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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

June 20, 2016 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


REPORTER: I have a question about the issue of the relocation of Futenma Air Station. Last weekend, the Central and Local Government Dispute Management Council reported its findings on the appropriateness of the instructions issued by the central government to the governor of Okinawa Prefecture to nullify the order revoking approval for land reclamation at the relocation site. However, in its findings the Council avoided making a judgment of the legality of the instructions issued by the central government. In response, Governor Onaga of Okinawa Prefecture has indicated that this matter should not be settled through court action and that for the interim, the prefectural government will not be bringing a lawsuit against the central government. Can I ask for the Government’s thoughts on this matter and the response that will be taken?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, it is my understanding that the decision by the Council, which is a third-party body, was a result of careful deliberation. The Council did not recognize the Government’s nullification instructions to have been illegal. Procedures based on the court-mediated settlement agreed mutually between the Government and Okinawa Prefecture are being advanced and I am aware that the provisions of the settlement also stipulate procedures in the event that the Central and Local Government Dispute Management Council issues a decision. In this case, given that the nullification instructions issued by the Government have been deemed valid, under the provisions of the settlement, if Okinawa Prefecture were to object to the conclusions reached by the Council, it should initiate legal proceedings within one week, seeking the revocation of the nullification instructions. In any event, the Government and Okinawa Prefecture will continue to respond in good faith in accordance with the provisions of the settlement.


REPORTER: Yesterday in Okinawa Prefecture a large-scale demonstration protesting the rape and murder of a woman in the prefecture by a man associated with the U.S. military. At the demonstration there were calls for the withdrawal of United States Marines from Okinawa and a fundamental revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement. Can I ask for the Government’s response to the demonstration?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly I would like to state that the Government considers the recent incident in which a young woman with her future ahead of her was brutally killed to be a selfish and despicable crime that is unpardonable. The Government seriously and gravely accepts the feelings of the people of Okinawa about this incident, which have been expressed in various ways. Consultations are currently taking place between Japan and the United States with regard to revisions to the handling of United States citizens who have a status under the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement, including personnel associated with the U.S. military. Both countries are seeking to expedite consultations with a view to swiftly formulating effective measures that will prevent any reoccurrence of such an incident. At the same time, in terms of measures that can be taken independently by the Government of Japan, an Okinawa Regional Safety Patrol Force has recently been established and has already begun patrols. From now the patrol structure will be gradually expanded from the initial 20 vehicles to a 100 vehicle capacity. The Government will make every effort to ensure that no such incident is ever repeated.


REPORTER: I have a related question. You have just mentioned that the Government is engaged in measures that it is able to implement itself, including the initiation of patrols and the installation of crime prevention lighting. However, at yesterday’s demonstration in Okinawa, there were rising calls from the people of the prefecture that this sort of response is not what is required, and that what should be implemented is not just a revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement with regard to persons associated with the U.S. military, but rather a fundamental restructuring of the agreement. What are your views on this point?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: What I would say is that in a situation in which the security environment surrounding Japan is increasingly of extreme severity, it is of the utmost importance to maintain deterrence through the Japan-U.S. alliance. At the same time, the governments of Japan and the United States have agreed that Futenma Air Station, which is said to present the most significant danger, must not be allowed to remain at its current location indefinitely, and that the dangers it presents must be eliminated. Therefore, with the approval of the local mayor and the prefectural governor, it was decided to relocate the air station to Henoko, for which permission was granted for land reclamation work. The Government is therefore seeking to move ahead gradually with plans for relocation, paying due consideration to local residents and the environment in the vicinity, and also move forward with plans to relocate approximately 9,000 marines outside the prefecture to Guam and other locations.

REPORTER: I have a related question. In an opinion poll conducted by Fuji News Network (FNN), more than half of respondents, or 51.1%, indicated their wish for Abenomics to continue. Can I ask for your thoughts on this poll result?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In any event, what is most important in economic policy is to ensure employment. At the very least, it is a fact that over the course of three and a half years, approximately 1.1 million jobs have been created. While there are varying opinions on economic policies, the Government will continue to make every effort to exit deflation and achieve economic revitalization. It is to those ends that we are seeking to thoroughly implement structural reforms.

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