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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

January 11, 2018 (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: A Chinese naval vessel and submarine have been confirmed in the contiguous zone around the Senkaku Islands. Could you tell us the facts that the Government is aware of and also how you will respond?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, yesterday afternoon, a submarine was confirmed navigating in the Japanese contiguous zone east-northeast of Miyako Island. This morning the submarine was confirmed entering the Japanese contiguous zone northeast of Taisho Island in the Senkaku Islands, after which it departed the contiguous zone. Also, this morning a Chinese naval vessel entered the Japanese contiguous zone northeast of Taisho Island in the Senkaku Islands and subsequently exited. The matter was reported immediately to Prime Minister Abe, who issued three instructions, which were to prepare for all possible contingencies and act in close coordination among relevant ministries and agencies, act in close coordination with the relevant countries, including the United States, and devote utmost efforts to surveillance and monitoring. The Government has collected and analyzed information concerning this matter at the information liaison office in the Prime Minister’s Office’s Crisis Management Center.

REPORTER: Has the Government confirmed the country of origin of the submarine?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Ministry of Defense and the Self-Defense Forces are engaging in the necessary surveillance and monitoring activities. However, due to the nature of the matter, I would like to refrain from commenting on the details, including the nationality of the submarine in question.

REPORTER: Is the Government aware of the current movements of the naval vessel and submarine?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: At the current point the vessels are outside the contiguous zone.

REPORTER: If a Chinese naval vessel were to enter Japan’s territorial waters, would orders be given for maritime security operations?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We are not engaged in such operations. The area concerned is the contiguous zone.

REPORTER: Given that a Chinese vessel has entered the contiguous zone, what is the Government’s analysis of China’s intentions in conducting such actions?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I would like to refrain from commenting on this point on behalf of the Government.

REPORTER: A short while ago Mr. Cheng Yonghua, Ambassador of China to Japan, was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Japan lodged a protest. Can I ask what the protest to China was about?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: China has stated its own assertions about the Senkaku Islands. The entry of a naval vessel into the Japanese contiguous zone around the Senkaku Islands, the first since June 2016, following the previous intrusions into our territorial waters by Chinese government-owned vessels, is an action that unilaterally raises tensions and represents a serious concern for Japan. In light of this matter, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Shinsuke Sugiyama expressed serious concern to Ambassador Cheng Yonghua and lodged a protest. The Government will respond firmly and calmly, based on our intention to resolutely protect our territory, territorial waters, and territorial airspace.

REPORTER: The Prime Minister has indicated his strong desire to improve Japan-China relations and this matter could hinder such moves. What is your view on this point?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Japan has lodged a protest with the Ambassador of China to Japan. As I have already stated, we will respond firmly and calmly to this matter. In the series of Japan-China summit meetings held in the autumn last year, it was also confirmed that our two countries will work to further improve relations in all aspects and will cooperate to make the East China Sea a “Sea of Peace, Cooperation, and Friendship.” There is no change in Japan’s stance and we strongly request that China take no steps that would obstruct the ongoing improvement in Japan-China relations.

REPORTER: Is there a possibility that this matter will impact arrangements for the Japan-China-Republic of Korea (ROK) Trilateral Summit, and mutual visits between the leaders?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We do not anticipate any such impact. As I have just stated, in the series of Japan-China summit meetings held in the autumn last year, it was also confirmed that our two countries will work to further improve relations in all aspects, and we do not intend to impede such developments.

REPORTER: With regard to the Government’s current recognition of the situation, are we to understand that in light of this recent incident the Government still considers that relations are improving?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have already noted, Japan will respond firmly and calmly, based on our intention to resolutely protect our territory, territorial waters, and territorial airspace. Japan and China have also confirmed that we will work together to make the East China Sea a “Sea of Peace, Cooperation, and Friendship.” There is absolutely no change to our stance and we are strongly requesting that no steps be taken that would obstruct the ongoing improvement in Japan-China relations.

REPORTER: I have a question about the summit telephone talk between the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK). There was a similar question in this morning’s press conference. The Blue House stated formally that President Trump said to President Moon Jae-in that the United States would not engage in any military action while inter-Korean dialogue was taking place. What is the Government’s view of such a statement?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, as this concerns a matter between other countries, in this case the United States and the ROK, I would like to refrain from commenting on behalf of the Government. I would add that in response to North Korea-related issues, Japan is engaging in close Japan-U.S. and Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation and we are sharing information and coordinating policies. I would like to point out that there is no change to our response policies under Japan-U.S. and Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation.

REPORTER: You have just noted that there is no change in the policy, so are we to understand that this statement by President Trump does not at all contradict the stance you have emphasized to date to place maximum pressure on North Korea so as to make it change its policies?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There is absolutely no contradiction. We are continuing to engage in close Japan-U.S. and Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation so as to place maximum pressure on North Korea.

REPORTER: You announced yesterday that from tomorrow the Prime Minister will be departing for a visit to the three Baltic States and three Southeastern European countries. It is the first time for a serving Japanese Prime Minister to visit any of these countries. Could you tell us of the significance of the Prime Minister increasing the number of countries he visits and the purpose of such visits?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, the decision on the Prime Minister’s visit to these six countries was made from the perspectives of capitalizing on the strengths of the long-running Abe administration and widening the frontiers of Japan’s diplomacy, as well as engaging in careful and detailed diplomatic efforts in response to urgent international challenges, including the issue of North Korea. The Government will continue to consider the international circumstances and decide accordingly on countries to be visited, seeking to engage substantively and actively in peaceful diplomacy.

REPORTER: I have a related question. In the countries that the Prime Minister will be visiting on this occasion, and particularly the countries of Eastern Europe, it is the case that China has a growing presence as it continues to advance its “One Belt, One Road” initiative, including for example, support for the construction of a railroad in Hungary. When you consider this situation, is it correct that the Prime Minister is visiting the region to strengthen Japan’s relations with Eastern European countries?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have just noted, given the length that the Abe administration has now been in office and thinking from a global perspective, it is rather unusual for a serving Japanese Prime Minister to have not yet visited countries like them. The Government aims to capitalize on the strengths of the long-running Abe administration to widen the frontiers of Japan’s diplomacy and engage in careful and detailed diplomatic efforts. As I have also noted previously, it is of the utmost importance to explain Japan’s stance on issues such as North Korea in particular. In that sense, any talk about China is entirely unrelated to this upcoming visit.

REPORTER: Returning to the matter of the Chinese naval vessel, given that consultations are continuing toward the establishment of a maritime and aerial communication mechanism, do you think that this incident will have any impact on the consultations?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The two leaders confirmed that discussions will be accelerated in order to begin operating a maritime and aerial communication mechanism promptly and intensive negotiations are continuing. The Government considers the early establishment and operation of this mechanism to be extremely important and there is no change to this stance.

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