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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

January 6, 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)

In the agreement reached between Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) in 2015 the two countries confirmed that the comfort women issue is resolved finally and irreversibly. Notwithstanding this agreement, the fact that on December 30 last year a civic group installed a statue to the comfort women facing the Japanese Consulate-General in Busan will not only have an adverse impact on Japan-ROK relations, but also infringes the dignity of the consular establishment as stipulated in the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. As such, when viewed from the perspective of the Vienna Convention, this is extremely regrettable. In terms of an interim response to this matter, the Government has decided to take the following measures: the Japanese Consulate in Busan will temporarily halt the participation of consular staff in events organized by the city of Busan; Mr. Yasumasa Nagamine, Ambassador of Japan to the ROK, and Mr. Yasuhiro Morimoto, Consul-General of Japan in Busan will be temporarily recalled; consultations on currency swap arrangements between Japan and the ROK will be halted; and Japan-ROK high-level economic dialogue will be postponed. In the early hours of this morning, Japan time, Mr. Shinsuke Sugiyama, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, contacted Mr. Lim Sung-nam, 1st Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the ROK, from Washington and lodged a strong protest about the installation of the statue, requesting its prompt removal. The Government will continue to strongly urge the Government of the ROK and local governments concerned 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. The Government will continue to strongly call on the ROK to steadily implement the content of the agreement, including the issue of comfort women statues.

Q&As

REPORTER: The measures you have just announced against the ROK are very strong. Could you tell us the primary reason why such measures were deemed to be necessary?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have just noted, this matter is extremely problematic when thinking in terms of the agreement reached between Japan and the ROK in 2015. It is similarly extremely problematic in view of the stipulations of the Vienna Convention. Given the importance of both countries making responsible efforts to fulfil the terms of the agreement the Government finds the recent development regrettable and it is against that backdrop that a decision has been made to implement the four measures I have noted.

REPORTER: If that is the case and in view of the fact that the Government has already called on the Government of the ROK and local governments concerned to promptly remove the statue, did the Government decide that the ROK would be unlikely to take action if the request involved only negotiations?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government considers the current situation to be extremely regrettable and this regret has been demonstrated in the form of the four measures I have outlined.

REPORTER: You stated that these were interim measures, so will they remain in place until the statue is actually removed?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government will decide its response by taking the situation into comprehensive consideration.

REPORTER: I have a related question. You have constantly underlined the importance of the terms of the Japan-ROK agreement being implemented in good faith, including the removal of the statue in front of the embassy in Seoul, and have watched the actions taken by the Government of the ROK. Was the Government’s move to take these specific measures based on a sense of dissatisfaction with the response made by the Government of the ROK to date?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There is no change to the Government of Japan’s stance of steadily implementing the agreement. We will continue to call on the Government of the ROK to steadily implement the agreement, including the issue of statues.

REPORTER: The Government of the ROK would seem to be disinclined to move to resolve this issue, so does the Government believe that by taking a strong stance the Government of the ROK will alter its position and respond more positively?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In any event the Government has made its stance clear. Naturally we will continue to call for both sides to steadily implement the agreement.

REPORTER: What do you think will be the impact on Japan-ROK relations of taking such specific and strong measures?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Japan and the ROK are neighboring countries that are extremely important to each other. It is therefore extremely regrettable that such measures have had to be taken, but they were taken based on the strong desire for the two countries to mutually implement the promises that they have made.

REPORTER: Has Vice-Minister Sugiyama already communicated the details of these measures to 1st Vice Minister Lim of the ROK?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: What we have communicated to the ROK side is that the Government has repeatedly iterated its strong request to the ROK to make an appropriate response to resolve this matter. However, as any demonstrable improvement in the situation has yet to be seen the Government has decided to implement the measures I have already described.

(Abridged)

REPORTER: I have a question on a different topic, concerning President-elect Trump of the United States. On Twitter President-elect Trump has criticized Toyota Motor Corporation for its plans to build an automobile plant in Mexico, stating that this is not acceptable and unless the plant is built in the United States Toyota will face large border taxes. This is the first time for Mr. Trump to put pressure on Japanese companies, so can I ask for the view of the Government of Japan?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In any event, as Mr. Trump has yet to be inaugurated as President I would like to refrain from making any speculative comments. I believe that to date Toyota has striven to be a good corporate citizen in the United States.

REPORTER: I believe that such a statement by the president-elect is at odds with Japan’s stance, which emphasizes the importance of free trade. It is anticipated that responses such as this one will continue in the administration of President-elect Trump, so how does the Government intend to respond?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In any event the President will be inaugurated on January 20 and the Government will wait to see what policies the administration announces after the inauguration. In addition, Mr. Trump is himself a business person and has engaged in various business projects overseas, so I imagine that he is fully conversant with the realities of international business.

(Abridged)

REPORTER: I have a question on a different topic. Today was the first Cabinet meeting of the New Year. Did the Prime Minister share with the Cabinet his hopes for the New Year?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: At the start of the New Year the Prime Minister asked for the cooperation of all ministers in continuing to work as one towards the revitalization of the economy and further carving out the future for Japan.

REPORTER: In yesterday’s press conference you noted that final considerations are being made concerning the timing of the submission of 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. Yesterday Prime Minister Abe indicated to the board of the Liberal Democratic Party and the Liaison Meeting of the Government and Ruling Parties his intention to submit the bill at an early juncture. At the current point in time does the Government still have no intention of submitting the bill to the regular session of the Diet?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: To date various opinions have been expressed in the Diet with regard to the signing of the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. The Government is currently engaged in careful considerations about how to go about this matter, including revisions to bills that have been previously submitted. What the Government is currently considering is the so-called crime of making preparations to commit terrorism, which for the first time would criminalize the act of making preparations to commit terrorism. This is something that is separate from the previous crime of conspiracy. Furthermore, measures that include limiting what constitutes such a crime would make it impossible for ordinary members of the public to be charged under such legislation. We are now in the process of finalizing draft legislation that would make such matters clear. It is actually the case that 187 countries around the world have signed the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. What is more, acts of terrorism around the world have claimed Japanese casualties. In light of such matters, the fact that Japan is the only country among the G7 countries that has not signed the convention, and the holding of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games in three years’ time, it is necessary to develop a comprehensive legislative structure that will be capable of preventing organized crime, including acts of terrorism, from occurring. The Government therefore needs to move forward in developing legislation for the signing of this convention. We are currently in the final stages of compiling the draft bill.

(Abridged)

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