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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

January 13, 2015 (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 two general measures, the promulgation of a treaty, and personnel decisions. With regard to statements by ministers, Prime Minister Abe made a statement concerning acting Ministers while Ministers in charge are away on overseas visits.

This morning, the seventh meeting of the Council for Science, Technology and Innovation was held. The draft evaluation of two R&D projects of national importance, such as the post-K computer, as well as the basic policy on the formulation of budgets related to science and technology in FY2015 were decided. Fully taking into account today’s decision, we intend to carry out the formulation of the budget for next year, and translate into reality the items contained therein, as they are important measures of the Abe Cabinet.

Prime Minister Abe will visit Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine from January 16 to 21. The visit to Egypt by a sitting Prime Minister will be the first in eight years since Prime Minister Abe visited in May 2007. The visits to Jordan, Israel, and Palestine will be the first in nine years since Prime Minister Koizumi’s visits in July 2006. During the visit, Prime Minister Abe will build a renewed relationship with Egypt, which is key to achieving stability in the Middle East. In Israel and Palestine, Prime Minister Abe will urge for peace between the two parties. Japan will also announce robust support for Jordan, which has stood at the front line in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and has been affected by the influx of refugees and other regional destabilizing factors. Members of the private sector will be accompanying Prime Minister Abe on his visits. We expect that the visits will further strengthen Japan’s economic relations with each country.


REPORTER: I have a question concerning the gubernatorial election in Saga Prefecture. The candidate nominated by the ruling parties was defeated. Can you please share your comments regarding this? Also, what impact do you think this will have on the Abe administration’s intent of promoting regulatory reforms, including the reform of agricultural cooperatives?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, we deeply regret the defeat of the candidate that the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Komeito party nominated. However, as I often say, this was a local election, and this was the outcome of the choice that the people in Saga Prefecture made with regard to whom they will entrust the administration of Saga Prefecture from now on. With respect to the review of agricultural cooperatives, we will be examining this matter according to plans, such as the Regulatory Reform Work Plan which was approved as a Cabinet decision last June, in order to submit a bill to the next ordinary session of the Diet. We will compile a bill that will ensure regional agricultural cooperatives play a central role in the development of Japan’s agricultural industry.

REPORTER: I have a related question. Are you saying that the reform of agricultural cooperatives will not suffer a setback due to the recent election outcome?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Regarding the reform of agricultural cooperatives, as I have just stated, it remains unchanged that the Government will carry out fundamental reforms so that regional agricultural cooperatives play a central role in and can be fully committed to turning the agricultural industry into a growth industry. Let there be no mistake, the reform is intended for the development of Japan’s agricultural industry.

REPORTER: My question is in connection with the previous question. Other issues related to Saga Prefecture include the Osprey and the restarting of the operations of Genkai Nuclear Power Station. What is your opinion regarding the election’s impact on the Government’s policies regarding these issues, including regional revitalization? 

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Regional revitalization and the vitalization of the local economy are very much needed in municipalities throughout Japan. I think everybody agrees that these policies need to be promoted. With regard to the Osprey and the restarting of the nuclear power station, if I am not mistaken I believe Mr. Yamaguchi, the Governor-elect, supports our policies. While Mr. Yamaguchi has not yet indicated a policy direction with regard to the Osprey, we deem that the election outcome will not interfere with our policy.

REPORTER: How will you be working with the new Governor?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The election has just ended. In any case, it will depend on what kind of views the Governor has.

REPORTER: Will you be meeting with the Governor in the near future?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We need to first listen carefully to the views of the Governor. As we have not yet received any requests for a meeting, there is nothing in the works at this moment in time.

REPORTER: I have a question regarding this matter. You went to Saga Prefecture to support the ruling parties’ candidate during the gubernatorial election campaign. In your view, what were the causes of the defeat of the ruling parties’ candidate?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The LDP’s Election Strategy Committee will be studying the results of the election. I would like to leave the analysis up to the Committee.

REPORTER: I would like to change the subject. At President Park Geun-hye of the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) New Year’s press conference yesterday, the President underscored the importance of settling the “comfort women” issue while the former comfort women are still live, and then stated that a shift or change in Japan’s stance was important for the realization of a Japan-ROK summit meeting. It can be construed that the President attached a condition to the realization of the summit meeting. Can you please share your comments?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government’s basic position on the comfort women issue is as I have explained all along – that it should not be turned into a political or diplomatic issue. Japan will persistently explain this view to the ROK. There are numerous issues between Japan and the ROK that must be resolved in a broad and future-oriented manner in order to achieve peace and prosperity in the region. In this sense, I think that these issues need to be dealt with from a broad perspective, and there should not be requirements attached for leaders of neighboring countries to meet.

REPORTER: I have a related question. To confirm, does the Government consider President Park Geun-hye’s remark as a precondition?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The President made these comments. However, the Japanese Government has consistently stressed that the comfort women issue should not be turned into a diplomatic or political issue, and that preconditions should not be attached. In this regard, our stance has not changed at all. 

