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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

April 7, 2017 (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]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga

(Abridged)

I have a statement concerning measures by Japan against North Korea. Japan prohibits the entry of all vessels that have previously called at ports in North Korea, and the entry of vessels that are subject to sanctions in accordance with United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, and bans exports and imports with North Korea. As these measures are set to expire on April 13, in today's Cabinet meeting a decision was made to extend these measures for a further two years. The extension of these measures was decided based on a comprehensive assessment of the circumstances surrounding North Korea. The measures will be steadily implemented through close coordination among the relevant ministries and agencies. Under the principles of "dialogue and pressure" and "action for action," and while engaging in close cooperation with the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) and other countries concerned, the Government will continue to strongly urge North Korea to take concrete actions toward the comprehensive resolution of various issues of outstanding concern, including abduction, nuclear, and missile issues. With particular regard to the abductions issue, which is a top priority for the Government, Japan will continue to urge North Korea to implement the agreement between Japan and North Korea reached at Stockholm, and make utmost efforts to realize the return of all abductees at the earliest possible date.

Today, a meeting of the Headquarters for Ocean Policy was held, at which the formulation of the next Basic Plan on Ocean Policy and the basic policy on the conservation of inhabited outlying islands and regions and the maintenance of local communities on specified outlying islands and regions were both discussed and approved. Based on this decision, the relevant ministries and agencies will cooperate closely to advance the required measures.

Q&As

REPORTER: I have a question concerning the extension of Japan's measures against North Korea, which you have just announced. Despite the fact that the current measures are very strong, North Korea is still persisting in its acts of provocation, so what is the Government's view with regard to the effectiveness of current measures?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, the Government's basic stance is that North Korea's nuclear and missile development has entered a new stage of threat that is completely unacceptable. Furthermore, with regard to the abductions issue, we have continued to strongly urge North Korea to return all abductees at the earliest possible date, but a solution to this issue has yet to be realized. The measures against North Korea are intended to demonstrate Japan's firm stance. In close cooperation with other countries concerned, we will continue to strongly urge North Korea to implement specific actions toward comprehensively resolving the outstanding issues of concern.

REPORTER: The Government has approved the extension of current measures for a further two years, but in addition to those is any consideration being given to new and enhanced measures?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, with regard to imports and exports, in 2005 total imports from North Korea amounted to 15 billion yen, and exports totaled 7 billion yen. With the implementation of the ban on exports and imports, these figures are now zero. Furthermore, since the introduction of the ban on the entry of North Korean-flagged vessels into Japanese ports in 2006, no such vessels have visited our ports. In view of this situation, the Government considers that the measures are having a certain economic impact. The extension of the measures has been approved for a further two years, as has been the case previously, and while monitoring the response of North Korea the Government will continue to make ceaseless efforts to consider the most effective measures, with a view to comprehensively resolving the outstanding issues of concern.

REPORTER: With regard to the policy on North Korea, the United States and China, the two countries that have a significant influence on North Korea, have held a summit meeting today. From the perspective of stepping up pressure on North Korea, what expectations does the Government of Japan have concerning the outcomes of the U.S.-China summit meeting?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, in the Japan-U.S. summit telephone talk held yesterday, prior to the U.S.-China summit meeting, both Prime Minister Abe and President Trump referred to the role of China, and President Trump explained his stance and thoughts about how he would be approaching the summit meeting with China. Prime Minister Abe noted that Japan is also watching how China responds to the issue of North Korea. Japan hopes that the leaders of the United States and China will engage in constructive and frank discussions on various issues, including North Korea, which would be significant from the perspective of regional and international peace and stability. Prime Minister Abe made strong statements with regard to North Korea.

REPORTER: The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has issued a statement condemning the latest ballistic missile launch by North Korea. Can I ask for your views on this statement?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, in the early hours of April 7 (Japan time), the UNSC issued a press statement that strongly condemns the most recent ballistic missile launch by North Korea on April 5 and calls on North Korea to immediately refrain from further actions in violation of the relevant Security Council resolutions and comply fully with its obligations under these resolutions. The latest statement demonstrates the UNSC's united stance of deploring nuclear and missile development by North Korea. Japan will continue to cooperate closely with the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) to call strongly on North Korea to refrain from provocative actions and comply strictly and fully with its obligations under UNSC Resolution 2321.

