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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Friday, July 4, 2014 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga
I would like to give an overview of the Cabinet meeting. The meeting approved three general measures, cabinet orders and personnel decisions. With regard to statements by Ministers, the Minister for Foreign Affairs made a statement concerning the special situation of measures prohibiting specified ships into port under the Act on Special Measures concerning Prohibition of Entry of Specified Ships into Ports. Minister Shimomura and Prime Minister Abe made statements concerning the future of the education system, or the so called fifth proposal, of the Education Rebuilding Implementation Council. Prime Minister Abe also made a statement about acting Ministers while Ministers in charge are away on overseas visits.

In ministerial discussions following the Cabinet meeting, Minister Amari made a statement regarding trends in consumption following the increase in the consumption tax rate.

I would like to make an announcement regarding personnel decisions that were decided at today's Cabinet meeting. This summer’s personnel decision of the senior officials from ministries will be the first time under a new system for the unified management of senior officials, which was instituted as part of the recent revisions made to the National Public Service Act, among other legislation. The Cabinet has focused efforts on achieving the strategic allocation of personnel; the active preferment of women to the senior positions; and further personnel exchanges between ministries. With regard to the preferment of women, I would like to share the details of today’s personnel decisions regarding senior officials. Director-General for Cultural Affairs Naoko Saiki will be appointed to the post of Director-General for the Economic Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which will bring the total number of female director-generals at the ministry to three. At the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Deputy Director-General of the Minister's Secretariat Naoko Munakata will be appointed as the first female Director-General of the Trade and Economic Cooperation Bureau. At the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Director Yoshiko Ando of the Workers’ Compensation Department of the Labour Standards Bureau will be appointed as the Director-General of the Equal Employment, Children and Families Bureau, which will bring the total number of female director-generals at the ministry to three. At the Ministry of Justice, Kazumi Okamura, a prosecutor at the Supreme Public Prosecutors' Office, who became a prosecutor after rising to the position of legal department general manager at a foreign private-sector company, will be appointed as the first female Director-General of the Human Rights Bureau. In addition, there were many other female personnel appointed to important posts, including director and deputy director-general, at each ministry, and personnel exchanges between ministries have been decided. Next, I have an announcement regarding personnel decisions in relation to the post of Special Advisor to the Cabinet. It was decided that Mr. Yoshio Nakamura and Mr. Mitsuhiro Furusawa would be appointed as Special Advisors to the Cabinet effective today. I would also like to report that the letters of assignment were presented a short while ago by the Prime Minister. Mr. Nakamura will utilize his experience as Vice Chairman and Director General of Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) to provide information and recommendations to the Prime Minister with regard to industrial policy, while Mr. Furusawa will utilize his experience as Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund and Vice Minister of Finance for International Affairs to provide information and recommendations to the Prime Minister on international financial affairs. We will continue to carry out the strategic allocation of personnel so that the right individuals for the right positions are assigned across the entire Cabinet.

Today, the Headquarters for Ocean Policy convened a meeting and the future policy aimed at extending the continental shelf was approved. Based on this policy, the Government will immediately begin work to enact a cabinet order, while adhering to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, so as to extend the continental shelf and Japan’s sovereign rights on the exploration and development of natural resources. Please contact Minister in charge of Ocean Policy and Territorial Issues Yamamoto for further details.  

I would like to make a statement about the Prime Minister’s visit to Oceania. Prime Minister Abe will visit New Zealand, Australia and Papua New Guinea between July 6th and July 12th to meet with each country’s head of state. In addition, Prime Minister Abe will become the first Prime Minister of Japan to give a speech at an Australian parliamentary meeting. This visit marks the first time in 7 years that a Japanese Prime Minister will visit Australia, the first time in 12 years for New Zealand and the first time in 29 years for Papua New Guinea. During this visit, the Prime Minister will seek to fundamentally strengthen Japan’s relationships with these principal countries of Oceania. The content of the talks will include not only economic matters, but also security and defense, as well as response to international issues. The Prime Minister will also engage in resource diplomacy and gather support for Japanese companies in order to help revitalize Japan’s economy. 

