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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

December 21, 2016 (PM)

If you can not view the video,click here(Japanese Government Internet TV)
Simultaneous interpretation services for this video are provided by a third party.

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The sixth meeting of the Inter-Ministerial Council for Nuclear Power was held at 1:30 PM today. At the meeting, the Council on Fast Reactor Development made decisions on the policy of fast reactor development, including the decommissioning of the Monju fast breeder reactor. The government’s policy was also decided regarding the handling of the Monju fast breeder reactor, including establishing Monju and the surrounding area as a center for national fast reactor research and development, nuclear power research, and human resource development.


REPORTER: I would like to ask a question related to the Monju reactor. While it’s said that the Monju reactor will be decommissioned, I think it was a symbolic facility of the nuclear fuel cycle, and the result of investing a large amount of government expenditure is that it will be decommissioned. What is the Government’s reaction to this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In regard to the decommissioning of the reactor, it was based on the large change in recent years of the state of affairs surrounding the environment for fast reactor development within Japan. As a result, Monju did not achieve its initially expected level of success, but we would like to take these points and the results of the verifications done thus far and leverage them in the government policy going forward. On the other hand, we believe that valuable experience and data were obtained in Japan’s practical development of fast reactors, and we were able to contribute to the formation of valuable human and intellectual assets that should be leveraged in the future. I understand these results were considered a valid assessment from the professional viewpoint of the meeting of experts. In any case, based on Japan’s energy situation, it is exceedingly important that we maintain our nuclear fuel cycle policy and continue with fast reactor development, and I believe the relevant ministries and agencies will continue to cooperate and appropriately respond based on the current decided policy.

REPORTER: I would like to change the topic and ask a question related to the Prime Minister’s visit to Pearl Harbor next week and the Japan-U.S. summit meeting. It has been answered that the Prime Minister’s upcoming visit to Pearl Harbor is not for the purpose of an apology, but rather to pay respects to the fallen. Could you please tell me the reason the upcoming visit was made with the goal of paying respects to the fallen, instead of an apology?


REPORTER: Paying respects to the fallen rather than apologizing. What was the purpose and the reason?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe the visit is for the purpose of paying respects to the fallen. It is as I have previously stated. It is to display our resolve toward the future to never again repeat the calamity of war, and an opportunity to show the significance of the reconciliation between Japan and the United States.

REPORTER: I have one final question. In regard to the Japan-U.S. summit meeting, I believe it will be the final summit meeting between the Prime Minister and President Obama. It’s acknowledged that the relationship between Japan and the U.S. has been further deepened in these past four years. First looking back to the start of the Abe administration four years prior, how do you view the Japan-U.S. relationship?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I think there is a world of difference between the start of the administration and now. This is clear in how robust the Japan-U.S. relationship has become. The current administration was inaugurated on December 26, and when I think of the various events that led to our first visit to the U.S. in February, I believe in these four years a far greater bilateral relationship has been developed and that our relationship has never been more robust. For example, last year marked the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, and Prime Minister Abe made a state visit to the United States and was the first prime minister of Japan to give a speech at a joint session of the United States Congress. Furthermore, we made a historic achievement with the revision of the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation, in May of this year President Obama made a historic visit to Hiroshima, and next week the Prime Minister will visit Hawaii and hold a summit meeting that will further sum up the last four years of Japan-U.S. cooperation built up with President Obama. At the same time, there is a plan to visit Pearl Harbor with President Obama to pay respects to the fallen at the USS Arizona Memorial. Both our countries share the universal values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law as a bond. Furthermore, as the regional security environment becomes more severe, the Japan-U.S. security arrangement, which is the center of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, will continue to play an even greater role as the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region.

REPORTER: I would like to ask about the return of the majority of the U.S. Military’s Northern Training Area. Tomorrow it is planned to be returned, but in regard to the Osprey accident and other factors, the public opinion of the citizens of Okinawa Prefecture is exceedingly harsh. Within the harsh atmosphere of Okinawa, what are your thoughts on greeting the return of the training area?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, the Government recognizes the assurance of safety as a major prerequisite in the flights of all U.S. military aircraft. Furthermore, the accident involving the Osprey, which caused a great deal of distress to the local people, is extremely regrettable. We explained the resumption of Osprey flight operations as thoroughly as possible to the people of Okinawa Prefecture. Going forward, in the event we receive information from the U.S. side, we will promptly share and explain it. On the other hand, in regard to the Northern Training Area, 20 years ago it was agreed between Japan and the U.S. that the majority of the area, 4,000 hectares of 7,500, would be returned. This is the land the local Kunigami Village and Higashi Village have been requesting for early return with the goal of utilizing it as a national park and registering it as a World Natural Heritage site. I myself have also visited the area twice, held conversations with the local people, and devoted all my strength to striving to realize such goals. Furthermore, once the area is returned, the area of U.S. military bases in Okinawa Prefecture will be reduced by 20%. That will greatly contribute to reducing the base burden on Okinawa, and so in a certain sense I think it is very meaningful.

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question related to the return. You just referenced it, but the return will be realized after the long period of 20 years after the agreement was made in 1996. What do you consider to be the biggest factor that led to the realization of the return?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As for the Government, I think it was the result of related ministries and agencies striving with the strong desire to respond even just one day earlier to the requests of all the local citizens.


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