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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

August 31, 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]

Q&As

REPORTER: Yesterday evening Prime Minister Abe held a telephone talk with President Trump of the United States. It is extremely unusual for Japan-U.S. summit telephone talks to be held on two consecutive days, so can I ask how the Government regards these talks?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: On August 30, from 11:30 p.m. for approximately 30 minutes, Prime Minister Abe held a telephone talk with President Trump of the United States. The two leaders exchanged opinions about their understanding and analysis of the North Korean situation and the response to the situation going forward. As a result of the talk the two leaders confirmed that they were in complete agreement on their understanding of the current situation in North Korea and their views on future responses. Prime Minister Abe noted that following the previous Japan-U.S. summit telephone talk on August 29 he engaged in telephone talks with President Moon of the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Prime Minister Turnbull of Australia, and that he had also held an informal meeting with Prime Minister May of the United Kingdom, who is visiting Japan. In view of the adoption of the Presidential Statement by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the two leaders also exchanged opinions on their future responses. The leaders agreed that North Korea must be made to change its policies by putting greater pressure on the country. It was also agreed that Japan and the United States as well as Japan, the United States and the ROK will work even more closely together, including at the United Nations. It is of the utmost significance that the two leaders have been able to speak directly once again by telephone, following on from the telephone talk of August 29, to confirm with each other their views concerning the North Korean situation and the response to it.

REPORTER: In yesterday’s press conference you stated that prohibiting exports of oil to North Korea is one option for further sanctions. In yesterday’s summit telephone talk did the leaders confirm with each other their views concerning a ban on oil exports to North Korea?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In exploring a new UNSC resolution, consideration will be given based on such matters as North Korea’s external economic relations and sources of foreign currency. I would imagine that restricting trade in crude oil and oil products, which are key foreign trade items for North Korea, will be one of the options to be considered.

REPORTER: I believe China and Russia, which have influence on North Korea, will be key players in determining any new UNSC sanctions resolution that was mentioned in the previous question. What kind of stance will the Government of Japan be seeking from China and Russia in this regard?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Japan will be engaging in considerations from the perspective of what would be the most effective method of putting pressure on North Korea towards the resolution of outstanding issues in a comprehensive manner, including the possibility of seeking a new UNSC resolution. As China and Russia have a great deal of influence on North Korea, we will proceed by engaging fully with these two countries.

REPORTER: Japan-U.S. summit telephone talks have been held on two consecutive days. Does it mean that tensions surrounding North Korea have heightened so much that it has led to this unusual situation?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: After the two leaders held their first round of telephone talks the Prime Minister also engaged in talks or met with other leaders, including President Moon of the ROK. In that sense, Japan and the United States are taking responses while coordinating with each other very closely.

REPORTER: In addition to the unusual case of summit telephone talks being held on two consecutive days, Defense Minister Onodera has held telephone talks with U.S. Defense Secretary Mattis and Foreign Minister Kono has also held telephone talks with U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson. Does the Government view that this close cooperation will provide a deterrent against provocative acts by North Korea?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, I believe it is of the utmost importance to fully confirm our relationship under the robust Japan-U.S. Alliance and take responses accordingly. It is from that perspective that a Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee (“2+2”) meeting was held. It is critically important for ministers concerned to work closely together in order to ensure the safety and security of the people of Japan.

REPORTER: President Trump has posted on Twitter that talking is not the answer to the North Korean situation, indicating his intention to strengthen pressure on the country. Has the Government of Japan given any specific consideration to how it would respond in the event that the U.S. engages in military action?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I would like to refrain from making any comments about the U.S. President’s Twitter posts based on presumption. I would add that it goes without saying that the strong deterrence capability of the Japan-U.S. Alliance is vital to defend Japan and ensure peace and security in the region. From this perspective, the Government highly values the Trump administration’s stance of leaving all options on the table. In any event, it is important to take steady responses while coordinating policy on North Korea at the summit level between Japan and the United States, and also working closely in the diplomatic sphere among Japan, the United States, and the ROK and with countries like China and Russia that have influence on North Korea.

