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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

January 5, 2018 (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
(Abridged)

Q&As
(Abridged)

REPORTER: I have a question about the postponement of joint military exercises by the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK). The exercises have been postponed for the duration of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games next month. Could you tell us how the Government evaluates this move by the U.S. and the ROK?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, Japan, the United States and the ROK are engaged in close cooperation on various levels, including at the foreign minister and summit level, and have confirmed on multiple occasions the importance of further strengthening pressure on North Korea. In addition, with regard to our responses to the North Korean issue, including on the point that you mentioned, the three countries fully share information and coordinate relevant policies. I understand that in the U.S.-ROK summit telephone talk that took place on January 4, the two leaders confirmed that both countries will continue to place maximum pressure on North Korea. The Government considers that the decision concerning the timing of joint U.S.-ROK military exercises does not lessen the momentum to strengthen pressure on North Korea in any way. In any event, there is no change to our policy. We will continue to engage in Japan-U.S., Japan-ROK, and Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation, and also work closely with other countries concerned, including China and Russia, using all means to place the maximum degree of pressure on North Korea to make it change its policies.

REPORTER: You have just noted that to date the international community has joined together in strengthening pressure on North Korea. What is the Government’s view on the postponement of military exercises, from the perspective that it could weaken pressure on North Korea?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have already noted, Japan, the United States and the ROK remain united in their stance of further strengthening pressure on North Korea.

REPORTER: It has been decided that a meeting between the authorities of the ROK and North Korea will take place next week. What is the Government’s outlook now that specific moves towards the North-South dialogue have been initiated?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have noted, we are engaging in Japan-U.S., Japan-ROK, and Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation in response to the North Korean issues. We are fully sharing information and coordinating relevant policies. In any event, there is no change to our policy of engaging in Japan-U.S. and Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation, while also working closely with other countries concerned, including China and Russia, as we use all means to place the maximum degree of pressure on North Korea to make it changes its policies.

REPORTER: Japan, the United States and the ROK have emphasized that they will not engage in “dialogue for the sake of dialogue.” Could the developments between the ROK and North Korea not be seen as such “dialogue for the sake of dialogue”?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have already noted, Japan, the United States and the ROK are engaged in close cooperation on various levels, including at the foreign minister and summit level, and have confirmed on multiple occasions the importance of further strengthening pressure on North Korea. Japan, the United States and the ROK continue to work closely together in responding to North Korea, including on that point.

REPORTER: Does the Government have any concerns that as a result of this dialogue, the ROK may soften its stance depending on the approach and requests of North Korea, which could throw trilateral Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation into confusion?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I would like to refrain from responding to a hypothetical question. Suffice it to say that Japan, the United States and the ROK continue to work closely together on issues relating to North Korea.

REPORTER: In his New Year address, Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea made extremely threatening remarks against the United States, noting that the entire territory of the United States is within nuclear strike range. However, he also announced that North Korea is prepared to send a team to the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games and called for North-South channels between the two Koreas to be reopened. It is now clear that North Korea will agree to the holding of a meeting with the ROK. Given that North Korea has now adopted this two-pronged response, threatening the United States, while showing more flexibility to the ROK, what are your views on the series of moves that have occurred since the start of the year?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I would say that these are simply repetitions of what we have seen to date.

REPORTER: Given this latest speech, what is the Government’s outlook concerning the possibility for further provocations by North Korea?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In any event, there is absolutely no change to our stance. We will cooperate closely with the U.S. and the ROK to respond to the North Korean situation and work with a high sense of vigilance to protect the safety and security of the people of Japan under an advanced surveillance posture.

REPORTER: I have a question about the Japan-ROK agreement regarding the comfort women issue. You have just noted that Japan, the U.S. and the ROK are working closely together. However, the ROK has conducted a review of the Japan-ROK agreement. In addition, public sentiment in the ROK is that the agreement should be revised. What is the Government’s view on this point?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, this is a domestic issue for the ROK and it is not yet clear how the Government of the ROK will respond. The Japan-ROK agreement was concluded in the presence of the foreign ministers of both countries and was afterwards confirmed in a summit telephone talk by the leaders of Japan and the ROK. Subsequently the U.S. Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor expressed their appreciation for the agreement, which represents an international commitment. As was noted yesterday, therefore, the Government’s stance will not move even a millimeter with regard to the agreement.

