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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

March 2, 2015 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


REPORTER: This morning, two ballistic missiles were launched from North Korea towards the Sea of Japan. Can you please tell us how the Government has responded since the Prime Minister issued instructions?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, it appears that from around 6:30 a.m. today, two ballistic missiles were launched from North Korea’s west coast towards the Sea of Japan. As of now, no damages have been reported from aircraft and vessels. With regard to the Government’s responses, following the Ministry of Defense’s first report to the Cabinet Secretariat at around 6:40 a.m., the Information Liaison Office for the Situation in North Korea, established within the Crisis Management Center of the Prime Minister’s Office, has been collecting information. Also, a meeting among the directors-general of relevant ministries and agencies to discuss the Government’s responses was held under the leadership of the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary for Crisis Management and the Secretary General of the National Security Secretariat. At around 6:45 a.m., the Prime Minister was immediately briefed through an Executive Secretary to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister gave instructions for three items: information gathering and analysis with a sense of urgency conducted while working with relevant countries, including the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK); the performance of thorough safety checks of aircraft, vessels, and other vehicles; and the swift provision of accurate information to the public. The latest ballistic missile launches by North Korea are very problematic acts from the point of view of ensuring the safety of aircraft and vessels. In addition, they are in violation of the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, the Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks, and related United Nations Security Council resolutions. Japan immediately lodged a strong protest to North Korea. The Government will continue to work with the United States and the ROK in urging North Korea to exercise self-restraint. In addition, the Government will take all necessary measures to be able to respond to contingencies with a sense of urgency, including surveillance and reconnaissance.              


REPORTER: I would like to change the subject to Japan-ROK relations. At yesterday’s ceremony in commemoration of the [March First] Independence Movement, President Park of the ROK stated with regard to Japan-ROK relations that “the two nations have regretfully failed to narrow the distance in their hearts because of the conflicts over the past.” How does the Japanese Government intend to improve the bilateral relationship?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I am aware that the ROK President delivered such an address. The Japanese Government has consistently upheld the view that notwithstanding the difficult issues that exist between Japan and the ROK, it is critically important to maintain communication between the two countries for peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region. Japan wishes to forge a multilayered and future-oriented Japan-ROK relationship from a broader perspective through practical cooperation in wide-ranging areas and by building up dialogues and exchanges at a variety of levels. Japan has always attached importance to dialogues at the high political levels, including between the leaders of the two countries, precisely because of the individual issues. Japan will make an array of efforts to have our views understood.

REPORTER: A related question. In the same speech, President Park stated that there is little time left to settle the comfort women issue and once again urged Japan to resolve this issue. The Japanese Government has long upheld the stance that this issue has been settled. Do you believe the two countries will be able to bridge their disconnect over this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Japan’s position has been explained repeatedly and has also been communicated to the ROK a number of times. We will engage in diplomatic efforts to have Japan’s position fully understood.

REPORTER: I would like to return to the missile issue. North Korea is behind schedule on submitting its first report on the reinvestigation of the abductions of Japanese nationals. Do you perceive that the latest launches will not have any impact on the Japan-North Korea consultations?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I stated moments ago, the Government deems the latest missile launches to be very problematic from the point of view of ensuring the safety of aircraft and vessels. We lodged a strong protest in coordination with relevant countries. In addition, the missile launches are in violation of the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, the Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks, and related U.N. Security Council resolutions. Thus, we will firmly lodge strong protests. The abduction issue is a top priority for Japan. Therefore, with regard to this issue, we will steadily urge North Korea through existing channels to report its investigation results at the earliest possible date.

REPORTER: Does that mean you foresee no impacts?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In any case, leaving aside whether or not there will be impacts, we have stated that we will work to achieve a comprehensive resolution of the abduction, nuclear, and missile issues. Missile launches are extremely dangerous acts. In this regard, it is natural that we should lodge a strong protest.

REPORTER: I have a related question. Yesterday, the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea and the National Association for the Rescue of Japanese Kidnapped by North Korea held a meeting. They expressed their intention to urge the Japanese Government to re-impose sanctions if North Korea fails to submit its first report by the end of March. What is your view regarding this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In a sense, it is understandable that such opinions would arise in view of how the families of the abductees are feeling. However, given the kind of country our counterpart is, the Government is steadily engaging in diplomatic negotiations as part of a policy of dialogue and pressure and action for action. We will fully urge North Korea to keep its previous pledge and report to Japan at the earliest possible date.     

REPORTER: I have a question regarding a high-speed railway construction project in India. Japan’s Shinkansen is thought to be one of the leading prospects. What is the current status of the arrangements? Also, can you please once again share with us your expectations? 

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Last September, a joint statement was issued at the Japan-India summit meeting. The joint statement states to the effect that Japan is ready to provide financial, technical, and operational support to India to introduce the Shinkansen system. On this basis, Japan and India are currently conducting a joint study regarding a high-speed railway network between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, with a view to compiling a final report by July of this year. We expect that based on this report, further talks will be conducted between Japan and India. Therefore, nothing has been decided at this point in time. This is how the process will proceed until July.

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