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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Friday, October 18, 2013 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


  • Typhoon No.26
  • The second auction of the land and buildings of the former General Association of Korean Residents in Japan
  • The phrase "proactive contribution to peace"
  • The visits to Yasukuni Shrine

REPORTER: Could you inform us of the extent of the damage caused by Typhoon No. 26 and the state of rescue efforts for the missing?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As of 2 pm October 18, we have confirmed that there have been 26 deaths and 29 people missing, many people have been injured and many houses have been destroyed or flooded, most of which was inflicted on Izu Oshima Island. We are still continuing to assess the damage. I would like to once again express my condolences to the victims and offer my heartfelt sympathy to everyone who has been affected. On behalf of the Government, Prime Minister Abe will visit Izu Oshima Island the day after tomorrow to assess the extent of the damage. The Government survey team headed by Minister of State for Disaster Management Furuya will be deployed to the island prior to the Prime Minister's visit. The Government will continue to work as one while also cooperating with the concerned municipalities and do everything we can to provide emergency relief. We will conduct search and rescue missions for missing persons and provide aid to those who have been affected.

REPORTER: In relation to the fact that an emergency warning was not issued for the recent typhoon, I understand that the problem is that emergency warnings are issued on prefecture basis or large unit basis such as 50 points, , but there are also some disasters that are local phenomenon, such as on remote islands, as was the case on this occasion, or localized heavy rainfall in urban areas. In relation to this issue, the Director-General of the Japan Meteorological Agency stated during the press conference held the other day that the implementation of the system should be reviewed. What are your thoughts on the necessity of a fundamental review of this system?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: When the recent typhoon hit, it resulted in actual damage. The Japan Meteorological Agency issued an advisory evacuation order to municipalities over the phone and via other means, however the fact that an emergency warning was not issued led some people to believe that the typhoon was not as strong as it actually was. In light of this, I believe that it is inevitable that the current system will be improved. I believe that the Japan Meteorological Agency and other concerned organizations must swiftly discuss how the urgency of a weather event can be better expressed and communicated.

REPORTER: I believe that when the disaster actually hit, the town was not prepared. I also understand that the two most senior administrators of the town, the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, were away on a business trip at the time of the disaster. How do you view the relationship between these two facts?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Disaster Countermeasures Basic Act states that the local public authorities, or municipalities, who are closest to the respective residents, are responsible for implementing emergency disaster measures. This means that under the Disaster Countermeasures Basic Act, municipalities are able to issue evacuation orders even when the head of the municipality is absent. Therefore, I believe that we must confirm the facts and background of the disaster to assess the reason for not issuing the order and advisory of evacuation.

REPORTER: Will the assessment be conducted by the national Government or will it be left to the municipality?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that the assessment should be completed by both the national government and the municipality. Under ordinary circumstances, this would be something completed by the municipality but the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor were absent. However, although they were absent, the town could still have been given an evacuation order. Given this, I believe that both the municipality and the national Government should be involved in the assessment.


REPORTER: Yesterday, Avar LLC won the second auction of the land and buildings of the former General Association of Korean Residents in Japan head office with a bid of more than five billion yen. It is believed that the company is Mongolian-owned, but does the Government regard that there is anything that needs to be investigated? Could you also share with us your thoughts on the high sale price of the property?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I am aware of the sale, however procedures are being handled by the courts so I must, naturally, refrain from commenting at this time.

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question concerning a phrase that the Prime Minister has been using frequently of late; "proactive contribution to peace." I believe that the phrase is not commonly used and is a new concept. Could you tell us of the philosophy behind the phrase?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Prime Minister frequently says that in today's international environment, no country can maintain peace and security on its own. I believe that the Prime Minister uses this phrase as he desires to make more proactive contributions to the peace, security and prosperity of the world, while working in cooperation with the international community.

REPORTER: China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) have criticized the phrase, " proactive contribution to peace," and the concept behind it. For example, last month the spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that Japan should not deliberately claim that the situation is tense and create conflict as an excuse for expanding its military capacity and developing new military policies. The ROK media also criticized the phrase and have said that the phrase is an attempt to pave the way for a Japanese military revival. What are your thoughts on the responses of China and the ROK?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have just stated, the Prime Minsiter has made it very clear that the idea behind "proactive contribution to peace" is to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the world and the responses from China and the ROK make me wonder if they oppose these goals. I believe that the criticisms you mentioned are unfounded.


REPORTER: I would like to ask a question concerning visits to Yasukuni Shrine. Today, Minister Shindo, Chairperson of the Policy Research Council Takaichi and Mr. Otsuji visited the shrine. They indicated that they expect the Prime Minister to also visit the shrine. It appears that there have been growing calls within the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan for the Prime Minister to visit the shrine. How likely is it that the Prime Minister will visit the shrine while he is in office? I believe that a visit to the shrine is in one sense a part of his campaign pledge, but what does he intend to do?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I do not know. You should ask that question to the Prime Minister directly. However, I believe that no matter what country you are from, we all share a feeling to join our hands in prayers for the repose of the souls of those who sacrificed their precious lives in battle for their country and express our respects. I am aware that Minister Shindo visited the shrine but he made it clear that the visit was made in a private capacity. I believe that this is a matter of personal religious freedom and is therefore a personal choice. This also applies to the Prime Minister.

REPORTER: You always say that, leaving little room for debate. However, the controversy is that Yasukuni Shrine enshrines Class A war criminals and the question is whether they are regarded as having made a sacrifice for their country or as those responsible for war crimes because of the leadership positions they held. When you say "sacrifice", are the Class A war criminals included as having made a sacrifice?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Regarding your question now, different countries view things in different ways, and I believe Japan has historically viewed the dead equally.

REPORTER: Am I then right to understand that when the Prime Minister expresses respect, he is also expressing respect for the Class A war criminals?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that the Prime Minister should be the one who decides whether to visit the shrine or not.

REPORTER: My question was about whether he would also be expressing respect for the Class A war criminals.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I think that the interpretation of the visit is up to the individual.

REPORTER: But that is the very essence of the issue and I believe that the lack of clarity of the issue is what is prompting the criticism. You make statements that are open to interpretation and I believe these statements prompt criticism and give rise to debate.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have said on a number of occasions, I believe the decision should be left to the individual as it is a matter of personal religious freedom.

REPORTER: Since the Class A war criminals were enshrined at Yasukuni Shrine, His Imperial Majesty the Emperor has not visited the shrine. Does the Government intend to explore the possibility of constructing a national commemoration facility, which has been discussed at length in the past?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As for now, we have yet to decide what measures to take to address the issue and as I just said, this issue, including the issue of visiting the shrine, should be the decision of the individual as it is a matter of personal religious freedom.

REPORTER: Please allow me to ask another question on the issue of Yasukuni Shrine. The party and public have voiced their opinion that the Prime Minister should visit the shrine. How do you consider these opinions will affect the administration?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We are fully aware that a variety of opinions exist. However, we have viewed and will continue to view this issue as a matter of personal choice and religious freedom.


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