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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Monday, March 18, 2013 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga

  • The hostage incident in Algeria

Recently there have been press reports concerning a supposed statement by the Minister of Interior and Local Governments of Algeria about ransom money from Japan. I would like to report that after having confirmed the facts of this matter through diplomatic channels, the Minister of Interior and Local Governments has responded that he has absolutely no recollection of making such a statement and reports about it are groundless. He also gave his consent for his response to be announced publicly.


  • Japan-China relations
  • The bail-out of Cyprus
  • The approval rating of the Abe Cabinet
  • Healthcare and medical strategy
  • The TPP
  • Press reports on the Prime Minister's overseas visit

REPORTER: I have a question relating to China. The new administration of President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang has now formally started and in their speeches and press conferences the new leaders are emphasizing their stance of protecting China's territories and sovereignty. I would like to ask how the Government intends to approach China, which is taking this stance, and how the Government will respond to issues such as the Senkaku Islands, over which there is a high possibility for friction between the two countries?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The fact remains that Japan-China relations are one of Japan's most important bilateral relations. I also believe that it is incumbent on both Japan and China to be responsible nations for the sake of the peace and prosperity of the region and the international community. The Government of Japan seeks to advance the mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests from a broad perspective together with the new Chinese leadership, which is something that was built up from the time of the first Cabinet of Prime Minister Abe. Also, as the Prime Minister has previously stated, the Government of Japan is always open to dialogue with China. With regard to the Senkaku Islands, as has been stated on frequent occasions, 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, and this is a stance the Government will continue to firmly uphold.

REPORTER: On a related note, President Xi Jinping has noted the necessity of strengthening the military in order to ensure China's sovereignty and Premier Li Keqiang has strengthened his stance with regard to issues such as the Senkaku Islands. Will the stance of the Government of Japan therefore remain unchanged?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Yes. There is absolutely no change to the Government's stance of protecting Japan's territory and territorial waters in a resolute manner.

REPORTER: With regard to the Senkaku Islands, there are some reports that the Government has expressed its concerns to the Government of France concerning the sale of helicopter landing systems by a French company to China. What are the facts behind these press reports?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I would like to refrain from commenting on the details of the interaction with the Government of France, but what I would state is that the Government has expressed concerns to the Government of France such as those you mentioned.

REPORTER: The decision made by France to make the recent sale is one that is difficult for the EU to regulate, however, under the current circumstances is there a possibility that the governments of Japan and France will engage in cooperation in the field of maritime security?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Japan and France have an extremely strong and friendly relationship and it is on that basis that a response will be made via diplomatic channels. (Abridged) Although I would like to refrain from going into further detail, I would say that Japan has expressed its concerns to the Government of France, in light of the extremely severe environment surrounding the Senkaku Islands.


REPORTER: With regard to the bail-out crisis in Cyprus, the measures decided by the Euro Zone have caused turmoil inside Cyprus and the euro is falling in value. There are some people who are worried that this could reignite the debt crisis in Europe. What is the Government's view of the current situation? In addition, what are the Government's thoughts about the unusual measure that has been imposed as a condition of the bail-out by the Euro Zone, requiring that bank depositors bear a portion of the burden?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I do not think that this is an issue that Japan should speak about at the current time. What I would say is that it is the Government's hope that the Euro Zone can resolve the issue as quickly as possible. In particular, it is expected that after consultations between the Euro Zone countries and the European Commission, by the latter half of April a European Stability Mechanism will be approved, and the Government of Japan hopes that a swift and resolute response will be made to the issue in Europe.


REPORTER: In opinion polls taken by various companies the approval ratings of the Abe Cabinet are at a high level. What is the reaction of the Government to these polls and given that there appears to be strong support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, what do you consider are the next challenges for the Abe Cabinet?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, with regard to the fact that according to opinion polls implemented by various press organizations, the approval rating of the Cabinet stands above or around 70 percent, is, I believe, thanks to the fact that the public have understood the purpose of the priority areas being promoted by the Government since the start of the administration, namely economic revival, reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake and thorough crisis management. In addition, with regard to economic revival, I believe that we have gained understanding concerning the appointment of the new governor and deputy governors of the Bank of Japan (BOJ). I also believe that we have gained understanding for our policy to encourage private sector investment, for which growth strategy is of the utmost importance. The TPP also occupies a significant position in this area and we have sought and gained the understanding of party members for the TPP. In addition the Abe Cabinet has stressed that Japan will not join the negotiations as long as the requirement for participation is that the Japanese Government makes prior commitment to eliminate tariffs with no sanctuary, amid concerns over the effects of the TPP on agricultural and other food products. The supplementary budget was also passed by the House of Councillors, albeit with a difference of one vote. All these actions have been gradually advanced and it is thanks to these that we have gained the understanding of the people of Japan. The Abe Cabinet believes that it is very important to continue to make steady progress with each issue, while providing the people of Japan with the fullest explanations possible. In this way we will push forward with efforts in a transparent manner.

REPORTER: This afternoon I believe that a meeting of advisors on the Healthcare and Medical Strategy will be held. What sort of outcomes are expected from this meeting and by when will these outcomes be achieved?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that the healthcare and medical sector will be a key pillar of Japan's growth strategy. However, this is a sector in which Japan has been lagging behind to date. Part of the reason for this was the vertical and compartmentalized structures at the ministries and agencies and it was based on this current situation that a decision was made to launch the Office for Healthcare and Medical Strategy under my direct jurisdiction as a strong and dynamic task force to tackle issues in this sector. The aim is to realize medical technologies and services that are truly world-class, in view of the fact that Japan is already becoming the world's first super-aged society, and also to realize the goal of Japan becoming the nation with the world's greatest longevity. We also seek to develop and nurture medical products and equipment and make the medical and healthcare industry a strategic one that will contribute to Japan's economic growth. First and foremost, we hope to be able to lead the world in developing a model for overcoming the super-aged society, and we will work towards that goal.


REPORTER: I believe that in the healthcare and medical sector there may be some areas in which it will be difficult for cross-ministry, cross-government cooperation to be implemented. What are your thoughts about the Prime Minister's Office taking the coordinating role in such areas?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There are already pre-existing structures, such as the "Five-year Medical Innovation Strategy," which contain good ideas. However, it has been the case that to date these good ideas have not been put into action. This is partly due to the vertical structures in place at each ministry and therefore I believe that it is extremely important to keep what is good and add what needs to be added to push ideas through to implementation. Our aim is to compile a set of proposals that will be reflected in the growth strategy and further developed through to realization.

REPORTER: There are press reports that suggest a TPP chief negotiator is to be appointed as the senior working-level official for the TPP negotiations. What is the current status of considerations on this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that such a person will be necessary once Japan joins the negotiations and therefore efforts are being expedited to select an appropriate person.

REPORTER: On a different note, there are reports that the Prime Minister will visit Turkey during the long national holiday period at the end of April and beginning of May. What is the status of the arrangements for this visit?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There may be various press reports about such a visit, but it is not something that I have heard about. At the current point, no decision has been made about which, if any, countries will be visited.

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