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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

October 14, 2016 (PM)

If you can not view the video,click here(Japanese Government Internet TV)
This video's audio is a provisional translation through live simultaneous interpretation.

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Q&As

REPORTER: A short while ago you and the Prime Minister had a meeting with Mr. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, Inc. Speaking to members of the press afterwards, Mr. Cook stated that it had been a fantastic meeting, in which he had shared with the Prime Minister Apple’s love for Japan and how important the country is to Apple. Could you tell us a little about what was discussed in the meeting?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: This afternoon Mr. Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, Inc., visited the Prime Minister’s Office and held a meeting with Prime Minister Abe. I also attended the meeting. Mr. Cook noted that Apple is building a new development facility in Yokohama, which is due to be completed in December this year. There was also discussion about ways in which Japanese companies can work together to develop new services with Apple. The Prime Minister noted his hope that Apple would build close relations with Japanese companies and promote development initiatives at the new facility. Mr. Cook noted that overall Japan has companies, from major manufacturers to small and medium enterprises, which all make excellent products and that he looked forward to working even more closely with Japan in the future.

REPORTER: I believe that the National Security Council (NSC) of Japan has discussed South Sudan. Could you tell us some of the details that were discussed?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The NSC received an explanation concerning the status in South Sudan, among other matters, but due to their nature I would like to refrain from making any further comments.

REPORTER: I have a related question. Did the meeting indicate any direction with regard to whether to add new duties to the Self-Defense Force (SDF) units stationed in South Sudan, such as "kaketsuke-keigo" (coming to the aid of geographically distant unit or personnel under attack)?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I would like to refrain from discussing the details of the meeting.

REPORTER: I have a further question. Regardless of whether the issue came up in today’s NSC meeting, I believe that the Government has yet to make a decision about whether to add “kaketsuke-keigo” to the peacekeeping operation (PKO) activities of units stationed in South Sudan. When does the Government intend to make a decision with regard to this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The current situation is that SDF personnel are undergoing the necessary training. With regard to the question of what duties to assign to units dispatched to PKO in South Sudan, the Government will consider the matter comprehensively, paying close attention to the situation on the ground and the progress status of training. Nothing has yet been decided.

REPORTER: I have a further question. The security situation in the capital Juba and its vicinity, which is the area where SDF units are currently engaged in PKO, is said to be deteriorating. You stated that in today’s meeting an explanation was provided about the current status in South Sudan, so is there any change in the Government’s recognition about the current situation?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There has been no such change.

REPORTER: I have a question concerning the Advisory Council on Easing the Burden of the Official Duties and Public Activities of His Majesty the Emperor. You have previously said that the first meeting of this council will take place in mid-October. What is the current status with regard to preparations for a meeting?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: At the moment, we are making arrangements with a view to holding the first meeting on October 17.

REPORTER: I have a related question. The Advisory Council will be responding to the words expressed by His Majesty and I believe that there will be many issues to discuss, including the possibility of abdication and how to respond under the current system. What kind of discussions do you hope that the Advisory Council will have in order to deepen public understanding with regard to this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We are currently making arrangements with a view to holding the first meeting on October 17. It is the Government’s hope that the experts of the Advisory Council will identify and discuss from a neutral perspective the various issues and challenges relating to the mitigation of the duties of His Majesty, who is now at an advanced age.

REPORTER: On a related note, with regard to mitigating the impact of official duties for His Majesty who is now advanced in years, what sort of points do you anticipate will be discussed by the council?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As the Constitution of Japan currently states that His Majesty derives his position from the will of the people, the first task for the council will be to gather various expert opinions through interviews and identify various challenges and issues that need to be resolved. It will then compile a set of recommendations that clearly explain these various challenges to the public and also reflects broadly the sentiments of the people of Japan.

REPORTER: You have yourself stated previously that this is a matter in which a response should not be put off needlessly. Although I imagine that it is difficult to stipulate a specific period at this point, how long does the Government anticipate that discussions will continue, based on the recognition that a response should not be put off needlessly?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: It is true that the matter of the mitigation of the impact of His Majesty’s duties is one where public opinion, including in the mass media, strongly expects a way forward to be identified quickly. It is against this backdrop that the first meeting of the experts of the Advisory Council will be held and there will be no time limit set on their discussions once they have begun. I would expect that as interviews are held with experts on various points of issue, including the Constitution, for example, the content of the opinions raised will determine the timing for the compilation of recommendations. I believe it is necessary for various people to come together and share views that will provide further insights for the public to consider. Therefore no time frame has been determined at the start of the process. However, I do not think that it would be advisable for discussions to continue for an unduly extended period.

