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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

July 28, 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
(There was a statement on the overview of the Cabinet meeting and others.)

The threat posed by North Korea is growing, as evidenced by its launch of an ICBM-class ballistic missile on July 4 and other actions. In response to North Korea’s persistence in advancing nuclear and missile development in disregard of the international community, including the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), it is necessary for the international community to further heighten pressure on North Korea. Additionally, North Korea has not demonstrated any concrete efforts to resolve the abduction issue, which is a top priority of the Abe administration. At the Cabinet meeting today it was decided that in order to comprehensively resolve various issues of concern, including the abductions, nuclear and missile issues, Japan will add five groups, as well as nine individuals, to the scope of asset freezes and other sanctions. We will do so as an additional independent measure, while continuing to collaborate with the United States and other countries concerned. Japan continues to strongly urge North Korea to take concrete actions to resolve its nuclear, missile, and abductions issues, the latter of which remains a top priority, under our consistent policy of “dialogue and pressure” and “action for action.”

Today, following the Cabinet meeting, a meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Council for the Final Disposal of High-Level Radioactive Waste was held. In the meeting it was decided that having first communicated to local governments the details of the “Nationwide Map of Scientific Features for Geological Disposal” concerning the final disposal of high-level radioactive waste, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will today release the map at 3:00 p.m. The council approved the Government’s policy of strengthening efforts to deepen public understanding about this issue at the national and local level. The ministries and agencies concerned will work closely together and steadily advance measures towards the realization of the final disposal of radioactive waste.

Q&As

REPORTER: Minister of Defense Inada has recently announced her resignation, relating to the issue of the daily reports on the Self-Defense Force (SDF) unit deployed to the peacekeeping operation (PKO) mission in South Sudan. Can I ask for your thoughts on her resignation and what impact it will have on government administration?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In a press conference following the Cabinet meeting Minister of Defense Inada released the results of the special defense inspection, which found that the case of the daily reports on South Sudan PKO had been handled inappropriately, including the response to the request for the release of the reports and the fact that the reports were said to have been destroyed and were no longer available, when they actually still existed. In addition, as Prime Minister Abe noted in a short press occasion, Defense Minister Inada communicated to the Prime Minister that she had taken responsibility for the implementation of the special defense inspection and that, after having fully clarified all the details of the case, measures to prevent a reoccurrence had been instituted and the persons concerned had been disciplined. In addition, Defense Minister Inada conveyed to the Prime Minister that as the head of the Ministry of Defense she wanted to take responsibility for oversight of the Ministry’s activities and draw a line under this case by resigning. The Prime Minister respected the Minister’s wishes and accepted the resignation. As of today Minister Inada has been relieved of her position and Minister for Foreign Affairs Kishida will take on her duties in addition to his own. The Government would like to apologize to the people of Japan that the situation has led to the resignation of a Government minister.

REPORTER: What are your thoughts on the impact the resignation will have on the management of the Government?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government considers that it is important that we implement thorough measures to ensure that a similar situation does not occur again and that we endeavor to restore the people’s trust in the Government. We will make every effort to ensure that a case such as this one involving the PKO daily reports never occurs again. We will make thorough efforts to achieve this.

REPORTER: I have a related question. In addition to the issue of the daily reports Minister Inada’s words and actions have been the cause of a number of other issues, including her use of the name of the SDF for political purposes in a campaign speech at the time of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government elections. Some people feel that her resignation has come too late. Can I ask for your views on this point?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Speaking about Minister Inada, my view is that she has made every effort to respond to this issue, including giving instructions for the full release of information relating to the South Sudan PKO daily reports. Also, with regard to the special defense inspection that has been conducted by the Inspector General’s Office of Legal Compliance, which is under Minister Inada’s direct control and which is headed by a former superintending prosecutor and is also served by active prosecutors, the Minister cooperated with the inspections and also responded to questioning, thus ensuring that a thorough inspection report could be compiled. As the head of the Ministry of Defense the Minister decided to announce her resignation to take responsibility at the timing of the release of the outcome of the inspection.

