Home >  News >  Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary >  December 2013 >  Friday, December 27, 2013 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Friday, December 27, 2013 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga

Today Governor Nakaima of Okinawa Prefecture approved the landfill application that will be required for the construction of an alternative facility to Futenma Air Station. It has in fact been 17 years since the agreement between Japan and the United States concerning the return of the air station was first reached. The Abe administration seeks to alleviate the  burden of U.S. bases located disproportionately on Okinawa. With regard to Futenma Air Station in particular, the Abe administration has dealt with the matter of eliminating the dangers presented by Futenma Air Station as a top priority issue, based on the premise that "it must not be allowed to remain at its current location indefinitely." Moves towards the return of Futenma Air Station, which is located close to residential areas and schools and is situated in the center of an urban area, have now finally taken a large step forward. The Government would like to express its deep respect and appreciation to Governor Nakaima, who has made this courageous decision in the face of various difficulties. The Abe administration will duly take on board the feelings of the people of Okinawa Prefecture, who bear a heavy burden with regard to bases in the prefecture. The measures that will be taken by the Government, which were explained to the Governor directly by the Prime Minister himself on December 25, also represent a pledge to Governor Nakaima and to the people of Okinawa. Under a strong determination to do everything that can be possibly done, the Government of Japan will seek to alleviate the burden placed on Okinawa, while also maintaining deterrence capabilities. In the course of implementing the various measures, the Government is committed to making every effort and is determined to achieve results, while always remaining mindful of the feelings of the people of Okinawa.


REPORTER: With regard to the reason leading to the approval of the landfill application, Governor Nakaima's understanding is that in his meeting with the Prime Minister, he gained an assurance that operations at Futenma would be stopped within five years. Are we to understand that the Government has also pledged to Okinawa to stop operations at the air station within five years?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In the meeting of the Okinawa Policy Council held on December 17, the Government received requests from the Governor of Okinawa Prefecture concerning the termination of operations at Futenma Air Station within five years and the deployment of approximately 12 Osprey aircraft outside the prefecture. Regarding this, the Government recognizes that until the relocation of the air station takes place, the issue of eliminating the dangers it presents is of the utmost importance. Accordingly, the Government would like to consider fully the efforts that can be made on mainland Japan that would alleviate the burden placed on Okinawa. The Ministry of Defense will move quickly to establish a team early in the new year that will aim to realize such efforts. The selection of members of this team and other related measures are currently being expedited, so that the team can be established and embark on considerations relating to specific details. The Government is resolved to work together as one and make every effort to alleviate the burden of bases, while always remaining mindful of the feelings of the people of Okinawa.

REPORTER: On a related note, in his press conference today, Governor Nakaima used an expression that suggested he had received an assurance from the Prime Minister himself that operations at Futenma would be stopped within five years. In the meeting held between the Prime Minister and the Governor the other day, I did not get the impression that the Prime Minister had gone as far as to provide an assurance. However, are we to understand that assurance was given?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Consolidation Plan for Facilities and Areas in Okinawa, including Futenma Air Station, was agreed between the Governments of Japan and the United States in April this year, in which it is stated that the air station will be returned in fiscal 2020 or thereafter. However, although this matter also involves the United States, the Prime Minister has stated that he will take seriously the requests of the Governor of Okinawa Prefecture and that the basic stance of the Government is to do everything that can be done. The Ministry of Defense will engage in thorough considerations about what directions could be taken in order to achieve the return of the air station at the earliest time possible. Naturally there are also relations with the United States to consider and although faced with a difficult situation, the Government is committed to taking the requests seriously and making every effort.

REPORTER: On a related note, in connection with the termination of operations within five years as noted by the Governor, the Governor has also expressed an opinion that he would like the Government to continue to work on the relocation of the air station outside the prefecture, as this would be the quickest method to achieve the stopping of operations. I believe that there is a difference of opinion on this point between the Governor and the Government.Are we to understand that the Government will not at all be giving further consideration to the option of relocation outside the prefecture as a means of stopping operations within five years?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government is aware that this is a strong wish of the Governor. To this end a pledge has actually been made that from June next year all 15 KC-130 aircraft will be relocated to Iwakuni, and half of all Osprey aircraft training exercises will also be relocated to the Japanese mainland. In light of this, there are of course still various issues that remain outstanding, which also involve United States Forces. Under these circumstances, the Government's stance is therefore that it will do everything it can to respond thoroughly to the requests of the Governor.

REPORTER: With regard to the request to stop operations at Futenma within five years, in contrast to this request there is the point that unless the construction period at Henoko is shortened, there will be a gap between the stopping of operations at Futenma and the starting of operations at Henoko. Are we to understand therefore that the Government will aim to also shorten the construction period?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, today we have been able to attain approval for the landfill of a publicly-owned body of water, so I think the necessary procedures are now in place in order for work to be started at Henoko. The Government  would like to swiftly launch full-fledged preparations towards the commencement of construction and other work. In specific terms, in addition to the necessary surveys for construction contracts and detailed analysis relating to environmental protection measures, various coordination with the relevant organizations concerning procedures such as the required laws and ordinances will be proceeded. Whatever the case, the Government's stance is to make every effort to swiftly embark on construction work, and thereby naturally shorten the construction period in order to realize the return of Futenma as soon as possible.

