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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Monday, February 27, 2012 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]



REPORTER: The Prime Minister is visiting Okinawa. Regarding the return of the facilities of the United States (U.S.) Forces south of Kadena, the local residents express the opinion that "example is better than precept." Does the Japanese Government have any sort of schedule in mind as to by when it would like the U.S. Forces to return the facilities south of Kadena?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: As I responded this morning, deputy director-general level talks have now gotten started. The Japanese Government will take note of Okinawa's requests to the utmost extent. At the same time, the prefecture's independence will be respected, and the Government's measures to assist Okinawa, too, will be expanded. This is about the law rather than the budget. Meanwhile, with regard to the relocation of the Futenma Air Station, the Government will listen to the opinions of the people of Okinawa with sincerity and provide explanations with integrity. While obtaining the peoples' understanding, we would like to see above all Futenma's danger to the area removed and a reduction of the burden on Okinawa. In this sense, we want steps to be taken as early as possible. However, these are matters which will be discussed going forward in the talks between Japan and the U.S. and are not something which has a deadline. Our stance is to approach the talks with sincerity.

REPORTER: I have a question related to Okinawa. The Prime Minister visited Okinawa today, nearly half a year into his administration. Over the last half year, I believe there have been a variety of developments in the matters surrounding U.S. bases and Okinawa's promotion and development. What is the administration's view regarding the achievements of its Okinawa policy over the last half year?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I believe the Prime Minister also spoke in some detail about this in his exchanges with the Governor this morning. With regard to the issue of the civilian employees of the U.S. Forces, while the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement itself was not modified, a step forward or progress was made last year toward eliminating the dangers posed to Okinawa and the burden of Okinawa. Also, with this year marking the 40th year anniversary of the return of Okinawa to Japan, two new legislations have been submitted. This was done for the first time in ten years. Furthermore, the Government's measures to assist the promotion and development of Okinawa, including block grants, have been well received by the Governor and have made considerable progress. Accordingly, the Noda administration has laid out some specific measures since September of last year that will help ensure Okinawa's independence moving forward. I believe these measures are now gradually being refined and being put into place.

REPORTER: I have a related question. I believe the issue of the relocation of the Futenma Air Station has continued to pose a challenge ever since the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) took over the Government. When you say "gradually being refined," is that to say you feel that the relocation of Futenma has also gradually taken shape?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: My earlier remark excluded a major matter. Until now, Futenma's relocation had been fixed to a "package." In the sense that there had been no progress at all with either the relocation or the return of the facilities south of Kadena, Japan and the U.S. agreed to delink these and reduce the burden of Okinawa first, as was jointly announced by the Minister of Defense and Minister for Foreign Affairs earlier this year. However, with regard to the relocation, steps are still being taken at the working-level and I believe we cannot yet make the assessment that some large progress has been made.

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