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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

December 19, 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 the Osprey of the U.S. Forces. It was announced that the Osprey of the U.S. Forces whose operations have been suspended due to last week’s accident would resume flights from this afternoon. Can you please share the comments of the Japanese Government?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: This morning, Deputy Commander Chiarotti of the U.S. Forces Japan visited the Ministry of Defense (MOD) once again. The Deputy Commander explained to MOD as follows. The water crash-landing was caused by the refueling hose coming into contact with the Osprey’s propeller during its aerial refueling. The Osprey’s airframe itself was not the cause. In addition, with regard to the landing of the Osprey with malfunctions in its leg area at Futenma Air Station, the aircraft landed gently on a pad that absorbs the shock at the time of landing, in accordance with an established manual. All Osprey flights were temporarily suspended in order to conduct safety inspections of the Osprey and re-train crew regarding responses to unforeseen situations. Aerial refueling will continue to be suspended temporarily. It will be implemented in stages after a series of procedures have been completed, including group training, procedure checks, and simulations on the ground. The United States would like to resume other flights from this afternoon as the safety of the Osprey’s airframe itself has been confirmed. This is what we have been briefed. The U.S. explanation is found to be reasonable in light of the specialized know-how of MOD and the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), and Japan deems it understandable that Osprey flights other than aerial refueling flights would be resumed from this afternoon. In addition, Japan requested the United States to provide information regarding the measures taken by the United States to prevent similar accidents, before it resumes aerial refueling, and to review methods for swiftly contacting Japan in connection with the landing of the Osprey with malfunctions in its leg area. We understand that the United States consented to this request. In any case, Japan will continue to take the necessary measures based on the recognition that U.S. Forces aircraft cannot conduct flights unless their safety is ensured.

REPORTER: A related question. Okinawa is expected to oppose the resumption of flights with only six days having passed since the accident. Some have expressed concerns on whether the cause was really investigated. What is your opinion? 

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The United States explained from the start, in the aftermath of the accident, to the effect that the cause was not the airframe but, as I stated a short while ago, the contact between the refueling hose and the Osprey’s propeller. The United States verified once again and confirmed as a result that this contact was the cause. The U.S. explanation is found to be reasonable in light of the specialized know-how of MOD and the SDF. Therefore, Japan deems it understandable that Osprey flights other than aerial refueling flights would be resumed.

REPORTER: I have a related question. You stated that this decision was made in light of specialized know-how. However, at the same time, I sense that the emotional concerns of the people of Okinawa will not be easily dispelled following this accident. How does the Government intend to gain the further understanding of the people?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: It is a matter of course that U.S. Forces aircraft cannot conduct flights unless their safety is ensured. The fact that an Osprey accident occurred causes significant concerns to the people of Okinawa and is extremely regrettable. Japan expressed its regrets to the United States, and requested the suspension of flights until the cause of the accident is identified, information is provided to Japan, and safety has been confirmed. Japan has asked the United States to provide explanations. In this context, the Government will continue to offer careful explanations to the people including the people of Okinawa regarding the resumption of Osprey flights, continue to strive to collect information, and swiftly provide information to Okinawa when the Government receives information from the United States.

(Abridged)

REPORTER: I would like to change the subject. I have a question concerning the Japan-Russia summit meeting. The two leaders agreed to begin consultations on engaging in joint economic activities on the Four Northern Islands in a way that would not harm the position of Japan and Russia. What is the Government’s understanding regarding the relationship between the joint economic activities and the return of the Northern Territories?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe a handout regarding five items was distributed at the press conference of the Prime Minister and President Putin. The two leaders agreed to advance negotiations on joint economic activities on the aforementioned islands, namely, the Etorofu, Kunashiri, Shikotan, and Habomai Islands. The names have been officially released. In addition, the leaders expressed their sincere determination to resolve the peace treaty issue. As is contained here, the two countries will engage in joint economic activities on the four islands. This will be a step to the conclusion of a peace treaty by resolving the peace treaty (issue) and clarifying the attribution of the four islands.    

REPORTER: A related question. I gather that there is also a risk that if the joint economic activities were to establish an economic foundation on the four islands, then this would consequently help establish Russia’s effective control and not realize the return of the Northern Territories. What is your view in this regard?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The two countries have not been able to resolve the issue of concluding a peace treaty for the past more than 70 years. Concluding a peace treaty will not be easy. However, we will be considering the legal foundation for engaging in these economic activities. The activities will be conducted based on terms that are not inconsistent with the legal position of Japan. This is stated in the joint statement. It enshrines that the economic activities will not harm but build on the position of Japan and Russia. Therefore, we do not think there will be any problems.  

(Abridged)

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