REPORTER: I have a related question. Prime Minister May of the United Kingdom arrived in Japan yesterday. Today she is scheduled to conduct an escort vessel inspection, after which she will attend a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) in the afternoon. Is it correct to understand that these activities are taking place with North Korea in mind?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, Japan and the United Kingdom are the closest security partners to each other in Asia and Europe, and to date we have implemented joint exercises and engaged in cooperation in the area of defense and defense equipment, in addition to which the Japan-UK Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) has also been concluded. In that sense, in the field of security we share an extremely close relationship. Today, August 31, Prime Minister May has been invited to attend in person a four ministers’ meeting of the NSC, which will bring together the ministers who are responsible for foreign and defense policy. The purpose in inviting Prime Minister May to this meeting is therefore to further deepen our cooperative relations. It will be of the utmost significance to hold an exchange of opinions on Japan-UK relations and Japan-UK security cooperation.

REPORTER: I have a question regarding North Korea. Today the U.S.-ROK joint military exercises have concluded. Will a surveillance and monitoring structure remain in response to North Korea?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I understand that the joint exercises by the two countries will conclude today. The Government constantly engages with great concern in the collection and analysis of information about nuclear and missile-related developments in North Korea. We will continue to work closely with countries such as the United States and the ROK to urge North Korea to refrain from provocative actions and comply with UNSC resolutions. We will also fully maintain an advanced surveillance and monitoring structure in order to protect the lives and peaceful daily lives of the people of Japan. We will engage in the collection of information and the implementation of a surveillance and monitoring structure with a sense of urgency to be able to respond to any situation, and make every endeavor to ensure the security of Japan.

REPORTER: The anniversary of the founding of North Korea is coming up on September 9. What is the Government’s analysis with regard to the possibility of further military provocations?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There is no change to our stance of taking all possible measures to ensure the safety and security of the people in order to secure their lives and peaceful daily lives in any situation. Due to the nature of this matter I would like to refrain from discussing further details.

REPORTER: In relation to North Korea, yesterday the Hodo Station television news program reported that a security official in Washington, D.C. stated that the United States is considering recognizing North Korea as a nuclear weapons state in return for a cessation of intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) development. Is the Government aware of any such considerations?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I have no knowledge of any such reports.

REPORTER: According to a report by CNN news, U.S. missile interception systems have an interception success rate of only 10 in every 18 launches of ICBMs. In this press conference you have stated that the Government is taking all possible measures to ensure the safety and security of the people of Japan. Are we to understand that in addition to the currently deployed SM-3 system in Japan, the anticipated deployment of the Aegis Ashore system and the PAC-2 system will ensure that a comprehensive missile interception structure is in place in response to ICBMs?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have consistently stated, we are taking all possible measures.

REPORTER: According to interviews with the Ministry of Defense and members of the defense industry, we hear that although Japan’s current missile interception system deployment is sufficient to protect the area around the Imperial Palace and a number of government buildings, including the Prime Minister’s Office, as well as major cities, the systems that are in place are not currently capable of decisively responding to sustained ICBM launches throughout the country. This would suggest that a missile interception system alone is not sufficient to respond to ICBM launches. What are your views on this point?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We are taking all possible measures to protect the safety and security of the people of Japan.

REPORTER: In your press conferences you have stated that the aim is to make North Korea cease its provocative actions. However, Chairman Kim Jong-un has repeatedly demanded the U.S. side to refrain from engaging in the U.S.-ROK joint exercises that started from August 21 and which involve the mobilization of 28,000 military personnel, who are conducting exercises that simulate strikes on North Korean bases, operations to decapitate the North Korean leadership, and also involve below-radar low-flying exercises. It could be said that the United States and the ROK’s insistence on continuing with these joint exercises is what has prompted Kim Jong-un to implement ICBM launches. In the course of dialogue with the United States or the ROK, has the Government of Japan not called for a calmer response in the implementation of these exercises in a way that would respond to the demands of Kim Jong-un?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Under the basic principles of “dialogue and pressure” and “action for action,” and based on the strong Japan-U.S. Alliance the Government is taking all possible measures to protect the safety and security of the people of Japan. I would suggest directing your question to Chairman Kim of North Korea.

