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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

March 4, 2016 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga


Prime Minister Abe just conducted an ad-hoc press conference on this topic. The Government and Okinawa Prefecture reached a settlement that includes withdrawal of various lawsuits and focuses on one lawsuit regarding the suitability of the termination of approval by Mr. Takeshi Onaga, Governor of Okinawa Prefecture, an agreement to mutually abide by the decision once determined, and a commitment to cooperate and respond sincerely to the situation. Two documents have been distributed to you. The first is the settlement recommendation issued to the Government and Okinawa Prefecture by the Naha Branch of the Fukuoka High Court on January 29, and the second covers settlement terms agreed up to today. As you can see in the recommendation document, the Court strongly requested consideration of the settlement proposal it presented because the conflict structure of “Okinawa Prefecture vs. the Government” suggested risk of a prolonged legal battle over approvals to design changes, even if the Government prevailed in the substitute execution lawsuit, and it is also unlikely that Okinawa Prefecture could achieve a return of the Futenma Air Station by independently negotiating with the United States. The Government thinks that a transfer to Henoko is the only solution for maintaining the deterrence capability of the Japan-United States alliance, amid an increasingly difficult national security environment for Japan, and removing the dangerous conditions of the Futenma site. However, it also realizes that a prolonged lawsuit battle between the Government and Okinawa Prefecture, as is happening now, would result in continuation of the stalemate and perpetuation of Okinawa’s current conditions, including operation of Futenma Air Station located in the middle of a residential area and surrounded by schools and homes, for many years. This situation is not a positive outcome for either the Government or Okinawa Prefecture. Prime Minister Abe therefore exercised leadership by holding a meeting of related Ministers and decided to accept a settlement with Okinawa Prefecture. In accordance with the settlement content, the Government will suspend land reclamation work and begin negotiations with Okinawa Prefecture aimed at achieving an amiable solution based on procedures outlined by the Court. Additionally, the settlement results in the consolidation of ongoing lawsuits between the Government and Okinawa Prefecture into a single case, and both the Government and Okinawa Prefecture agreed to mutually cooperate and act in a sincere manner based on the Court’s decision. This is the content.


REPORTER: I have a question about the reason why the Government accepted the settlement proposal this time. Prime Minister Abe stated that the transfer to Henoko is the only solution, and Governor Onaga expressed strong disappointment with this view. If the transfer to Henoko constitutes the only solution, is the motive for acceptance of the settlement proposal simply finding a way to move forward with the transfer in a more amiable and smooth manner?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government thinks it is best to avoid this type of back-and-forth lawsuit battle. In any case, both sides have agreed to deal with the situation based on the settlement proposal presented by the Court as I explained. That is what the agreement involves.

REPORTER: This is a related question. Prime Minister Abe also just commented in his ad-hoc contact with the media that the Government plans to conduct negotiations with Okinawa Prefecture with the aim of reaching an amicable solution. However, you personally participated in negotiations for a month last summer and ultimately did not reach an agreement due to a fundamental difference in the starting point. What are your thoughts on the possibility of finding a solution this time? 

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Both sides have time because of the suspension of construction work, and the Government hopes to hold various meetings during this period.


REPORTER: Regarding the transfer to Henoko, the agreement with the United States calls for completion of the transfer during FY2020. Doesn’t the suspension of construction activity impact the schedule?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: It would be disingenuous to say that there would be no impact. At any rate, the Government agreed to the proposal at a lunch meeting of related Ministers, including Prime Minister Abe, and Okinawa Prefecture has also agreed. Both sides therefore have a responsibility to implement the content of the agreement. Regarding the construction work and questions about specific timing and schedules at this point, I would like to refrain from making any comments about what might happen at a certain timing because work has been halted and we will be discussing the situation. However, nothing has changed in the Government’s determination to put its utmost efforts into securing the return of Futenma Air Station as soon as possible.


REPORTER: I would like to ask about the issue of transferring the Consumer Affairs Agency to Tokushima. The experts’ group held a final meeting yesterday, but only presented basic principles. While it specified that transfer scope should not extend to emergency management operations and National Diet response operations, I believe the Consumer Affairs Agency under review for a transfer clearly has these functions and fits under this category. What is your view?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Mr. Taro Kono, the Minister in charge of Administrative Reform, is currently working on this, and I expect a review of various scenarios, which takes into account core principles related to transfers of central ministries and agencies to regional locations, and then decisions if the review does not find major hurdles. I think it is important to assess potential scenarios.


REPORTER: I have a question about the situation in North Korea. Kim Jong-un, the First Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea, issued a threat following the United Nations Security Council’s adoption of the sanctions resolution by ordering his troops to have nuclear warheads ready for launch anytime through the Party’s newspaper. What is your view of this response, including whether North Korea has the ability to deploy nuclear weapons for actual use? 

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Japan absolutely cannot accept the development of nuclear weapons and missiles by North Korea. The Government retains its commitment to protect the lives and peaceful existence of the Japanese people while continuing to work closely with the United States and the Republic of Korea.


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