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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

December 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: The Okinawa area coordinator of the U.S. Forces Japan announced in a press conference that an Osprey different from the one that made a crash landing had conducted a belly landing at Futenma Air Station. Does the Government know about this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, with regard to your question, I am told that members of the media contacted the Ministry of Defense about a breakdown of an Osprey at Futenma Air Station different from the one in the accident. Therefore, today, when the director-general of the Okinawa Defense Bureau held talks with Okinawa area coordinator Nicholson, he asked if this was true or not. His counterpart stated that there was an Osprey with malfunctions in its legs that is unrelated to the recent accident. This is what I have been briefed.

(Abridged)

REPORTER: I have a question in connection with the Osprey. Governor Onaga of Okinawa Prefecture revealed that he would request the cancellation of the ceremony for the return of a portion of the Northern Training Area scheduled for the 22nd, saying that holding such a ceremony is impermissible based on the sentiments of the Okinawan people. At yesterday’s press conference, you stated that the accident would not affect this ceremony. Can you once again tell us your views regarding this ceremony? 

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I am aware that the Governor made these remarks. The Osprey accident causes anxiety to the people in Okinawa and is regrettable. I believe the Governor had already announced before that he would not be attending the ceremony. Having said that, with regard to the return of the 4,000 ha that make up a majority of the Northern Training Area, 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. We believe 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%. This return is finally being realized after 20 years, and we hope to hold this ceremony as scheduled. I myself plan to attend the ceremony if my other official duties permit it.  

REPORTER: My question concerns the crash landing of the Osprey. Since then have you received any information from the United States such as information regarding the cause of the accident?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Regarding the accident, we received information that when the aircraft in the accident was conducting an aerial refueling training, the refueling hose was severed, causing malfunctions and making it difficult to fly. The aircraft was flying to Camp Schwab. In order to minimize the impact on the community, the aircraft flew along the coast but en route did not reach its destination and landed in the sea. The chances are extremely low that the accident was caused by mechanical trouble. Osprey flights would be temporarily suspended until their safety is confirmed. This is the information that we received. Safety must be ensured for U.S. Forces’ aircraft to conduct any flights. The Government remains committed to collecting information and will take appropriate responses as soon as the facts come to light.  

REPORTER: I have a related question. From what you just stated, does it mean that there is little chance of the airframe having a structural defect?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I understand that what I just described was notified to the Ministry of Defense. The Government will continue to urge the United States to investigate the cause of the accident and provide this information to Japan. 

REPORTER: I would like to change the subject. A short while ago, a four ministers’ meeting of the National Security Council was held. I understand the theme was the mission in South Sudan. What exactly was discussed at the meeting?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: A four ministers’ meeting was held. Discussion took place on the mission in the Republic of South Sudan. I would like to refrain from disclosing the content.

REPORTER: Did the topics discussed include rapid changes of some kind in the situation in South Sudan? 

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Not at all. I believe the situation is the same as before.

REPORTER: At the meeting of the Advisory Council on Easing the Burden of the Official Duties and Public Activities of His Majesty the Emperor that was held a short while ago, the issues were further distilled. At today’s meeting, the expert members generally shared the view that the current emperor’s abdication would be permitted but that it would be difficult to establish a permanent system for future emperors to abdicate. Can you please share your view in this regard?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, I have been briefed that at today’s meeting of the Advisory Council, it conducted a hearing following on from the previous week and distilled the opinions received from a wide range of people from whom their specialized expertise were sought regarding matters such as the Imperial system, history, and the Constitution. Furthermore, members discussed challenges and issues concerning easing the burden of the official duties and public activities of the Emperor. I have been informed that in his press conference following the meeting, the acting chairman explained that at today’s discussion, opinions were raised, including that it was unreasonable to establish requirements for abdication that would be applied into the future, and that if a system that applies to the future is established, it would enable arbitrary and compulsory abdication. The Advisory Council will compile recommendations that reflect the diverse opinions of the people by conducting hearings with those who have various specialized expertise, distilling the challenges and issues and informing them to the public, and further deepening the discussion. We would like the experts to continue to have discussion free of assumption in a quiet environment.     

(Abridged)

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