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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Wednesday, May 8, 2013 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


  • Response to the situation of North Korea
  • The People's Daily of China's opinion piece about Okinawa
  • Japan-ROK relations
  • The understanding of history
  • The current situation in Syria
  • Healthcare and medical strategy

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question regarding the U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) Summit Meeting. During the Summit Meeting, President Obama made comments directed at North Korea using very strong words stating that the age of creating crises to force concessions is now over and First Secretary Kim Jong-Un must take a different path, indicating that denuclearization of North Korea is the condition for commencing dialogue. Could you inform us of the Japanese Government's view of this comment?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As we have always said, dialogue and pressure is the basic policy of the Japanese Government and I believe these comments made by President Obama are in principle the same as our policy.

REPORTER: Given that the previous ROK Government was unable to stop North Korea from going down the path of nuclearization despite their very strong stance, does the Japanese Government believe that North Korea will take a harder line or do you think they will soften their stance in response to the intentional community taking a similarly strong stance?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: North Korea has repeatedly made provocative statements and taken provocative actions. However, I believe that the international community as a whole must now make North Korea understand that there is nothing to gain from taking the path of nuclearization. I believe that it was just reported that China will also implement financial sanctions against North Korea and I think that we will see the international community as a whole increasingly seek ways to truly denuclearize and build peace. At the same time, the window of dialogue always remains open.

REPORTER: It has been reported that the People's Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, published an opinion piece that claims that Japan annexed the Ryukyu Islands by force, questioning the sovereignty of Japan. Could you share with us the views of the Japanese Government on this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have said earlier, the Senkaku Islands are unquestionably an inherent territory of Japan, in light of historical facts and based upon international law. Therefore, these claims are baseless.

REPORTER: Returning to the topic of the U.S.-ROK Summit Meeting, following the series of comments made by President Park Geun-hye in relation to Japan, what will the Japanese Government do? More specifically, what will the Japanese Government do in order to address the issue of the understanding of history? For instance will you seek a top level meeting with the ROK Government?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The ROK is an extremely important neighbor of Japan and I therefore believe that we will naturally make efforts to have our views understood via diplomatic routes.

REPORTER: During today's Diet session, the Prime Minister once again made a comment on the definition of "aggression," stating that there are a number of debates in academia, and that as a politician he will not attempt to contribute to that debate. After comparing the previous comments and today's comments, how are we supposed to interpret the Prime Minister's true intentions?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Prime Minister has said that academically there is no fixed definition, adding that there have been countless wars in the past. Many citizens have fallen victim to war, particularly wars that were waged after the turn of the 20th century, and Japan in the past caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations. This understanding is an understanding that we share with previous cabinets. Learning from this, Japan has made efforts to promote the universal values of freedom and democracy, and has contributed to peace and stability. Japan has deployed its personnel to peacekeeping operations and made tremendous efforts to build and maintain peace. Therefore I believe that the Prime Minister attempted to convey the steps Japan has taken as pacifist nation.

REPORTER: The reason this issue causes such controversy is that some so-called conservative politicians still hold the view that the war was a war of self-defense and that Japan had no other option. For instance, Yushukan at Yasukuni Shrine often displays exhibits taking this view of the war. It is very unclear where the Prime Minister stands in relation to this view of the war and where he stands in relation to the definition of "aggression" as stated in the Murayama Statement and I believe this is why the issue is so controversial. Does the Prime Minister truly believe that Japan caused tremendous harm to Asian nations and believe that the last war was a war of aggression? Also, how do the Prime Minister's views differ from those discussed in the Murayama Statement, which expressed remorse for the acts? I'm afraid that I'm asking this question again, but could you tell us where the Prime Minister stands?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that his views are as he said. As I just said, today the Prime Minister responded to a question from a member of the opposition party and said that during the wars of the 20th century, Japan caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations. He also added that this understanding is an understanding that the Abe Cabinet shares with previous cabinets. He continued and said that learning from this, Japan took the path of peace and is eager to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the international community. I believe this summarizes the Prime Minister's opinions.

REPORTER: I would like to ask another question on the same topic. The Prime Minister used the phrase "academic field," so am I right to understand that determination of whether there was an act of aggression or not will be made by academics and that the Government will only then come to a conclusion?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: No, this is not the case. The Prime Minister only said that academically speaking, there is no fixed definition. I believe this is in fact the case when speaking academically. The Prime Minister then continued to say what I said earlier and I believe that these are the Prime Minister's true beliefs.


