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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Friday, November 14, 2014 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I would like to give an overview of the Cabinet meeting. The meeting approved 18 general and other measures, the promulgation of legislation, cabinet orders, and personnel decisions. With regard to statements by ministers, the Minister of Justice made a statement concerning the White Paper on Crime 2014. Deputy Prime Minister Aso, acting Prime Minister, made a statement concerning acting Ministers while Ministers in charge are away on overseas visits, among other matters.


  • The issue of coral poaching by Chinese vessels
  • The issue of Okinawa gubernatorial election
  • The Japan-China-ROK relations
  • The issue of the abductions
  • The issue regarding the postponing the consumption tax increase

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question regarding the issue of coral poaching by Chinese fishing vessels. According to some media reports, China notified Japan that it has instructed Chinese fishing vessels to return to their ports in China. Is this true? 

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: During the Japan-China foreign ministers’ meeting on November 8, the Minister for Foreign Affairs strongly requested to Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi that China take effective steps to respond to the coral-poaching issue. The Chinese side explained that it was strengthening its controls and that a variety of measures were being taken. In addition, the Japanese side strongly requested that the Chinese side deliver outcomes. In other words, we are strongly requesting that China deliver outcomes as quickly as possible and that all Chinese vessels to return to their ports. That is the current situation.

REPORTER: I have a related question. More concretely, does that mean the Chinese Government notified the Japanese Government that it was instructing vessels to return to their ports? 

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Not formally through diplomatic channels. However, we have strongly requested that China take action, and at the same time, are closely following the situation.

REPORTER: Regarding this matter, what is the current situation at the scene?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Through aircraft patrols conducted on the morning of November 13, the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) found 145 coral-harvesting vessels. We have been informed that the number of foreign fishing vessels in the waters off the Ogasawara Islands has declined compared to previous numbers. The JCG is mobilizing large patrol vessels and aircraft intensively in this area. We firmly instructed the JCG to continue rigorously cracking down on foreign vessels engaged in illegal operations. The JCG is fully dealing with this situation at the scene. On the morning of the 13th, during a patrol vessel’s crackdown on the illegal operations of foreign fishing vessels in the exclusive economic zone around the Ogasawara Islands, a captain of a Chinese coral-harvesting vessel that refused an on-board inspection was arrested for violating the Fishery Act. Japan is committed to cracking down on illegal operations. Furthermore, on the 13th, the ruling parties – the General Council of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Policy Research Taskforce of the Komeito party – approved a bill to revise the relevant legislation. The revised legislation will increase the fines for foreign fishing vessels engaged in illegal operations to 30 million yen, the same amount as the maximum fine that is currently imposed on individuals under the existing legal system. The final arrangements are now being made. The Government is committed to cracking down on illegal operations through a variety of measures, while taking into account the efforts I mentioned. This is our basic stance. 

REPORTER: The Okinawa gubernatorial election is coming up in three days. You have gone to Okinawa to show support for the LDP-backed candidate, Mr. Nakaima. Can you once again explain your hopes for the Okinawa election and any thoughts you might have in the lead-up to the elections?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As the election campaign is ongoing, I would like to refrain from giving comments on behalf of the Government. Governor Nakaima has proactively engaged in the administration of Okinawa prefecture, including measures for promoting and developing Okinawa. In this regard, Mr. Nakaima has the considerable backing of mayors in Okinawa. During my visit to Okinawa, I had conversations with the mayors. I came away with the impression that the mayors had extremely high hopes for Mr. Nakaima’s measures for the promotion and economic development of Okinawa.

REPORTER: I have a follow-up question. Okinawa Times wants operations at Futenma Air Station terminated within five years. I gather that the Government is currently working to achieve this based on a policy of doing everything possible. Will the Government’s policy remain unchanged no matter the result of the gubernatorial election?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government will of course press ahead with our policy in principle. Nevertheless, if a candidate opposed to our policy is elected, if the people in the area are opposed to the expansion of Naha Airport and the construction of a second runway there, then the realization of these measures would probably become difficult. In any case, the Government will steadily proceed with the activities of its existing policy.

REPORTER: Your comments suggest that the Government will re-consider the policy of terminating operations within five years upon fully taking into account the wishes of the newly-elected governor. Is that correct?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: No, the policy of the Government is to terminate operations within five years. The basic policy of the Prime Minister and the Government is to do everything in its power to realize this. While the cooperation of the local people is of course necessary and while our strong ally, the U.S. Forces, is also involved, Japan is committed to pressing ahead with the termination of operations within five years.

