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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

September 15, 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]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga
From September 18 to 22, Prime Minister Abe will visit New York to attend the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly. Given the recent situation in which North Korea has conducted a nuclear test and just this morning launched another missile that flew over Japan, Prime Minister Abe is scheduled to hold meetings with various countries and deliver an address at the UN General Assembly during his visit. He will strongly emphasize the need for the international community to work together to ensure the full implementation of all relevant United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions, and place pressure on North Korea to make it change its policies at these occasions. In addition to attending the UN General Assembly, the Prime Minister is also scheduled to deliver a speech to representatives of the United States financial sector at the New York Stock Exchange on Japan’s economic policies. The Prime Minister is also scheduled to make comments on Japan’s contribution to resolving global issues such as the Sustainable Development Goals, including health.

Q&As

REPORTER: September 17 will mark the 15th anniversary of the issuance of the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration. The Abe administration has positioned the abductions issue as a top priority for the Government, but to date no tangible progress has been made. What is your view on this situation?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, in accordance with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, the Government’s consistent policy has been to endeavor to comprehensively resolve outstanding issues, including the abductions, nuclear, and missile issues; to settle the unfortunate past; and to aim for normalization of relations. The Government considers it to be necessary for North Korea to engage in specific actions towards the comprehensive resolution of all matters of concern. We will continue to urge North Korea to comply with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration. Furthermore, today, with the passage of many years since the abductions by North Korea, it is a source of the greatest sorrow for the Government that the return of the victims has yet to be realized and not a moment can be lost to resolve this issue. Resolving the abduction issue is a top priority for the Abe administration. Based on the principles of “dialogue and pressure” and “action for action,” Japan will continue to utilize various channels and means to demand the fulfillment of the Stockholm Agreement from North Korea, and devote every effort to realizing the return of all the abductees as quickly as possible.

REPORTER: As North Korea continues to engage in provocative actions it is difficult to perceive any path towards dialogue at the current point in time. How does the Government therefore seek to achieve a breakthrough in the abductions issue?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Based on the principles of “dialogue and pressure” and “action for action,” Japan will continue to utilize various channels and means to demand the fulfillment of the Stockholm Agreement by North Korea, and devote every effort to realizing the return of all the abductees as quickly as possible.

REPORTER: There are reports that North Korea has threatened to sink the Japanese archipelago using a nuclear weapon. I believe that at the moment what is of greater concern than a nuclear attack is the threat of guerilla tactics. I think that it is possible to contemplate a scenario in which agents could infiltrate Japan and engage in terrorist activities. How does the Government intend to respond to such a threat? Recently, acts of terrorism around the world have come up regularly as a topic at this press conference and while I am sure that the Government’s risk management measures are sufficient, could you elaborate a little on how the Government is responding to such risks?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, of greatest importance is to stop terrorism at the country’s borders. In that sense, the Government has established a unit responsible for international counterterrorism measures and is working to enhance its operations. Also, in the previous session of the Diet we were able to achieve the passage of legislation relating to counterterrorism measures. We have also acceded to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC), which has 187 countries and regions and aims to prevent organized crimes. Through such efforts we have acquired various sources of information and are now able to provide mutual assistance in investigations. In this way we are endeavoring to engage in counterterrorism measures.

REPORTER: Is the Government considering further enhancing counterterrorism measures in quantitative and qualitative ways, such as the allocation of more budget or by increasing personnel, for example?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We have already expanded the organization in order to respond to international counterterrorism measures. In any event, we continue to focus our efforts on stopping terrorism at our borders.

REPORTER: Does the Government have any further information or analysis following North Korea’s missile launch this morning? Could I also ask for your views on this launch too?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, information gathering and analysis is currently being conducted by experts concerning the objectives and aims of this latest missile launch by North Korea. I would like to refrain from making any definitive statement about the objectives of the launch at this point. In any event, the Government continues to collect and analyze information relating to North Korea’s military actions, including missile launches, with maximum attention. We will continue to work closely with countries such as the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) as we endeavor to ensure the safety and security of the people of Japan.

