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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

February 24, 2017 (AM)

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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

I would like to give an overview of the Cabinet meeting. The meeting approved 21 general and other measures and personnel decisions. With regard to statements by ministers, the Minister for Foreign Affairs made statements concerning the provision of emergency grant aid to residents and displaced persons in Rakhine State, Republic of the Union of Myanmar , and emergency grant aid to Afghan refugee and host communities in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan .

At today’s Cabinet meeting, the Cabinet approved the invitation for an Official Visit to Japan by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud, King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , from March 12 to 15. During his stay in Japan, His Majesty the Emperor will invite the King to the Imperial Residence for a luncheon . Prime Minister Abe will hold a meeting with the King and host a dinner in his honor. Saudi Arabia is the country with the second largest oil reserves, produces the second largest amount of oil, and supplies the largest amount of oil to Japan. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1955 Japan and Saudi Arabia have built a friendly relationship. There is also a long history of exchange between the Imperial Family and the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia. This visit will be the first visit to Japan by the King of Saudi Arabia since 1971 and the Government hopes that this visit will further strengthen the bonds and cooperative relations between Japan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.



REPORTER: I have a question relating to the South China Sea. According to analysis by a think tank, China has constructed missile storage facilities on the artificial islands it has built in the South China Sea. Is the Government of Japan aware of such moves by China?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Although I would like to refrain from commenting on the contents of individual media reports, what I would say is that the South China Sea issue is directly linked to peace and stability in the region and is a matter of concern to the international community including Japan . The Government continues to monitor developments. Furthermore, Japan has consistently advocated compliance with the rule of law at sea and stressed the great importance for all parties to the issues over the South China Sea  to strive to resolve disputes by peaceful means. The Government continues to constantly gather and analyze information regarding developments in the South China Sea with the greatest concern. Given this stance and due to the nature of the issue, I would like to refrain from commenting on specific matters.


REPORTER: I have a question relating to Premium Friday (the practice of having shorter working hours on the last Friday of each month) , which is being implemented for the first time today. In ministerial discussions after the Cabinet meeting today, Minister Seko asked other ministers for their cooperation with Premium Friday. What effects does the Government hope this initiative will have?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Premium Friday is an initiative that is being implemented on the last Friday of each month to help people to spend time in a more fulfilling way than they would on a normal weekday. It is expected that it will help to change the deflationary tendencies in society. The initiative will be implemented nationwide with the public and private sectors working together, and today is the first Premium Friday. The Government hopes that this initiative will become standard practice and that in combination with other measures relating to work style reform it will enable people to realize work-life balance.

REPORTER: If that is the case, will the Government also be encouraging national public servants at ministries and agencies to leave work as early as possible on Premium Friday?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Cabinet Bureau of Personnel Affairs has issued a request for cooperation to all ministries and agencies, asking that guidance be given to national public servants and support structures developed that will enable personnel to leave their offices early, including such measures as taking annual leave. In ministerial discussions following the Cabinet meeting today the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry followed up his request of February 21 with another request for national public servants at ministries and agencies to be encouraged to leave work early, and also a request for cooperation from next month onward to industries related to the implementation of the initiative.

REPORTER: As today is the first-ever Premium Friday it can be expected that Government measures today will attract attention. Can I ask if the Prime Minister or you are planning any activities for Premium Friday?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I understand that the Prime Minister is planning to spend a fulfilling day today in accordance with the aim of Premium Friday, which is to reform lifestyles to enable people to enrich their lives and gain a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction that will lead to greater happiness. The Prime Minister is planning to attend a Zen meditation session, and visit an art gallery and a museum during evening opening hours. As for myself, alas I will have to attend the press conference at 4 p.m. this afternoon to respond to your questions, but once the press conference is over I would also like to enjoy Premium Friday.

REPORTER: I have a related question. I believe that there are issues with achieving the nationwide implementation of Premium Friday, which is still limited to a certain number of major corporations. In the Government’s view, what challenges lie ahead in order to ensure that this initiative becomes standard practice?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, in industrial and business circles, Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) is requesting its members to cooperate and enable their employees to participate in this initiative by utilizing annual paid leave or flex-time working schemes, so that they can leave their workplace by around 3 p.m. at the latest. The Government is also encouraging the use of annual paid leave among other measures. In addition, the Government believes that Premium Friday will provide an excellent opportunity for companies to put work style reform initiatives into operation, which is another policy that the Government is promoting. Premium Friday offers excellent commercial opportunities for the service industry and many companies recognize the merits of this initiative, so the Government hopes that the public and private sectors will work together to make Premium Friday standard practice. Although it may take some time to achieve, I believe that it is of the utmost importance for both the public and private sectors to work together to create a conducive environment.

REPORTER: I have a question concerning comments made by President Trump about nuclear weapons. In an interview with Reuters, President Trump voiced dissatisfaction that the United States has fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity  and expressed the desire to expand it in order to maintain the United States’ superiority as a nuclear weapons state. This position reverses the stated aim of President Obama to realize a world free of nuclear weapons. Can I ask for the Government’s views on these comments?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, both Japan and the United States are committed to utilizing various opportunities to strengthen Japan-U.S. security structures and both countries share the goal of realizing a world free of nuclear weapons. We plan to maintain close contact with the Government of the United States and work with the United States towards those goals. In addition, as the only country to have ever suffered atomic bombings in wartime, Japan will continue to make maximum efforts towards achieving a world free of nuclear weapons, working with nuclear and non-nuclear states to achieve steady progress.

REPORTER: I have a related question. There are concerns that even as momentum is building towards the first-ever formulation of a treaty that would legally ban nuclear weapons, the stance of President Trump could result in a step back from nuclear disarmament. Is Japan in a position to respond in an effective way to the United States with regard to this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Japan will continue to work to cooperate with the United States in strengthening Japan-U.S. security structures and at the same time we share the goal of realizing a world free of nuclear weapons. However, it is also a fact that there are very real and pressing threats that exist in the immediate vicinity of Japan.


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