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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

March 31, 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]

Q&As

REPORTER: I have a question concerning the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma. Permission from Okinawa Prefecture to engage in reef crushing is due to expire today, March 31. Can I ask if the Government intends to continue work at the site after the expiry date without applying to renew the permission, and if so, why?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: With regard to this matter, I have received a report from the Ministry of Defense  indicating that the fishing rights in the area for land reclamation work around Henoko have already terminated, following procedures implemented by Nago Fisheries Association to relinquish those rights as stipulated under the Fishery Law.  It is therefore considered that the area is no longer within fishing grounds where fishing rights have been established, where, under the Okinawa Prefecture fishery adjustment regulation, permission is required from the Governor to engage in reef crushing. The report I received also indicated that once the Ministry of Defense had confirmed that there was no issue with this interpretation with the Fisheries Agency, which has jurisdiction over the Fisheries Law and approved the Okinawa prefecture fishery adjustment regulation, the Okinawa Defense Bureau informed the prefectural government of its intention to not apply for permission for reef crushing. Furthermore, the Fisheries Agency has also notified all prefectures in Japan, including Okinawa, of its interpretation of laws and ordinances relating to this matter, and it is therefore the Government's recognition that the interpretation and operation of the Okinawa prefecture fishery adjustment regulation must be based on the interpretation notified by the Fisheries Agency. In any event, Japan is a country based on the rule of law. In accordance with the decision of the Supreme Court issued in December last year and the stipulations of the settlement  reached in March last year, the Government expects that land reclamation work at Henoko will proceed with the central and prefectural governments working together in good faith. The Government will continue to advance work related to relocation to Henoko, giving due consideration to the safety of the work and paying the utmost attention to the natural environment and local living environment in accordance with relevant laws and ordinances.

REPORTER: I have a related question. Governor Onaga of Okinawa Prefecture has made clear that he intends to continue actions aimed at resisting the relocation of MCAS Futenma to Henoko, including the withdrawal of permission for land reclamation work. How will the Government respond to these measures being implemented by the prefecture?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As this is a hypothetical question, I would like to refrain from commenting on behalf of the Government. I would add, however, that the issue of relocating MCAS Futenma to Henoko has its origins in the necessity of eliminating the dangers posed by Futenma, one of the most dangerous bases in the world, which is surrounded by elementary and junior high schools and residential areas. Over the course of many years, the central government has consulted with the local government concerning the closure of the base, the return of the land on which it is located, and also maintaining deterrence capabilities, and with the participation of the United States in consultations, a decision was made to relocate the base to Henoko. Both Nago City, where Henoko is located, and Okinawa Prefecture agreed to this proposal, on the basis of which a Cabinet decision was made. The effect of this relocation will be to eliminate noise pollution in Futenma, with the currently more than 10,000 flights annually being reduced to zero. What is more, this relocation will lead to the transfer of approximately 9,000 U.S. personnel, representing one-third of the total of approximately 28,000 personnel stationed in Okinawa, to locations outside Japan, including Guam. During the course of the lawsuit between the central and prefectural governments, a settlement was reached with the result that discussions continued in parallel to the lawsuit and it was confirmed that both sides would adhere to the court's ruling. Governor Onaga himself stated when he attended the court case that once a final decision was issued by the court he would abide by that decision. In that sense, the Government considers that this issue was confirmed and concluded at the time of the final decision handed down by the Supreme Court.

REPORTER: You have just mentioned that Governor Onaga himself previously clearly stated that he would abide by the court's decision, so what is the Government's view of the Governor's current publicly stated stance of considering the withdrawal of permission for land reclamation work?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Japan is a country based on the rule of law and the Supreme Court handed down a final decision on this case following procedures agreed upon under the terms of the settlement and the presentation of arguments to the courts. Given that Japan is a country based on the rule of law, it is my hope that the central government and the prefectural government can now proceed in good faith under the terms of the settlement.

REPORTER: Are you saying that the Government's position is that now that the Supreme Court has handed down its final decision on this case, any legal resistance measures Governor Onaga may undertake will have no major impact on construction work?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that there will be absolutely no impact.

(Abridged)

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