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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

December 14, 2016 (AM)

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: I have a question regarding Okinawa. Last night, an Osprey transport aircraft deployed to Futenma Air Station of the U.S. Forces made a crash landing off the coast of Okinawa Prefecture. Can you please share the Government’s comments and explain its responses?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, at around 9:30 PM yesterday, an Osprey belonging to the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma made a water-crash landing approximately 1 km off the coast of Nago City in Okinawa Prefecture. We have been briefed that five Marines on board were rescued, two of whom are injured. An accident involving an Osprey causes significant anxiety in people in the communities and is extremely regrettable. At slightly after 2 AM today, Minister of Defense Inada expressed regret to Commander Martinez of the U.S. Forces Japan, and urged the United States to investigate the cause of the accident, provide this information to Japan, and suspend Osprey flights until their safety is confirmed. In addition, the Minister for Foreign Affairs made a similar request to U.S. Ambassador to Japan Kennedy. In any case, Japan views that safety must be ensured for U.S. Forces’ aircraft to conduct any flights. 

REPORTER: With regard to the Government’s response that you just noted, you stated that Japan requested the suspension of flights until safety can be confirmed. Has the United States responded to this request? In addition, with respect to the cause of the accident, has the United States provided information as to whether it was caused by human error or by mechanical failure?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, Japan requested the United States to investigate the cause of the accident and provide this information to Japan. Japan remains committed to gathering information. If and when information is obtained from the United States, we will swiftly provide this information to the relevant local governments.

REPORTER: Have you received any response from the U.S. Forces regarding your request for the suspension of flights until safety can be confirmed?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Minister of Defense made this request to the Commander. I understand the United States notified that the operation of Ospreys would be suspended for the time being. 

REPORTER: I have a related question. Ever since the Ospreys were deployed, the people of Okinawa Prefecture have expressed strong concerns over their safety. It is certain that the latest accident will worsen these concerns. What efforts does the Government intend to make to dispel these concerns?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: At this stage, the Government deems that it is first important that the United States fully complies with Japan’s request to investigate the cause of the accident, provide this information to Japan, and suspend flights until safety can be confirmed and that the United States investigates all possible causes and make this information clear. 

(Abridged)

REPORTER: My question concerns the ceremony for the partial return of the Northern Training Area of the U.S. Forces scheduled for the 22nd. Is it correct to understand that no changes in particular have been made to the holding of this ceremony?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First, with regard to this return, in the agreement of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) of 1996, it was agreed that approximately 4,000 ha of the 7,500 ha of the Northern Training Area would be returned. In this context, the host communities, Kunigami Village and Higashi Village, aim to make effective use of the returned site by designating it as a national park and having it inscribed on UNESCO’s list of natural heritage sites, and are requesting the swift return of the site. The return of this land will contribute to alleviating the impact of the bases in Okinawa by decreasing the area of the U.S. military bases in Okinawa Prefecture by approximately 20%. We do not expect the latest accident to have any impacts in this regard.       

REPORTER: I have one more related question. Governor Onaga of Okinawa Prefecture announced that he would not attend the land return ceremony because the helipads being built in association with the return would be used by the Osprey. Chief Cabinet Secretary, you stated at yesterday’s press conference that the Governor’s absence was extremely regrettable. What is your view regarding the chances that the points being advocated by Governor Onaga would gain further understanding because of the latest accident?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The host communities seek the return of the land. The return would decrease the area of the U.S. military bases in Okinawa by approximately 20%. The Government has of course obtained the understanding of the people in the host communities. Therefore, we do not anticipate the latest accident to have any impacts on the return of this land.
 
(Abridged)

REPORTER: I would like to change the subject to the Japan-Russia summit meeting that will begin tomorrow. In an interview with the Nippon Television Network Corporation (NTV) and other media on the 7th, President Putin reiterated that the issue of the peace treaty would not make any headway unless there is a relationship of trust. At the upcoming summit meeting, does the Japanese Government expect to be able to build a level of trust to pave the way for resolving this issue?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, we are aware of the remarks made by President Putin. As the Japan-Russia summit meeting will begin momentarily tomorrow, at this point in time I would like to refrain from making comments regarding the meeting. Having said so, at previous summit meetings, the two leaders shared the view that it was unnatural that the neighboring countries of Japan and Russia still have not concluded a peace treaty now, more than 70 years after World War II. Furthermore, at the summit meeting from tomorrow, we anticipate that, based on the relationship of trust that the two leaders have built thus far, thorough and candid discussions will take place in a quiet environment regarding the territorial issue and the future of Japan-Russia relations.    

REPORTER: I have a related question. Some media reported that the two sides are coordinating to adopt a political document at the upcoming Japan-Russia summit meeting that refers to the territorial and other issues. Is the Japanese Government aiming to adopt a joint statement or a political document of this nature?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As the summit meeting will begin tomorrow, I would like to refrain from speculating on its outcomes.

REPORTER: I would like to change the subject and ask you about the Tankan (Short-Term Economic Survey of Enterprises in Japan) of the Bank of Japan (BoJ). According to the Tankan for December that the BoJ released this morning, the business conditions index for manufacturing of large enterprises improved by 4% from the previous survey to 10%, improving for the first time in one and a half years. Can you please share your comments as well as your future outlook?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, with regard to the BoJ Tankan that was released today, according to the December survey, the business sentiment of manufacturing of large enterprises improved for the first time in one and a half years to 10%, and the business sentiment of all enterprises also improved. In manufacturing, the business sentiment of large enterprises as well as small and medium enterprises (SMEs) improved due to factors such as the yen’s depreciating trend, improvement in material prices, and recovery of foreign economies. In non-manufacturing, the business sentiment generally remained the same for large enterprises and SMEs due to the bottoming out of construction and other sectors. As this survey demonstrates, we consider that the economy is in a moderate recovery trend. However, there are cautious views regarding the business sentiment outlook, and we will carefully monitor future economic trends.        

(Abridged)


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