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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

October 19, 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: President Bach of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) held talks with the Prime Minister a short while ago. I understand that at the meeting, agreement was reached to set up four-party talks among the IOC, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG), the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the Government. Thus far, you have made comments denying the Government’s active participation in the discussions, saying that this matter should be discussed between TMG and the Organising Committee in principle. Can you please share your views regarding the current situation and the Government’s role in the four-party talks?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Today, the Prime Minister met with President Bach. As I was not present at the meeting, I do not yet know the details of the meeting. In any case, I believe it is important and essential that cost-cutting measures are first reviewed and steadily implemented by the host city, TMG, and the Organising Committee, which is the organizing body. The Government will work closely with TMG and the Organising Committee for making the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020 a success. I expect that Minister Marukawa will also be reviewing the proposal of President Bach.

REPORTER: I have a related question. What was the aim and purpose of the meeting between the Prime Minister and President Bach?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I do not know myself. As Mr. Bach is the President of IOC, it seems natural that the Prime Minister would meet with him since he is in Japan.

REPORTER: A related question. I understand that during the meeting, President Bach communicated to the Prime Minister his idea to hold events in the areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, and that the Prime Minister welcomed this idea. Can you please share your comments if any?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I do not yet know the details of their discussion. If that is what they both stated, then that is a good thing, no?

REPORTER: I would like to change the topic and ask about visits to Yasukuni Shrine by Cabinet members. Today, coinciding with the Annual Autumn Festival, Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Takaichi and Minister for Promoting Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens Kato visited Yasukuni Shrine. If you have any views can you please share them?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I always state, I believe both ministers paid their visits in a private capacity. Accordingly, this is not a matter that the Government should intervene in as it concerns the freedom of religion of individuals. 

REPORTER: I have a related question. China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) are criticizing Prime Minister Abe’s offering of a masakaki votive stick and the visits to Yasukuni Shrine by Diet members, saying that they are improper behavior. Today’s visits may lead to further backlash from China and the ROK. What are your thoughts in this regard?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As of now, as far as I am aware, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the ROK issued a comment based on the assertions of the ROK. China made a comment based on the assertions of China during a regular press conference of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That is our understanding.

REPORTER: I would like to change the topic and ask about the abdication of His Majesty the Emperor. At this morning’s meeting of the Committee on Cabinet of the House of Representatives, Mr. Okada of the Democratic Party expressed the opinion that there should also be discussion on creating female-headed Imperial households. You expressed your wish to focus the ongoing discussions on easing the burden of the official duties and public activities of His Majesty. You stated that it was best that opinions are not divided over this matter. How do you intend to obtain the opposition parties’ approval and reach agreement in compiling measures for mitigating the burden of official duties and public activities? 

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, I am aware that there are various discussions regarding the Imperial system. I am sure you all fully understand this. Against this backdrop, we would like to ask the Advisory Council to focus its discussions on easing the burden of the official duties and public activities of His Majesty the Emperor, bearing in mind that he is at the advanced age of 82. The decreasing number of Imperial Family members is a matter that needs to be addressed cautiously and carefully. As I have stated from before, discussions on this matter are already taking place within the Government, including conducting adequate studies of the background of these discussions by the Imperial House Law Revision Office.

REPORTER: I would like to change the subject matter. A riot police officer used slurs against protesters at the site of the ongoing construction work for the helipads that were relocated to Takae near Higashi Village, Okinawa Prefecture, calling them “dojin” (indigenous people). The Okinawa Prefectural Police has apologized, saying that the remarks were extremely regrettable. I understand that the police officer was dispatched from the Osaka Prefectural Police. Can you please share the Government’s comment on this matter if you have any?   

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: With regard to what you have noted, we have been briefed that at the Northern Training Area in Okinawa Prefecture, a riot police officer conducting patrols made an inappropriate remark to those participating in the protests against the helipad relocation and construction work. We have been briefed from the National Police Agency (NPA) that the Okinawa Prefectural Police has issued a strong verbal warning to the police officer and his immediate supervisor, and that the police officer has already been reassigned. In any case, it is very regrettable that a police officer conducting patrols at the Northern Training Area made an inappropriate remark. The police will take proper measures to ensure that this does not happen again.  

REPORTER: Can you once again explain how the Government intends to proceed with the relocation and construction work with respect to its approach towards Okinawa?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The two local villages have requested the swift realization of the land return and its designation as a national park. They have also requested that the land be subsequently inscribed on the World Natural Heritage List. The Government will work to realize the return as quickly as possible, while steadily and carefully conducting the ongoing construction work. Although the Governor of Okinawa Prefecture consistently states that the return of West Futenma would mitigate the impact of the bases by only a few percentage points, with the return of a part of the Northern Training Area, approximately 20% of the land used for American facilities in Okinawa will be returned. Accordingly, we will take thorough measures in this regard as well.

REPORTER: I would like to ask a related question. The people of Okinawa have pointed out that the inappropriate remark may reflect the police officer’s latent discriminatory attitude. What is your interpretation?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I do not think there was anything of that sort. However, this kind of remark is impermissible. NPA has briefed us that it will thoroughly deal with this matter.

REPORTER: I have a related question. What is your understanding of the meaning embedded in the term “dojin”?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I am aware that such a remark was made. However, at this time I do not know with what thoughts this remark was made or what the circumstances were when the remark was made. Therefore, I believe it is appropriate that in my capacity I do not make comments on this.  

REPORTER: A related question. What is your outlook regarding the impacts of such statements on the construction work?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We consider that the construction work should proceed appropriately in accordance with the law.

REPORTER: I have a question regarding Japan-Russia relations. This year marks the milestone 60th anniversary of the signing of the Joint Declaration by Japan and the USSR. As is also suggested by the summit meeting scheduled for the year-end, Japan-Russia relations seem to be moving in a very good direction. I have two questions. Can you please share your assessment of these developments? Secondly, I gather they have benefits for Japan, including in the area of economic cooperation. What are your expectations regarding the benefits for Japan?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Japan has not been able to conclude a peace treaty with its neighbor Russia for the past 70 years since the end of World War II. Therefore, Japan considers that it is extremely important to conclude a peace treaty in the course of shedding light on the issue of the return of the four islands.

REPORTER: I have a question regarding the remark by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. I understand that the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries expressed his apology to the board (of a special committee of the House of Representatives). However, this matter is affecting the deliberations. There is still backlash from opposition parties. Some members are requesting the resignation of the Minister. Can you please comment on whether this matter will affect if the Minister stays in office? 

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We view that the Minister’s resignation is not at issue here. With regard to the Minister’s remark, the Minister made the remark to the effect that Diet affairs would be decided by the Diet, as opposition parties were asking the Prime Minister at the Diet whether he would railroad the proposal through the Diet. In addition, I strongly warned the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries not to make statements that would cause misunderstanding. At the meeting of the board of the Diet, the Minister expressed his wish to retract and apologize for his remark. In any case, it is up to the Diet to determine how the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement and relevant legislation are handled at the Diet. The Government will provide careful explanations with a sense of vigilance to ensure that the deliberations proceed in a swift manner. 

REPORTER: I have a related question. During this morning’s press conference, you stated that the Government does not intend to railroad the proposal through the Diet. I would like to confirm what the Government envisions as “railroading”?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Railroading is railroading. I believe it has been the custom of the Diet to hold careful deliberations, and if there is some time for the deliberations, then to carry them out in a matter-of-fact manner.


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