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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Monday, May 20, 2013 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


  • Japan-North Korea relations
  • The Ministerial Council on the Monthly Economic Report
  • The cruising of a submarine in the contiguous waters surrounding Japan
  • Opinion polls

REPORTER: Two days ago Special Advisor to the Cabinet Isao Iijima returned from a visit to North Korea and I believe that you received a report from him. To the extent that it is possible for you to do so, could you tell us about the content of the report that you received?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Special Advisor Iijima reported that he had visited North Korea, where he had engaged in meetings. I spent approximately one hour with Mr. Iijima, receiving his report. Given the nature of the content of the report I would like to refrain from making any comment.

REPORTER: On a related note, are we to understand that Mr. Iijima conveyed to the North Korean side, for example, the basic policy of the Abe Cabinet with regard to efforts to resolve the abduction issue?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Japan's policy on North Korea is one of dialogue and pressure and under this policy and based on the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, the Government is making efforts to achieve a comprehensive solution to various issues of outstanding concern, including abduction, nuclear and missile issues. The government has already made this policy clear,  and, furthermore, with regard to the abduction issue in particular, the stance of the Government is that there will be no normalization of relations with North Korea unless the abduction issue is resolved. Following through with our policy of dialogue and pressure towards North Korea, the basic stance of the Government is that we have a responsibility to make every endeavor to ensure the safety and the immediate return to Japan of all the abductees, obtain a full account concerning the abductions, and realize the handover of the perpetrators of the abductions. Mr. Iijima fully understands this policy and his actions and visit to North Korea have been based on it accordingly.

REPORTER: From what you have said it appears that there is no significant change to the Abe Administration and previous administrations' policy toward North Korea. If that is the case and there have been no significant developments, what is the reason that Mr. Iijima, a Special Advisor to the Cabinet and former private secretary to Prime Minister Koizumi, was dispatched and why was it Mr. Iijima who was selected?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Given the nature of the matter I would like to refrain from making any specific comment, but what I would state is that the Abe Administration has a strong sense of responsibility and determination to resolve the abduction issue once and for all. At the same time, under the policy of dialogue and pressure, Japan's door continues to remain open at all times for dialogue. The family members of the abductees, including Mr. and Mrs. Yokota, are now advanced in years. I wish you to understand that it is the strongly held resolve of the Abe Administration to expend all efforts toward the resolution of the abduction issue.


REPORTER: The Ministerial Council on the Monthly Economic Report has been held today. Could you enlighten us as to the content of the meeting?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Minister Amari will be giving a press conference on the details of the meeting, but today the judgment on the current status of the Japanese economy was upgraded to state that the economy is picking up slowly. Exports show signs of picking up backed by strong economic performance overseas, and industrial production is picking up slowly against the backdrop of an upturn in exports and personal consumption. I believe that these trends demonstrate that the effect of the policies of the Abe Cabinet is starting to be felt not only in terms of improved confidence, but also in the real economy, including in consumption and production. In addition, since the start of the fiscal year the impact of emergency economic revitalization measures has been seen, with public investment and related contracts also increasing sharply. These were the trends that were discussed and confirmed in the monthly economic report.


REPORTER: Are there any plans to provide an explanation to the families of the abductees concerning the content of the report from Mr. Iijima about his visit to North Korea?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Prime Minister has not yet received a direct report from Mr. Iijima, and so first a time will be arranged for the Prime Minister to be provided with a report. It is naturally the desire of the families to realize the return home of the abductees as soon as possible and the Abe Cabinet will continue with its policy of dialogue and pressure, always keeping the door open to dialogue, and making every effort to achieve the resolution of this issue.

REPORTER: It may be a little early to make a judgment, but what is your evaluation of the visit to North Korea by Mr. Iijima?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I will refrain from making any comment. However, my understanding is that the visit was implemented based on the basic stance of the Government and on the strong desire and sense of responsibility of the Abe Administration.

REPORTER: Upon receiving a report from Mr. Iijima, has any report been made to the United States or Republic of Korea (ROK)? If a report has not yet been made, are there plans to do so?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As Japan, the United States and the ROK share a cooperative relationship that is of great importance, I believe that it is only natural for there to be close cooperation, and for it to have been reported at the working level that such a meeting took place.

REPORTER: So are we to understand that a report has been made to the United States and the ROK?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Given that the visit has been widely reported and that Japan shares close relations with those two countries, I believe that it will have been reported.

REPORTER: Also with regard to North Korea, it has been reported that up to yesterday North Korea has launched four short-range missiles. What is the Government's analysis of the aim in launching these missiles and given that the launches were timed immediately following the return to Japan of Mr. Iijima, do you believe there is any correlation between the launches and his visit?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: With regard to activities surrounding missile launches, as I have stated in this press conference on frequent occasions, this is an issue of grave concern to the Government and we are engaged in the collection of intelligence and analysis on a daily basis. I will refrain from making any specific comment with regard to this matter since it risks revealing Japan's intelligence gathering capabilities. Whatever the case, no missile over-flight of Japan has been confirmed.

REPORTER: With regard to the cruising of a submarine in the contiguous waters surrounding Japan, I believe that yesterday, May 19, there was an incident in which a submarine of unconfirmed nationality was cruising while submerged in the contiguous waters off Okinawa Prefecture. Has the nationality of the submarine since been confirmed? What response does the Government intend to make to this and similar incidents going forward?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I am aware that the Ministry of Defense has made an announcement confirming the facts that you mention and I suggest that for further details you address your question to the Ministry of Defense. Whatever the case, it is my understanding that in this incident the submarine in question did not enter Japan's territorial waters. In addition, both the Ministry of Defense and the Self-Defense Forces are engaged in the required monitoring and surveillance activities and are working to collect intelligence on this incident. With regard to the nationality of the submarine, I am aware that an assessment has been made, but I would like to refrain from commenting on the details.

REPORTER: According to an opinion poll conducted by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper over the weekend, the approval rating of the Abe Cabinet has risen five points from 60 percent last month to 65 percent this month. When looking at the trends among opinion polls implemented by other news organizations we can see that the highest rating stands at around 70 percent, so it can be assumed that the basic approval rating is somewhere between the mid 60 percent to low 70 percent range. What is your reaction to such opinion poll results?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Abe Administration has been in power for five months now, and in contrast to the previous administration, the approval ratings have remained at a high level of around 70 percent, which is something that we welcome and are grateful for. In order to respond to the expectations of the people of Japan, we have engaged in various efforts, including those towards the revitalization of the Japanese economy, reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake and thorough crisis management. The entire Cabinet seeks to accelerate efforts toward the initial goals that were set as we go forward.

REPORTER: The trends in the Government's approval rating are more or less the same for all opinion polls implemented by news organizations, however, the approval rating of the Japan Restoration Party has slumped in the proportional representation constituencies for the House of Councillors, against the backdrop of the series of comments made by co-leader of the party Toru Hashimoto. Mr. Hashimoto maintains that he will not withdraw the comment and it has become a diplomatic issue, with a spokesperson of the United States Government also referring to it. What are your views concerning the slump in the approval rating of the Japan Restoration Party?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As this is a matter that concerns a different political party, I will refrain from making any detailed comment from a Government stance. I imagine that naturally the Japan Restoration Party will be examining why their approval ratings have slumped. However, the Government's view on the comments made by Mr. Hashimoto has already been made clear and explanations of the Government's view are also being provided overseas at the working level. How the Japan Restoration Party deals with the reaction to this matter is something that I believe it will address itself. As your question relates to an opposition party I will therefore refrain from commenting on whether their approval rating is high or low.


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