REPORTER: Given that Prime Minister Abe has placed emphasis on appointing Minister Inada to responsible positions as a future leadership candidate and that she has views and beliefs similar to those of the Prime Minister, it would appear that the administration has been reluctant to see her resign. What are your views on this point?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I do not think that is the case. After all, it was Minister Inada herself who issued instructions for the Ministry to ensure full disclosure of the daily reports concerned in this matter. Furthermore, the Inspector General’s Office of Legal Compliance has conducted a thorough investigation to figure out the root cause. The Minister herself, the State Minister and Parliamentary Vice-Minister also cooperated with the office. I believe that in that sense Minister Inada strongly felt that, as Minister of Defense, it was her responsibility to bring this matter to a resolution.

REPORTER: I have a further related question. In the midst of a tense security environment, including reports that North Korea is preparing to conduct another missile launch in the near future, what do you say to those people who point out that the resignation of Minister Inada demonstrates that the Government is not fulfilling its crisis management duties?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, the Government considers that its greatest responsibility is to protect the lives and peaceful livelihoods of the people of Japan from any situation, including ballistic missile launches by North Korea. It is for this reason that a successor to Minister Inada has been appointed swiftly in order to ensure a seamless response in any situation. The Government will continue to make every effort to protect the lives and assets of the people of Japan, while working closely bilaterally with the United States and trilaterally with the United States and the Republic of Korea.

REPORTER: There is growing turmoil at the Ministry of Defense and within the SDF due to this matter. Who do you think would be the right person to take on the role of Defense Minister?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Currently Foreign Minister Kishida is serving as Defense Minister concurrently with his own duties. First and foremost, it is important to ensure that government structures are securely in place that will protect the lives and peaceful daily lives of the people of Japan.

REPORTER: I have a related question. What was the reason for Foreign Minister Kishida being appointed to serve concurrently as Defense Minister?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Foreign Minister Kishida is a member of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee (2+2 meeting) and also the National Security Council. Therefore he was appointed by the Prime Minister to serve concurrently as Defense Minister as the person who is currently the most capable to deal with the current security situation surrounding the people of Japan.

REPORTER: With regard to the special defense inspection, what are your thoughts about the way it was handled in the recent Diet hearings, which took place outside the regular Diet session?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: That is a matter for the Diet to determine.

REPORTER: Some people have observed that Minister Inada had had no previous experience in defense policy even within the Liberal Democratic Party and that her appointment resulted in her being unable to control affairs within the Defense Ministry, leading to internal turmoil. What are your views on such observations?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Minister Inada gave instructions for the daily reports, which were said to have been destroyed, to be fully disclosed and for a full inspection to be conducted and that is actually what has happened. That is an indisputable fact.

REPORTER: I would like to rephrase my question and ask what you think of Ms. Inada’s credentials as Defense Minister.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I would like to refrain from commenting on the credentials of other ministers. However, it is most regrettable that this matter has come to this result. Nonetheless, the Government recognizes that not a moment can be lost in the increasingly severe security environment and we will continue to ensure a robust structure is in place and do everything possible to ensure the safety and security of the nation.

REPORTER: The Cabinet is due to be reshuffled next month and some people are of the opinion that a person who has detailed knowledge of defense policy should be appointed to the position of Defense Minister. What are your views on this point?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The appointment of ministers is the sole prerogative of the Prime Minister and therefore I believe that Prime Minister Abe will appoint a person after taking all matters into consideration.

REPORTER: I would like to ask about the background to Minister Inada’s resignation. It has been reported that Minister Inada indicated her intention to resign yesterday, July 27. Is this true, and did the Prime Minister’s Office try to dissuade her from resigning?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: This matter is exactly as it was described by the Prime Minister in the short press occasion he held earlier. Minister Inada took responsibility to fully clarify all of the details, and based on the findings of the Inspector General’s Office of Legal Compliance of the Ministry of Defense, measures to prevent a reoccurrence were instituted and the persons concerned were disciplined. Minister Inada conveyed to the Prime Minister that as the head of the Ministry of Defense she wanted to take responsibility for oversight of the Ministry’s activities and take responsibility by resigning. The Prime Minister respected the Minister’s wishes and accepted the resignation. That is the background leading to the resignation.