REPORTER: During the ASEAN+3 summit meeting, President Park Geun-hye of the Republic of Korea (ROK) proposed the holding of a Japan-China-ROK trilateral summit meeting. With the Japan-China summit meeting having taken place recently, how do you view this change in the Japan-ROK relationship?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: President Park Geun-hye once again responded positively to the holding of a Japan-China-ROK summit meeting and foreign ministers’ meeting. The Government of Japan welcomes these developments in light of the various issues that exist. Despite the various issues, Japan’s door for dialogue has always been open. Therefore, we hope the ROK will undertake forward-looking efforts for the holding of the meeting as the chair country. We commend the ROK for its efforts. 

REPORTER: I have a related question. Based on this change in the Japan-ROK relationship, what are the prospects for holding a Japan-ROK bilateral summit meeting prior to the Japan-China-ROK summit meeting?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I said, Japan’s door for dialogue is always open. We welcome the fact that the atmosphere in the ROK is becoming more agreeable for such meetings.

REPORTER: I have a question regarding the issue of abductions by North Korea. Given that the investigations have not made progress, yesterday, the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea proposed that if North Korea does not submit the first report of the investigation results by the end of the year, the Government should restore the sanctions it has lifted or impose new sanctions. What is your view regarding this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: With regard to North Korean issues, the Japanese delegation recently went to Pyongyang and clearly communicated to the North Korean leadership that resolving the abduction issue was Japan’s absolute priority. In this context, Japan has been dealing with this issue based on the principles of dialogue and pressure, and action for action. This has not changed at all. At the same time, we are always thinking about what steps are most effective for encouraging North Korea’s forward-looking and transparent actions. The abduction issue is one of Japan’s top priorities, and therefore, the Government will continue to make every effort to deal with this issue.

REPORTER: I have a related question. If this is indeed the case, are sanctions also being considered? Are sanctions one of the items on your agenda?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government is always thinking about action for action, dialogue and pressure, and what steps are most effective. The Government, the Abe Cabinet, and the Abe administration are making every effort to resolve the issues stemming from North Korea.

REPORTER: I have one more question. The opposition parties are increasingly claiming that postponing the consumption tax increase to 10% based on the dissolution of the House of Representatives proves that Abenomics was a failure. I imagine you do not agree with the claim that Abenomics was a failure. Can you tell us your opinion?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, it has been one year and 11 months since we took over the reins of government. And I think the results explain it all. The ratio of job offers to applicants has increased from 0.8 before we assumed office, to 1.1. This is the highest level in 22 years. Additionally, before the Abe administration, people had a hard time landing a job even after graduating from high school and university. Now, the rate of employment is more than 10% higher than the rate at the time. Before, there was negative growth recorded for the GDP for three consecutive quarters. There is no mistake that the Japanese economy is on a recovery track due to the loosing of the three arrows of Abenomics. The numbers speak the truth. The number of people employed has increased by more than one million. We will continue to steadily expand these improvements. Moreover, tax revenue increased by nearly 11 trillion yen. The administration is committed to both achieving fiscal consolidation and exiting deflation. I believe these measures have the full understanding of the Japanese people.


REPORTER: You have just gone through the list of the various achievements of Abenomics. In the short-term, yes, there were improvements. However, most of these outcomes were the result of monetary easing and public works projects and will not last long. Furthermore, if the consumption tax increase to 10% is postponed, I think that would conversely end up increasing the long-term risks. It is possible to criticize the Abe administration for looking only at the short-term effects. What are your views regarding this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe the third arrow has addressed the medium- to long-term outcomes from the start. In the process of the reforms, we have seen progress in a number of areas – for example, abolish the “gentan” system of reducing rice acreage for the first time in over 40 years. In the area of electricity system reform, liberalization has allowed entry into the electricity retail market. We decided on these measures through enacting legislation. In the medium- to long-term, these reforms, deregulation, and other measures are sure to have positive effects on the Japanese economy. We will press ahead with these measures. As the Prime Minister states, “there is no other way forward.”

REPORTER: Related to what you just said, you explained that so far Abenomics has proceeded relatively steadily. Is there anything you are concerned about? Do you have any concerns?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In short, it has only been one year and 11 months. You are all very knowledgeable about the economy. So as you know, there are various measures which are under way simultaneously – measures that deliver immediate results combined with measures that deliver results in the medium- to long-term. Our administration is committed to both exiting deflation and achieving fiscal consolidation through reforms and regulatory easing. One specific example of this is tourism. By considerably easing visa requirements, the number of foreign visitors to Japan increased to 10 million people. Before, this number was unconceivable. To be more precise, the number of foreign visitors to Japan increased from 8.3 million to 10.3 million. To return to Okinawa for a moment, the number of foreign visitors to Okinawa has increased by around one million people over the past four years. This year, the number of foreign visitors to Japan is set to exceed 12 million. It is estimated that foreign visitors to Japan spend roughly 2 trillion yen in Japan. Japan posted a surplus in tourist spending for the first time since the Osaka Expo. These numbers are out. It is for the Japanese people to make the judgments.


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