REPORTER: I would like to change the topic. The Japanese and Chinese Governments resumed consultations between their defense ministry directors in order to realize an early implementation of a maritime communication mechanism. The consultations were resumed for the first time in roughly two and a half years. What was discussed at the consultations? What was the significance of holding the consultations?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, based on the outcome of the Japan-China summit meeting, the Fourth Meeting of the Joint Working Group regarding the maritime communication mechanism between defense authorities was held in Tokyo on January 12. I understand that during the meeting, the two sides engaged in a discussion and were able to share their common understanding on details and technical issues of the communication mechanism to be used by the defense authorities in sea areas and airspace, among other matters. I gather that the two sides agreed to start implementing the mechanism at an early date after making the necessary adjustments based on yesterday’s meeting. The Government welcomes the fact that the meeting constituted a major step in encouraging the early implementation of the mechanism. The Government will continue to urge the holding of dialogues at various levels to deepen Japan-China relations, including the starting of the operation of this mechanism. In this way, the Government hopes to increase trust and mutual understanding between Japan and China.

REPORTER: Changing the subject, the Government has announced that the real economic growth rate in FY2014 was 0.5% lower than the previous fiscal year. Stagnant personal consumption is among the causes which have been pointed out. I imagine that the consumption tax increase also affected the growth rate. Can you please share your comments as well as your analysis?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: During the first half of the fiscal year in particular, there were marked developments, such as the recoil following the surge in demand ahead of the consumption tax increase and the recoil reduction in housing investments. However, during the second half of the fiscal year, we perceive that the economy was on a moderate recovery trend, with the improvement of the employment and income environment, coupled with the effects of various policies, including economic measures and government-labor-management meetings.

REPORTER: I have a related question. The Government aims to achieve 3% nominal GDP growth and 2% real GDP growth as five-year averages from FY2013. Can you once again explain what efforts you think are necessary to achieve these targets?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In rapid succession, we have loosed the three arrows of Abenomics. And now, we will be asking the Diet to pass the supplementary budget to be able to take measures for those who are affected by the consumption tax increase, measures for businesses which are severely affected by the weak yen, as well as economic measures to stimulate local economies. We deem that the swift implementation of these measures will enable the economy to smoothly recover.

REPORTER: This also goes for terrorism of course, but in Europe and the United States, cyber terrorist attacks have been occurring frequently. On the 12th, U.S. President Obama unveiled his plans for strengthening Internet safety measures. What is your opinion on further strengthening measures against cyber terrorism in Japan?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We recognize that the threat of cyber-attacks, not only against other countries but also against Japan, is increasing year by year. Under these circumstances, it is critically important that we further strengthen our cyber security measures. In particular, as Japan will be hosting the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2020, we are fully committed to strengthening our countermeasures in the lead up to the Games. In this regard, on the 9th, we established the National Headquarters of Incident Readiness and Strategy for Cybersecurity and launched the National Center of Incident Readiness and Strategy for Cybersecurity (NISC) under the Cabinet Secretariat. We have therefore been working to enhance the powers and arrangements for conducting surveillance and investigating the causes of cyber-attacks when they happen. In any case, we are committed to strengthening our cyber security measures with a focus on the vital infrastructures of government agencies.  

REPORTER: I would like to change the subject. I have a question regarding the termination of operations of Futenma Air Station within five years. This past weekend, on Sunday, you stated on a television program that the Government would terminate operations within five years if it has the Governor’s cooperation. Were you referring to Governor Onaga’s cooperation with the relocation of Futenma Air Station to Henoko?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: It is of paramount importance that the entire nation shares the burden of the U.S. bases, which are concentrated in Okinawa. We cannot make real progress in alleviating the burden of the bases without the cooperation of municipalities throughout Japan, including Okinawa. Therefore, the Government will proceed with this work while asking for the cooperation of and in coordination with the relevant municipalities.

REPORTER: A related question. In that case, when you said “Governor” on the television program, were you referring not to Governor Onaga but to all governors in Japan?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I was referring to all governors in Japan, including Governor Onaga. Naturally, the burden of the bases cannot be alleviated without the cooperation of each region in Japan.

REPORTER: I have a question concerning this matter. You said that you were referring to governors including Governor Onaga. Then what cooperation do you seek from Governor Onaga? Is it indeed understanding and cooperation with the relocation to Henoko?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Japan and the United States decided on the Henoko relocation 19 years ago. Okinawa Prefecture and the Government share a common view that we must alleviate the dangers posed by Futenma Air Station and must not allow it to remain indefinitely at its current location. In this sense, in view of maintaining deterrence and alleviating danger, the relocation to Henoko is the only viable solution. The Government has stated this all along. The Government hopes to receive permission, and thereby, steadily proceed with the relocation, so that this leads to the termination of operations of Futenma within five years.

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