REPORTER: One of the examples of Japan's acts of aggression is the Manchurian Incident. The Kwantung Army of Japan was initially merely a railway guard but they ended up advancing into Manchuria and eventually occupied the whole region and later advanced further south, expanding its sphere of control. In my opinion, these developments could be viewed as nothing other than acts of aggression. The Murayama Cabinet also said something similar, and to some degree made an admission as such. I understand that there are various debates over these incidents by those who instigated the events and those who were invaded, however it seems to me that the fact that tremendous suffering was caused is enough to constitute it being defined as an act of aggression. I understand that there are various opinions on the academic definition of those events, particularly for the Pacific War, as there was an embargo on the export of oil, however personally I believe that developments beginning with the Manchuria Incident and leading up to war with China would be viewed as acts of aggression by anyone with common sense. I believe that this issue has caused so much controversy because these things have not been made clear.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that the questions directed to the Prime Minister today and previously were concerning the definition of "aggression." The Prime Minister responded to these questions. I'm just looking at it at the moment, and I can see that the Prime Minister began his response to this question by saying "in my previous response." The Prime Minister said that, academically speaking, there is no fixed definition, as he had said previously. The Prime Minister then said that there have been many wars and many citizens have fallen victim to those wars, particularly wars that were waged in the 20th century. He also said that Japan caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations. The Prime Minister also added that the Abe Cabinet shares this same understanding. I believe that everything can be summarized by these comments.

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question concerning the situation in Syria. The main topic of the U.S.-Russia Foreign Ministers' Meeting was the situation in Syria. Could you tell us what commitments Japan intends to make in relation to this situation?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Japan will prioritize the peace and security of the country and will strive to duly address this issue while cooperating with the U.S. and other nations. This is our basic stance.

REPORTER: Today the Yomiuri Shimbun made recommendations that center on the industrialization of the health care system. I understand that Japan has already begun initiatives in this area, such as the launch of a Japanese version of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), encouraging the swift approval of new drugs, and expanding health care overseas. Could you tell us how the Government will work on these initiatives? Additionally, the recommendations touch on areas that the Government has yet to address, such as the expansion of preferential tax treatment for R&D expenditure. Could you share with us the Government's plans for these initiatives moving forward and your thoughts on the recommendations?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The recommendations made by the Yomiuri Shimbun today included the strengthening of international cooperation of the health care industry, practical application of outstanding research through the cooperation of the medical and industrial industries and proactive overseas expansion utilizing Japan's technical strengths. I understand that the recommendations included a number of proposals to make the health care industry a growing industry that is capable of driving the Japanese economy while maintaining the strengths of the current Japanese health care system. We would like to make good use of these recommendations as a reference in this field. As you have pointed out, we too believe that those things are necessary. Therefore, moving forward, we will with due consideration address those areas. As I have said previously, this "Healthcare and Medical Strategy" is extremely important to Japan. Under this strategy we will ensure the maintenance of citizen health and at the same time share the strengths of the Japanese health care system overseas. The system has unfortunately been extremely vertically segmented, however under my leadership on this issue, we have been attempting to eliminate this vertically segmented administrative structure. One of Japan's strengths is that we are the country with the highest longevity in the world and, making the most of this experience, we will share many facets of our health care system with the world, including medical equipment, health care professionals and even our health insurance system in order to contribute to the health and wellbeing of the people throughout the world. I believe that this is our great challenge that we are now beginning to undertake.

REPORTER: Today a press conference of the Japan Association of New Economy was held and according to Future Architect Kanemaru there is insufficient debate by the Industrial Competitiveness Council, particularly on health care. Mr. Kanemaru, who is also a member of the Regulatory Reform Council, stated that he would like to see more debate on health care regulatory reform, including application of iPS Cell Research and the time lag in the introduction of medical equipment. Could you tell us your thoughts on these opinions?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that his comments are reflective of the seriousness of the challenges facing the health care and medical industry. I believe it is an extremely important field as it has implications for the future. The Regulatory Reform Council so far has only had limited time, however as the Prime Minister instructed us, this is something that Japan can share with the world with pride, not just in terms of a growth strategy under the Abe Cabinet. Furthermore, due to the vertically segmented administrative structure as I mentioned, health care is an area in which Japan has not been able to maximize benefit despite its capacity. Therefore we will address and steadily work on this issue while considering the advice of the Regulatory Reform Council and any other advice we receive.

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