REPORTER: I have one final question. Once the Advisory Council of experts has compiled its final recommendations, is it expected that these recommendations will be binding? In addition, some people have expressed the opinion that the Diet should also be involved during the process, so is it expected that the final recommendations will also be based on opinions from the Diet?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: A decision on the best way forward for compiling the recommendations is something that we want to decide in consultation with the expert members of the Advisory Council. However, as I have already noted, given that His Majesty’s position is defined as being the symbol of the State and unity of the people, I would have thought it will be necessary to give Diet members an opportunity to express their opinions, as it is they who represent the people.

REPORTER: You have noted that the first meeting will take place on October 17, but could you tell us the time and location, and what matters it is anticipated will be discussed in the first meeting?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We are still at the stage of making arrangements towards holding a meeting on October 17. Once the details are determined I will provided a report.

REPORTER: Are the points of discussion for the first meeting still being considered?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As it will be the first meeting, I would imagine that the things that will be discussed will be a basic policy on how to operate the meeting and what kind of procedures will need to be followed.

(Abridged)

REPORTER: With regard to the Advisory Council, I would have thought that it will be necessary to release details of discussions, in the interests of broadening understanding among the general public. How does the Government intend to deal with the matter of information disclosure, such as the publication of minutes of the council’s proceedings, or press briefings?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In any event, I consider it to be of the utmost importance for the public to be provided with as detailed explanations as possible concerning the various issues and challenges. Although the Advisory Council has yet to convene its first meeting and the chairperson has yet to be decided, once meetings start on Monday next week, I think that it would be preferable for either the chairperson, or a person acting on behalf of the chairperson, to provide briefings or similar information to the greatest extent possible, either while the council is still operating or after its deliberations have concluded. However, this will be something for the expert members themselves to decide. At the current point nothing has been decided.

REPORTER: I have a question about the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). In a press conference this morning, Foreign Minister Kishida stated that the Government has put the payment of Japan’s contribution to UNESCO this year on hold. Could you tell us the reason for putting the payment on hold?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, the payment of Japan’s contribution has yet to be implemented. The Government would like to make a comprehensive decision with regard to the timing of payment, among other matters. However, it was the case that last year various matters were decided within UNESCO without the Government’s knowledge and therefore the Government would like to see that the situation is normalized before making a decision about how to respond. At the current point, nothing has been decided.

REPORTER: This is something you have just touched on briefly, but in a press conference you gave in October 2015 following the inscription of documents submitted by China relating to the “Nanjing Incident” on the Memory of the World Register, you stated that such decisions pose a problem for UNESCO, as an international organization which should be neutral and impartial, and noted that the Government would be strongly calling for improvements to systems and mechanisms to ensure that they are not used for political purposes. However, a nomination by a private-sector group from Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and China for the inscription of documents relating to the comfort women issue is scheduled to be considered and assessed by UNESCO from January next year. Over the course of approximately one year, since October last year, the Government has been calling on the United Nations to implement reforms of the procedures for inscription, including advance publication of nominations. Could you tell us how the Government views the status of progress with regard to such reforms?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government has worked to promote discussion among member countries concerning improvements to systems and procedures, seeking to ensure that the Memory of the World Register promotes the original mission and purpose for the establishment of UNESCO of fostering friendship and mutual understanding among member countries. Towards the implementation of such improvements, in April this year the Executive Board of UNESCO adopted a resolution by consensus relating to further improvements to the Memory of the World Programme. I have received a report that currently UNESCO is considering means of improving the system based on this resolution. Against this backdrop Japan will continue to make utmost efforts as a responsible member of UNESCO.

REPORTER: With regard to the contribution to UNESCO, is the Government considering the possibility of freezing payment this year or reducing the amount of the contribution?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government would like to look at the situation overall and make a comprehensive judgment.

