Skip to main content

Home >  News >  Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary >  March 2017 >  March 10, 2017 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

March 10, 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.

Extraordinary Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: A National Security Council (NSC) meeting has just been held, where it was decided that the Self-Defense Force (SDF) engineering unit deployed in South Sudan for peacekeeping operations (PKO) will end its activities in and around the end of May, after it completes the operation to improve roads. The deployment of the engineering unit to the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) has lasted for more than five years since it began in January 2012 and it has become the longest deployment of engineering units ever. Over the course of the deployment, the unit has made major contributions to nation building in South Sudan, including the construction of arterial roads linking various regions with the capital, Juba. With South Sudan entering a new stage of nation building, Japan considers that the engineering activities undertaken by the SDF in Juba have now come to a close. We have already explained this Japanese Government policy to South Sudan and the United Nations (UN) and President Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan stated that the country highly values and appreciates the SDF for their activities to date. We will continue to deploy SDF personnel to serve in the Headquarters of UNMISS and are resolved to make as great a contribution as possible to peace and development in South Sudan, including through the enhancement of humanitarian assistance.

Q&As

REPORTER: Some note the deterioration in the security environment in South Sudan. Did this play any role in the Government’s decision to withdraw the unit?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: No it did not. That was not the reason. Although we recognize that the security situation in South Sudan remains extremely severe, the situation in and around the capital Juba, which is the base for the activities of the SDF unit, is relatively stable. Accordingly, the safety of the engineering unit personnel has been secured and the unit has engaged in activities of significance, including the repair of roads in and around Juba and the development of UN facilities. We do not consider that the security situation has deteriorated to the extent that it is necessary to withdraw the unit. As I have already noted the decision to end the unit’s activities was the result of comprehensive considerations and was not due in any way to concerns over deterioration in the security situation.

REPORTER: So are we to understand that the only reason for the withdrawal of the engineering unit is because it has been determined that the unit has concluded the role that it was required to perform?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Exactly. The deployment of the engineering unit to UNMISS marked a milestone of five years in January 2017 and it has become the longest deployment of engineering units ever. Ahead of this five-year milestone, from around September last year deliberations have taken place, mainly in the forum of the NSC, over the question of how we should proceed with the deployment. Measures are currently being advanced in South Sudan towards achieving stability, including an increase in new UN PKO units for improving security and the implementation of a national dialogue to promote reconciliation among ethnic groups by the Government of South Sudan. These developments demonstrate that South Sudan has entered a new phase of nation building. It is against this backdrop that over the course of more than five years Japan has engaged in its largest and longest-ever deployment of units to a PKO mission, which have engaged in the construction of arterial roads linking various regions with the capital, Juba. The Government therefore considers that the engineering activities undertaken by the SDF unit in and around Juba have now come to a close.

REPORTER: You have announced that only the engineering unit will be withdrawn and that Japan will continue to deploy Headquarters staff personnel. What is the reason for this decision?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In the sense that Japan seeks to make a robust international contribution Headquarters staff personnel will remain in South Sudan to respond to requests from the UN. In particular, Japan has extended cooperation to the overall operations of UNMISS in diverse areas, including planning activities for engineering units, collecting and distilling information relating to the security situation, procuring and transporting supplies, and offering aviation transport assistance. We believe that we can continue to make a significant contribution.

REPORTER: You have stated that the reason for withdrawal is unrelated to the deterioration of the security situation, but did considerations about the growing burden on the SDF of continuing to engage in activities in South Sudan play any part in the decision made by the Government?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: That was not a factor in the decision. Given that the deployment of the engineering unit has exceeded five years and is the longest-ever implemented by Japan, from around September last year deliberations were started on drawing the activities to a close, resulting in a decision to end activities in March this year when the SDF’s deployment period will expire and withdraw the unit by May.

REPORTER: I believe South Sudan is currently the only location where SDF units are operating overseas. Since a great majority of personnel will be withdrawn from South Sudan, does this represent a change in the Government’s concept for participating in future PKO missions?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There is no change whatsoever.

REPORTER: In terms of future activities you mentioned humanitarian assistance a short while ago. With regard to what this humanitarian assistance entails, given the difficult humanitarian situation in the northern regions of South Sudan, does the Government plan to extend assistance to such regions?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Our contribution will be made in the form of assistance for peacebuilding. The Government considers it to be of the utmost importance for the peace and stability of South Sudan to engage in national reconciliation among ethnic groups and to ensure that the agreement on the cessation of hostilities is implemented. To date Japan has engaged in various measures for the peace and stability of South Sudan. Looking to the future, we believe that it is possible to make a further contribution to the country’s peace and stability through support for national dialogue, human resource development, and humanitarian assistance, including food aid.

REPORTER: How many personnel will be returning to Japan upon the withdrawal of the engineering unit?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that the number of personnel is around 350.

REPORTER: I have a follow-up question. You have stated that safety concerns were not a factor in the decision to withdraw the unit, so does the Government consider that the Five Principles for Participation in PKO are currently being met in South Sudan?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Yes, that is the view of the Government.

REPORTER: What impact do you think the withdrawal of the unit engaged in PKO in South Sudan will have on Japan’s standing in the international community?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have already stated, UNMISS Headquarters staff personnel will remain. In any event, the five-year deployment of the engineering unit is the longest-ever in the history of Japan’s participation in PKO and a decision was made to withdraw the unit based on the recognition that its activities have come to a close.

REPORTER: I have a related question. I do not believe that there is an example of any other country withdrawing from PKO in South Sudan in this manner. Some people have observed that this large-scale withdrawal, being implemented while other countries are still engaged in PKO in South Sudan, would seem to be at odds with the Prime Minister’s stated policy of making a “Proactive Contribution to Peace.”

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I do not think that is the case at all. It is rather the case that the construction of arterial roads in and around Juba, which is the activity that Japan was tasked with, has now come to a close. It was with this in mind that since around September last year the NSC has engaged in deliberations concerning this matter.

REPORTER: The Prime Minister has also stated that words of appreciation were received from President Kiir of South Sudan. Can I ask by which route these words of appreciation were conveyed?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Masahiko Shibayama explained Japan’s policy in advance to President Kiir and to Mr. David Shearer, UN Special Representative for South Sudan and Head of UNMISS. In addition, in New York, Japan’s mission at the UN also provided a similar explanation to UN headquarters. It was in the course of these explanations that President Kiir expressed appreciation for the activities of Japan’s engineering unit in UNMISS and for the assistance that Japan has provided to South Sudan to date. President Kiir also expressed understanding and respect for the decision to conclude the activities of Japan’s engineering unit and noted that South Sudan would offer its cooperation as the unit concludes its activities and prepares to withdraw. I have received a report that Special Representative Shearer also highly evaluated the activities of Japan’s engineering unit and that at the UN headquarters in New York, too, understanding and respect was expressed for Japan’s decision to conclude the activities of the engineering unit.

Page Top

Related Link