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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

February 7, 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)

Q&As

 (Abridged)

REPORTER: I would like to change the subject and ask about the Advisory Council on Easing the Burden of the Official Duties and Public Activities of His Majesty the Emperor. The Cabinet Secretariat announced that the tenth meeting, which was planned for February 13, will be postponed. Could you please discuss the reason for the postponement?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, the Advisory Council has completed its compilation of key points for future discussions of easing the burden of official duties and public activities of his Majesty the Emperor. Furthermore, within the legislature, the Speaker and Vice-Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President and Vice-President of the House of Councillors took the lead in hearing opinions from all political parties and factions regarding the Advisory Council’s compilation, and it was explained that the compilation would be taken into consideration. The Government is currently hearing opinions from all political parties and factions within the Diet. Discussions are currently calmly proceeding, and once they are concluded and a direction is made clear, the Government will receive that conclusion and move forward with further considerations. Therefore, as discussions are currently calmly proceeding among the Advisory Council and the legislature, the meeting was postponed.

REPORTER: I have a related question. You just mentioned discussions are proceeding in the Diet. Going forward what role do you expect the Advisory Council to play, as it has already completed its compilation of key points for future discussions? Or do you consider its current role complete now that the key points have been compiled?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: That is based on the situation of the discussions within the Diet, and while the decision will be made at some point, we currently cannot say when that will be. In any case, I currently wish to refrain from making a statement in my capacity as Chief Cabinet Secretary as to how discussions will be compiled by the members of the Advisory Council.

(Abridged)

REPORTER: I would like to ask about the Japan-U.S. summit meeting on Friday. There have been press reports which state Japan is calling for a discussion on trade rules within the Asia-Pacific region. Can you please confirm the facts of this matter, and also reiterate why Japan considers a regional framework more important than bilateral negotiations, in light of President Trump’s emphasis on bilateral negotiations?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, currently no details have been decided on the Japan-U.S. summit meeting discussions. The kind of proposal you just described is not under consideration. In the Japan-U.S. summit meeting, we consider it important to carry out constructive discussions on building win-win economic relations through further deepening of the Japan-U.S. economic relationship and collaboration.

REPORTER: I believe Japan has considered large frameworks, including the TPP, and regional frameworks to be important for promoting free trade and building relations, instead of making multiple bilateral agreements. In light of the administration in the United States, which places an emphasis on bilateral negotiations, how does Japan view the importance of regional frameworks?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There is naturally no change in our intention to resolutely explain our desire to carry out free trade within the framework of the TPP.

REPORTER: Regarding the peacekeeping operations of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in South Sudan, it has been reported that the SDF’s activity reports, which the Ministry of Defense stated were disposed of, have in fact been saved. Could you please confirm the facts on whether such activity reports have been found?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First, when an information disclosure request was made in December of last year for the daily reports of the SDF engineering unit deployed in South Sudan, the Ministry of Defense answered that there was no documentation because the reports had been disposed of. However, I have received reports that afterwards, because of multiple disclosure requests the renewed search’s scope was expanded which led to the documents being found recently.

REPORTER: I have a related question. The time period covered by the activity reports which were found was a period during which the public safety situation in South Sudan was extremely poor, with conflicts occurring between government and anti-government forces. There have been some opinions that there was a cover-up to hide inconvenient information. What are the Government’s thoughts on the matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, there was absolutely no intention of a cover-up; that goes without saying. When the information disclosure request was received for the reports, there was a time limit of 30 days for them. The response of the Ministry of Defense was not sufficient as it was not able to exhaustively search through the documents. Going forward, if a similar information disclosure request is made, an appropriate response will be made. Furthermore, in regard to disclosure requests for documents produced by government organizations, it goes without saying that an appropriate response should be made in accordance with the applicable laws, and I have received a report that going forward the Ministry of Defense will respond appropriately.

REPORTER: I would like to change the subject and ask about Japan-Russia relations. In regard to the joint economic activities with Russia in the Northern Territories, there are press reports that the first meeting of the Joint Economic Activity Related Council will be held today, headed by Foreign Minister Kishida. Could you explain the current status of the arrangements?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First, in December 2016, discussions were started at the Japan-Russia summit meeting, and the Joint Economic Activity Related Council was established in order to formulate concrete projects relating to joint economic activity on the four islands of the Northern Territories. The first meeting of the Council will be held this evening. Foreign Minister Kishida will chair the Council, Minister for Economic Cooperation with Russia Seko will serve as the Acting Chair, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Nogami will serve as the Deputy Chair, and the Council will be composed of officials from relevant ministries and agencies. The meeting will be held this evening with the intention to produce a concrete result with a sense of speed with the Government working together as one.

REPORTER: You mentioned a sense of speed, and Prime Minister Abe has expressed his intention to visit Russia in the first half of this year. Do you believe a concrete plan will be formulated by that time?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, we plan to hold official talks with the Russian side this March. The relevant ministries and agencies will proceed with preparations toward those talks. Furthermore, the Prime Minister has the intention to visit Russia at an early date, and will also be attending the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in September. I believe it goes without saying that we will proceed while keeping the schedule of political talks in mind.

(Abridged)

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