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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

February 18, 2016 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


REPORTER: Some media reports are saying that USJ, which operates Universal Studios Japan, is reviewing a withdrawal of the plan for building a new theme park in Okinawa Prefecture’s Motobu-cho. The reports assert that Comcast, a major US cable TV operator that acquired USJ last fall, has voiced its concern about the profitability. Is the Government aware of the related facts?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Yes, I have seen the media reports. My understanding is that USJ and Okinawa Prefecture are discussing the possible initiative by USJ in Okinawa, but I have not heard that USJ is considering a withdrawal of the plan.

REPORTER: This is related. You previously visited the candidate site and had voiced your expectation for the project as a key initiative for the promotion of Okinawa. Do you intend to continue harboring hopes for the proposed initiative?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I felt that USJ’s Okinawa initiative would contribute significantly to the promotion of Okinawa through tourism. This is why the Government is ready to give its full support. There is no change to our existing stance.

REPORTER: This is related. Do you or someone else from the Government have any plans to meet with the USJ side in light of these media reports?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Not at this point. At any rate, The USJ side had been looking at an initiative, and the Government expressed its willingness to support the effort, while cooperating with Okinawa Prefecture, on the basis that it would be beneficial for the promotion of Okinawa. This is where it stands, and the Government has not heard anything from USJ. Separately, tourism has been growing very rapidly in Okinawa recently. Travelers have risen by about 2 million people under our administration, and foreign visitors increased four-fold to 1.5 million people. Tourism-related revenue climbed by over 100 billion yen. The ratio of job offers to job seekers in Okinawa was 0.42 prior to the change in administration, but is now up to 0.92, driven by tourism. This is much higher than in the past, and the Government believes that it has already achieved a major result for the promotion of Okinawa thus far. The fiscal 2016 budget allocates 335 billion yen for Okinawa promotion costs, and the budget for Naha Airport is 33 billion yen as promised. I expect the Government to continue its firm support for the promotion of Okinawa with an emphasis on tourism promotion, particularly in the context of the allocation of airport funds and steady progress in the construction work toward the start of operation by the end of fiscal 2019.

REPORTER: This is related. I think withdrawal of the above-mentioned initiative would obviously affect the efforts to promote Okinawa implemented by the Government. Does the Government intend to ask that it not be pulled?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government has already explained its willingness to support the initiative as much as possible thus far to Okinawa Prefecture and the counterpart (USJ). However, this is ultimately a private-sector decision. In any case, as I just mentioned, tourist volume has risen by 2 million people up to now in the three years under our administration. Foreign tourists have increased fourfold. I think this is the current reality.


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