REPORTER: I do not have any means of communicating with North Korea, but from your response are we to understand that to a certain extent the Government of Japan is calling on the United States and the ROK to respond calmly and carefully and consider the content of joint exercises in a way that would respond to the requests of the North Korean side?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We are taking all possible measures to be capable of engaging in all kinds of responses.

REPORTER: I have a question relating to North Korea. In discussions in the Standing Committee on Security of the House of Representatives yesterday, Diet member Goto of the Democratic Party noted that on the night before the launch of the missile on August 29, the Prime Minister stayed overnight at the Official Residence of the Prime Minister, and asked whether the Government was aware of the missile launch in advance. In response, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Nishimura gave a response that gave slight hints to that effect, so can I ask about the facts concerning this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Due to the nature of this matter I would like to refrain from commenting.

REPORTER: On both of the two occasions in August on which missiles were launched by North Korea, the Prime Minister spent the night before the launch at the Official Residence of the Prime Minister and on each of these occasions missiles were actually launched. Is this purely coincidence?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government is taking all possible measures to protect the safety and security of the people of Japan.

REPORTER: I understand that all possible measures are being taken, but are you not denying that the Government had prior knowledge of the launches?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Due to the nature of this matter I would like to refrain from commenting.

REPORTER: The Prime Minister has stated that the latest launch presents an unprecedentedly serious and grave threat, and directly following the launch you stated in a press conference that the launch presented a danger to aircraft and vessels in the vicinity. If the Government had advance knowledge of the launch plans, what was the decision made about the provision of advance information?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government is taking all possible measures, that is all.

REPORTER: I have a related question. If the activities of the Prime Minister take on a set pattern it may become possible to predict when a launch will take place, so does the Government intend to respond in any way to this state of affairs?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have just noted, the Government is constantly giving consideration to taking all possible measures to protect the safety and security of the people of Japan.

REPORTER: On the day of the launch the missile was launched at 5:58 a.m. and the J-ALERT alarm sounded at 6:02 a.m. If the missile was in flight over Japan at around 6:05 a.m. this means that the people who received the J-ALERT alarm only had about three minutes, which is not sufficient time to seek refuge. If the Government was aware of the launch to a certain degree from the night before, why is it the case that the people were not informed in advance? Also, if it was actually determined that it was not necessary to inform the people, do you not think it is necessary from the perspective of ensuring the security and safety of the people to inform them in advance, including that everything is all right, because there is no possibility that the missile will fall on Japan’s territory or in territorial waters?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Although I would like to refrain from commenting due to the nature of the matter, what I would say is that the Government is taking all possible measures. It is also a fact that North Korea is a rogue state that has repeatedly engaged in provocative actions and failed to comply with UNSC resolutions. It is against that backdrop that we are taking all possible measures, that is all.

REPORTER: It appears that only on the nights when the Prime Minister stays at the Official Residence of the Prime Minister is a missile launched the following day. Even without the Government making any announcement people will come to the conclusion that a missile launch will occur the next day simply by looking at the Prime Minister’s activities and when he will be sleeping at the Official Residence. As was already mentioned in a previous question, information is circulating that a missile may be launched again on September 9, the anniversary of the founding of North Korea. If the Government receives such information in advance, will it be the case that the Prime Minister will once again spend the night before at the Official Residence?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: From your question it sounds as if you are implying that it is wrong for the Government to make all preparations to protect the safety and security of the people. The Government is constantly making every effort in a calm manner to protect the safety and security of the people. That is all.

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