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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga

  • An overview of the Cabinet meeting
  • The meeting of the Okinawa Policy Council

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, I would like to give an overview of the Cabinet meeting. The meeting approved 12 general measures as well as cabinet orders and personnel decisions. With regard to statements by ministers, Prime Minister Abe made a statement concerning the overall coordination of the TPP issue, and the Minister of Finance made a statement concerning provisional budget formulation for fiscal 2013.

I would like to speak on the meeting of the Okinawa Policy Council. Today, following the Cabinet meeting, a meeting of the Okinawa Policy Council was held with the participation of Prime Minister Abe. During today's meeting the Government reported that it is making an enormous effort in formulating the bills for the fiscal 2013 budget for the promotion and development of Okinawa and initiatives to reduce the burden placed on Okinawa by the U.S. military bases. Then Governor Nakaima of Okinawa Prefecture gave an overview of the requests from Okinawa Prefecture. Later it was decided that a subcommittee is to be established under the Okinawa Policy Council in order to facilitate in-depth discussions on the issues of reducing the burden placed on Okinawa by the U.S. military bases and the promotion and development of Okinawa. Afterwards, a subcommittee meeting was held where Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs Yamamoto, Minister for Foreign Affairs Kishida, Minister of Defense Onodera, Governor Nakaima of Okinawa Prefecture and I exchanged frank opinions on the issues of reducing the burden placed on Okinawa by the U.S. military bases and the promotion and development of Okinawa.


  • Okinawa related issues
  • Energy policy
  • Power outage at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station
  • The 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question regarding Okinawa issues. Was the application for landfill approval along the coast of Henoko one of the issues raised during the Okinawa Policy Council meeting or the subcommittee meeting?


REPORTER: Similarly, could you tell us if Okinawa's request for the return of U.S. bases and facilities south of Kadena was discussed during the meetings?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: (Abridged) Governor Nakaima said he would "like the matter dealt with as soon as possible."

REPORTER: I believe that this new subcommittee under the council has been established for the first time. Could you tell us what sort of discussions you are hoping to have involving Governor Nakaima?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The regular members of the subcommittee are those I mentioned earlier, but the subcommittee is designed to allow the attendance of other individuals, for instance, leaders of Okinanwan municipalities or Cabinet members, depending on the agenda of the meeting.

REPORTER: Could you tell us the objective of streamlining the two subcommittees, namely the subcommittee on burden reduction and subcommittee on Okinawa promotion, that existed during the Democratic Party of Japan administration?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that the development of Okinawa and the reduction of the military base burden were presented as separate issues. However, for Okinawans these two are in fact one issue and we have therefore streamlined these two subcommittees after we, including the Governor of Okinawa, concluded that it is more efficient to work on the issues as one rather than addressing them separately.


REPORTER: I believe that during today's Okinawa Policy Council meeting Governor Nakaima demanded the relocation of Futenma Air Station to a location outside of Okinawa Prefecture. Could you tell us how the Government responded to this demand? Could you also tell us the intention of the Government in holding the Okinawa Policy Council meeting now while the application for landfill approval in Henoko is being prepared? Finally, could you also tell us if the Government believes that today's council meeting will be the first step in building a relationship of trust with Okinawa?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: When the Governor visited me last, he asked for this meeting to be held as soon as possible. Following his request we decided to arrange the meeting for today. As for Government policy, the fundamental approach of the Abe Administration on Okinawan issues is that we will address the issues so as to meet the needs of Okinawan residents as best we can. First and foremost, we must not allow the Futenma Air Station to remain at its current location indefinitely. Moreover, as for the landfill in Henoko, we have reached this agreement after considering Japan-U.S. relations and the combined deterrence capacity of Japan and the U.S. The Government's position therefore is that it will proceed steadily according to plan.


REPORTER: I believe that prior to the Cabinet Meeting, Minister Ishihara, Minister Motegi and you held a meeting to discuss energy issues. I have heard that this had something to do with coal but could you tell us the objectives of the meeting and what was discussed?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly the meeting wasn't actually about coal. In my opinion, the price at which Japan purchases energy is high. It is high compared to other countries. Japan has few energy resources and I believe that we have had an inadequate energy strategy. Therefore, in this sense I believe that we need to purchase energy strategically. In light of this, we held our first meeting on this energy issue with the involvement of four ministers. We also discussed that it is our responsibility to consider means of minimizing the burden placed on the Japanese people as much as possible by further increasing diversification by, for instance, using coal. In this context, coal came up in discussions as a possible means of diversifying our energy resources.


REPORTER: Could you tell us what kind of schedule or timing you are considering in reaching some kind of conclusion or outcome in this meeting?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Personally I believe that we do not need to spend too much time on this. The most important thing, for the Government and also as a matter of diplomacy, is to strategically address this energy issue, and during the meeting we agreed that we are to make this a priority. We also established that we will review all sorts of possibilities, including coal as I just said, when purchasing energy resources strategically. Of course, we also discussed full cost pricing by electricity providers. This will be added to the burden borne by Japanese citizens, so we did raise this issue during the meeting. The Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry is addressing this issue with priority.


REPORTER: I believe that the TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station has lost power since last night. I understand that the cooling systems for the spent fuel pools are not operating. Could you tell us how the Government understands the current situation and your understanding of the cause of the electricity disruption?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As you just mentioned, we have instructed that every effort is to be made to identify the cause of the disruption. I believe that currently staff are working as fast as they can to restore power to the station. I have been informed, in fact, that the alternative cooling system for the spent fuel pools has not yet been put into operation. I believe that the greatest public concern is that the temperature of the spent fuel pool of unit 4 will reach or exceed the safety limit of 65 degrees Celsius. I have been informed that there are four more days before the pool will reach this temperature. Staff are now making every effort possible to restore the cooling systems before then. Furthermore, in preparation for the worst case scenario, where the restoration and identification of the cause cannot be achieved within four days, there are plans to develop an alternative method for cooling in order to be prepared for all possible outcomes. They are, in a sense, developing measures for something that we need not worry about at all for now.


REPORTER: Tomorrow, March 20, marks the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. Japan, under the Koizumi administration at that time, supported the war and deployed the Self-Defense Forces. However, weapons of mass destruction, which were Japan's reason for supporting the war, were never discovered, raising domestic and international questions over the cause of the war. What is the Abe Administration's view on this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, a number of countries are currently examining their involvement in the Iraq War. Japan too conducted an examination last year under the leadership of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I believe that the Government must humbly accept that the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq could not be confirmed. On the other hand, Japan, as a member of the international community, sent its Self-Defense Forces to Samawah. The Self-Defense Forces provided humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in the area and I believe they were able to make a positive contribution. Due to the support and assistance from the international community, Iraq now has a stable government. Moving forward, Japan is determined to make efforts to ensure the reconstruction and stability of Iraq as well as the stability of the Middle East.


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