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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Tuesday, May 21, 2013 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga

  • A "Gathering of Persons with Disabilities with the Prime Minister"

I would like to inform you that on the afternoon of May 23 the Prime Minister will invite persons with disabilities who are engaged in arts and crafts activities and those who are working in other forms of employment to the South Garden of the Prime Minister's Office, where a "Gathering of Persons with Disabilities with the Prime Minister" will be held so that these people can demonstrate the activities that they are engaged in. Six years ago at the time of the first Abe Cabinet a similar gathering was held and this year's gathering has been arranged based on the strong wishes of the Prime Minister. People involved in work in local communities around Japan and those who have created wonderful works in the field of art are scheduled to be invited, including Mr. Shinichi Sawada, whose works have been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, one of the famous international art exhibitions. The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare will shortly be making an announcement about the details, so please direct your questions to the ministry about this event.


  • Japan-North Korea relations (the abduction issue)
  • The comfort women issue
  • A proposal for creating a special zone for innovation in Okinawa

REPORTER: This afternoon the Prime Minister met Special Advisor to the Cabinet Isao Iijima and you also attended the meeting. What was talked about in the meeting?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Following Special Advisor Iijima's visit to North Korea he provided a report to me on the outcomes of his visit, which I conveyed to the Prime Minister by telephone. Today the Prime Minister met directly with Mr. Iijima, who reported on the specific content of his meetings in North Korea. Given the nature of the content I would like to refrain from further comment.

REPORTER: Did the Prime Minister issue any instructions to Mr. Iijima or was anything confirmed between the three of you in the meeting?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There was nothing like that in the meeting.

REPORTER: Mr. Iijima himself has stated that his visit will provide another source of information for making a decision. If that is the case, has the Prime Minister made any kind of decision after hearing the report from Mr. Iijima?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I am not aware of the specific comments made by Mr. Iijima, but due to the nature of the matter I will refrain from further comment.


REPORTER: I would like to confirm the statement made yesterday by the Prime Minister in the Audit Committee of the House of Councillors concerning the "comfort women" issue. In his responses to the committee the Prime Minister stated that at the time of the Japan-U.S. summit meeting in 2007 he did not apologize about this issue to President Bush. Does the Government share the same view?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I heard the interaction you mention myself and I believe that what the Prime Minister said was that he did not speak directly to President Bush about this subject in the summit meeting. That is what I recall of the interaction in the Audit Committee.

REPORTER: In a joint press conference at the time the Prime Minister stated how on the previous day he had spoken to members of Congress about how sorry he was for the former "comfort women" and how on the day of the press conference he had expressed the same sentiments to President Bush. Are we to understand therefore that the Prime Minister explained to President Bush during the summit meeting that he had expressed his sorrow and regret for the "comfort women" to the members of Congress?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: This is something that took place six or seven years ago and although I do not recall the exact details, what you mention is how I recall it. I will look into the matter if you need to know.

REPORTER: Returning to the meeting between Mr. Iijima and the Prime Minister, you have stated that there were no specific instructions from the Prime Minister. However, in the meeting did the Prime Minister express once again his determination to resolve the abduction issue?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Everyone at the Prime Minister's Office is aware of the Prime Minister's strong determination to resolve the abduction issue, and the Prime Minister himself has stated that he seeks to resolve the issue himself by any means possible. Therefore the Prime Minister's determination is something that goes without saying and I am sure that Mr. Iijima is also aware of it.

REPORTER: Today the Prime Minister received a report and you received a report from Mr. Iijima at the weekend. On the basis of these reports how does the Government intend to respond to the abduction issue going forward?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There is absolutely no change to the Prime Minister's basic stance and the Government will continue to make every effort towards the resolution of the abduction issue.

REPORTER: I believe that the Prime Minister has a strong desire to resolve the issue through dialogue and negotiations. Does the Government therefore intend to continue with dialogue using the diplomatic channels of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the forum of the Japan-North Korea consultations that the ministry had been engaging in until they were broken off last year?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The basic stance of the Government with regard to the abduction issue and to North Korea in general is one of "dialogue and pressure." With regard to the abduction issue, this is something that Japan must take its own action on, given that the matter concerns Japanese nationals. In that sense the Government will use all means and seek out all possibilities, with all members of the Cabinet working together to resolve this issue.

REPORTER: Does that include use of the diplomatic channels of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Yes, naturally that will be the case.

REPORTER: In relation to "seeking out all possibilities," does that mean that with the strong determination of the Prime Minister all measures will also be advanced in terms of seeking channels for negotiation?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As you just stated, the Government will make a concerted effort to resolve the abduction issue, seeking out all possibilities.

REPORTER: In a previous press conference you mentioned that once Mr. Iijima had reported on his visit to the Prime Minister consideration would be given to informing the families of the abductees about the outcome of the visit. Did the Prime Minister mention this matter in today's meeting?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: A decision on this matter has not yet been finalized. Today the Prime Minister received a report from Mr. Iijima about the content of his meetings and the general situation in North Korea.


REPORTER: In the meeting of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy on May 20, Minister Ichita Yamamoto proposed the creation of a special zone for innovation in Okinawa. A promotion headquarters for such a zone is to be created, which will consider specific policies and measures. What is the Government's expectation for when plans for such a zone will be finalized?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Special zones such as the one you mention will be a pillar of Japan's growth strategy, and this initiative is something that has been discussed in the Industrial Competitiveness Council. Following the discussions to date in the Industrial Competitiveness Council, on May 10 a Working Group on Special Zones for National Strategy was established, which will examine the concept of the special zone, the design of the system and standards for selection of areas to be designated as special zones. Specific selection of areas will naturally be based on the outcome of discussions in the working group and its deliberations on the design for such a system. Nothing concrete has yet been decided, but I expect that the concept for special zones for innovation will be incorporated into the outline for a national growth strategy. Coordination on this matter will be led by the Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territory Affairs. There was a very strong desire in the meeting to take this concept forward.

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