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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

September 14, 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: I have a question about North Korea. A short while ago the Government of the Republic of Korea (ROK) announced that it is considering providing humanitarian assistance to North Korea amounting to US$8 million, or approximately 880 million yen. This assistance would be provided through international organizations and be used to provide medical supplies and food to children and pregnant women. What is the view of the Government of Japan with regard to this assistance, given the current situation in which the international community is strengthening pressure on North Korea, including the recent United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Although I am aware of the reports on this matter, the Government of the ROK has yet to make a formal announcement and therefore I would like to refrain from commenting on individual press reports. I would add, however, that against a backdrop of North Korea’s continued provocative actions, including the nuclear test on September 3, now is not the time for dialogue. It is of vital importance for the international community as a whole to place maximum pressure on North Korea to compel it to change its policy. The UNSC unanimously adopted a resolution, which imposes drastically stricter sanctions measures against North Korea. Given the concerted efforts of the international community to send a clear message to North Korea, I believe it is necessary to avoid any actions that could undermine the pressure being placed on the country. It is based on such concepts that the Government will continue to work with the ROK and also through Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation on various levels, including the leader level and foreign minister level, to closely coordinate our response measures. Under the principles of “dialogue and pressure” and “action for action” we will continue to work closely with countries concerned, including the United States and the ROK, to strongly urge North Korea to take specific actions towards the resolution of outstanding issues.

REPORTER: I have a related question. You have just spoken about close cooperation on various levels, but the Government of the ROK has indicated that humanitarian assistance will be maintained regardless of the political situation. Is the Government considering holding consultations with the Government of the ROK on this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As the Government of the ROK has yet to make any formal announcement on this matter, I would like to refrain from responding about individual press reports.

REPORTER: According to the announcement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), Deputy Director-General Hiroyuki Namazu of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau had contact with a North Korean official in Geneva on September 12. I believe the Deputy Director General lodged a protest concerning the nuclear test. Can you tell us once again about the aim of holding this meeting at this juncture?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, on September 12, Deputy Director General Hiroyuki Namazu of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau of MOFA engaged in exchanges of opinions with various participants at an international conference held in Switzerland, where he also had a brief exchange with Deputy Director-General Choe Kang-il of the North American Affairs Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of North Korea. I have been informed that on that occasion Deputy Director General Namazu issued a strong protest to Deputy Director-General Choe concerning North Korea’s provocative actions, including the nuclear test on September 3 and repeated ballistic missile launches. He strongly urged the North Korean side to comply with all relevant UNSC resolutions, and with regard to the abduction issue, he strongly called on North Korea to implement the Stockholm Agreement and return all abductees without delay.

REPORTER: What was the North Korean side’s response during that encounter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Due to the nature of the matter I would like to refrain from discussing North Korea’s response.

REPORTER: Following the recent adoption of the UNSC resolution that imposes stronger sanctions, it is being reported that North Korea has threatened to sink the Japanese archipelago with a nuclear bomb for working with the United States on imposing sanctions. Can I ask for the Government’s view on this threat and how you will respond?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, this latest statement is extremely provocative in content, is outrageous and serves only to significantly heighten tensions in the region. As such, it is totally unacceptable. North Korea will increasingly isolate itself from the world and will not be able to depict a bright future, if it continues on its present path. The Government considers that through the full implementation of all relevant UNSC resolutions, including the most recent resolution, the entire international community must place maximum pressure on North Korea to compel it to change its policy. Under the robust Japan-U.S. Alliance we will continue to maintain an advanced monitoring and surveillance structure with a sense of urgency and take all possible measures to protect the safety and security of the people of Japan.

REPORTER: It is being reported that a supply vessel of the Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF) has conducted refueling activities for a U.S. Aegis-equipped vessel that is engaged in responding to ballistic missile launches by North Korea. This is a new duty under the Legislation for Peace and Security, so could you tell us about the facts behind these reports?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: With regard to your question, the Legislation for Peace and Security and the new Japan-U.S. Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) that entered into force in April this year enable the provision of supplies and services to U.S. Forces that are engaged in various activities together with the SDF. I am aware that under this structure the SDF has already engaged in such activities. I would like to refrain from announcing the specific details concerning the status of provision of supplies and services by the SDF, due to concerns that this could reveal operational details concerning the activities of the SDF and U.S. Forces.

REPORTER: So you cannot share with us the specific timing and location of such activities?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I would like to refrain from commenting, as there are concerns that this could reveal operational details.

REPORTER: What is the aim in implementing such activities now?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have just noted, I would like to refrain from commenting on the timing and other related matters.

REPORTER: You mentioned the abduction issue earlier, and recently Ms. Hitomi Soga, one of the people abducted by North Korea, gave a press conference for the first time in ten years. In the press conference she noted that recently it is proving difficult to gather signatures on the streets petitioning for the release of the abduction victims, and expressed the view that the public is gradually losing interest in the abduction issue. Next month it will be 15 years since some of the abduction victims returned to Japan. Conversely, it could be said that regrettably for more than 10 years very little progress has been made, and this is why there are concerns that the public is losing interest in the issue. What is your view on this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, it is a source of the greatest sorrow for the Government that the return of the victims has yet to be realized, despite the many years that have passed since the abductions by North Korea, and not a moment can be lost to resolve this issue. I believe that in order to resolve the abduction issue it is important for all the people of Japan to unite and demonstrate their strong determination to achieve the return to Japan of all abductees without delay. Based on our strong determination that the abduction issue should never be forgotten, the Government has worked to promote understanding about the issue, and has conducted various awareness-raising events to ensure that the issue remains in the public consciousness. We will continue to engage actively in publicity and awareness-raising activities in order to gain public understanding and support both in Japan and overseas. The abduction issue is a top priority for the Abe Cabinet. Based on the principles of “dialogue and pressure” and “action for action,” the Government will continue to utilize various channels and means to urge North Korea to fulfill the Stockholm Agreement, and devote every effort to realizing the return of all the abductees as quickly as possible.

(Abridged)

REPORTER: I have a question about the European Union’s (EU) easing of restrictions on food products from Japan. The EU was considering lifting this autumn the import restrictions on food products from 10 prefectures, including agricultural produce from Fukushima Prefecture. However, a resolution was passed in the European Parliament calling for this lifting of restrictions to be revised. It now looks as though the lifting of restrictions will be moved back beyond autumn this year. Based on this development it can be seen that the impact of the nuclear power station accident is still difficult to overcome. What responses will the Government be taking following the adoption of this resolution in the European Parliament?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, it is the case that import restrictions introduced by the EU in March 2011 on Japanese food products have been gradually eased over time. I am aware that procedures were being advanced to further reduce these restrictions in July this year. I understand that in the European Parliament yesterday a resolution was adopted calling on the European Commission to revise the easing of measures. The Government considers that the safety and security of food products that are distributed in our market are ensured by the strictest standards in the world. We will continue to call on the European Commission to adopt further easing of restrictions on the basis of scientific evidence.

(Abridged)
 

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