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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Wednesday, March 27, 2013 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


  • The hostage incident in Algeria
  • Japan's policy toward Africa
  • Measures against the declining birthrate and aging population
  • The Japan-China-ROK FTA negotiations


REPORTER: I believe you met with the Algerian Minister (of Energy and Mining) today. Can you please explain what was discussed?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First, I expressed my gratitude to the Algerian Minister for going yesterday to offer flowers in memory of those from JGC Corporation who were killed in the terrorist attack. Then, I stated that we are currently carrying out verifications of the attack. I said that while I understand that this attack is currently being investigated in Algeria as well, I urged that the content of the investigation be shared with Japan as much as possible. I said that many Japanese people are also interested in this information. Furthermore, as Japanese companies are still engaged in activities in Algeria, I asked that all possible measures are taken to protect and ensure the safety of the Japanese nationals.

REPORTER: What was the Minister's response?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Regarding this matter, the Minister made a statement to the effect that Algeria will give such considerations to the Government of Japan with regard to the investigation results and so on. In this light, the meeting concluded with the two sides hoping to further enhance our bilateral relations based on a sense of mutual trust by overcoming these difficulties, all the while ensuring the safety of Japanese nationals as Japanese companies are currently active in Algeria.

REPORTER: Japanese companies are even now operating in Algeria. Were any specific proposals made to ensure safety and so forth?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There was nothing of the sort. Today, the Minister of Energy and Mining who came here stated that he himself is also responsible for security. In this regard, the Minister stated that he will make every effort to protect or ensure the safety of Japanese nationals.


REPORTER: Does this mean that as of now, no new information in particular was provided today?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: That is correct. However, according to what the Minister stated today, I believe only 3 of the 32 terrorists were Algerian nationals.


REPORTER: At this time, President of China Xi Jinping is visiting Africa. In recent years, it has been pointed out that China is strengthening its influence in Africa. What do you think of this Chinese endeavor and the importance of Africa to Japan?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I am aware that President Xi Jinping is visiting Africa through news reports. We believe that Africa will become a critically important region moving forward. This year, in June I think, the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) will be held in Yokohama. Measures for Africa, if that is the right way to put it, have been promoted since the time of previous administrations of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP). In this format, we started holding this TICAD meeting. Furthermore, Japanese embassies and consulates were newly established in Africa. Given the limited resources of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, the Japanese consulates in other areas were minimized to create consulates in Africa. Through such measures, we will continue to make thorough efforts to forge friendships and economic partnerships between Japan and African countries so as not to be outdone by China.


REPORTER: Today, the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research announced the projected population of Japan in the future. It was found that in year 2040, people over the age of 65 will make up more than 40% of the population in nearly half of all municipalities in Japan. What are your thoughts on this? Also, what are your views regarding measures to tackle this population problem?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Naturally, the Government must carefully implement policies and make preparations to cope with the declining birthrate and aging population. Seeing these realistic figures now reaffirms the necessity of measures to cope with the declining birthrate. I strongly believe that we must further build momentum to tackle this issue. At the same time, the Government must act quickly to increase the number of healthy elderly and extend the healthy life expectancy. With this in mind, the Government will thoroughly address these issues.


REPORTER: Regarding the measures in response to the declining birthrate from a moment ago, in reality the birthrate has long stayed the same and has hardly increased at all over the course of the LDP administration, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) administration, and once again back to the LDP administration. For example, I believe the incorporation of a numerical target played a significant part in the success of Abenomics or the economy. By that I mean the 2% price stability target. In regard to the efforts of the Government, does it have any intention to set some kind of a numerical target or a clear target with regard to the birthrate?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: This issue of the declining birthrate has long been pointed out. From my days as a city council member, we advocated as part of the measures against the declining birthrate that, for example, the Government's subsidy criteria for daycare centers were excessively rigorous. When I was a member of the Yokohama City Council, I was one of the people who created an ordinance to newly establish the so-called Yokohama-style daycare office, which was different from the Government criteria. As a result, in this fiscal year, Yokohama will achieve zero children on the waitlist for daycare centers. However, I believe one idea would be for the Government to tackle this issue by setting a 2.0 birthrate target. When such targets or numbers are set, there are always a variety of opinions expressed that that is not the way to increase the number of children. However, I feel that there is no time to be saying such things. I believe it is important that naturally we discuss and demonstrate a vision with regard to what kind of measures are needed to this end and what kind of declining birthrate measures are needed to put a stop to the population decline.

REPORTER: The first meeting for the Japan-China-Republic of Korea (ROK) free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations has been held since yesterday. Amid speculation that Japan's announcement to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations is driving China and the ROK to take action, there are news reports that the goal is to reach the Japan-China-ROK FTA in two or three years' time. What does the Government think of this schedule for reaching the agreement?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In any case, the first negotiation meeting regarding a Japan-China-ROK FTA will be held in Seoul from March 26 to 28. Japan hopes that the Japan-China-ROK FTA, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in East Asia, and the TPP effort will stimulate each other, add momentum, and generate dynamism. The three countries have not decided on a deadline for the FTA. In any case, we will actively engage in the negotiations to be able to realize a high-level FTA.


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