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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

May 18, 2016 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


REPORTER: During the party leaders’ debate a short while ago, President Katsuya Okada of the Democratic Party stated that a postponement of the consumption tax increase to 10% next April is inevitable, and called for postponing the tax increase until April 2019. The Prime Minister stated that he is open to hearing about it in the form of a proposal. Is this implying that this proposal is worth listening to? 

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, I perceive that the Prime Minister reiterated clear and careful explanations in response to questions during the party leaders’ debate a short while ago. As the Prime Minister responded, the consumption tax will be increased to 10% in April of next year as scheduled, as long as a serious situation does not occur of the magnitude of the global financial crisis or a major earthquake disaster. So the Government considers that if there is a serious situation, then the decision of whether or not to postpone the tax increase should be left to the political judgment at the time, based on the circumstances of the situation, taking into account expert analyses. If a serious situation does occur, then a new legislation would need to be submitted for discussion at the Diet based on the political judgment. The Government would make an appropriate judgment under such a constraint. I believe this explanation does not differ from the previous view.


REPORTER: I would like to change the subject. The number of foreign visitors to Japan in April was released. It was 2.08 million, registering a new monthly record. The January-March GDP figure released today also showed that consumption by foreign visitors to Japan remained high. You have continued to make proactive remarks regarding tourism measures. Can you once again share your outlook regarding the positive economic impacts of foreign visitors to Japan?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Notably, the number of foreign visitors to Japan in April of this year exceeded the two million mark for the second consecutive month, following on from March. It was 2.08 million people, increasing 18% from the previous year, setting a single-month record. In particular, single-month records were registered with respect to visitors from Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, India, and France. The number of visitors in the month of April from 19 countries excluding Russia was a record high. The policies Japan has actively implemented since the inauguration of the Abe administration in order to become a tourism-oriented nation, namely, the easing of visa procedures and the expansion of duty-free items, are bearing fruit. The number of foreign visitors to Japan between January and April totaled 7.835 million, increasing by 32.9% from the previous year. And a steady number continues to visit Japan. Particularly, April was a month in which the earthquakes in Kumamoto resulted in 700,000 cancellations in hotel and other accommodations in total. Despite this, the number of foreign visitors to Japan continued to be strong. It is significant that record highs were registered not only for visitors from neighboring countries but from 19 countries as I stated moments ago. In addition, it was announced that there were 35,002 duty-free shops in Japan as of April 1, 2016. The number of duty-free shops is increasing not only in the three major metropolitan areas but also in the regions. I believe more stores across the nation are beginning to recognize the advantages of becoming duty-free shops. In any case, the Government created the Tourism Vision so Japan could become a high-standard tourism-oriented nation and will steadily implement these measures. Furthermore, in order to minimize the impact of the recent Kumamoto earthquakes on the economies of local sightseeing areas, the Government will provide maximum support to promote tourism mainly in the affected areas and Kyushu as a whole by communicating accurate information to other countries.       

REPORTER: I would like to change the subject to the comments made by Assistant to the President Yury Ushakov of Russia yesterday. Presidential Assistant Ushakov stated that during the Japan-Russia summit meeting held in Sochi on the 6th of this month, the two leaders agreed that senior government officials of both countries would meet once every two months for negotiations to conclude a peace treaty. In addition, with regard to the timing of President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Japan, Presidential Assistant Ushakov stated that if he had to say, it would take place at the end of this year. Did such discussions actually take place during the recent summit meeting? 

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, I am aware that the Russian side made such statements. The Japanese side considers that negotiations need to be conducted frequently to make consistent progress with the peace treaty negotiations. At the recent Japan-Russia summit meeting, the two sides confirmed that preparations would be made for President Putin’s visit to Japan. Based on the discussions on this occasion, further preparations would be made to realize a substantive visit, and in this process, we will continue to explore when would be the most appropriate timing to realize the President’s visit to Japan. Nothing has been decided beyond this.

REPORTER: I have a question in connection with Japan-Russia relations. It is about the non-visa free visits to the Northern Territories. This fiscal year’s first group of visitors that departed Nemuro Port on the 16th could not enter the Habomai Islands and Suisho Island as planned. Russian news media reported that this was because Japan printed the Japanese names of the islands on documentation. Can you tell us what Japan knows and what responses the Government will be taking? 

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There is absolutely no truth to the reports. I have been informed that the free visit group that was scheduled to visit the Habomai Islands from the 16th suspended entry procedures without completing them due to poor weather there, and that it had to return once to Nemuro Port to ensure the safety of the group members. On the following day, the 17th, the group did not re-depart the port as the weather did not recover and it was deemed that it would be difficult to ensure the safety of the group members to navigate in high-wave conditions. The group conducted an ocean memorial service from the coast of Nemuro. This is what I have been informed.


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