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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


  • President Obama’s visit to Japan
  • The issue of the abduction
  • The code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea(CUES)
  • The issue concerning Trans-Pacific Partnership

REPORTER: Tonight U.S. President Obama will arrive in Japan as a state guest. I imagine that during the summit meeting, Prime Minister Abe and President Obama will discuss the two countries' cooperative relationship in various fields such as security and economics. What are your expectations for the summit?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, I would like to refrain from commenting prematurely on the topics of the Japan-U.S. summit and the two leaders' discussions. In any case, I hope that the summit will provide us with the opportunity to clearly demonstrate to the world that the Japan-U.S. Alliance plays a leading role in contributing to the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region. Particularly in light of the increasing severe security environment in the Asia-Pacific region and the situation in Ukraine, I believe the two leaders will discuss the importance of the rule of law and the fact that any attempt to change the status quo with force in the background will not be tolerated. Furthermore, it is my hope that the meeting will strengthen economic ties between Japan and the U.S., including Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, which are now very much in the intense final stages.

REPORTER: In a written interview with Yomiuri Shimbun, President Obama stated clearly that the Senkaku Islands fall within the scope of Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, making him the first U.S. president to do so. Could you tell us your thoughts on this comment?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I am aware of these media reports. However, as illustrated by the remarks made by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who visited Japan recently, for example, the stance of the U.S. Government on the Senkaku Islands has long been clear. I assume that President Obama simply restated the basic stance of the U.S. Government for the newspaper interview.

REPORTER: I believe that Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made similar comments in the past, but how do you assess the significance of the comments when they come from the President himself?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Japanese Government did not confirm these comments with the U.S. Government, but we are aware of the media reports. This is why I said just now that I assume the President made his comments based on the existing stance of the U.S. Government.

REPORTER: Does the Japanese Government intend to reaffirm the application of Article 5 during the summit?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The agenda for the summit has not yet been determined at all. Nevertheless, our main priority is, as I said earlier, to clearly demonstrate to the world that the Japan-U.S. Alliance plays a leading role in contributing to the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region.

REPORTER: During the same interview, President Obama praised the Abe Cabinet's initiatives to approve the exercise of the right of collective self-defense and expressed his intention to support these initiatives. What are your thoughts on this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that the President's comments on this topic are also in line with the U.S. Government's existing stance.

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question concerning President Obama's visit to Japan. This visit will be the first state visit by a U.S. President in 18 years. Could you once again share with us the significance of the visit?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have said on numerous occasions, the bonds between Japan and the U.S. are unwavering, and I believe this visit is symbolic of this.

REPORTER: After he arrives in Japan tonight, the President is scheduled to have an unofficial dinner with the Prime Minister. I believe that such intimate talks will help to deepen their relationship. Do you personally have any specific expectations for this dinner meeting?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Since the summit meeting in February last year, the President and the Prime Minister have had difficulty finding an opportunity to engage in frank and open dialogue. The President will stay in Japan for three days and two nights this time and the Japanese Government will welcome him as a state guest. Through this visit, I anticipate that the personal relationship of trust between the two leaders will deepen.

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question concerning North Korea and the abduction issue. I understand that Special Advisor to the Cabinet Hideshi Mitani, who is in charge of the abduction issue, and Shoichiro Ishikawa, Head of Secretariat of the Headquarters for the Abduction Issue, have been in Ulan Bator in Mongolia since April 22. What is the purpose of their visit?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I have been informed that following the personnel changes as of April 1, they are currently in Mongolia so that Mr. Mitani can introduce Mr. Ishikawa as his successor to the relevant Mongolian parties.

REPORTER: Could you tell us with whom they are meeting in Mongolia following the change in personnel?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I would like to refrain from discussing anything specific.

REPORTER: During an international symposium held in China yesterday, the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), which prohibits actions such as radar locks, was adopted. There are many instances in which maritime encounters between Japan and China have led to heightened tensions. Could you share with us your thoughts on the adoption of CUES? Could you also tell us your expectations for future Japan-China relations, if any?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Western Pacific Naval Symposium has adopted the so-called CUES, which is a code of conduct for unplanned encounters at sea. While not legally binding, CUES is a useful framework for preventing and avoiding unexpected incidents, and Japan welcomes this. Furthermore, CUES itself is a multinational framework. Nevertheless, it is my belief that it will be extremely beneficial in encouraging China to play a responsible and constructive role.

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question on the same topic. You just said that CUES is not legally binding. I understand the establishment of a hotline between the Japanese and Chinese Governments as a means of communication at sea is a matter of great urgency. However, consultations between the two countries remain suspended. Could you tell us the current situation and how the Japanese Government intends to move forward?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We would like to use the adoption of CUES as an opportunity to further encourage China to commence the operation of a line of communication at sea between Japanese and Chinese defense authorities, which would serve as a more comprehensive mechanism for crisis management.

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question concerning the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations. I understand that the U.S. is seeking less rigorous automobile safety standards among other things. Is the Japanese Government exploring the possibility of compromising on automobile safety standards and other matters, to meet the requests of the U.S. and others?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We are not exploring that possibility at all. We will firmly assert what needs to be asserted.

REPORTER: I understand that the automobile industry is one of Japan's core industries and we are now in a situation where we must protect the industries in which other countries are seeking concessions from Japan. Is there any possibility that Japan will look to compromise in industries where the U.S. is seeking concessions to strike a balance between two countries?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Japan will never compromise on something like safety standards. While it would be best if we could come to a mutual understanding, nevertheless, we will in any case firmly assert Japan’s stance on safety standards and other fundamental matters.

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