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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

January 10, 2017 (AM)

If you can not view the video,click here(Japanese Government Internet TV)
This video's audio is a provisional translation through live simultaneous interpretation.

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga

(Abridged)

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Weather and other circumstances permitting, Prime Minister Abe is scheduled to travel to Niigata Prefecture tomorrow (January 11), where he will survey the status of damage caused by the large-scale fire that occurred at the end of last year in Itoigawa City. In addition to visiting the area that was damaged in the fire, the Prime Minister is scheduled to exchange opinions with persons affected by the fire and local government officials.

Q&As

REPORTER: I have a question on Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) relations. Japan’s ambassador to the ROK and the Consul-General in Busan were recalled temporarily over the weekend and a short while ago they visited the Prime Minister’s Office. What kind of discussions took place concerning the future response to the current situation?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First, a short while ago I received a report from Mr. Yasumasa Nagamine, Ambassador of Japan to the ROK, and Mr. Yasuhiro Morimoto, Consul-General of Japan in Busan, who have both been temporarily recalled to Japan. In connection with the new installation of a statue to the comfort women in Busan, they briefed me on the details leading up to the installation and the domestic situation in the ROK. I am aware that these two officials will also be making a report to Prime Minister Abe. I have received a report on the domestic situation in the ROK to date. In any case, the situation is still being discussed internally and therefore I would like to refrain from going into further detail.

REPORTER: You stated that they have been temporarily recalled. What is the envisaged timing for their return to the ROK?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I have only just met with the ambassador and the consul-general and as yet nothing has been decided concerning the timing of their return to the ROK. The Government will make a decision taking all matters into comprehensive consideration.

REPORTER: I have a related question. In response to the protest measures that have been implemented by the Government of Japan, some people, primarily members of opposition parties in the ROK, have called for the 1 billion yen that Japan contributed to the foundation to be returned to Japan and criticism of the agreement reached between Japan and the ROK is growing. What is the Government’s view of this situation?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First, the Government considers it to be of the utmost importance for both Japan and the ROK to continue to implement the terms of the agreement with responsibility. The Government of the ROK has announced that there is no change to its stance of steadily implementing the agreement and the Government will therefore continue to call on the Government of the ROK to steadily implement the agreement, including matters relating to comfort women statues.

REPORTER: A related question. You have stated that the Government will take all matters into comprehensive consideration when determining the timing of the return to the ROK of Japan’s ambassador and consul-general. Will the removal of the statue be a condition for the return of the ambassador?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, in the agreement reached in 2015, the Governments of Japan and the ROK confirmed that the comfort women issue is resolved finally and irreversibly. It is extremely regrettable that notwithstanding this agreement, a statue to the comfort women has been newly installed in front of the consulate-general, a diplomatic mission of Japan. The ambassador and consul-general have therefore been temporarily recalled as a means of expressing Japan’s protest at this latest development and also to engage in direct consultations in Japan with the ambassador and consul-general. It is of the utmost importance for the governments of both countries to continue to implement the agreement with responsibility and the Government of Japan will persistently take every opportunity to call on the Government of the ROK to implement its side of the agreement.

REPORTER: A related question. With regard to the situation on the Korean Peninsula, North Korea has been continuing provocative actions, including references to the launch of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). Will this have any impact on the length of absence from the ROK of the ambassador and consul-general?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government considers Japan-ROK relations to be of the utmost importance. We are of the understanding that the two countries share the same values. In particular, in view of the severity of the North Korean issue, it is essential for Japan, the United States and the ROK to engage in full cooperation in dealing with the situation.

REPORTER: With impeachment proceedings underway against President Park Geun-hye of the ROK, the political influence of the administration has significantly weakened and opposition parties in the ROK are stepping up their criticisms of Japan as was mentioned earlier. There is a view that it will be very difficult to get the situation under control. What are the Government’s intentions for finding a path that will lead to a breakthrough?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As the agreement reached is one between two countries, it is of the utmost importance for both countries to move to implement the agreement in good faith in accordance with the agreement. The Government of Japan will persistently use every opportunity to call on the Government of the ROK to implement its side of the agreement.

REPORTER: I have a question concerning the North Korea missile issue. As was noted moments ago, a spokesperson for North Korea’s foreign ministry has indicated the possibility that North Korea’s leadership could order the launch of an ICBM at any time and from anywhere and that it would press ahead with launches repeatedly. What is the Government’s analysis of the current situation and how is the Government responding?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, I am naturally aware of these repeated statements being made by North Korea. As always, the Government strives to collect and analyze information on nuclear and missile-related developments in North Korea with great interest. Protecting the safety and security of the people of Japan is the Government’s greatest responsibility and we will continue to make every effort to collect information and engage in surveillance and monitoring.

(Abridged)

REPORTER: I would like to change the subject to the number of foreign visitors to Japan. Last year the number of foreign visitors exceeded 24 million for the first time, an increase of more than 20 percent over the previous year. Given that the Government is aiming to make Japan a tourism-oriented nation, what is the Government’s view of this result and what are the factors behind the increase in visitor numbers?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, I have received a report that the number of foreign visitors to Japan in 2016 exceeded 24 million. I believe that Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ishii will be making an announcement with regard to specific figures, so I would like to refrain from going into detail. However, what I would say is that the Abe administration has undertaken bold policies in rapid succession, including strategically easing visa requirements and substantially expanding the consumption tax exemption system, identifying tourism as a trump card for vitalizing local economies and a pillar of the growth strategy of Japan. In that sense, I believe that these efforts have led to visitor numbers reaching their current level. In particular, despite the fact that there were concerns last year that the appreciation of the yen and the occurrence of natural disasters, among other factors, could adversely impact the increase in visitors to Japan, visitor numbers actually increased by more than 20 percent and that momentum is being maintained. During 2017 too, the Government will continue to implement various measures to ensure that the pace of increase remains strong, with a view to realizing the target of 40 million visitors annually by 2020.

REPORTER: In a press conference in Detroit, Mr. Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation, has formally announced that Toyota will invest US$10 billion in the United States over the next five years. This announcement appears to be in response to President-elect Trump’s call on auto manufacturers to invest and create employment in the United States. Can I ask for a comment on this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: All companies, including Toyota, have been making various announcements with the upcoming Trump administration in mind. However, as the new administration has yet to be inaugurated I would like to refrain from making any speculative comments. It is my understanding that Mr. Toyoda announced that Toyota has invested in the United States to date and that there will be no change to that policy.

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