REPORTER: I have a question about the abdication of His Majesty the Emperor. It is being reported that the first meeting of a preparatory body, headed by yourself, which will consider such matters as the ceremonies relating to abdication, will be held on January 9. Could you tell us the facts behind these reports?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, nothing has been decided and I would like to refrain from making any comments based on conjecture at this point in time. However, I would like to add that it will be necessary to advance thorough and seamless preparations to ensure the entry into force of the Special Measures Law on the Imperial Household Law Concerning the Abdication of His Majesty the Emperor and Other Matters.

(Abridged)

REPORTER: I have a related question. Given the risks surrounding the North Korean situation and uncertainties over the economic outlook, there are still many companies that remain cautious about raising wages. What does the Government consider to be necessary in order to realize the three percent wage increase that the Government aims at?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have noted, economic conditions and share prices are at their highest level for 26 years, and the effective jobs-to-applicants ratio is also at its highest level for 43 years. Furthermore, the global economy as a whole is on a moderate recovery track. It is against this backdrop that the Government’s role is to create an environment that is conducive to a three percent wage increase.

REPORTER: I have a question about Japan-China relations. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the People’s Republic of China. There are currently signs of a warming of relations between Japan and China. Can I ask how the Government intends to further improve relations during the course of this year?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As you have noted, this year marks the major milestone of the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the People’s Republic of China. It is in that context that we are seeking to hold the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit and also realize mutual visits to Japan and China by Prime Minister Abe and President Xi Jinping as a means of further advancing stable and friendly Japan-China relations.

REPORTER: Earlier in the press conference you stated that the recent moves between the ROK and North Korea are simply a repetition of what we have seen to date. Are we to understand, therefore, that the Government considers that this series of moves by North Korea is a ploy to gain time?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Is it not the case that there has been constant repetition of various occurrences over the past 20 years? Japan, the United States and the ROK are working closely to respond to the situation.

REPORTER: At the start of 2018 I would like to ask a question about the issue of the abductions by North Korea. Regrettably, little progress has been made over the last 15 years. Can I ask for your views on the current state of affairs?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First and foremost, it is a source of tremendous sorrow for the Government that the return to Japan of the abductees has yet to be realized. The families of the abductees are now of an advanced age and we share their sense of urgency in strongly calling for a resolution to the abduction issue without any further delays. In November last year, President Trump met with the families of the abductees during his visit to Japan and the two leaders pledged to cooperate towards the early resolution of the abduction issue. This involvement by the U.S. President was an extremely good opportunity to accelerate efforts towards the resolution of this issue. Japan will continue to use various channels as we work with the United States and other countries concerned, making every effort to resolve the abductions issue.

REPORTER: As appeared in this morning’s Sankei Shimbun newspaper, the Government of Japan continues to broadcast shortwave radio to the abductees and people of North Korea. Some people have noted the importance of broadcasting on medium-wave radio, which is easier to receive. It is also the case that the Investigation Commission on Missing Japanese Probably Related to North Korea, the organization that has broadcast the radio program to date, often stops broadcasting due to operational issues. What are the Government’s thoughts with regard to the importance of medium-wave radio broadcasts?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, with regard to the “Shiokaze” broadcasts aimed at North Korea, the Government believes that, in addition to short-wave broadcasts that have been used to date, the introduction of medium-wave broadcasts increase the opportunity that people in North Korea listen to these broadcasts. The Government seeks to provide all possible support to these efforts. In FY2017, “Shiokaze” has started transmitting Government messages on medium-wave radio along with short-wave broadcasts. We have topped up funds necessary to do so. In addition, the Government constantly considers what would be the most effective means of realizing the return to Japan of the abductees without further delay. A request has been included in the draft FY2019 budget to increase the outsourcing expenses relating to the transmission of Government messages on medium-wave radio. The Government will continue to work on this matter responsibly, so that broadcasts are not impacted.

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