Based on the decision reached at yesterday’s nine ministers' meeting of the NSC, today, North Korea has established the Special Investigation Committee and will begin  comprehensive and full-scale investigations on all Japanese nationals. As a result, Japan has announced that it will take the following measures in accordance with the agreement reached with North Korea in May this year. Please take a look at the material in front of you. First, Japan will lift restrictions on travel between Japan and North Korea. In the future, North Korean nationals that apply to enter Japan will be screened appropriately and in detail on a case by case basis. Persons that are designated as subject to the travel ban imposed by U.N. Security Council resolutions will still not be permitted to enter Japan. Second, Japan will lift its restrictions on the amount of money requiring notification of the export of means of payments and report on the money transfer. Thus the notification of the export of means of payments and report on the money transfer based on the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act that is required of North Korea will be the same as that required of any other country. Third, today’s Cabinet meeting decided that in the case that North Korea flagged ships with humanitarian purpose enter Japanese ports and distribute supplies to persons in North Korea, it will be recognized as falling under special circumstances and be viewed as an exception to measures prohibiting specified ships into port under the Act on Special Measures concerning Prohibition of Entry of Specified Ships into Ports. Cargo other than humanitarian supplies will not be allowed. Related laws and procedures will still be applied as normal. Today, Japan carried out the necessary procedures in accordance with its domestic laws to implement these measures. The Government will pursue close collaboration between related ministries and agencies to continue to steadily and rigorously carry out Japan’s unilateral restrictions and sanctions based on U.N. Security Council resolutions, in order to encourage North Korea to take specific and positive actions toward the resolution of outstanding issues, including the abduction, nuclear and missile issues. In any case, the Government believes that making steady progress toward the resolution of outstanding issues between Japan and North Korea is important. This is especially true of the abduction issue, which is one of the most important issues for the Abe administration. We will continue to exert our utmost efforts to resolve these issues as soon as possible.


  • The establishment of the Special Investigation Committee
  • The commemorative activities marking the 70th anniversary of victory in Pacific War by ROK and China


REPORTER: At present was there a communication from the North Korean side that it has established the Special Investigation Committee?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: This matter has been confirmed through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

REPORTER: Of the three points from the announcement made just now, was a Cabinet decision only made for the third one?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Yes, that is correct. This was because a Cabinet decision was required for this matter.

REPORTER: I have one additional question. Does this mean the Man Gyong Bong vessel, which could be thought of as symbolic of this matter, can call on a port in Japan?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Man Gyong Bong vessel cannot call on a port in Japan. We are not considering this.

REPORTER: When a North Korea flagged ship calls on a port in Japan, how will you verify the fact that it is carrying cargo for humanitarian purposes?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: With regard to this point, if North Korea wishes for one of its ships to call on a port for humanitarian purposes, it will first submit an application to Japan in advance, based on which we will determine if the call can be permitted and if the cargo to be loaded contains the allowed supplies. Even if the call is permitted, we do not intend to allow activities other than those of loading the humanitarian supplies, such as the disembarkation of crew members, or the unloading or loading of cargo other than humanitarian supplies. Additionally, the partial lifting of Japanese restrictions will not affect the sanctions we are carrying out based on U.N. Security Council resolutions. Needless to say, Japan will continue to strictly enforce the related laws and procedures of Japan, including the Act on Special Measures concerning Cargo Inspections etc.   

REPORTER: I believe border control measures will become an issue in these cases. At the present time does the Government plan on reinforcing any of these measures?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In any case, only food, medical goods, clothing and other goods deemed as serving humanitarian purposes will be allowed for loading onto North Korean vessels. The recipient of these goods must be an individual inside North Korea and the goods must be in a quantity allowed for consumption by an individual over a set period of time. Related bureaus will carry out proper screenings and make decisions on whether the goods are allowed in accordance with these criteria. 


REPORTER: There are concerns that while parts of the restrictions were lifted, this will benefit North Korea in a one-sided manner. That is, the lifting of these restrictions will benefit North Korea only. Do you have any outlook for the steady return of the remaining abduction victims whose safety has been confirmed? 

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: This will be steadily addressed within the confines of negotiations between the Governments of Japan and North Korea. For example, we already have an agreement in place whereby North Korea will update the Japanese side when the victims of abduction are found, and they will subsequently be allowed to return to Japan. I believe that we will proceed in accordance with the agreement. 

REPORTER: Can we assume that arrangements are in place such that North Korea will immediately notify Japan of the names of abduction victims once they are found?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: This is as stated in the Japan-North Korea agreement.

REPORTER: I believe the first report is scheduled for the end of the summer. Will those confirmed abduction victims be able to immediately return at that point in time?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Of course, if such a report is made, Japan will dispatch Japanese officials to North Korea. The Japanese team will be allowed to meet and interview the individuals concerned and also be allowed to inspect sites where the relevant individuals are living. This is what the agreement says and Japan will respond appropriately in these cases.


REPORTER: There have been media reports that a dedicated phone line will be set up with North Korea. Can you first confirm whether this is true or not?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I have not received any reports of this, but it is only natural that communications will be made with regard to the details and other matters.


REPORTER: China’s President Xi Jinping is currently visiting the Republic of Korea (ROK), where he is said to have remarked that the ROK and China should jointly hold commemorative activities marking the 70th anniversary of victory in the Pacific War and the Korean peninsula’s liberation from Japanese colonial rule. How do you regard those statements?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I would like to refrain from evaluating such meetings held between third countries; in this case China and the ROK. Nevertheless, I believe that the joint attempts by China and the ROK to raise matters relating to past history for no purpose other than to create an international issue does not contribute in any way to the construction of peace and cooperation in this region. 


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