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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

July 14, 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 relating to Okinawa. Today the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly voted by a majority to approve a draft resolution tabled by the prefectural government to file a lawsuit seeking the stoppage of construction relating to the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma to Henoko. This decision means that there is now a possibility that the central government and Okinawa prefectural government will once again enter into a legal battle. Can I ask how the Government intends to approach this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, although I am aware of the decision that you mentioned, the Government would like to refrain from making any comment as this is a matter pertaining to discussions in the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly and at the current point no lawsuit has been filed.

REPORTER: I understand that you do not want to comment, but it appears that the Government of Okinawa Prefecture intends to file the suit with the Okinawa District Court as early as next week. Although this is a hypothetical question at the current point, is it likely that relocation-related construction work at Henoko will continue?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In proceeding with the construction, what I would point out is that the Ministry of Defense (MOD) has been responding steadily and appropriately, in accordance with the necessary procedures under laws and ordinances, after having first confirmed the status with the Fisheries Agency, which is the government agency that has jurisdiction over the Fishery Act and approved the Okinawa Prefectural Fishery Coordination Regulations. Furthermore, in the recent Supreme Court judgment it was the case that the Supreme Court ruled that Governor Onaga’s revocation of the reclamation permit was illegal. What is more, I understand Governor Onaga stated clearly during proceedings that as head of a local government administration, he would abide by the ruling of the courts. In addition, in the terms of the settlement reached between the central and prefectural governments in March last year, it is stated that when a judicial decision is rendered through a court judgment, the two sides would immediately comply with the judgment and would cooperate with each other in acting in good faith in accordance with the purport of the text and the reasons of the judgment. It is extremely regrettable that Governor Onaga has decided on a policy of once again seeking recourse to the courts, notwithstanding the Supreme Court decision and the terms of the settlement agreed last year. Japan is a country based on the rule of law. Therefore, the Government’s understanding is that the central and prefectural governments are required to work together in good faith to advance land reclamation work at Henoko, in accordance with the decision of the Supreme Court and the purport of the settlement. There is absolutely no change to our desire to continue to steadily advance work related to relocation to Henoko, giving utmost consideration to safety at the work site and paying the utmost attention to the natural environment and the local living environment in accordance with relevant laws and ordinances, with a view to realizing the return of MCAS Futenma as soon as possible.

REPORTER: Can you confirm, therefore, that if another legal battle ensues between the central and prefectural governments, the Government does not intend to halt construction work relating to relocation to Henoko?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As this is a hypothetical matter I would like to refrain from making any comment, but as I have just noted it is the case that the MOD has been responding appropriately, in accordance with the necessary procedures under laws and ordinances, after having first confirmed the status with the Fisheries Agency, which is the government agency that has jurisdiction over the Fishery Act and approved the Okinawa Prefectural Fishery Coordination Regulations. Therefore, as I have just mentioned, there is no change to the Government’s intention to proceed with the construction work, giving utmost consideration to the national environment and the local living environment in accordance with relevant laws and ordinances.

REPORTER: This may be another hypothetical point, but if the Okinawa District Court were to issue an order to halt construction it would mean the stoppage of construction work. In such a situation will the Government seek compensation for damages from the Government of Okinawa Prefecture?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Japan is a country based on the rule of law. The Government’s understanding is that the central and prefectural governments are required to continue to work together in good faith to advance land reclamation work at Henoko, in accordance with the decision of the Supreme Court and the purport of the settlement.

REPORTER: You have just stated that the Supreme Court has already rendered its judgment in the case relating to Henoko, so if Governor Onaga hopes to enter into another legal battle it would suggest a significant gap in perceptions between the central and prefectural governments. What is your view of the reason behind this difference in perceptions?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: It is highly regrettable, given that Governor Onaga himself clearly stated during proceedings that he would abide by the ruling of the courts.

REPORTER: You have just stated that the decision is extremely regrettable, so if Governor Onaga goes ahead with another lawsuit is it the Government’s recognition that this would contravene the intent of last year’s settlement?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Whatever the case, as no concrete moves have been made to file a lawsuit I would like to refrain from commenting formally at the current point.

(Abridged)

REPORTER: I would like to return to the topic of Okinawa. Can I confirm once again that the Government’s policy is to achieve the return of MCAS Futenma once construction at Henoko has been completed?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Naturally that is what we are aiming for.

REPORTER: The Consolidation Plan for Facilities and Areas in Okinawa of 2013 stipulates eight conditions for the return of MCAS Futenma, including alternative facilities. One of these conditions is the improved contingency use of civilian facilities, and in response to a question in the House of Councillors' Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense, Defense Minister Inada responded that unless progress can be made in specific consultations with the United States and coordination implemented based on such consultations, the conditions for return will not be realized and MCAS Futenma will not be returned. Are we to understand that this statement by the minister represents the position of the MOD and not that of the Government?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The position of the Government is that once the overall relocation to Henoko is completed then Futenma will be returned.

REPORTER: So can we assume that even without the improved contingency use of civilian facilities, if construction and facilities at Henoko are completed then Futenma will be returned?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: It has been agreed between the Governments of Japan and the United States that at the point when construction for the relocation at Henoko has been completed and operations at Henoko have been initiated by the U.S. side, then moves will be made to realize the return of MCAS Futenma. The Government considers that this would be expected needless to say.

REPORTER: So when you speak about efforts being made to initiate operations, does this include both the completion of alternative facilities at Henoko and also the improvement of civilian facilities?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government has engaged in consultations with the U.S. side concerning the conditions for return and therefore needless to say at the point when construction at Henoko is completed and operations have been initiated by the U.S. side, then the return of Futenma will be realized. It is the job and responsibility of the Government to engage in this process.

(Abridged)

REPORTER: I have a further question concerning Futenma. It is the case that the runway at Henoko will be shorter than that at Futenma. In a contingency situation, it could be expected that very large fixed-wing aircraft would arrive in the prefecture and my understanding is that such aircraft would use civilian airports. Can you confirm that coordination with the U.S. side about the use of civilian facilities is not related to the conditions for the return of Futenma?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have already noted, the issue of relocating MCAS Futenma to Henoko has its origins in the necessity of eliminating the dangers posed by Futenma, which is located in an urban area, surrounded by homes and schools, and realizing the closure of the base and the return of the land and so preventing its permanent location on the current site. At the same time, it is essential to maintain deterrence capabilities and therefore the only solution is the relocation to Henoko. At the point when facilities at Henoko have been completed and operations at Henoko have been initiated by the U.S. side, then needless to say the Government will take steps to realize the return of MCAS Futenma.

REPORTER: In an interview with the Asahi Shimbun Admiral Harry B. Harris, Jr., Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, referred to a possible response to North Korea by noting that preparations are constantly being made for a military option and that the United States is ready to implement a military response if it were to do so. In the same interview Adm. Harris also noted that relations between the U.S. Pacific Command and the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) of Japan are in better shape than ever before. This question has been asked before, but is it clear what response Japan should take in the event that the United States or the Republic of Korea (ROK) were to take military action against North Korea led by the U.S. Forces?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I am aware of the report on the interview, but I would like to refrain from making any speculative comment about any future response by the United States or the ROK. In any event, a Japan-U.S. and Japan-U.S.-ROK summit meetings were recently held. We are working closely on a daily basis with the United States and the ROK, coordinating policy on North Korea. We strongly support the United States’ stance of leaving all options on the table. Given the increasing severity of the security environment it is of the utmost importance to ensure the deterrence capability of the United States. We also seek to further enhance response capabilities.

(Abridged)

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