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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

December 22, 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 Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


REPORTER: A fire has been burning for nearly five hours since it started in the central area of Itoigawa City in Niigata Prefecture. It seems the fire has spread to over 50 buildings and there have been injuries. Can you explain the Government’s grasp of the current situation, and what you expect from now?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY NOGAMI: At approximately 10:30 AM today, a fire broke out in a Chinese food restaurant in the area lined with shops, homes, and other buildings in front of Itoigawa Station in Omachi, Itoigawa City, Niigata Prefecture, and due to the strong winds the fire is currently expanding. The fire has expanded to approximately over 50 buildings, and two people with light injuries have been reported. An evacuation recommendation has been issued to 576 people in 273 households in the surrounding area. An Emergency Response Headquarters was set up in Niigata Prefecture and Itoigawa City at 1 PM, and support has been requested from the fire department headquarters in Toyama Prefecture in addition to Niigata Prefecture, and all efforts are currently devoted to extinguishing the fire. Furthermore, at 1:59 PM the Governor of Niigata Prefecture made a disaster relief request for firefighting activities to the Self-Defense Forces. The Government set up an information liaison office for the fire in Itoigawa City, Niigata Prefecture at 2:11 PM, and we are currently in the process of gathering information.

REPORTER: I would like to change the topic and ask a different question. Today the return ceremony for the Northern Training Area will be held, but the ceremony will be held with the Governor not attending, and there is also a protest today. I would like to hear the Government’s response to holding the ceremony in that context.

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY NOGAMI: Today, in an agreement between the governments of Japan and the U.S., the greater portion of the Northern Training Area, 4,000 hectares, will be returned. Kunigami Village and Higashi Village have been requesting the land’s early return with the goal of utilizing it as a national park and registering it as a World Natural Heritage site. The returned area covers the expanse of approximately 850 Tokyo Domes, and is the largest land return after the return of Okinawa itself. With this, the land area of U.S. military bases within Okinawa Prefecture will be reduced by approximately 20%, and it will contribute to reducing the base burden on Okinawa. After 20 years, I think that it is truly meaningful that the return has been realized only after the start of the Abe administration. The Government pays full consideration to the lives of all residents, and considers the assurance of safety a prerequisite in the flights of U.S. military aircraft. The Government will continue to fully respond to ensure safety and prevent noise in close cooperation with the U.S. military.


REPORTER: I have another new question. At the National Security Council this morning, there was a decision on operations related to U.S. ship protection. I believe this is a movement related to the national security legislation, but what is the purpose of becoming able to protect U.S. ships? I believe such operations will be carried out on the basis of a request from the U.S. side going forward, and under what circumstances do you currently expect these operations to be utilized?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY NOGAMI: The security environment surrounding Japan is growing ever more severe, and we are now in the situation where no single country alone can protect its own safety. Going forward, I believe it will be increasingly important for the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. military to cooperate in peacetime, and further increase the opportunities to carry out a variety of activities together. For example, when U.S. troops collaborating with the Self-Defense Forces are engaged in activities that contribute to the defense of Japan, if an infringement occurs that does not lead to an armed attack against the U.S. military, it is important for the safety of Japan that the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. military cooperate closely in response. In the unlikely event that there is a gap in the response, there is a risk that we will fail to prevent a threat from reaching Japan. Furthermore, the protection of U.S. military assets by the Self-Defense Forces is an important element of peacetime Japan-U.S. defense cooperation, and is one of the elements of peacetime cooperation measures in the new Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation. Article 95-2 of the Self-Defense Forces Act was newly established under this background, and the start of these operations will lead to a strengthening of the security posture maintained through the cooperation of the Self-Defense Forces and U.S. military, and the deterrence and response power of the Japan-U.S. Alliance will be further strengthened.


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