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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Tuesday, March 5, 2013 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


  • China's defense budget
  • Japan-China relations
  • The Osprey transport aircraft
  • The positions of the Bank of Japan governor and deputy governors
  • The sanctions against North Korea
  • The TPP

REPORTER: The defense expenditure of China for this year has exceeded 11 trillion yen, and over the last decade the total expenditure has almost quadrupled. These moves by China to increase defense spending are expected to heighten concerns in the international community. What is the reaction of Japan?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As you mentioned in your question, the Government has duly noted that for three consecutive years there has been double-digit year-on-year growth in defense spending by China, and we will continue to monitor future trends. Against this backdrop I believe that it would be desirable for there to be an improvement in transparency relating to China's national defense policy, including defense spending, and also to military capacity. Through dialogue and exchange in the field of security Japan will continue to request that China further improves the transparency of its national defense policy.

REPORTER: With regard to the Government's response to the increase in defense spending by China, what kind of priority measures do you intend to take for the Nansei Islands region and also, how will the Government proceed with the revision of the National Defense Program Guidelines?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Japan's stance with regard to defense is clear that we will resolutely protect the territories and territorial waters of the nation. Although the budget for defense is limited, great efforts are being made by those directly involved to use this budget effectively. The Government intends to ensure that through such efforts the territories of Japan remain robustly protected.

REPORTER: I have a related question concerning the transparency of China's defense spending. I believe that this was mentioned in yesterday's press conference, but since 2005 in the press conference held by China on the day prior to the opening of the National People's Congress, the facts relating to defense-related spending have been set out. However, this year there was no such mention of defense-related spending. What is the Government's reaction to these actions by China?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: This is something that not only Japan, but all other neighboring countries, are also focused on monitoring. As the desire for improvement in transparency is a natural reaction, I believe that Japan and other countries concerned will cooperate in making a response.

REPORTER: On a related note, the same National People's Congress that is currently being held will mark the full hand-over of power from President Hu Jintao to President Xi Jinping. Are there any plans for Prime Minister Abe to hold telephone talks with the newly appointed President Xi Jinping?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: At the current time there are no plans for telephone talks. However, Japan and China are neighboring countries and during the time of the first Cabinet of Prime Minister Abe efforts were made to build a foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests. It is based on these past achievements, which were realized in the midst of a difficult situation, that I hope Japan and China can move forward together in a future-oriented relationship. The Government will continue to make diplomatic efforts to ensure that the relationship heads in just such a direction.

REPORTER: On a related note, you have just mentioned the efforts that were made during the time of the first Abe Cabinet. At that time it was strongly felt that the first Abe Cabinet placed tremendous focus on relations with China and sought to lead them in a favorable direction, first by the Prime Minister's visit to China and also through efforts to realize the mutually beneficial relationship. However, since the inauguration of the second Abe Cabinet, there are still no plans to make a visit to China and there is less of a feeling of a favorable stance towards China. Is this because of such issues as the Senkaku Islands and others?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: It has not been like that at all. Rather, it has been the case that the new leadership structure in China has been in transition, and once the new structure is in place, the Government seeks to assess the situation and give thought to a visit to China, among other considerations.

REPORTER: With regard to the flight training exercises for the Osprey transport aircraft that are scheduled to begin from March 6, there are reports that the United States has informed the Government of a change in the route for the training, from the Kyushu region to the Shikoku and Kii Peninsula regions. What are the facts behind these reports and what is the reason for the change of route?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Today the U.S. Forces Japan command informed the Government that as the flight training would coincide with exercises being held together with the Ground Self-Defense Forces in Kyushu, the flight training exercises are now scheduled to take place in the Shikoku region.

REPORTER: I have a question about the personnel appointments at the Bank of Japan that require Diet approval. Today the two candidates for the deputy governor positions were summoned to the Diet. During Diet questions, one of the candidates, Mr. Iwata expressed his very strong commitment to the price stability target of two percent, noting that if it was not achieved in two years then the best way to take responsibility would be to resign. In contrast, the statement made by the other candidate, Mr. Nakaso, was not as strong, as he noted that it was difficult to say for certain that the target could be achieved. These responses seem to reveal a slight difference in opinions between the two candidates. What are your thoughts on this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I think that the statement made yesterday by Mr. Kuroda, the candidate for governor of the Bank of Japan, and the statements made by the candidates for the deputy governor positions merely reflect their own characteristics. However, what they are all agreed on is the implementation of bold monetary easing measures, which is something that the Prime Minister has expressed his desire to achieve. I believe that if the basic stance of all candidates is in alignment, then there would be no particular problem.

REPORTER: So you don't consider the seeming difference in outlook to be a problem?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: No, I don't think it is a problem at all.

REPORTER: What are your thoughts on the statement by Mr. Iwata, that if the two percent target is not reached, the best way to take responsibility would be to resign?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe it demonstrates his confidence in being able to achieve the target.

REPORTER: It has been reported that in relation to the sanctions against North Korea, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is due to convene soon, with a view to adopting a resolution. It has also been reported that the United States and China have reached a provisional agreement on the draft resolution text. Has the Government received any information on this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: At the current point I have not received any information relating to this matter. However, I believe it to be very significant that the United States and China are working together to reach agreement on the text of the draft resolution on sanctions, and I hope that the consultations proceed smoothly towards an agreement. Whatever the case, as Japan is not currently a member of the UNSC, it is natural that we are working in close cooperation with the countries concerned, including the United States, Republic of Korea, China and Russia. I think it would also be significant if the United States and China - two countries that have great influence - are able to form a consensus on this matter. The Government will continue to make efforts to ensure that the process proceeds smoothly.

REPORTER: Moving to the issue of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, there are press reports that a formal announcement on participation in the negotiations will be made as early as next week. What is the current status of considerations within the Government concerning an announcement?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Ultimately the decision on what to do will be made by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has therefore been engaged in consultations with various organizations and with the United States and others, considering the various situations. It is on the basis of these interactions that the Prime Minister will reach a decision himself, including whether or not to participate in the negotiations. I have not heard anything whatsoever from the Prime Minister concerning timing of an announcement.

REPORTER: Although I understand that it is the Prime Minister who will make a final decision on the TPP negotiations, it is an issue that affects the agricultural and other industries nationwide. Therefore, once the Prime Minister comes to a decision, is he planning to hold a press conference to explain this decision to the people of Japan?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As of now a decision on whether to announce Japan's participation in the negotiations has yet to be made and therefore the procedures that would be followed after such a decision have yet to be finalized. However, given the great level of interest in this issue, I think it is only common sense to assume that once a decision has been made by the Prime Minister, he would naturally seek to speak to the people in some form or another.

REPORTER: With regard to the TPP, currently countries that are already participating in the negotiations are meeting in Singapore until next week. Will the Prime Minister be making a decision in view of such moves already under way?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I don't think the current meeting will have a great bearing on the Prime Minister's decision. He is currently seeking the path that best serves the national interests and will therefore come to a decision after having met with and discussed the matter with various persons and organizations.

REPORTER: With regard to timing, the convention of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is scheduled to be held on March 17, so would coming to a decision prior to the convention be an influencing factor for the Prime Minister?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There is absolutely no link between a decision on the TPP negotiations and the LDP convention. Ultimately the Prime Minister will come to a decision on what to do after making various considerations, including on issues that have been discussed with the United States.

REPORTER: Also related to the TPP, what is the current status of consultations between the United States and Japan concerning automobiles?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I have heard nothing whatsoever about this issue, although I believe that there were some press reports today. Therefore, I do not know the current status of the consultations.

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