REPORTER: I have a related question. Are we to understand, therefore, that although the Government will make maximum efforts to achieve the termination of operations within five years, the outcome may also be affected by the results of negotiations with United States Forces, or by whether the construction period can be shortened?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Various measures will be taken, including the total redeployment of KC-130 aircraft to Iwakuni on mainland Japan from, I believe, June next year, and the relocation of half of all Osprey aircraft training exercises, also to the mainland. It is also a fact that these redeployments would leave few remaining issues, and therefore the Government's stance is to engage in thorough negotiations with the United States and to seek to respond to the requests of Okinawa to the greatest extent possible.

REPORTER: Are we therefore to understand that efforts will be made to stop operations within five years, but, hypothetically, even if this target is not realized within five years the majority of the burden would be relieved?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We have received a strong request from the Governor and the Government will make every possible effort to respond to it. Once such concrete measures start to be implemented, I believe that realistically the majority of the burden would be reduced.

REPORTER: The people of Okinawa have been conducting demonstrations outside the Okinawa Prefectural Office in response to the Governor's approval of the coastal landfill application. I would like to once again ask your view  if these  movements and the outcome of the Nago City mayoral election in January next year could have a future impact on the landfill application.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Today the Government has received the approval for the landfill construction to go ahead. Following this approval, the Government will make every effort to begin construction work as soon as possible so that its completion date can be brought forward. In this context, with regard to the impact of the mayoral election, the Government will also take this into account and respond properly based on the outcome .

REPORTER: Has Governor Nakaima been in contact with you?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I contacted the Governor myself, and I expressed the Government's appreciation and respect for his courageous decision.

REPORTER: When did you contact the Governor?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: After the press conference.

REPORTER: What did the Governor say to you?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Governor also expressed his appreciation for the current response made by the Government to the requests submitted by Okinawa Prefecture.

REPORTER: On a different topic, the deputy spokesperson of the Ministry of National Defense of the Republic of Korea (ROK) has stated in a press conference today that with regard to the ammunition provided by Japan for peace-keeping operations (PKO) in South Sudan, as soon as the supplementary ammunition is delivered it will be immediately returned to the United Nations. The ROK had initially stated that it needed the ammunition for humanitarian purposes, but now it is saying that they will be returned. Can I ask for your response concerning this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Given the truly urgent necessity and the highly humanitarian nature of the situation, and in view of the requests received from the United Nations and also the ROK, the Cabinet Legislation Bureau worked through the night to respond to these requests, particularly given the fact that the request was very closely linked to the Three Principles on Arms Exports. As a result of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau's considerations, it was decided that assistance would be provided as the situation was truly urgent and humanitarian in nature. I believe that is all there is to say.

REPORTER: Given the fact that the Government went to such lengths to provide the requested support, what response will Japan make to the public statement made by the ROK and to the fact that the contribution will in actual fact be returned?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Well, I believe it was an engineering unit of the ROK that was running low on supply and needed this support as a matter of urgency. I am not aware whether the contribution has in fact been used or not. However, a communication expressing deep appreciation was received from the head of the ROK engineering unit in South Sudan to which the contribution was made. I believe that demonstrates just how severe the situation actually was on the ground.

REPORTER: On a related note, there appear to be significant disparities between the explanation you have just given about the stance of Japan, and the explanation given by the ROK concerning the details leading to the contribution and then also the current measures to return the contribution. What is your recognition concerning these disparities?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In the Government's view, it was a fact that the situation in South Sudan was truly humanitarian and urgent in nature. It was for this reason that the ROK unit made a request to the United Nations, and I have received a report that the head of the Self-Defense Force unit on the ground in South Sudan received a telephone call from his ROK counterpart expressing deep appreciation for the contribution. I believe this shows just what a tense situation it actually was. Given that the ROK is indeed a neighboring country of the utmost importance for Japan, the Government responded to this matter in the way it did.

REPORTER: Changing the subject to the matter of the Prime Minister's visit to Yasukuni Shrine, the Government of the United States has issued a comment through the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, expressing its disappointment. I have two questions. Firstly, I would like to ask whether the Government of Japan contacted the Government of the United States about the Prime Minister's visit in advance. Secondly, what kind of response has been made by the Government up to now with regard to the comment by the United States expressing disappointment?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As this matter concerns foreign relations, I would like to refrain from going into any detail. However, ultimately, I do not believe that this matter is one where the prior assent or acknowledgment of another country is required. Nevertheless, I believe that under a common-sense approach such a matter would have been reported beforehand.

REPORTER: So are you saying that the visit was reported in advance?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: It was not a report that sought assent.

REPORTER: It was not to seek assent, but a report was made in advance?


REPORTER: So Japan coordinated with the United States?


REPORTER: With regard to the second point about the comment from the Government of the United States expressing its disappointment, is the Government currently making any kind of response?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Japan and the United States share a relationship of trust that has been built up step by step over the years, so I do not expect that there will be any problems if a proper explanation is provided.


Page Top

Related Link