTER: My question concerns Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, a topic about which questions were also raised at yesterday’s press conference. I understand, for example, that the United States has raised its threat level to Level 3 for the first time since 2009. I would like to know if the Government of Japan has taken any actions since yesterday.

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: The number of people infected by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to which you refer is increasing. I have received reports that as of August 4, according to the WHO, of the 1,711 people who have been infected, 932 have died. In light of this situation, the Government of Japan is carrying out efforts to raise awareness by providing information through websites and putting up posters targeting both returning and departing passengers. Furthermore, in light of the recent situation we have just raised the alert level for travel to the three West African nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to “assess the need to travel.” We are checking the status of those arriving in Japan from overseas using both thermography and personal declarations. In the event that it appears someone may be infected with Ebola, measures are in place to respond such as transporting them to the Japanese Red Cross Narita Hospital, a designated medical institution for specific infectious disease. We will continue to coordinate with the WHO and related institutions to carefully monitor international infection trends. Furthermore, in light of this situation a meeting of experts was held at the WHO from August 6 to 7 and I understand the results are to be announced on August 8, this evening Japan time. The Government of Japan will continue, based on the results of this meeting, to take appropriate steps to raise awareness among the people about travel to the three countries I mentioned earlier.


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