REPORTER: I have a question on a different topic. Following the suicide due to overwork of a newly recruited female employee at advertising giant Dentsu Inc., Tokyo Labour Bureau and other bodies have today conducted a search of Dentsu’s headquarters, on suspicion of a violation of the Labour Standards Act. Can I ask for the Government’s views on this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, following this incident, on October 11 the Director General of the Tokyo Labour Bureau summoned a senior executive of the company and strongly demanded that working hours management systems be optimized and that effective measures to deal with overwork be implemented, in order to ensure there is no reoccurrence of this recent incident. At 1:00 p.m. today the Tokyo Labour Bureau and Mita Labour Standards Inspection Office conducted a search of the premises of the company’s headquarters building, based on the Labour Standards Act. I have also received a report that three branches of the company are also being subjected to a similar search. Based on the results of these searches, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare will respond strictly in order to prevent overwork. To ensure that precious lives are never lost due to the pressures of overwork, the Government will continue to robustly implement work style reform, examining issues from workers’ perspectives to correct long working hours and realize equal pay for equal work. We seek to implement improvements to ensure that such an incident does not occur again. 

REPORTER: I have a related question. Yesterday, in the Meeting with the Prime Minister and Workers to Exchange Views on Work Style Reform, this issue was raised and the Prime Minister stated that this kind of situation must never happen again. I would like to ask two questions on this matter. What does the Government think are the factors behind long working hours that can lead to death from overwork? Also, what measures will the Government be implementing from now to address this issue?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I do not think it is possible to speak in general terms about this issue, because the situation differs depending on the company and the type of work. However, as part of ongoing work style reform, one of the important themes will be ensuring work styles that absolutely avoid excessive working hours.

REPORTER: The film “Shin Godzilla” that depicts the crisis response of the Prime Minister’s office has gained attention in Japan and is now being screened in the United States. Have you seen any movies recently? Also, with regard to “Shin Godzilla,” apparently many government officials have watched it repeatedly, including an acquaintance of mine who has seen it four times. If you have seen the movie, could you tell us how many times you have watched it?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I have seen it once, which was sufficient.

REPORTER: I have a question about the transfer of the training location for United States Forces’ Osprey aircraft. In the House of Councillors Budget Committee meeting yesterday the Prime Minister stated that with regard to the U.S. Forces Osprey aircraft stationed in Okinawa, measures are being implemented to partially relocate training to Saga. Could you tell us about the status of arrangements to transfer training to Saga Airport?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, on September 21, Minister of Defense Inada received a request from the governor of Saga Prefecture for the implementation of a demonstration flight. At the moment, we are making arrangements for a demonstration flight with the U.S. side. The Government will continue to provide detailed explanations with regard to this matter in order to gain the understanding and cooperation of the governor and local residents of Saga Prefecture. The Government has been requesting regional governments around Japan to consider implementing such training, with a view to reducing the impact of the Osprey aircraft stationed at Futenma Air Station. As I have just noted, arrangements are currently being made with Saga Prefecture with regard to training and preparations are underway to implement a demonstration flight. Nothing has yet been decided about what Saga Prefecture will ultimately do with regard to the relocation of training.

REPORTER: Given that the Prime Minister specifically mentioned Saga, are we to understand that Saga is considered as a preferable and appropriate location?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government is taking the lead in requesting that local governments around the country spread the burden currently borne by Okinawa by accepting the relocation of training. Just as is the case with other airports around the country, the Government would like to use the facilities in Saga Prefecture for this purpose. As nothing has yet been decided, the Government’s thinking is that Saga could be one location for training among a number of locations around the country.

REPORTER: I have a question concerning the comfort women issue. Today the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation of the Republic of Korea (ROK) has announced that it will start disbursement of cash to former comfort women from the 1 billion yen contributed by the Government of Japan. Can I ask for a comment from the Government on this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I am aware of the announcement that has been made by the foundation. I believe it is extremely important for both Japan and the ROK to implement the agreement that was reached between the two countries at the end of last year. Based on the agreement Japan has contributed 1 billion yen, and I would like to welcome the fact that these funds are being used in the operation of the foundation. It is important that the contents of the agreement will continue to be implemented in good faith by both sides.

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