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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

April 11, 2017 (AM)

If you can not view the video,click here(Japanese Government Internet TV)
Simultaneous interpretation services for this video are provided by a third party.

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga


Today, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended the first meeting of the Ministerial Council on Renewable Energy, Hydrogen and Related Issues. In the meeting, an action plan was determined that will be worked on by the relevant ministries and agencies, towards expanding the introduction of renewable energy. The Prime Minister also issued instructions for a basic strategy on the realization of a hydrogen-based society to be formulated within this year.

Today, following the Cabinet meeting, a meeting of the Central Disaster Prevention Council was held. The meeting approved the revision of the Basic Disaster Management Plan and the FY2017 Disaster Preparedness Drill Plan, based on the response to issues relating to the Kumamoto Earthquake and Typhoon No. 10 last year. Following the decisions of the Central Disaster Prevention Council today, the Government will make concerted efforts to promote measures towards the further enhancement and strengthening of disaster prevention and disaster risk reduction measures.


REPORTER: I have a question about the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry's statement concerning the 2025 World Exposition in Osaka. Can we assume that the Cabinet today approved the candidacy of Osaka as the host of the World Exposition? Could you provide us with a little more detail about what was discussed?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: It was noted that procedures would be implemented for Osaka to announce its candidacy and apply to host the World Exposition.

REPORTER: If procedures are to be advanced for Osaka to bid to host the World Exposition, could you tell us what the Government expects the economic impact of the exposition will be?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government is currently working on a schedule in which a bid is planned to be submitted to the Bureau International des Expositions during the week of April 24. With regard to the economic impact of holding the Expo in Osaka, a working group of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has estimated that the direct economic impact, including construction costs, operational costs, and consumption expenditure, will amount to 1.9 trillion yen. It is also projected that there would also be a considerable indirect impact from the Expo, including market expansion in areas relating to the Expo theme and the expansion of demand for inbound travel, including tourism. The Government therefore recognizes the significant potential economic impact of hosting the Expo and we will engage in comprehensive actions to ensure that the bid is ultimately successful.

REPORTER: Has any decision been made on whether the local governments concerned will have to bear a portion of the construction costs for the Expo venue?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: At the current stage where a bid is being put together, the Cabinet today approved a policy of confirming such important matters, with it being anticipated that costs will be borne equally by the central government, local governments concerned, and the business sector.


REPORTER: Returning to the issue of the Osaka Expo, given that there are concerns that the economy could take a dip following the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, does the Government anticipate that if the bid is successful the Expo could provide post-Olympic support to the economy?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The outlook for the economy following the Olympic and Paralympic Games is merely speculation. However, economic growth is extremely important for Japan and we will naturally continue to engage in efforts to ensure continued growth.


REPORTER: I have a question concerning the Basic Disaster Management Plan that you mentioned in your opening statement. The revisions that have been approved today include enhanced assistance for local governments affected by disaster and improvements to measures to ensure the living environment for persons affected, based on the experiences of the Kumamoto Earthquake and Typhoon No. 10 last year. Could you tell us the objectives of these revisions and the Government's views on future measures for disaster prevention?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, as a means of protecting the lives and assets of the people of Japan, it is of the utmost importance for the Government to constantly revise and update response to such natural disasters. For example, in the event of large-scale disasters such as the Kumamoto Earthquake, or the damage to a facility for the elderly in Iwaizumi Town in Iwate Prefecture caused by the typhoon last year, the Government's basic stance is to fully examine such disasters and use the lessons from them in a way that will be beneficial for responding to future disasters. In the meeting of the Central Disaster Prevention Council today, the Basic Disaster Management Plan was revised based on such experiences and lessons. For example, based on the experiences of the Kumamoto Earthquake, the basic plan has been revised to include enhanced support structures for training to the governor and the mayor, and the executives of local governments, and to utilize information and communications technology (ICT) as a means of facilitating the shipment of relief supplies. These items were not included in the previous version of the plan. The Government is constantly engaged with a sense of urgency in responding to natural disasters, which can occur anywhere and at any time, and therefore these new items were included as a means of utilizing past experiences to keep disaster-related damage to a minimum in the future.

