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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

April 3, 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: I have a question concerning the return to duties of the Ambassador of Japan to the Republic of Korea (ROK). Foreign Minister Kishida has just announced that Ambassador Nagamine, who had been recalled to Japan, will return to his duties in the ROK. You have previously stated that the Government would make a decision on the Ambassador's return taking all matters into comprehensive consideration, so can you tell us the reason behind the timing of the return of the Ambassador?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, the Government has decided that Mr. Yasumasa Nagamine, Ambassador of Japan to the ROK, and Mr. Yasuhiro Morimoto, Consul-General of Japan in Busan, who have been on temporary recall to Japan since January this year, will return to their duties. Following the dismissal and subsequent arrest of former President Park Geun-hye, the ROK is scheduled to hold a presidential election on May 9. The Japanese Government therefore reached this decision after comprehensively taking into account factors including the need to make further efforts to collect information and adequately prepare for the new administration amid the transition in ROK administrations. In addition, with regard to the comfort women issue, to date the Government of Japan has lodged protests with the current administration through diplomatic channels, calling strongly on the Government of the ROK to uphold the agreement, and it is precisely because the ROK is currently in a process of transition that it is necessary for Ambassador Nagamine to strongly promote the implementation of the agreement directly to Mr. Hwang Kyo-ahn, Acting President of the ROK, and ensure that the next administration firmly upholds the agreement. The decision was made after taking these factors into comprehensive consideration and also based on the perspective of making every effort to protect Japanese nationals. With regard to the comfort women issue, Japan will continue to persistently urge the Government of the ROK to implement the agreement and our principle remains unchanged. By returning the Ambassador and Consul-General to their duties, the Government intends to continue to call on the ROK to uphold the agreement.

REPORTER: I have a related question. The possibility of a transition of administrations in the ROK and the necessity of protecting Japanese nationals are pre-existing issues, so can I ask the reason why it has taken the Government three months to come to this decision and the factors that made such a decision difficult?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In any event, the political situation in the ROK is as I have just described it. To date, I have stated that the Government would make a decision after taking all matters into comprehensive consideration and that is precisely what has happened.

REPORTER: I have a further question. With regard to the comfort woman statues, which originally prompted the recall of the Ambassador and Consul-General, there have been no specific moves on the part of the ROK to remove these statues, so can I ask what you believe to be the results and significance of the three-month period of recall?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I would say that the recall demonstrated clearly to the ROK the strong will of the Government of Japan for the terms of the Japan-ROK agreement to be upheld and implemented.

REPORTER: If it is the case that the Government believes that the recall demonstrated the strong will of the Government of Japan, was the decision on the return of the Ambassador made based on the view that having the Ambassador strongly promote the implementation of the agreement directly to the Acting President of the ROK would be more likely to lead to the removal of the statues than the application of pressure through the continued recall of the Ambassador?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have already noted, the decision was also based on the fact that following the dismissal and subsequent arrest of former President Park Geun-hye, the ROK is scheduled to hold a presidential election, and it will therefore be necessary to make further efforts to collect information and adequately prepare for the new administration in the ROK.

REPORTER: I have a further related question. The recall of the Ambassador and the Consul-General was originally announced as a measure to protest the installation of a comfort woman statue in Busan and call for its removal. Given that there have been no concrete moves in the ROK towards removing the statues, does the Government not think that ending the temporary recall of senior diplomats will send out the wrong message to the ROK that Japan does not consider the removal of the statues to be a priority?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I do not think that is the case. To date, the Government has continued its efforts through diplomatic channels to strongly urge the current ROK administration to uphold the Japan-ROK agreement.

REPORTER: At the time that the Government announced its protest measures, other than the recall of the Ambassador and the Consul-General, it was also announced that consultations on currency swap arrangements between Japan and the ROK would be halted. What is the Government's current policy on these other protest measures that were implemented in January?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that decisions will be made on individual matters going forward. However, at the current time the Government is not looking to resume the consultations on currency swap arrangements with the ROK.

(Abridged)

REPORTER: I have a related question. Could I ask when the decision to return the Ambassador and Consul-General was made and if Prime Minister Abe issued any instructions once the return had been decided?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Naturally it is the case that it was the Prime Minister who made a final decision, after having received various points of information from the Minister for Foreign Affairs and others.

REPORTER: Do you think that the absence of the Ambassador has had a major impact on Japan-ROK relations?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In any event, during the period of recall, the Government has continued to strongly urge the current ROK administration to uphold the Japan-ROK agreement. As the ROK is in a period of transition between administrations, with a presidential election scheduled for May 9, it is therefore necessary for the Ambassador to strongly promote the succession of the agreement directly to ensure that the next administration firmly upholds the agreement. That was one of the factors behind the Government's decision.

REPORTER: I have a related question. When was the timing of the return of the Ambassador and Consul-General considered and decided?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Since the recall, the Government has naturally engaged in various diplomatic interactions and a decision on the return to duties was made after taking all matters into comprehensive consideration.

REPORTER: Foreign Minister Kishida met with the Prime Minister last week, so was the return decided in that meeting?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: No, that is not the case. The decision was made today.

REPORTER: I have a related question. The original reason for the recall was to protest the installation of a comfort woman statue in Busan. Did the Government envisage at the time that no response from the Government of the ROK would be forthcoming and that the recall would continue for such a long period?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government was aware that there was such a possibility when it made its decision.

REPORTER: Did collaboration between Japan and the ROK in responding to North Korea factor in the decision to return the Ambassador and Consul-General to their duties?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, the Government considers close information exchanges and collaboration at a high level between Japan and the ROK to be of the utmost importance for dealing with North Korea. This kind of collaboration has been continued through security-related channels to date and the Government considers it necessary for Ambassador Nagamine to also engage in such close collaboration once he returns to his duties.

REPORTER: I have a related question. Are we to understand that the Government has not detected any sign that the ROK side is making concrete moves towards the removal of the statues?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government is aware of various moves within the current administration of the ROK, but these have not resulted in removal of the statues.

(Abridged)

REPORTER: I have a question on a different topic. I would like you to confirm the recognition of the Government with regard to the Imperial Rescript on Education. In this morning's press conference, you referred to such values as respecting one's parents and friendly relations among siblings, stating that the Government would not deny the use of the Imperial Rescript on Education as a teaching material provided that proper consideration is given. Does the Government consider that there is no problem in using the Imperial Rescript on Education in moral education?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Imperial Rescript on Education refers to such values. Therefore, I do not believe that the Government can go as far as to deny such values.

REPORTER: I have one more point of confirmation. In the resolution on the revocation of the rescript adopted by the House of Representatives in 1948, it was declared that the rescript would be abolished and its guiding principles would no longer be recognized. Do you not think that your comments contravene the spirit of this resolution?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I do not believe that to be the case. It would be highly inappropriate for the rescript to provide the only source of guidance for Japanese education in schools and proper consideration should be given to how it is handled in a way that does not conflict with the Constitution or the Basic Law on Education. However, as I have just noted, the Government's view is that the universal values it contains cannot be denied.

(Abridged)

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