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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Monday, December 19, 2011 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: First, I will speak about the death of Chairman Kim Jong-Il of the National Defense Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

I would like to express my condolences following reports of the sudden passing of Chairman Kim Jong-Il of the National Defense Commission of North Korea. First of all, it is our hope that this sudden situation will not adversely affect peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula. As for the Government, we have immediately set up the Cabinet's Countermeasures Office at the Prime Minister's Office a moment ago, as well as held a meeting of the National Security Council from 1:00pm. As was already issued at 12:10pm, by which I mean the Prime Minister's instructions, the Prime Minister reiterated at the meeting his instructions to strengthen the information gathering posture relating to the unfolding events; to closely share information with the United States, Republic of Korea, People's Republic of China, and other related countries; and to fully prepare for contingencies. The Government will continue to work to respond appropriately.

With regard to the next steps, an inter-agency director general's meeting will be held shortly afterwards. Furthermore, it has been decided that meetings of the Joint Intelligence Council and other committees will be held intermittently.


REPORTER: When and how did the Government of Japan confirm this information? Through what sort of information was this information confirmed?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: The information was confirmed through North Korea's special broadcast at noon.

REPORTER: Chief Cabinet Secretary, with regard to Mr. Kim Jong-Il's successor, the Korean Central Broadcasting Station (KRT) announced that Kim Jong-Un will be the successor. Is there any information and the like which the Japanese Government has confirmed with regard to the succession?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: At this present time, we have not confirmed anything about these matters, and we are paying careful attention. According to North Korea's announcement, first, mourners will be received from December 20 to 27, and a funeral service, if I may say so, will be held in the capital city of Pyongyang on December 28. In addition, a national memorial service will be held in his memory on December 29. While we have collected such information, there is no information that immediately establishes who the successor will be and so on at this point in time. We would like to pay close attention to this moving forward.

REPORTER: Regarding this issue of succession, does the Japanese Government view that there will be a peaceful transfer of power? Or instead, does it view that there may be some risk involved?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: These are matters which require adequate attention.

REPORTER: At this present stage, what is the status of information exchanges with the relevant countries, such as the United States, People's Republic of China, and Republic of Korea?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: Already, Minister for Foreign Affairs Koichiro Gemba, who is in Washington, directly instructed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs a moment ago to share, exchange, and coordinate information closely with the respective countries. This work is just getting started.

REPORTER: It has been said that General Secretary Kim directly ordered the abductions of Japanese citizens, meaning that one could say he bears ultimate responsibility for the abduction issue. What effect do you think his death will have on a solution to this problem in the future?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: On that issue as well, we are currently holding a number of meetings and so forth to gather a variety of information so that we can understand well the effect this will have. I want to continue discussing and debating this.

REPORTER: At the meeting a moment ago the Prime Minister said in the third point of his instructions to "Prepare for contingencies." Could you tell us a little more precisely what is being imagined by the Government at the current moment in time as a "contingency"?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: It was actually as I read it just now - "Fully prepare for contingencies." There are a number of possibilities, one of which is financial problems, or a variety of domestic issues, or border issues - there are these problems as well. I believe that this will be further narrowed down in the inter-agency director general's meeting from now or the Joint Intelligence Council, etc.

REPORTER: One possibility that has been raised in the past, related to the question on contingencies just now, is that upon the death of General Secretary Kim, North Korea will be thrown into chaos and the people will flee abroad. I think that you must be considering a situation in which the people of North Korea travel to the coastal area of Japan and then into this country via the Sea of Japan. What kind of measure is the Japanese Government taking at this stage for the coastal areas of Japan? What sort of response are you thinking of taking on this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: At the National Security Council meeting a moment ago many things were reported. I do not think that I should comment concretely on any of the content of these reports.

REPORTER: What is the Japanese Government planning in terms of a condolence call at this time?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: At this moment in time nothing has been decided yet.

REPORTER: A moment ago you used the phrase "coordinate information closely with the respective countries." Does the Prime Minister, for example, have plans to conduct telephone talks at the summit level, or have such talks already occurred?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: On that question, as was announced by North Korea, they are not accepting condolences or delegations from overseas. We hope to thoroughly share information and contact the countries concerned moving forward through a variety of channels.

REPORTER: Are there plans on having telephone talks at the summit level with the United States, or the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Korea?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: Of course, we want to contact these countries and collaborate with them in a number of ways.