REPORTER: It will soon be one year since the Kumamoto Earthquake occurred. Although progress has been made with recovery and reconstruction in the affected areas, there are still outstanding issues, including those relating to housing and the restoration of infrastructure. Could you tell us how the Government seeks to further promote reconstruction going forward?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: On April 14, one year will have passed since the earthquake. To date the Government has created the Kumamoto Earthquake Recovery Emergency Fund, in addition to which budget allocations have also been made in the second and third supplementary budgets for FY2016 and the budget for FY2017. Fully utilizing these funds, we have engaged in efforts to promote the reconstruction of roads and facilities, secure permanent housing, and support people in rebuilding their livelihoods. Furthermore, in the area of tourism as well, we have provided assistance for recovery through such measures as the issuance of many discounted vouchers for travel, which have helped the tourism industry to recover to pre-disaster levels. However, unfortunately it is still the case that more than 40,000 people are living in temporary accommodation. Also, the reconstruction of the Aso-Ohashi Bridge is expected to take considerable time. The Government will continue to listen to the opinions and wishes of local residents and do everything we can to respond accordingly.

REPORTER: There are reports that the Prime Minister is planning to visit Kumamoto Prefecture on April 14, the first anniversary of the disaster. A memorial ceremony is scheduled to be held at Kumamoto Prefectural Office on that day, so could you tell us about the status of arrangements for the Prime Minister's visit, including his attendance at the memorial ceremony?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Circumstances such as the schedule of the Diet permitting, arrangements are currently being made for the Prime Minister to visit Kumamoto Prefecture on the first anniversary of the earthquake on April 14. Details are still being coordinated.


REPORTER: I have a question about Henoko. According to some press reports, seawall construction work is scheduled to begin on April 17. Once this work begins, it will be difficult to return the coastal region to its original state. Could you tell us if you have received any report about the status of construction and the schedule for when seawall construction will begin?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Nothing has been decided as yet. Although I am aware of the various press reports, it is the case that the Government is continuing to advance work related to relocation to Henoko, giving due consideration to safety at the work site and paying the utmost attention to the local living environment and natural environment in accordance with relevant laws and ordinances.

REPORTER: It will be 21 years tomorrow since the release of the Special Action Committee on Okinawa (SACO) Interim Report, which contained the first reference to the return of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma. Even if construction work progresses smoothly at Henoko, it is expected that it will take eight to ten years to complete. During that period, what does the Government intend to do to eliminate the dangers posed by Futenma?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: It was in view of the necessity to eliminate the dangers posed by MCAS Futenma, which is said to be one of the most dangerous bases in the world, and avoid its permanent location in its current position, and also due to the necessity of maintaining deterrence capabilities against the backdrop of an extremely severe security environment, that with the consent of Nago City and Okinawa Prefecture it was decided to relocate MCAS Futenma to Henoko. I believe it was in 2014 that former Governor Nakaima granted permission for construction work to begin. However, unfortunately the current governor was opposed to the relocation plan and in deference to local opinion the Government halted construction work that had already begun with the permission of the former governor. In accordance with the terms of the court-negotiated settlement, it was agreed that the central and prefectural governments would continue to engage in discussions as the court case proceeded and that when a court ruling was issued, both sides would comply with the court's decision. The Supreme Court subsequently issued its final decision, which leads us to the current situation today, and naturally the Government now wants to proceed in line with the final decision. MCAS Futenma currently has three functions, and as part of measures to reduce these functions it has been decided that in-flight refueling planes will all be relocated to Iwakuni and that emergency landing and take-off exercises will be transferred to Kyushu. The Osprey transport aircraft currently remain at Futenma, but the Government is working to ensure that the training exercises for these aircraft too can also be relocated to outside the prefecture. In any event, the Government is making every endeavor to reduce the functions of MCAS Futenma and once the relocation to Henoko is completed, this 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. The Government therefore intends to proceed with construction work at Henoko to achieve these various objectives.

REPORTER: Can I ask why you just referred to reducing the functions of Futenma and did not refer to its return?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: It is the case that the current functions of the base are being significantly reduced. All 15 in-flight refueling planes have been relocated to Iwakuni and the Government has received consent for emergency landing and take-off exercises to be transferred to Kyushu. Efforts are also being made to ensure that exercises by the remaining Osprey transport aircraft will also be conducted outside Okinawa Prefecture. These efforts to significantly reduce the functions of Futenma are established facts. Of course, once the relocation to Henoko is completed, the land on which Futenma is located will be returned.


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