Skip to main content

Home >  News >  Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary >  February 2017 >  February 6, 2017 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

February 6, 2017 (PM)

If you can not view the video,click here
Simultaneous interpretation services for this video are provided by a third party.

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


REPORTER: I have a question concerning the construction work at Henoko relating to the relocation of Futenma Air Station in Okinawa. The relocation problem, which is referred to as a source of friction in the relationship between Japan and the United States, has been an ongoing issue for more than 20 years. What kind of impact does the government expect today’s commencement of offshore construction work will have on Japan’s relationship with the United States?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY: First of all, during the visit by U.S. Secretary of Defense Mattis to Japan, Japan and the U.S. agreed during his courtesy call to the Prime Minister and during other talks that the relocation of Futenma Air Station to Henoko is the only solution and that work on the Henoko relocation plan should be steadily implemented. I think it was particularly good that we were able to firmly reaffirm with the Defense Secretary the unwavering importance of the Japan-U.S Alliance. The Government would like to continue to work closely together with the new Trump administration to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance.

REPORTER: I have another related question. You have often mentioned that it is a policy of the Abe administration to take concrete steps to reduce the burden of the military bases on Okinawa in a visible manner, but some in Okinawa have pointed out that the relocation to another location within Okinawa Prefecture may not lead to a substantive reduction of that burden. I would like to ask you to explain once again the government’s thinking regarding why it believes relocation within the prefecture will lead to a reduction in the burden on Okinawa, since Futenma is said to be the most dangerous airfield in the world.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY: First of all, with regard to the background of this issue, during consideration of how to eliminate the risks involved with Futenma Air Station—which is referred to as the world’s most dangerous airfield—while maintaining deterrence power, a Japan-U.S. agreement was reached between former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Walter Mondale, following strong demands from local residents, to relocate the base within Okinawa Prefecture to Henoko. I believe it was 17 years ago that the current Mayor of nearby Nago City and the Governor of Okinawa Prefecture agreed with the relocation and a Cabinet decision was subsequently made to relocate the base to Henoko. Governor Onaga, who at the time was the secretary general of the prefectural chapter of the Liberal Democratic Party and a prefectural assembly member, made confident speeches as an LDP representative at the Okinawa Prefectural Assembly calling for the rapid relocation of the base within Okinawa, and I would like people to understand that there is this kind of background to this issue. We have been working on certain measures relating to the relocation since the launch of the Abe administration, including, for example, the transfer in August 2016 of Futenma’s aerial refueling function—one of Futenma’s three functions—to Iwakuni Air Station. This involved transferring all 15 of Futenma Air Station’s aerial refueling aircraft. A decision has also been made to transfer the emergency reception of aircraft from Futenma to bases in Tsuiki in Fukuoka Prefecture and Nyutabaru in Miyazaki Prefecture. With regard to Osprey operations, steady progress is also currently being made with work on transferring Osprey training functions out of Okinawa Prefecture. A decision was made the year before last, I believe, to transfer the Osprey repair and maintenance workshops to a Self Defense Force base in Kisarazu. Ever since the original decision was made to relocate the base to Henoko, there has been agreement with the notion of relocating the base within Okinawa Prefecture. And, as I mentioned just now, the Governor of Okinawa Prefecture and the mayor of nearby Nago City have agreed on this. That is because relocation to Henoko will result in a base that is only one-third of the size and Futenma Air Station will be returned to Okinawa.

In addition, based on demands from local residents, a v-shaped runway system is being constructed to allow takeoff and landing to be carried out offshore and flight routes to be positioned over the sea, and the number of residences requiring soundproofing will in fact drop from over 10,000 to zero. In addition, as I just mentioned, the steps that are currently being taken will make a substantial contribution to reduction of the burden of the military bases on Okinawa in terms of base utilization, noise reduction, and safety. In addition, together with the steady implementation of the relocation of Futenma Air Station to Henoko, a decision has been made to transfer 9,000 U.S. military personnel to Guam and other overseas locations. That is equivalent to one-third of the approximately 28,000 U.S. military personnel stationed in Okinawa. It is often said that there is no link between the relocation to Henoko and the transfer of U.S. military personnel to Guam and other overseas locations, but I have explained that they are linked. At the time of the Democratic Party administration when the situation surrounding the Henoko relocation was characterized by irresponsibility, the United States Congress made the decision to freeze the budget set aside for airbase construction work on Guam, the primary destination for the U.S. military transfer involving 9,000 personnel. With the coming into power of the Abe administration, the reclamation work in Henoko received approval, and as work got underway the budget freeze was lifted. These are the facts. The Abe administration is truly working with a strong determination to reduce in visible ways the burden of military bases on Okinawa. At the same time, although it is often said that locals are against the relocation work in Henoko, the heads of the three wards of Henoko have all clearly expressed their conditional approval. I would like everyone to understand that this is the situation.


REPORTER: I have a question regarding the Japan-U.S. relationship. My question relates to Japanese language education in the United States. Japanese language education, which has underpinned the grassroots alliance between Japan and the United States, has been in decline, and is now in a state of crisis. With the summit meeting scheduled for this weekend, does the government intend to take any steps to improve this situation?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY: First of all, speaking in general terms, for Japan, Japanese language education in the United States is a top priority matter that we have remained focused on. If you look at figures relating to Japanese language education in the United States and the number of Japanese language learners, in 2015 there were approximately 170,000 learners, which represents an increase of approximately 15,000 learners since 2013, and the number has in fact increased since the change of administration. The government is considering what is needed to further advance Japanese language education, and efforts such as the dispatch of teachers have produced results. As I mentioned, Japanese language education is an extremely high-priority area, so we will be working on the steady implementation of such measures going forward. We would also like to foster more widespread enthusiasm for Japanese language education in the United States.

REPORTER: I have a question regarding the statue of a girl that symbolizes a comfort woman in the Republic of Korea (ROK). Today marks one month since Mr. Yasumasa Nagamine, Japanese Ambassador to the ROK, was recalled. The situation surrounding the removal of the statue remains uncertain and the absence of the ambassador from his post is continuing. How does the Japanese government view this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY: As I myself have stated during a past press conference, the date for the ambassador’s return remains undecided and we would like to evaluate a variety of different factors in a comprehensive manner before coming to a decision. Be that as it may, we would like to take every opportunity to firmly and steadfastly request the conclusion of an agreement with the ROK on matters such as the comfort woman statue.

REPORTER: I have a related question. You stated that decisions relating to the recall of the ambassador will be made in a comprehensive manner. Does that mean that the government will continue with its approach of not allowing the ambassador to return to his post until the ROK side indicates that they are taking concrete steps toward removing the statue?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY: Our stance is based not so much on conditions such as those, but rather that we will make a decision based on comprehensive evaluation of various factors, and there has been absolutely no change in our stance with regard to that.

REPORTER: I have a question regarding the talks with U.S. Secretary of Defense Mattis. What is your impression of how Secretary Mattis and the Trump administration perceive the issue, which is an important issue for the Abe administration, of North Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY: During his visit to Japan, Secretary Mattis made a courtesy call to the Prime Minister. The abduction issue was brought up during his talks with the Prime Minister, and an explicit agreement was reached with the Prime Minister to coordinate closely in order to deal with the various issues relating to North Korea, including the abduction issue. For the Abe administration, the abduction issue is a top priority, and the administration will continue to coordinate closely with the global community including the United States to resolve the issue. The Government would of course also like to coordinate closely with the Trump administration to find a swift resolution.

Page Top

Related Link