REPORTER: Following this morning’s missile launch, is the Government considering imposing any further additional sanctions of its own? Or will the Government be calling on the UNSC for further sanctions, following on from the recent adoption of the latest resolution?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The measures adopted in the recent UNSC resolution are extremely robust in their content. It will therefore firstly be of the utmost importance to ensure the full implementation of these measures by all countries. Following today’s missile launch we will also be seeking to engage in discussions in the Sanctions Committee of the UNSC, calling for a strong response to North Korea.

REPORTER: So is the Government contemplating imposing any further sanctions of its own?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government recently announced its own measures against North Korea. It will be important to ensure that these are thoroughly implemented and we will be working on future responses together with the United States, the ROK and other countries concerned.

REPORTER: I have a question about the flight path of the missile launch today. It appears that it was almost identical to the flight path of the August 29 missile launch, which also flew over Hokkaido. Experts have suggested that from North Korea’s standpoint this flight path is well-suited to missile test launches as it is possible to launch missiles that fly as little as possible over Japanese territory. What is the Government’s view of such observations?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, although it is the case that the ballistic missile launched today followed a flight path similar to the previous missile launch, the details are currently being analyzed. We will continue to collect information about why this route was selected, its objectives and aims, and engage in exchanges of information with other countries concerned as we advance this analytical work.

REPORTER: If North Korea were to continue launching missiles, does the Government consider it likely that the flight path would be similar to the previous two launches, which passed over Hokkaido?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: What is important is the fact that North Korea has conducted such missile launches. As for possible future missile launches by North Korea, I would like to refrain from making any comment based on presumption. I would add that we are working with countries concerned to analyze the objectives and aims of such a flight path and make preparations accordingly.

REPORTER: I have a question on a different topic. In a recent opinion poll conducted by our news agency, for the first time in three months the Cabinet approval rating has exceeded the disapproval rating and stands at 41.8 percent. What is your view on the recovery in the Cabinet approval rating?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I always say with regard to approval ratings, it is better to have a higher than lower approval rating. However, we will not be swayed by fluctuations in the rating and instead we will continue to concentrate on listening to the views of the people and responding to the mandate given to us by the electorate. The newly inaugurated Cabinet will make concerted efforts to ensure the safety and security of the people of Japan and continue to seek to accomplish results in all policy issues, including further accelerating a positive economic cycle as part of our priority policy of revitalizing Japan’s economy.

REPORTER: I have a question concerning the opening of the extraordinary Diet session on September 28. I believe that major themes for debate in the upcoming session will include the response to North Korea and the draft legislation relating to work style reform. Could you tell us about how the Government seeks to position the upcoming Diet session and what outcomes are expected?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The opening of the extraordinary Diet session is still in the process of being coordinated. The Abe Cabinet will make concerted efforts to ensure the safety and security of the people of Japan and endeavor to achieve the revitalization of the economy as a top priority. In the Diet, we will continue to provide thorough explanations about the Government’s policies on such issues as North Korea and work style reform.

REPORTER: Independent Diet member Mr. Masaru Wakasa, who is aiming to form a new political party by the end of the year, has announced a concept for constitutional reform that would change the bicameral legislature of the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors into a unicameral legislature. What are your views on Mr. Wakasa’s intention to make the creation of a unicameral legislature one of his policy issues?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I am unaware of Mr. Wakasa’s thoughts or his statements on policy. I would like to refrain from commenting on the concepts of individual Diet members from opposition parties.

REPORTER: Next Tuesday, September 19, will mark the second anniversary of the passage of the Legislation for Peace and Security. Given North Korea’s recent provocations, including nuclear tests and missile launches, could you tell us the Government’s view on the significance of this legislation?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Given the missile launch today and the recent nuclear test, it is apparent that the security environment surrounding Japan is extremely severe and that our nation’s security is facing a grave threat. The Legislation for Peace and Security is intended to enable Japan to seamlessly deal with any situation within the limits of the Constitution in this severe security environment. It is therefore essential for protecting the lives, properties and peaceful daily lives of the people of Japan. Considering the current situation, I believe it was therefore of the greatest significance that the Legislation for Peace and Security was passed by the Diet two years ago. The passage and enactment of this legislation has facilitated extremely smooth cooperation between Japan and the United States and made the Japan-U.S. Alliance more robust and strengthened its deterrence. The Government will continue to respond with a sense of urgency to ensure that we can protect the lives and peaceful daily lives of the people of Japan from any situation.

