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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

January 29, 2015 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


  • The hostage incident of Japanese nationals in Syria

REPORTER: At around 8:30 a.m. this morning, a new audio message by an individual identifying himself as Mr. Goto was posted on the Internet. No photos were included in this message. What is your judgment regarding its authenticity?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Relevant ministries and agencies are constantly monitoring the situation via the Internet and other means. It was in this context that this message was discovered before 8 a.m. today. While we are still confirming the authenticity, we perceive that the voice is likely Mr. Goto’s based on a comprehensive assessment of various information.

REPORTER: I have a related question. After this message was posted, has the Jordanian Government indicated to the Japanese Government any intentions regarding the release of the death-row inmate?


REPORTER: I have a related question. The 24-hour deadline is deemed to have passed. If the audio message that was confirmed this morning was likely by Mr. Goto, does the Government consider the latest audio message as grounds for believing that Mr. Goto is still alive?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have stated from before, the Government is making its strongest efforts to realize the quickest possible release of Mr. Goto on the basis that he is still alive. This remains completely unchanged.

REPORTER: I believe you were talking with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs prior to the opening of the Budget Committee meeting of the House of Representatives. What did the three of you confirm with regard to the steps that will be taken following the release of the new audio message?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Minister for Foreign Affairs as well as Foreign Ministry officials briefed the Prime Minister on the release of the new “statement.” I sat in on the briefing.

REPORTER: I have a question regarding this matter. Yesterday, the Jordanian Government released a statement saying that it would agree to the exchange between the Jordanian air force pilot and death-row inmate Sajida al-Rishawi. A short while ago, you said that the Jordanian Government has not explained its intentions to the Japanese Government. However, has the Jordanian Government contacted you about the hostage exchange?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: At any rate, this is an ongoing matter. The Japanese Government is making its strongest efforts to realize the release of Mr. Goto through all possible channels, including relevant countries, such as Jordan, and religious and tribal leaders. That is the situation.

REPORTER: Related to this, as was noted earlier, it is deemed that this “24-hour deadline” has passed. Could you once again tell us what the Government’s understanding of the current situation is?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have been stating, a new statement was released. Therefore, with the kind understanding of the Diet, I excused myself from today’s meeting of the Budget Committee to return to the Prime Minister’ Office to conduct analyses, and review and develop our responses with the Secretary General of the National Security Secretariat, the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary for Crisis Management, the Director of Cabinet Intelligence, and members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Police Agency. That is what I was doing until now. Since yesterday, various information and media reports have surfaced. And today, a new statement was released. From 12:30 p.m. today, a meeting of the Ministerial Council on the Warning of Japanese Nationals’ Murder in Syria will be held with the attendance of the Prime Minister. The Government is doing everything it can. This is the situation.

REPORTER: I would like to seek a point of clarification. You have been stating that the prevailing circumstances are severe. Is my understanding correct that this remains unchanged?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: It remains completely unchanged that the circumstances are severe. Within this context, the Government is making every effort and seeking every possible means to realize the release of Mr. Goto, requesting the cooperation of various parties through an array of channels. This is the stage we are at.

REPORTER: The new audio statement mentions “by sunset” and “at the Turkish border.” This gives the impression that the negotiations have made slight, tangible progress. Does the Japanese Government share this recognition?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: ISIL makes statements unilaterally in this way, and under these circumstances, the Government is doing everything possible to realize the release of Mr. Goto. That is the bottom line.

REPORTER: As was noted moments ago, the message that is purported to have been released by ISIL demands that the death-row inmate be brought to the Turkish border. For this to happen, the cooperation of the Turkish Government may become necessary in one way or another. I would like to confirm with you once again whether full cooperation could be obtained from the Turkish Government?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Ever since this incident involving two Japanese nationals began, the Prime Minister has requested the cooperation of various countries that could help, including Jordan of course, as well as Turkey, Egypt, Israel, and other neighboring countries. We have requested the cooperation of various parties, including the leaders of tribal and religious groups in these countries, and they are working with us sincerely. That is the situation.  

REPORTER: Turkey has stated thus far that it would exchange the female death-row inmate for the pilot. Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has stated that it would exchange Mr. Goto with…


REPORTER: I apologize, yes, Jordan. I believe their demands remain at odds with each other. Jordan released a statement saying it was ready to exchange the death-row inmate for the pilot. ISIL demands the exchange between Mr. Goto and the death-row inmate. Their demands remain at odds with each other. Does this disconnect still remain?  

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As this is an ongoing matter, the Japanese Government would like to refrain from making comments on such issues. In any case, we will steadily deal with the situation in close coordination with relevant countries, including Jordan.


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