REPORTER: This is the fourth protest statement against North Korea issued by the UNSC this year, so what is your view on the effectiveness of such statements?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: At the same time as the press statement, the UNSC also announced sanctions against North Korea. It is therefore extremely important for all countries to steadily and swiftly align with the UN sanctions, and as there is a committee within the UN that is tasked with overseeing sanctions measures imposed by the UN, the Government will continue to monitor all countries' implementation of measures to align with the UN sanctions.

REPORTER: I have a question about the issue of the daily reports relating to peacekeeping operations (PKO) in South Sudan. According to press reports, in response to the investigation by the special defense inspection, the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) has submitted an investigation report that states that the Chief of Staff of the Joint Staff Office was aware that the daily reports, which in mid-January were purported to have been destroyed, were in actual fact still in storage, and at the end of January a senior official of the Joint Staff Office decided on a policy to not disclose the contents of the daily reports. Is there any truth to the press reports about the contents of the investigation report submitted by the GSDF?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I would like to refrain from commenting on individual press reports. The Defense Minister has taken responsibility for ordering the Inspector General's Office of Legal Compliance, which is under her direct control and is headed by a former superintending prosecutor and is also served by active prosecutors, to conduct a special defense inspection. A highly independent investigation is therefore being conducted thoroughly.

REPORTER: Has the investigation report from the GSDF already been submitted?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As the investigation is still underway, I am not in a position to be acquainted with its details. I have received a report that a thorough investigation is being conducted.

REPORTER: I have a question relating to the abdication of His Majesty the Emperor. It has been reported in the press that the Government has already approached a number of scholars to consider a new era name and multiple proposals have been received. Could you tell us the facts behind these reports?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I am completely unaware of any of the matters that have been reported in the press.

REPORTER: I have a related question. In view of His Majesty's advanced years, I would surmise that any considerations on a new era name would be based on the Japanese practice of assigning one era name to one emperor. Does the Government have any plans to release details of the process by which the next era name will be selected?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have just noted, I was surprised to see press reports on this matter as it is something that the Government is not considering whatsoever at the current time. The Government has received a compilation that represents a synthesis of the results of discussions that have taken place in the legislature among all parties and factions, led by the Speaker, Vice-Speaker of the House of Representatives, President, and Vice-President of the House of Councillors, concerning the matter of the abdication of His Majesty the Emperor. The Government will study the compilation seriously as we make every effort to ensure that a draft bill can be submitted to the Diet.

REPORTER: The schedule for the visit to Japan by Vice President Pence of the United States has been announced. The new economic dialogue between Japan and the U.S. will be launched during the visit, so can I ask about the Government's expectations with regard to what will be discussed?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: During his stay in Japan, Vice President Pence will hold the Japan-U.S. Economic Dialogue with Deputy Prime Minister Aso. Vice President Pence will also pay a courtesy call on Prime Minister Abe. At the Japan-U.S. Summit Meeting in February, the leaders agreed to establish the Japan-U.S. Economic Dialogue and the upcoming meeting will be the first round of the Dialogue. The visit of Vice President Pence and his spouse to Japan is expected to further deepen the Japan-U.S. relationship, including in economic and security areas.

REPORTER: According to some press reports, Moritomo Gakuen improperly acquired 20 million yen by applying to the national government for a subsidy for the removal of industrial waste amounting to 130 million yen, despite the fact that the removal work only cost 110 million yen. Could you tell us the facts behind these reports?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I am aware of the press reports that you mentioned. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) is currently confirming the facts of this matter and as this also involves an investigation by the Public Prosecutor's Office, I would like to refrain from making any comment. However, I have received a report from MLIT that it is a fact that, as has been explained to date, payment of 130 million yen was made.

REPORTER: I have a question on a different topic. Yesterday, a special committee was established within the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), headed by Mr. Toshimitsu Motegi, Chairman of the LDP Policy Research Council, which seeks to realize "children's insurance." On the other hand, some people are calling for the issuance of "education bonds," as a means of achieving the free provision not only of preschool education, but also high school education. What is your view of such developments?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I recently received a proposal for "children's insurance" from a group of Diet members, including Diet member Shinjiro Koizumi. Working with members of the ruling parties, the Government will continue its efforts to properly secure financial resources and provide comprehensive support for child-rearing in general, based on the Plan to Realize the Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens.

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