REPORTER: I have a question about the J-ALERT warning system. At the time of the missile launch on August 29 there was an interval of approximately 12 minutes between the missile being launched and information about the overflight of the missile being conveyed. It has been noted that today this interval was considerably shorter. It was approximately seven minutes, which is five minutes shorter. Could you tell us why it was possible to shorten this interval and whether it is likely that the interval between launch and notification could be further shortened?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, information concerning the overflight of a missile is conveyed after it has been confirmed that there is no danger of tracking missiles or materials from the main missile separating and falling in Japan’s territories or territorial waters. In the case of the missile launch on August 29, this confirmation process took some time to complete. For today’s launch, the confirmation process was concluded smoothly, which resulted in the shorter time frame to issue information.

REPORTER: Firstly, with regard to the written warning distributed by the Cabinet Public Relations Office, I asked a question yesterday suggesting that the warning was leaked in advance to the Sankei Shimbun newspaper. This was a mistake, as the document was distributed to all news agencies. I withdraw my question and apologize. With regard to today’s missile launch, yesterday NBC TV network news of the United States was quoting a U.S. military official as saying that North Korea was making preparations for a missile launch, moving a missile into place, and that a launch was anticipated within 48 hours. Following this news, reporters in Japan questioned Defense Minister Onodera about it. At the time of the previous two missile launches it has also been the case that the Government of Japan has not issued any information about launch preparations although information has been provided by the United States and the ROK. In your comments today you have spoken about how the combination of the Legislation for Peace and Security, the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, and the Act on Punishment of the Preparation of Acts of Terrorism and Other Organized Crimes enables the Government to acquire sensitive information. However, yesterday the Government did not provide any formal notification or information about the preparations that were being made for the launch. Why is this the case? If it is the case that the Government had information but could not disclose it, could you tell us why it is not possible to provide advance notification, particularly in view of the fact that many people in Japan first learned about the launch this morning when the J-ALERT system was triggered?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: It is the Government’s role to protect the lives, properties and peaceful daily lives of the people of Japan. What is most important is for us to continually engage in the collection and analysis of information. I would like to refrain from commenting on the specific content and analysis of information.

REPORTER: I am not asking about the contents of analysis. My question concerns why it is not possible to issue information at an earlier point so that the people are able to make preparations to seek refuge. Reports on the preparations for the launch were available at an early point yesterday in the United States. I imagine that the Government of Japan also had access to such information in advance, so my question is why such information could not be provided to the public yesterday.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: This is a question that relates to what is most important to protect the safety and peaceful daily lives of the people of Japan. Was the information you referred to actually issued by the Government of the United States or that of the ROK? The Government of Japan is constantly seeking to acquire sensitive information and we respond with a due sense of responsibility, considering various points, such as what is necessary to ensure the safety and security of the public and whether there is a danger of creating panic. That is all.

REPORTER: The Japan Coast Guard is engaged in surveys of the areas where missiles launched by North Korea have fallen, seeking to ascertain, among other things, whether the missiles have actually carried explosives. What is the current status of analysis about whether the missiles actually contained explosives or something different?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In any event, what is of the utmost importance is for the Government to acquire information with maximum attention so as to ensure the safety and security of the people of Japan. We are making every effort in that regard.

REPORTER: With regard to the J-ALERT system, it has been often noted that even with training it is still difficult for people to respond instantaneously when the J-ALERT alarm is sounded. While J-ALERT arouses tension and fear it is difficult to immediately seek refuge in a basement or inside a building. How does the Government want the public to react to the J-ALERT system or warnings issued by the Government?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Local governments and the Fire and Disaster Management Agency are working with local residents on various response measures, and the Cabinet crisis management office is also working with ministries and agencies concerned to respond thoroughly to this matter.
 

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