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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

February 2, 2016 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening comments


The Administration decided to approve the signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement at today’s Cabinet Meeting. It appointed State Minister of Cabinet Office Shuichi Takatori as the Government’s representative to sign the TPP Agreement and dispatched him to New Zealand.

I have some comments on the meeting of relevant ministries and agencies regarding the Zika virus. Infections with the Zika virus continue to spread in Latin America, and the World Health Organization (WHO) declared on February 1 (local time) that the cluster of microcephaly and other afflictions constitutes a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” Following this declaration, the Government has created a “committee of related ministries and agencies on counter measures for the Zika virus” aimed at ensuring close cooperation among related ministries and agencies and promoting counter measures in a comprehensive manner. We plan to hold a meeting at 5:30pm today.

REPORTER: Please explain your reasons for selecting State Minister of Cabinet Office Shuichi Takatori as the person dispatched to the signing ceremony for the TPP Agreement.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Administration comprehensively assessed the situation in light of the updated National Diet schedule following the recent replacement and decided to assign State Minister of Cabinet Office Shuichi Takatori, who is the responsible State Minister and has been involved with the TPP negotiations. This is what we determined.

REPORTER: I would like to ask about an item decided at the Cabinet Meeting. The cabinet approved the presentation of a Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers to former Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew. Please explained the reason for this award.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Former Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew passed away at the age of 91 on March 23, 2015. He contributed significantly to strengthening relations and fostering friendship and goodwill between Japan and Singapore over his lengthy 25 years as the first Prime Minister of Singapore, and we granted the award for this reason.

REPORTER: I would like to ask about the Minamata Convention on Mercury. I believe the Administration approved the instrument of ratification at the Cabinet Meeting today. Could you review once again the meaning of this Convention that Japan has spearheaded and the Government’s view?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government approved the Minamata Convention on Mercury today and plans to transfer the approval document to the Secretary-General of the United Nations within the next few days. Sixty years have passed, as of this year, since the official confirmation of Minamata disease. Japan led negotiations on the Minamata Convention up to today by sharing important lessons learned from Minamata disease. The Government intends to continue providing robust assistance to ensure that various countries are capable of properly implementing the Minamata Convention. The Government also aims to steadily implement measures to deal with mercury in Japan based on the Law for Prevention of Mercury Pollution, the Revised Air Pollution Control Law, and other related laws passed last year. We plan to continue efforts to ensure that severe environmental pollution and health problems caused by mercury, similar to Minamata disease, are never repeated anywhere in the world.

REPORTER: This question is related to the Zika virus mentioned in your opening comments. Could you explain the current situation regarding counter measures in the context of whether there have been any cases of infection in Japan at this point, what actions the Government might take regarding travel to the regions where infections are spreading and any efforts to prevent the disease from entering Japan considering the declaration of a state of emergency?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government has already been warning travelers, particularly pregnant women, to refrain from traveling to areas where the virus is spreading up to now by cooperating with the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Because the possibility of the virus entering Japan cannot be ruled out, the Government is also providing alerts through posters and other means when people enter the country, and is conducting thermography to identify fevers and other checks. Additionally, we are requesting cooperation from prefectures and medical institutions for prompt provision of information on Zika virus tests and treatment as well as reports if suspicious cases are actually discovered. The Government intends to continue its efforts to steadily gather information while paying close attention to the content of discussions by the WHO. It also aims to promptly determine positioning of the infection and establish a solid framework for testing. In light of this situation, the Government plans to steadily take necessary action, including the committee of related ministries and agencies on counter measures and international cooperation.

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