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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

February 7, 2017 (PM)

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

If circumstances of the Diet permit, Prime Minister Abe is planning to visit the United States from February 9th until February 13th. On the 10th, the first Japan-U.S. summit meeting between the Prime Minister and President Trump will be held in Washington D.C., and the Prime Minister is planning to accept President Trump’s invitation to visit the President’s estate in Florida after that. The opportunity presented by the Japan-U.S. summit meeting will be used to have a frank and meaningful exchange of opinions, and display once more to the world the unwavering bond of the Japan-U.S. Alliance. In Florida, the two leaders will further deepen their dialogue and build a firm relationship of trust. Furthermore, if the circumstances of the Diet permit, we are also arranging for Deputy Prime Minister Aso, Foreign Minister Kishida, and Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Seko to join the visit to Washington D.C.

Q&As

REPORTER: I have a question related to the Japan-U.S. summit meeting you just announced. The upcoming summit will take place in Washington D.C. and then be continued as part of a visit to Florida. What meaning does the Japanese Government see behind such an arrangement?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, regarding the visit to Florida, it will be an extremely meaningful opportunity to build a personal relationship between the two leaders.

REPORTER: You just mentioned building a personal relationship of trust in Florida, and there have been reports in the press that the Prime Minister will be playing golf with President Trump. What are the current arrangements in that regard?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: That continues to be under arrangement.

REPORTER: Minister of Finance Aso, Foreign Minister Kishida, and Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Seko are also travelling to Washington. I believe it is quite out of the ordinary for this many ministers to travel with the Prime Minister. What is the Japanese Government’s aim in this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I do not believe this is very out of the ordinary. As this is the first visit, the Vice President will be the counterpart for the Deputy Prime Minister, and it is usual for the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister to join the visit. Furthermore, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Seko is joining the visit as a minister with a relevant jurisdiction.

REPORTER: I have a related question. What theme will the exchanges of opinion in the summit meetings revolve around?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First, in consideration of the rising severity of the security situation in the Asia-Pacific region, it is critical to clearly demonstrate the unwavering bond of the Japan-U.S. Alliance both internally and externally. That will be the most important theme. At the same time, I hope the two leaders can establish a firm relationship of trust by further strengthening the unwavering bond of the Japan-U.S. Alliance.

REPORTER: I have a related question. Aside from security, in relation to the economy, what matters would the Japan and U.S. side like to confirm?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The details of the Japan-U.S. summit meeting discussions are not currently decided. However, constructive discussions will take place on building win-win economic relations for both countries through further deepening of the Japan-U.S. economic relationship and collaboration.

REPORTER: Today, February 7th, is Northern Territories Day, and Prime Minister Abe gave an address at the National Rally to Demand the Return of the Northern Territories held in Tokyo. In regard to conditions for the conclusion of a peace treaty, including the territorial issue, Prime Minister Abe stated he would identify measures for resolution through future-focused ideas. In light of the developments to begin joint economic activities on the Four Northern Islands, what are the Government’s thoughts in regard to its initiatives to resolve the territorial issue?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, even 71 years after the end of the war, Japan and Russia still have not concluded a peace treaty. I consider this to be an extremely unusual situation. In December of last year, Prime Minister Abe held discussions with President Putin in Yamaguchi Prefecture keeping in mind that a breakthrough must be achieved in this situation. As a result of those discussions, it was confirmed that discussions would begin on joint economic activities that would take place on the Four Northern Islands under a special arrangement, and improvements would be made to the procedures for former islanders to visit their family graves. Furthermore, the two leaders demonstrated their sincere intention to resolve the issue of concluding the peace treaty, which was a very positive element. Additionally, the Joint Economic Activity Related Council, comprised of officials from relevant ministries and agencies, will hold its first meeting this evening with the intention to produce a concrete result with a sense of speed. Under the consistent policy that the attribution issue of the Four Northern Islands will be resolved and a peace treaty will be concluded, and taking firmly to heart the feelings of the former islanders, the Government will steadfastly carry out its initiatives based on a new approach.

REPORTER: I would like to change the topic and ask about the systematic “amakudari” issue (the practice of civil servants obtaining posts in related organizations after retirement) at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). You just met with Mr. Taro Kono, the Chairman of the Administrative Reform Promotion Headquarters of the Liberal Democratic Party, and I believe Chairman Kono requested that you strengthen the regulatory oversight of the Reemployment Surveillance Commission. How did you respond?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I recently received a request from Administrative Reform Promotion Headquarters Chairman Kono among others. As stated in the request, the recent violation of the reemployment regulations by MEXT has caused a striking loss of trust within citizens for the entire administration, which is not limited to MEXT. We share that understanding of the situation. Furthermore, based on this incident, in order to clear any doubts in the minds of the public, Prime Minister Abe instructed Minister in charge of Civil Service Reform Kozo Yamamoto to conduct a thorough investigation of all ministries to confirm whether any other similar cases exist. This is currently ongoing. Once the results of that investigation are available, in addition to quickly making the results public, we will at the same time consider the necessary measures based on the recent request.

REPORTER: Within the request, the imposition of criminal penalties is proposed as one aspect of strengthening regulations. What are your current thoughts regarding criminal penalties?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, I believe the top priority is waiting for the result of the thorough investigation. As part of that investigation, we would like to clearly understand the cause of the systemic nature of the current incident, thoroughly investigate, and create firm countermeasures to ensure our citizens have no cause for suspicion.

(Abridged)

REPORTER: I would like to ask about overseas reporting of the comfort women issue. On February 6, CNN of the United States reported that the Japanese military forced 200,000 women into sex slavery during the war based on coverage stemming from the Republic of Korea (ROK) side. This report has been taken up and is being widely publicized by the Korean press. This mistaken perception is still spreading overseas through major media outlets in the United States. What are the Government’s thoughts on the current situation?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, I am aware of the reports you have indicated. The position of the Abe Cabinet regarding the comfort women issue is as has been explained until now. We recognize that as part of the agreement made at the end of 2015 between the governments of Japan and the ROK, the comfort women issue was finally and irreversibly resolved. The Government will continue explaining its position that it is vitally important that the agreement be faithfully carried out. Furthermore, as stated in the Diet, no records of so-called enforced enlistment by the military or officials have been found in the documents uncovered by the Government. At the same time, it is difficult to specify the exact number of comfort women, and the number of 200,000 people has no concrete basis.

REPORTER: I have a related question. In that case, in response to this mistaken reporting, is the Government considering taking countermeasures such as lodging a protest with CNN, the original distributor?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In consideration of the Japan-ROK agreement established in 2015, the Government considers it vitally important that the governments of both countries faithfully implement the terms of the agreement.

(Abridged)

REPORTER: There are press reports that the Government has decided a policy to accept the entry to Japan of players from North Korea for the Sapporo Asian Winter Games beginning on February 19. Could you please tell me if this is true, and if so, the Government’s thoughts on accepting the players in consideration of the increasing number of highly provocative acts taken by North Korea, which has been the most in recent years?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, as part of Japan’s independent measures against North Korea, the entry of individuals with North Korean citizenship is not accepted in principle. On the other hand, in the international sports world, the conception that discrimination based on nationality should be prohibited has spread, and the charter of the Asian Olympic Council also stipulates that there will be no discrimination based on skin color, disability, religion or political reasons. Taking this into consideration, the Government is currently examining whether special circumstances exist that would permit the exceptional entry of certain individuals into the country. However, it is not true that anything has been decided at the current time.


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