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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Wednesday, April 17, 2013 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


  • The explosion incident in Boston
  • Response to the situation of North Korea
  • Press reports on China's military exercised near the Senkaku Islands
  • The Japan-Taiwan fisheries agreement
  • Realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan
  • Energy policy

REPORTER: With regard to the explosion incident in Boston, in a statement from the White House President Obama has made clear that the explosions were an act of terror. What is the Government of Japan's evaluation and reaction to this judgment?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I am aware that President Obama has stated that the explosions were an act of terror. In any case, it is an extremely tragic incident and the Government would like to express heartfelt condolences to the deceased, the injured, their families, and all those affected. Prime Minister Abe has issued a message of condolence to President Obama. The Government's stance is that such terrorism acts can never be tolerated. The incident in Boston was a contemptible act that indiscriminately targeted marathon runners, spectators and ordinary citizens, and the Government resolutely condemns the act.  With regard to the safety of Japanese nationals, we have received information from the United States State Department indicating that no Japanese nationals were among the injured. The Government will continue to confirm the safety of Japanese nationals, through the Consulate-General in Boston.

REPORTER: With regard to a missile launch by North Korea, although there have been concerns about such a launch it has yet to occur. At the current point are there any signs that a launch may be imminent?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In all honesty the situation is difficult to gauge. There is a previous example in which signs of a launch have gradually faded but the launch was once actually implemented after such signs had died down, and therefore the Government will continue to engage in monitoring and surveillance in an effort to ensure the safety and security of the public. There is no change in our stance in that regard.

REPORTER: So is the current situation one in which signs of a launch are gradually fading?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I don't think that such a statement can be made with any certainty at the moment. However, as the provocative words and actions by North Korea are decreasing it would appear to be the case, at least on the surface. However, the Government will continue to make every effort to maintain our overall monitoring and surveillance structure.

REPORTER: According to the Xinhua News Agency of China, today China's Nanyang Fleet will be engaging in military exercises in the waters close to the Senkaku Islands. What information does the Government have about these exercises and what response is being made?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I am aware of the press report that you have mentioned. The Ministry of Defense is currently confirming the situation and is scheduled to make an announcement regarding this matter. For further details please direct your questions to the Ministry of Defense.

REPORTER: A short while ago Mayor Nakayama of Ishigaki City met you to discuss the matter of the Japan-Taiwan fisheries agreement. I hear that the mayor issued a protest about the agreement, while also making specific requests, relating to the designation of waters and revision of the monitoring structure. Could you tell us about the Government's response to this matter going forward?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: To date negotiations have taken place mainly at the working level. From this weekend the Director-General of the Fisheries Agency is scheduled to be dispatched to the local area to hear the opinions of the local residents and persons involved in the fisheries industry. The views that are heard from the local area will be duly taken on board and the Government will consider the necessary response measures.

REPORTER: On a related note, the fisheries operators in the region are requesting specific compensation measures, including fishery subsidies. Are there plans for the Government to engage in specific discussions on this issue?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I do not know the details about this matter. However, an official responsible for fisheries administration will be directly hearing the opinions of the local fishery operators, and the Government will consider the necessary response measures after hearing their opinions.


REPORTER: Yesterday a United States Forces helicopter based at Futenma Air Station crashed while on maneuvers in the Republic of Korea. What information does the Government have about this incident?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The current situation is that the Government is in the process of receiving the details about the crash.

REPORTER: Both before and after the reversion of Okinawa there have been multiple incidents in which United States Forces aircraft, including not only helicopters, but also jet fighters, have crashed. How does the Government view the current situation in which negotiations over the relocation of Futenma are stalled?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, a situation in which Futenma Air Station becomes fixed in its current location must be absolutely avoided. Efforts must be made to eliminate the danger presented by the air station as soon as possible. That is the fundamental point. At the same time, efforts must be made to resolutely carry forward the agreement reached between Japan and the United States on the relocation of Futenma Air Station and the landfill construction at Henoko. Against this background, Japan currently finds itself in an extremely severe security situation, including the issues of the Senkaku Islands and North Korea. Although extremely limited, efforts will continue to be made to ensure deterrent capability while also reducing the burden on Okinawa. This includes moving flight exercises for Osprey transport aircraft, etc., to locations on the mainland to the extent that it is possible to do so. I believe it is of the utmost importance to maintain such a stance.

REPORTER: The mayor of Ishigaki City in Okinawa visited you this morning concerning the Japan-Taiwan fisheries agreement and I believe he handed various documents to you. Could you tell us about the content of these documents?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There are various opinions being expressed by the local fishery operators with regard to the fisheries agreement concluded with Taiwan. As the mayor of the local area, Mr. Nakayama came to speak directly with me and with other senior officials. At the same time, Ishigaki City has been engaged invarious exchanges with a famous port city in Taiwan in the past and it was noted that consideration would be given to such exchanges in order to ensure that this doesn't create any conflict between the fishery operators.

REPORTER: With regard to energy-related issues and power supply and demand, today the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry issued calculations for the cost of alternative fuels to nuclear power generation, given that nuclear power stations are currently offline. Given the fact that the yen has weakened the cost of these alternative fuels is calculated to increase to 3.8 trillion yen. What is the reaction of the Government to these calculations and what response will be made?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Above all else, the important thing is to ensure a stable supply of energy. Given that the fierce heat of summer will soon be upon us, the Government seeks to make a resolute response to ensure that a robust structure is in place that will not cause inconvenience to the public. At the same time, given that nuclear power stations are currently not operating energy costs are increasing. The Abe Cabinet recognizes the need to purchase energy strategically and accordingly meetings of ministers concerned are being held as we must  achieve diversification of energy resources. In that connection, one effort towards achieving energy diversification was the confirmation in the Japan-U.S. summit meeting regarding shale gas. In addition, in terms of thermal power generation using coal resources, Japan boasts the highest degree of technical innovation in the world in this sector. We will therefore continue to seek to diversify energy sources and work to ensure a stable supply of power to the public at reasonable cost, which can be sustained even in a situation in which nuclear power stations are not operating.

REPORTER: However, I believe that it will still take some time before the effect of such measures is actually seen. For the immediate future and in this fiscal year, I believe that the only options are for either power companies to go bankrupt or for electricity prices to be raised. What are your views?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In July the safety standards will be confirmed. Following the confirmation of safety standards, inspection of nuclear power stations will begin and taking this point into consideration the Government's basic policy is to seek to provide a stable supply of energy at the cheapest price possible.

REPORTER: However, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has been made an independent body, making it difficult for the Government to get involved in the various processes and making the restarting of operations at nuclear power stations a more distant prospect. I believe that the LDP bears a heavy responsibility for making the NRA an independent body. What are your thoughts on this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that the public require safety to be the first priority with regard to nuclear power issues. It was under the previous structure that the  accident in Fukushima took place and therefore I believe that it is of the utmost importance to create standards that place paramount focus on safety. The Government hopes that the Secretariat of the NRA will continue to prioritize safety and believe that the current organizational structure is acceptable. I am not worried at all and as the new safety standards will be formulated by July it will be on the basis of those standards that nuclear power stations should be inspected. If the power stations are deemed to be safe based on those standards, then the Government will take responsibility for making a decision on whether to restart operations. That is the structure as it currently stands and I see no problem with it at all.


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