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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

April 10, 2017 (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 National Institute of Population and Social Security Research has issued its latest population projections today, in which it is forecast that by 2065 the population of Japan will have fallen to just over 88 million. The Government has a target of maintaining Japan's population above the 100 million level 50 years from now, so can I ask for the Government's analysis of the results of the latest projections?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, the latest population projections predict that as the birthrate among people in their 30s and 40s has improved recently, this will lead to an increase in the total fertility rate, with the median range projections for 50 years from now for the total fertility rate having been revised upwards from 1.35 at the time of the previous population projections, to 1.44 in the current projections. Maintaining the population is a top priority for the Government and we believe that this upward revision in the projected total fertility rate reflects the certain effect our policies are having in supporting child-rearing and improving support to enable people to continue to work while raising children. In addition, due to the projected improvement in the total fertility rate, the projected population in 2065 has also increased approximately 10 percent from 81.35 million to 88.08 million. Furthermore, the working age population is set to increase by 10 percent and the juvenile population by 20 percent, thus indicating a slowdown in the declining birthrate and aging of the population. These projections are based on the five-year period to 2015, so if figures can be further improved through the dynamic promotion of the policies contained in the Plan to Realize the Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens, it can be expected that projections for the total fertility rate and the total population will further increase in the future. In any event, the Government will continue to make every effort to promote measures, based on the Plan to Realize the Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens.

REPORTER: You have just mentioned a total fertility rate of 1.44, and yet the Government's target is for a desired birthrate of 1.80 by the mid-2020s. How does the Government propose to reduce this gap between the total fertility rate figure of 1.44 and the desired birthrate figure of 1.80?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, the latest projections are based on figures for the five-year period to 2015 and as I have just mentioned, the projection for the total fertility rate has increased from 1.35 to 1.44. If figures can be further improved through the dynamic promotion of the policies contained in the Plan to Realize the Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens, it can be expected that projections for the total fertility rate will further increase in the future. In any event, the Government will continue to make concerted efforts toward the realization of the desired birthrate of 1.80.

REPORTER: The acceptance of overseas immigrants is often mentioned as an option for dealing with the declining population. What is the Government's view on this point?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, the Government recognizes that in order to achieve sustainable medium- to long-term growth in the Japanese economy in an era of a declining population, the key points will be whether we can maintain the labor force and boost productivity. To this end, in addition to measures to address the declining birthrate, we seek to create a society in which all people are dynamically engaged and can use their skills to the maximum extent, including women, the young, and the elderly, and also boost labor productivity through such efforts as human resources development. In addition, with regard to the acceptance of foreign human resources, in the revised Japan Revitalization Strategy 2016 it is stated that to ensure sustainability of economic and social infrastructure, the Government will advance comprehensive and detailed study on the acceptance of foreign human resources while focusing on the fields where they are truly required, and to this end, the Government will conduct cross-governmental surveys and considerations regarding essential issues, including a mechanism that would not be misconstrued as an immigration policy, and the way to shape a national consensus. Based on this policy, the Government will respond by advancing efforts in cooperation with the ministries and agencies concerned.

REPORTER: I have a further related question. Given that the birth rate and the pace of population decline have shown only slight improvement, there is no change to the situation that in the future society will face a severe situation in which 1.2 working people will be supporting one elderly person. What does the Government intend to do in the future to maintain such things as social security?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, in the latest population projections the Government believes that our policies have had a certain effect in supporting child-rearing and improving support to enable people to continue to work while raising children, which are top priorities for the administration. It is against this backdrop that figures for the future birthrate and population have improved and we will continue to make every endeavor to achieve the policies set out in the Plan to Realize the Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens. Furthermore, in order to ensure that the social security system continues to perform its expected role in the future, it is important to prioritize and boost the efficiency of the system while also maintaining the necessary payment of benefits and quality of service. We will therefore continue to make ceaseless efforts toward the implementation of such reforms.

REPORTER: I have a question on a different topic, concerning the United States' policy toward North Korea. In a recent working group of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight of Administration, in response to a question about where policy for achieving the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula has gone wrong, you stated that it is a fact that North Korea was removed from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism. I believe that you were referring to past policies of the government of the United States, so can I ask for your opinions on this issue?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, in my recent response in the Diet, I explained comments made by United States Secretary of State Tillerson, who observed that despite U.S. efforts to date with regard to North Korea, the country still continues with its nuclear and missile development programs and therefore the government of the United States considers that a new approach is necessary. Given the ever increasing severity of the regional security environment, it is extremely important to ensure U.S. deterrence capabilities, and from this perspective Japan values the stance of the United States of leaving all options on the table as it moves to revise its policy toward North Korea. In my Diet response, I also stated that it is necessary to further strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance and that the Government of Japan will continue to make unwavering efforts on specific measures. What I have just stated constitutes everything I said in my Diet response, and with regard to the United States' policy toward North Korea, it is, after all, a fact that in the past the United States removed the designation of North Korea as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.

REPORTER: I have a related question. Currently there are moves in the U.S. Congress to pass a bill that would re-designate North Korea as a State Sponsor of Terrorism. Is it the Government of Japan's hope that the United States will move to re-designate North Korea as a State Sponsor of Terrorism?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: That is a matter for the United States to decide, as it was when the designation of North Korea was removed. The Government of Japan appreciates that the United States recognizes the extreme severity of the current situation with regard to North Korea.

(Abridged)

REPORTER: I have a related question about the basis in international law for the U.S. strike on Syria. I understand that there was no explanation about this in yesterday's Japan-U.S. summit telephone talk, so is Japan going to wait for the United States to explain the legal basis to the international community or more actively seek confirmation about the legal basis?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In any event, our basic stance is to listen to the view of the United States on this matter. In the summit telephone talk, President Trump expressed the determination of the United States to play its role in deterring the spread and use of chemical weapons and given that the use of chemical weapons can never be condoned under any circumstances, the Government of Japan supports this determination of the United States.

(Abridged)

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