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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


  •  The issues related to Japan-U.S. relations
  •  The issues related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership
  •  The issues related to the Economic Partnership Agreement with Australia

REPORTER: (The Congressional Research Service of)the Congress of the United States finalized its report on Japan-U.S. relations. The report positioned Japan as a crucial ally. On the other hand, the report also outlined concerns that the deterioration of Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) relations, due to issues such as those involving the Yasukuni Shrine, undermines U.S. national interests. Could you share with us your thoughts on this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I do not know the details of the report, and I do not intend to comment on each and every report, nor their details. Nevertheless, the Japan-U.S. Alliance is solid, and we will continue to steadfastly work in cooperation, as per the alliance.

REPORTER: We can understand this report to mean that the U.S. has concerns about the Abe Administration's understanding of history. What efforts or initiatives does the Government intend to take, in order to alleviate these concerns?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The stance of Japan is very clear. Therefore, we will continue to communicate what we always say. That is the bottom line.

REPORTER: The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) ministerial meeting held in Singapore concluded earlier today. However, once again it did not result in any broad agreement. Could you share with us your views on this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, I do not yet have a report on the details from Singapore, so I must refrain from commenting. However, I believe the remaining difficult issues were discussed sincerely during the four-day ministerial meeting. I heard that they made major progress, and that the negotiators were given practical instructions which could help them reach an agreement. As for the negotiations between Japan and the U.S., I have been informed that they deepened discussions, such as with talks between Minister Amari and U.S. Trade Representative Froman. I also understand that Japan and the U.S. will continue negotiations at the working level.

REPORTER: Please allow me to ask another question on this topic. Initially we were aiming to reach a conclusion for the TPP negotiations before the end of 2013. However, we are yet to see any signs of reaching an agreement. What do you think about the process which took so much time as well as effects due to this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Negotiations were behind schedule from the beginning. In fact, as I recall, the negotiations have always been behind schedule. However, I heard that recent negotiations brought us very close to a conclusion, and the parties agreed that they would continue negotiations at the working level.


REPORTER: I believe that the Australian Government expressed a desire to reach a conclusion in April, in relation to negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Japan. As Prime Minister Abe is exploring the possibility of visiting Australia this summer, could you share with us your thoughts on Japan and Australia potentially concluding an EPA? Also, how quickly do you think negotiations will proceed?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As for the Japan-Australia EPA, we do not have a specific deadline for negotiations. However, regardless, in my opinion it is ideal that we commence discussions concerning items beneficial to both nations as soon as possible. Therefore, I believe that we will proceed with negotiations with this in mind. As for the Prime Minister's visit to Australia, we have not decided anything.

REPORTER: The Sochi Olympic Games concluded, and the Japanese athletes returned home. With eight medals, this was Japan's second-most successful winter Olympics after the Nagano games. Last week, you said that you would comment on the Olympics once they are over; so once again, may I ask you to share your thoughts with us?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Many athletes younger than age 20 performed exceptionally well. For example, figure skater Mr. Hanyu took gold, while our youngest medalist, Mr. Hirano at 15 years old, also won a medal in the halfpipe. At the same time, the oldest of our representatives, Mr. Kasai, won a silver and a bronze medal in the individual and team ski jumps respectively. As such, I think that all the Japanese athletes did a wonderful job in a very positive atmosphere. I could tell that the athletes were tremendously encouraged to each other throughout the Olympics. One thing that stood out about the Sochi Olympics was that Japanese athletes won medals in a wide variety of events. In this sense, it appears to me that the overall standard of our winter Olympic team improved. Furthermore, as you said, Japan's final medal count of eight was its highest ever for a winter Olympics held outside of Japan. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all the Japanese athletes. I am sure that they were able to utilize, to the fullest extent, their hard work and training over the last four years, and finish the competition without regrets. I would like to congratulate all the athletes on a job well done.


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