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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

January 5, 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]

Q&As

REPORTER: From tomorrow Osprey transport aircraft will resume aerial refueling exercises that have been halted since the accident last month when an Osprey aircraft based at Futenma Air Station made a crash landing. Can I ask for the views of the Government on this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: On December 19, when flights by Osprey transport aircraft were resumed by U.S. Forces, with the exception of aerial refueling exercises, the Government lodged a request to the U.S. side to provide information on the measures it had taken to prevent a reoccurrence of such an accident prior to the resumption of aerial refueling exercises. Since then intensive consultations on the causes of the accident and countermeasures to prevent a similar accident have continued with the U.S. side. The U.S. authorities are still in the process of investigating the recent accident. At the current point in time the investigation has found that the cause of the accident was the refueling hose coming into contact with the propeller blade of the Osprey aircraft during an aerial refueling exercise. In addition, regarding the accident prevention countermeasures taken by the U.S., based on analysis that referenced the specialized knowledge of the Ministry of Defense and the Self-Defense Forces, we consider that wide-ranging measures have been taken that are deemed to be effective in preventing a reoccurrence. Furthermore, it has been confirmed that in the future U.S. Forces will only implement aerial refueling exercises over water, away from land, and will not implement such exercises over residential areas. I have received a report indicating that after taking all these matters into comprehensive consideration it is understandable that Osprey aerial refueling exercises will resume from tomorrow.

REPORTER: I have a question about Japan-U.S. relations. There are press reports suggesting that President-elect Trump of the United States has decided to appoint Mr. William Hagerty, a key member of his transition team, as the next U.S. ambassador to Japan. Could you tell us what information the Government currently has about this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Naturally I am aware of the reports about this matter, but as yet there has been no announcement from President-elect Trump concerning the next United States ambassador to Japan. Therefore I would like to refrain from making any comment at this point.

REPORTER: In general terms it can be expected that the ambassador will play a very important role in building close relations with the administration of President-elect Trump. What kind of person does the Government of Japan hope will be appointed?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Current Ambassador Kennedy has worked extremely hard to fulfil her duties as ambassador and has played a pivotal role in the friendly relations between Japan and the United States. However, as yet there has not been any announcement in the United States about who the next ambassador will be, and therefore I would like to refrain from making any further comment. What I would say is that it would be natural to expect that a person will be appointed who is capable of further developing the friendly relations shared by Japan and the United States.

REPORTER: I have a related question. Although no announcement has yet been made, it seems that Mr. Hagerty has experience working in Tokyo. What analysis has the Government engaged in with regard to Mr. Hagerty’s appointment and what are the expectations with regard to his capabilities?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: No consideration has yet been given to such matters. In any event, I would like to refrain from making any comment until an official announcement is made.

REPORTER: I have a question concerning the installation of a statue to the comfort women in the city of Busan in the Republic of Korea (ROK). The Government of the ROK has indicated that it will leave the decision to the local government. What response will the Government of Japan be making with regard to this issue?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, in the agreement reached between Japan and the ROK in 2015 the two countries confirmed that the comfort women issue is resolved finally and irreversibly. Looked at from such a perspective the recent installation of a statue of the comfort women is extremely regrettable. Not only will this matter have an adverse impact on Japan-ROK relations, it also infringes the dignity of the consular establishment as stipulated in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. When viewed from the point of view of the Vienna Convention, it therefore constitutes an extremely significant issue. The Government will continue to strongly request the Government of the ROK and the local government to promptly remove the statue. In any event, it is of the utmost importance that Japan and the ROK implement the details of the agreement reached in 2015 with responsibility and the Government will strongly call on the ROK to steadily implement the content of the agreement, including matters relating to this comfort women statue.

REPORTER: I have a related question. The Government of the ROK seems to be disinclined to make any moves to resolve this situation, so is there a possibility that the Government of Japan will make any kind of response in order to strengthen its calls on the Government of the ROK to take action?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have already noted the installation of the statue in question is something that the Government can absolutely not accept and we will be making strong protests to the ROK side at various levels. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the ROK has already issued a statement that there is no change to the Government of the ROK’s stance regarding the implementation of the agreement between Japan and the ROK. Therefore, based on this announcement the Government will continue to strongly request that the Government of the ROK responds to this matter.

REPORTER: I have a question on a different topic, concerning the so-called crime of conspiracy. Some press reports have suggested that the Government is considering submitting to the upcoming regular session of the Diet a bill to amend the Act on Punishment of Organized Crime to include the crime of making preparations to commit acts of organized crime, including terrorism. Could you tell us the facts behind these reports and the current status of considerations?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, the Government is not considering submitting a bill concerning the crime of conspiracy. What the Government is considering is legislation concerning counterterrorism measures. In particular, the Government views that it is critically important for Japan to sign the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and combat organized crime, including terrorism, in coordination with the international community. We need to move forward in developing legislation for the signing of this convention. In view of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games that will be held in three years’ time, it is important to develop a comprehensive legislative structure that will be capable of preventing organized crime, including acts of terrorism, from occurring. So far, 187 countries and regions have signed the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, leaving only 11 United Nations member countries that have not signed, of which Japan is the only country among the G7 countries that has not signed the convention. The Government is currently engaged in careful consideration of the issues, taking into account the opinions that have been expressed in Diet deliberations to date on what needs to be done in order for Japan to sign the convention.

(Abridged)

REPORTER: The Ministry of National Defense of the ROK has announced that it is bringing forward by two years a plan to create a special unit that would attack the North Korean leadership in the event of a contingency on the Korean Peninsula. The ROK has also stated that the conclusion of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Japan is a significant outcome, so is it possible that in the future Japan could cooperate in some form with the operations of this planned special unit?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, although I am aware of the announcement made by the ROK, I would like to refrain from making any comment about the alignment of military forces in another country. There are no specific plans of any kind for Japan to participate with such a unit. However, security-related cooperation with the ROK is of the utmost importance and the Government will continue to actively promote bilateral defense cooperation.

(Abridged)

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