REPORTER: Other than the announcement by the North Korean side, is there any basis to believe that Secretary General Kim has died? How do you view the credibility of the situation of his death?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: As I said a moment ago, this was verified based on an announcement broadcast by North Korea. This was a special announcement beforehand, something which is quite rare, and so there was much conjecture about it. However, the death itself was verified through the announcement by North Korea. It was announced that Mr. Kim Jong-Il had been undergoing treatment for a long time for heart and cerebrovascular disease, and that while riding a train on December 17 he suffered a serious acute myocardial infarction, complicated with a heart shock. We have not yet verified the details beyond this, but I do believe this to be a relatively credible announcement.

REPORTER: At the current stage has the Government confirmed anything out of the ordinary in the behavior of the North Korean military with regard to, for example, missiles?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: There was a certain report provided in the meeting of the National Security Council a short while ago, but I would like to refrain from commenting on the content of the Council meeting.

REPORTER: You just stated that the Japanese Government confirmed the death of Mr. Kim Jong-Il through a North Korean broadcast, but was the Government aware of any information beforehand?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: It appears that this goes for the United States as well, but - perhaps I should say that North Korea has controlled the information extremely well - the fact of the matter is that this was only confirmed through the North Korean broadcast.

REPORTER: As you mentioned earlier, in its own announcement North Korea said that it would not accept any mourning delegation from foreign countries. Japan currently places restrictions on travel to North Korea from Japan. Do you plan to continue to implement these restrictions without change?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I believe that this will be one of the issues that will be considered in the various meetings moving forward.

REPORTER: With regard to a future schedule, around what time will the inter-agency director general's meeting and the Joint Intelligence Council be held? Also, are there plans for ministerial meetings or meetings among related ministers later today?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: Following this press conference, intermittent meetings are scheduled to take place, including the inter-agency director general's meeting and then the Joint Intelligence Council. However, at present there are no plans for meetings following these.

REPORTER: At the current stage are you considering raising the alert level of the Self-Defense Forces?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: No decision has been made as of yet.

REPORTER: Does that mean that you are considering it?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I mean that such consideration may be made in the various meetings that are going to be held moving forward.

REPORTER: With regard to North Korea, the Six-Party Talks on the nuclear issue have been in a deadlock for a long time now. How does the Government of Japan believe that this development will impact the Six-Party Talks?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: First, I hear that talks are underway between the United States and North Korea. I believe that Japan will have to pay attention to whether talks between the United States and North Korea are held in the near future.

REPORTER: How does this current situation influence the Government's agenda, such as the Prime Minister's visit to the People's Republic of China?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: No change has been made to the Prime Minister's Government's diplomatic agenda as of present. There were, however, slight changes in schedule, such as the cancellation of a certain stump speech today, for example.

REPORTER: This question is concerning future developments. We have received this news, but while uncertainty surrounds what is to become of the North Korean regime moving forward, what expectations do you have for North Korea's response or for how they should conduct themselves, including concerning the abduction issue and nuclear missile issue?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: Decisions on each of these issues and considerations will be made in the Headquarters for the Abduction Issue, with regard to the abduction issue for example, and the various other intelligence council meetings to be held starting today. The abduction issue will likely be considered within the Headquarters for the Abduction Issue. Basically, there is no major change in our stance or our structure for addressing these issues.

REPORTER: So, you have no particular expectations for these issues to be resolved. Then what specifically -

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: At present, we have to work to collect more information. We will not know what to expect until we do that.

REPORTER: It became clear during yesterday's Japan-Republic of Korea Summit Meeting that Japan and the Republic of Korea share disparate positions on the "comfort women" issue. With regard to the Prime Minister's instruction to share information with the related parties, is there any concern over sharing information with the Republic of Korea?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: That is a different issue, and I believe that within the greater context of Japan-Republic of Korea relations that is an issue for which we must of course share information moving forward.

REPORTER: Several moments ago you said that the Government learned about this development upon hearing the announcement at noon. I am sure that you were able to predict that there was going to be some sort of major announcement after hearing the advance notice of the announcement at 10:00am. Please tell us what the Government's response was to the initial 10:00am notice.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: As I said in this morning's press conference, I had heard that there would be a North Korean announcement and a special broadcast was a rather rare occasion, so while we had envisioned various scenarios, we only confirmed what had happened after the 12:00pm broadcast by North Korea.

REPORTER: Did you envision that the announcement had something to do with the death of Secretary General Kim Jong-Il?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: We envisioned every possible scenario.

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