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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Thursday, March 14, 2013 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


  • Japan-China relations
  • The issue of the theft of a Buddhist statue from a temple in Tsushima
  • Prime Minister Abe's comment regarding the nuclear accident in Diet deliberations

REPORTER: In China, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China Xi Jinping has been elected as President, thus heralding the start of the Xi Jinping administration. What is the reaction of the Government of Japan to the election of President Xi Jinping?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government of Japan would like to congratulate President Xi Jinping on his election, as well as the other senior members of the Chinese leadership who have been newly elected. Japan-China relations are one of the most important bilateral relations for Japan. In addition, Japan and China are both countries that have a responsibility to ensure the peace and prosperity of the region and the broader international community. The Government of Japan seeks to build a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests from a broad perspective with the new Chinese leadership. As the Prime Minister has already stated in his responses to questions in the Diet, the Government of Japan is always open to dialogue with China.

REPORTER: While on the one hand China is maintaining a hardline stance with regard to the Senkaku Islands, it is expected that a former Chinese ambassador to Japan will be appointed as Minister of Foreign Affairs of China. How does the Government intend to deal with China in the future, given such a leadership structure and lineup?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There is no doubt that the Senkaku Islands are clearly an inherent part of the territory of Japan, in light of historical facts and based upon international law. This is a stance we will continue to firmly uphold, while also seeking to continue to place importance on the mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests that we share with China.

REPORTER: Has a congratulatory telegram been sent to China in the name of Prime Minister Abe?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: A congratulatory telegram from Prime Minister Abe to the newly appointed president has already been sent.

REPORTER: Could you tell us, to the extent that is possible to do so, what this congratulatory message contained?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Given the nature of the congratulatory telegram I would like to refrain from going into further detail.

REPORTER: Do you think that there will be any aspects of Japan-China relations that will change under the new administration of President Xi Jinping? Also, what sort of schedule is being considered for a possible summit meeting, given that for some time no summit meeting has taken place?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have already stated, Japan is always open to dialogue with China, as we seek to build a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests. This is the basic stance of Japan and we will respond accordingly based on that stance.

REPORTER: The new leadership of China has now been inaugurated. Does the Government believe that this new leadership lineup will provide a chance to improve Japan-China relations, which deteriorated last year over the issue of the Senkaku Islands?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There is absolutely no change to our long-held stance of seeking to build a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests, while proactively pursuing the issues that need to be pursued.

REPORTER: There are press reports that an expert meeting is scheduled to be held in the near future in order to develop legislative means of strengthening management of the Senkaku Islands as "uninhabited remote border islands." Could you give us an overview of what this meeting will discuss?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I have received reports that Minister Yamamoto is overseeing considerations on this issue. The specifics of what will be discussed and considered is something that will start from now and nothing has yet been decided.


REPORTER: Given the start of a new leadership in China, does the Government intend to issue any new proposals or ideas to China concerning the Senkaku Islands?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: No, there are no such plans. Japan will continue to respond under the current structures that are in place.

REPORTER: The spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China has criticized the comment made by Prime Minister Abe in response to Diet questions that the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (Tokyo Trials) represented the "execution of Allied victor's justice." What is the reaction of the Government to these criticisms?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I was not aware that there had been such counter arguments to the Prime Minister's comments.

REPORTER: The spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry has stressed that only when Japan faces up to its history and reflects deeply on past events will it be able to create good relations with neighboring Asian countries. The spokesperson also said that the Tokyo Trials were a just process implemented by the international community against Japanese militarism and that the results of the trials were an important basis for the post-war international community.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Japan concluded the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which recognized the rulings of the Tokyo Trials, however, I think that it is natural that there are various opinions on this issue and this is what the Prime Minister was referring to in his comments.

REPORTER: With regard to the issue of the theft of a Buddhist statue from a temple on the island of Tsushima in Nagasaki Prefecture by a gang of thieves from the Republic of Korea (ROK), today a priest from a temple in the ROK, which claims that it was the original owner of the statue, visited Tsushima, causing something of a stir. You have stated before that the Government seeks to use diplomatic channels to request the return of the statue, but could you tell us once again of the Government's policy concerning a response to this issue?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I am not sure what you meant by a priest from the ROK, but both Japan and the ROK are signatories to the UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. Based on this convention the Government has already issued a request to the ROK via diplomatic channels, requesting the return of the cultural asset that was taken from Tsushima. There has been no change to our policy.


REPORTER: Yesterday in Diet deliberations Prime Minister Abe made a statement that the Abe Administration would not use the word "conclusion" with regard to the accident at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, which was an expression used by the previous administration in their declaration relating to the power station. While I believe that there are many people in Japan who feel the same way, are we to understand from this statement that the Government is rescinding the declaration concerning the "conclusion" of step 2 of the roadmap?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Rather than rescinding the declaration, I would like to note that since his appointment, Prime Minister Abe has never used the word "conclusion" in relation to the nuclear power station accident. This is based on his feelings for the current situation the people of Fukushima are facing, which is far from "concluded" and therefore unbecoming of the use of such an expression. Although there has been no change in the Government's recognition since the time of the Noda Administration of the objective fact that the reactors are in cold shutdown, looking at the overall situation the Prime Minister has never used the word "conclusion." Therefore, rather than being a matter of rescinding the declaration, it is simply that since the start of the Abe Administration that word has not been used.

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