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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

January 21, 2015 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


REPORTER: I have a question concerning the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant” (ISIL). There are press reports that one of the hostages, Mr. Goto, telephoned an acquaintance in Turkey to say that he had been betrayed by his Syrian guide and taken hostage by an armed group. What are the facts behind these reports?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We have no information about such a matter.

REPORTER: There was some discussion about making efforts to contact ISIL through a third country and other channels. Has any progress been made in this regard?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Efforts to that end are ongoing. The Government is making all efforts and using all means at its disposal, including through third countries and the heads of ethnic and religious groups.

REPORTER: Has the Government received any contact from ISIL, or any information about the safety of the two hostages?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There has been no contact, nor has there been any information about the safety of the hostages. However, as I stated this morning, to date, the Government has implemented humanitarian assistance, including assistance for refugees and displaced persons, and the recent assistance that was announced is also in non-military areas. By no means is the intent of Japan’s efforts to kill the Muslim people, as was alleged by the perpetrator of the threats. In light of this, the Government is currently engaged in efforts to leverage various means at its disposal to send this message to ISIL and call for the release of the Japanese nationals concerned.

REPORTER: I have a related question about plans from now on. The Prime Minister is scheduled to return to Japan shortly, so are preparations being made for a meeting of the Cabinet ministers concerned?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Prime Minister is scheduled to hold a meeting of the Cabinet ministers concerned soon after his return to Japan.

REPORTER: This is the first incident in which Japanese nationals have been taken hostage since the inauguration in January last year of the National Security Secretariat. Are we to understand that the National Security Secretariat is playing a central role in collecting information about this case?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As this is a matter pertaining to the protection of Japanese nationals, efforts are being led by the Cabinet Secretariat’s Situation Room and the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary for Crisis Management. Naturally, the National Security Secretariat is also cooperating, but efforts are currently being coordinated by the Cabinet Secretariat’s Situation Room.

REPORTER: I have a related question. This incident was triggered by the announcement of assistance in non-military fields, which you just mentioned. If, through the development of security-related legislation, it becomes possible for the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to be mobilized to engage in situations together with the military forces of other countries, it has been pointed out that the frequency of terrorist incidents targeting Japanese nationals may increase further. What is the Government’s view on this point?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I do not think that is the case. The assistance that Japan has implemented to date has been entirely for humanitarian purposes in non-military fields, and by no means is it the intent of Japan to kill Muslim people. Therefore linking this incident to the matter you mentioned is not applicable in this case.

REPORTER: The terrorist group responsible in this incident has set a deadline of 72 hours. Is it the Government’s recognition that the deadline in this case is 2:50 p.m. on January 23?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The existence of the video itself was confirmed at 2:50 p.m., so that is the timeframe we are working on, yes.


REPORTER: Returning to the issue of ISIL, the Local Response Headquarters is based in Amman, Jordan. Could you tell us about the scale of the headquarters there?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, with regard to Syria, in April 2011 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued an evacuation advisory, including a recommendation to defer all travel, for all areas of the country, which is the highest level travel advisory caution the ministry issues. This advisory remains in effect. Given the deterioration in the local security situation, the Embassy of Japan in Syria evacuated to Jordan in March 2012, where it continues to operate. Major countries have evacuated their embassy staff from Syria. Therefore, in addition to the existing staff of the embassy in Jordan, the staff from the embassy in Syria are also currently in Jordan. In light of this, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Nakayama is currently coordinating the response locally, with the support of the staff and security-related personnel of both embassies.

REPORTER: I understand the situation and also the reason why the Government has no officials stationed in Syria. Is there a possibility, however, that some staff will enter Syria temporarily for the purpose of establishing a base to gather information?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Given that the situation is extremely dangerous, and also in view of the fact that other major countries have evacuated their staff from Syria, the Government will be responding to the situation from its base in Jordan.

REPORTER: I have a question concerning Prime Minister Abe’s current visit to Middle East countries. In a speech made on this visit, the Prime Minister used a new key phrase, “the best way is in the middle.” What specific aims of the Government are intended by the use of this phrase “the best way is in the middle”?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Prime Minister set out his intentions in the speech he gave. He used the phrase “the best way is in the middle” in the course of emphasizing the importance of efforts that aim to stabilize people’s livelihoods over all else, by choosing not extremism but gradualism, and creating a peaceful, prosperous and stable region where all people in the Middle East region can co-exist in harmony. Throughout the postwar period, Japan has been following the path of a peace-loving nation, working to promote peace and stability in the international community, all the while respecting the positions of other countries. I believe that the Prime Minister used the phrase “the best way is in the middle” based on the Government’s current concept of using Japan’s experiences to date to contribute to global peace, under the banner of “Proactive Contribution to Peace Based on the Principle of International Cooperation.”

REPORTER: I have a related question. In contrast to European countries and the United States, Japan has contributed to peace in the Middle East through assistance in non-military fields. Will this unique role played by Japan change in the future?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There will be absolutely no change to Japan’s existing stance. As I just mentioned, the Prime Minister himself stated that throughout the 70 years of postwar history Japan has found that the “best way is in the middle.”

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