Home >  News >  Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary >  December 2013 >  Wednesday, December 25, 2013 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Wednesday, December 25, 2013 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary(PM)(Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

・The issues related to Okinawa

REPORTER: I have a question about the recent meeting with Governor Nakaima of Okinawa Prefecture, which you also attended.

(Abridged)With regard to the proposals submitted by the Government on this occasion for the reduction of the burden of U.S. bases and the promotion and development of Okinawa, the Governor was full of praise for the contents, noting that they were the most significant in the history of Okinawa and extraordinarily superb. What are your thoughts with regard to this reaction? Which points in particular do you think that the Governor was most pleased about?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: It was most pleasing to hear such words from the Governor. The basic policy of the Prime Minister is that the Government will do all it can to relieve the burden of bases on Okinawa Prefecture, and implement policies for the promotion and development of the Prefecture. It is on this basis that four ministers—the Minister of State for Okinawa Affairs, Minister of Defense, Minister for Foreign Affairs and myself—engaged in efforts to formulate a Government proposal that is based on the wishes of the people of Okinawa. It was therefore most gratifying to hear such words of appreciation from the Governor.

REPORTER: In the opening remarks at the meeting, at which we members of the press were present, the Governor indeed made a series of remarks unlike any he has ever made before, noting that the response by the Government was astonishing, and praising Prime Minister Abe and yourself. We were also somewhat surprised to hear such words. Putting aside the result of the decision on the landfill application two days from now, please tell us frankly of your thoughts upon hearing such words.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: After we received the requests from Okinawa Prefecture, we engaged in work under instructions from the Prime Minister that the Government should do everything it possibly can. In the past, for example, former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto gave similar instructions in ministerial discussions with regard to the promotion and development measures for Okinawa. The Governor had stated that he hoped a response would be made similar to that of the former Hashimoto Administration. In this administration, the statement made by the Prime Minister was not in ministerial discussions, but in the Cabinet meeting itself. After all, I believe that the Governor gave the response of the Government on this occasion a high appraisal, in view of the fact that the Prime Minister also boldly stated concrete figures in budget while walking a fine line with his words, in light of the Constitution and the Diet.

REPORTER: Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Seiroku Kajiyama, for whom you have shown respect, stated on frequent occasions that with many of the issues at that time relating to Okinawa, the Japanese people in mainland Japan should seek to properly accept the feelings of the people of Okinawa. In accordance with the words spoken by your respected predecessor, with what feelings and spirit did you engage in efforts to formulate the proposal that has been presented today?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Since becoming Chief Cabinet Secretary, I have worked within the grouping of four ministers to respond to Okinawa issues. But honestly speaking, until today, I think that our feelings and sentiments were not closely enough in alignment with the people of Okinawa. It was against this backdrop that the Prime Minister gave instructions for the Administration to do everything it possibly could, and based on those instructions the four ministers, including myself, have sought to truly align ourselves as closely as possible with the wishes of the people of Okinawa. In addition, Secretary-General Ishiba of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has led efforts within the party, and also among Diet members, to develop the environment, by raising the option of the landfill site at Henoko rather than relocation outside the prefecture, and helping to change views and opinions among the Okinawa chapter of the LDP on this issue.

REPORTER: I think that in terms of the specific contents of the proposals provided by the Government today, most of them respond squarely to the requests made by the prefecture. With regard to the Status of Forces Agreement, the Prime Minister today announced that consultations would begin between Japan and the United States that seek to compile a new inter-government agreement. What is the sense of how these consultations will be advanced, and under what kind of time schedule?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Among the requests submitted by the people of Okinawa, there was reference made to environmental issues under the Status of Forces Agreement. The environmental issues are something that has not been covered to date under the agreement. Therefore the prefecture and the Government have agreed that the Government will initiate efforts to negotiate that new supplementary provisions are included in the agreement, or that specific elements relating to the environment are incorporated. I believe, therefore, that it is not an exaggeration to say that efforts will be made to amend the agreement, which will be the first time.

REPORTER: In terms of a schedule, will such measures be instigated early in the new year?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Naturally, we will seek to start consultations as soon as possible.

REPORTER: On a related note, what kind of meeting or forum will be employed to engage in negotiations on a new inter-governmental agreement?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Arrangements for such a forum are already underway at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

REPORTER: Does that mean that these arrangements are being made in the context of existing forums for discussion?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Yes. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is, to date, focusing on negotiations about the specific forum for consultations.

REPORTER: On a related and more detailed note, with regard to the envisaged inter-governmental agreement to supplement the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, I believe that in reality, this will result in the content of the current agreement being enhanced. Is there any intention to conclude an agreement that would be separate to the current Status of Forces Agreement?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In the recent meeting, the Prime Minister stated that the Government and Okinawa Prefecture have agreed that the Government will initiate consultations towards the compilation of an inter-governmental agreement that would add reference to environmental issues to the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement. A supplementary agreement would not amend the current agreement, but would rather add elements to it that are currently lacking. In that sense, I believe that it could be likened to an amendment of the agreement.

REPORTER: On a related note, the U.S. Department of State has been cautious about any amendment to the Status of Forces Agreement itself. In this point, have there been any negotiations with the U.S. about creating such a mechanism?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There are various issues with other countries as well. In terms of Japan-U.S. relations, environmental issues are not currently covered under the Status of Forces Agreement. It is in that context that a new agreement will be formulated.


REPORTER: I have a question concerning Osprey transport aircraft. With regard to the location for flight exercises, a working team would be created within the Ministry of Defense. Could you tell us about the schedule for the establishment of this team and specifically under what department it will operate?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: With regard to Osprey transport aircraft, from the perspective of reducing the burden on Okinawa by dividing training exercises between Okinawa and mainland Japan, joint statements have been issued, by both the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee in September 2012 and by the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee, the so-called “2+2 Meeting”, in October this year. Considerations are already actually underway concerning how to increase training exercises outside Okinawa Prefecture. In addition, in November, Minister of Defense Onodera issued a request for acceptance of flight training exercises to the meeting of the National Governors’ Association. It has already been decided to develop training bases including hangars and buildings in several locations on the mainland for the tilt-rotor aircraft that are to be introduced to the Self-Defense Forces. The Government seeks to contribute in reducing the burden on Okinawa by utilizing these for the Osprey trainings of the U.S. Forces. Using the research expenses that have been allocated in the FY2014 budget, surveys will be conducted concerning locations for bases and facilities for training exercises.



Page Top

Related Link