REPORTER: So is it the case that attempts were made to persuade the Minister not to resign? Given that it is said that the Cabinet is due to be reshuffled very soon, resignation was not the only option.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have just stated, Minister Inada conveyed to the Prime Minister that as the head of the Ministry of Defense, following the results of the inspection by the Inspector General’s Office of Legal Compliance of the Ministry of Defense, she strongly wished to take responsibility and draw a line under this case by resigning. The Prime Minister respected the Minister’s wishes and accepted the resignation. That is all.

REPORTER: I have another related question. The issue of the South Sudan PKO daily reports was not the only issue facing the Minister. Right from the time she was appointed there have been various other issues, including historical issues, her comments during the election campaign and changing her responses to questions in the Diet. Notwithstanding these various other issues, she has ostensibly resigned to take responsibility for ministry oversight following the results of the special defense inspection. Some people are of the view that she should have been replaced sooner. Is it the Government’s position that other than the issue of the South Sudan PKO daily reports, there were no other particular issues that would merit the Minister being replaced?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: This was not a matter of whether or not to replace the Minister. The background to her resignation is exactly as it has been explained.

REPORTER: What I am asking is that there has been strong criticism that the Minister should have been replaced sooner. Does the Government not consider that the Minister’s actions prior to the South Sudan issue were problematic in any way? Were they acceptable for a Cabinet member?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: This is not a case of whether there were any problems, but rather that the greatest responsibility of the Government is to ensure that a robust structure is in place to protect the safety and security of the people of Japan. In that field I believe that the Minister fulfilled her duties with commitment and diligence.

REPORTER: Can we understand that Foreign Minister Kishida will concurrently serve as Defense Minister until the expected Cabinet reshuffle in August?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Minister Kishida is currently serving in two roles and although this is ultimately a matter for the Prime Minister to decide, I do not think that these two positions should be served concurrently for an extended period of time.

REPORTER: So can we assume that Minister Kishida will basically be serving in two roles until the next Cabinet reshuffle?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Serving as a minister, including as Foreign and Defense Minister, is an extremely heavy responsibility. To serve concurrently as both Foreign Minister and Defense Minister is an emergency interim measure.

REPORTER: Returning to the matter of the special defense inspection, it has been noted that with regard to the involvement of Minister Inada, there is a possibility that the existence of the PKO daily reports data was mentioned in a meeting in February. This remains still just a possibility and the facts remain unclear. Given that you have just noted that Minister Inada undertook to clarify all details relating to this case, do you think that the inspection has gone far enough?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that Minister Inada will cover this point in her press conference at the Ministry of Defense.

REPORTER: I have a further point of confirmation relating to an internal matter at the Ministry of Defense. A special inspection only applies to personnel at the rank of Administrative Vice-Minister and below and at the rank of Chief of Staff and below, meaning that the Minister, State Minister and Parliamentary Vice-Ministers of Defense are exempt from the scope of the inspection. This case was one in which there was suspected involvement of the Defense Minister, so do you think it is necessary to revise the structures for special defense inspections?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The results of the special defense inspection have been released and are currently being explained at the Ministry of Defense. I have received a report that Minister Inada and also the State Minister and Parliamentary Vice-Ministers all cooperated actively with the special defense inspection, in addition to which the results of the inspection have been released today.

REPORTER: I have a question about your opening statement on new independent measures by Japan against North Korea. It is being reported that among the five groups that have been added to the list of groups and individuals subject to asset freezing, two of these are Chinese companies. Could you tell us the facts behind these reports?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: With regard to these secondary measures, although they are not necessarily defined as such, Japan has decided, as an independent measure, to freeze the assets of Chinese groups that have been involved in activities that are prohibited under the relevant UNSC resolutions.

REPORTER: So are we to understand that two Chinese companies are subject to this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The two groups are the same as those on which the United States imposed measures earlier this year.

REPORTER: So was it the case that these measures were approved by the Cabinet today?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Yes.

(Abridged)

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