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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

May 15, 2017 (AM)

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Simultaneous interpretation services for this video are provided by a third party.

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


REPORTER: I have a question regarding the North Korea missile issue. North Korean state media reports on yesterday’s ballistic missile launch stated that it was a successful test launch of a new type of medium-range ballistic missile. They asserted that the missile could be equipped with a large nuclear warhead. How does the Government view this assertion, based on the type of missile used?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: This latest ballistic missile launched by North Korea flew for approximately 30 minutes and is estimated to have reached an altitude exceeding 2,000 kilometers. Based on those factors, the missile could conceivably have been a new type of ballistic missile. In any event, we are currently carefully carrying out comprehensive, technical analysis, and I would therefore like to refrain from commenting on the details at this stage.


REPORTER: I have a related question. Ms. Nikki Haley, Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations, stated that President Trump will absolutely not engage in dialogue with North Korea under the current conditions in which the country is conducting missile tests. How do you view the possibility of the Government engaging in dialogue with North Korea?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that we ought to avoid engaging in dialogue for dialogue’s sake. I think that creating a situation in which actual progress is made is extremely important. In that sense, the Government highly values the United States’ stance that all options on the table.

REPORTER: I have a related question. China, which has great influence over North Korea, has the ability to restrict oil supply. What kind of pressure would you like China to place on North Korea?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have been stating, Japan, the United States, and the Republic of Korea are coordinating closely on this issue. At the same time, I believe it is the hope of many countries around the world that China and Russia, which have influence in the United Nations, and other relevant countries will place pressure on North Korea through steadfast diplomacy and thereby facilitate concrete dialogue.  

REPORTER: I have a related question. The Liberal Democratic Party has made proposals regarding missile defense systems such as THAAD and Aegis Ashore as well as obtaining counterattack capabilities for use against enemy bases. What is your opinion on these discussions going forward?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The utmost duty of the Government is to protect the lives and peaceful lifestyles of Japanese citizens in any situation. The Government intends to carefully consider the proposals from the Liberal Democratic Party that you have just mentioned, and will undertake various considerations to comprehensively enhance Japan’s ballistic missile response capabilities.

REPORTER: Today, Okinawa is marking 45 years since reversion to Japan’s rule. I have a question relating to this and Okinawa’s military base and economic issues. Okinawa has economic problems such as persistently low income levels and child poverty. On the other hand, with regard to the harm stemming from the U.S. military bases present in Okinawa, in recent years there has been a spreading perception in the prefecture that the fact that Okinawa hosts 70% of these bases is discriminatory. I would like to ask you how you view the current situation and what kinds of measures will be taken to solve this issue.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, the citizens of Okinawa were the only citizens in Japan to be caught up in ground battles during WWII, and they thus experienced enormous suffering and anguish. Subsequently, in 1972, after years under the U.S. administration, the ardent wish of returning Okinawa to Japan’s rule held by the people of Okinawa and Japan as a whole was fulfilled. Today marks exactly 45 years since that day. The rest of the people of Japan must not forget this history of hardships that the people of Okinawa have faced. Since the reversion back to Japan, the people of Okinawa have worked tirelessly to this day while overcoming the difficulties they faced. Over this period, the Government has executed five successive Okinawa Promotion and Development Plans and has implemented a variety of special measures to address the issues faced by Okinawa. The Government has supported the efforts of the people of Okinawa Prefecture, and over those 45 years social infrastructure has been developed, the number of people in employment has increased, the ratio of job offers to job seekers has improved, and the number of tourists, particularly foreign tourists, visiting the area reached the highest level in history in 2016. The Abe administration is doing what it can to alleviate the burden placed on Okinawa by the military bases, and is strongly resolved to tackle the issue in tangible ways. A concrete example of this is the Prime Minister’s statement at a Cabinet meeting in December 2013 in response to a request from the prefectural governor at the time, Hirokazu Nakaima, that during the period of the current Okinawa Promotion and Development Plan from 2012 to 2021, 300 billion yen would be secured each year. There is no change in our intention to firmly keep this promise.

Incidentally, at the time of Okinawa’s reversion back to Japan, the ratio of job offers to job seekers was 0.19. The average ratio for Japan as a whole was approximately 1.7 and yet the ratio for Okinawa Prefecture was just 0.19. The ratio in Okinawa is now 1.01 and the average ratio for Japan as a whole is 1.45. Okinawa’s gross prefectural product was 445.9 billion yen but by last year this had grown to 3.8818 trillion yen. The ratio of job offers to job seekers before the Abe administration took power was 0.43. So it can be readily understood from that that this has changed considerably over the last four years. Although incomes have been extremely low, and surveys last year consistently showed that income in Okinawa was lower by a wide margin within the 47 prefectures, the time has come for a turnabout in Okinawa. I believe that Okinawa’s geopolitical position means that the residents of Okinawa Prefecture have the potential to become the frontrunners of Japan, and the Government therefore intends to provide steadfast support and would like to see the residents of Okinawa heed this call.


REPORTER: I would like to ask a question regarding the concluding observations of the report submitted to the ROK by the UN Committee against Torture, a body based on the International Bill of Human Rights. Regarding the 2015 Japan-ROK agreement concerning the comfort women issue, the report states that the provisions for compensation, rehabilitation, and other aspects are inadequate. How does the Government view this report?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Japan-ROK agreement was well-received by the UN, including the secretary-general at the time. I believe that the observation in question was directed at the ROK.

REPORTER: I have a related question. I understand that the UN Committee against Torture is a UN body of human rights experts. The Committee is independent of the UN system, but does the Government not consider the findings of the Committee to be legally binding?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I do not believe that they are legally binding at all.

REPORTER: In an interview with Time magazine, President Donald Trump stated that F-35 stealth fighters flew over Japan during the visit to Japan in February of James Mattis, the U.S. Secretary of Defense. There were no reports of this at the time. I believe there are ten F-35 fighters stationed in Japan. Speculation is growing around what the true meaning of the President’s statement was. Please tell us about the facts surrounding this case.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I am aware of reports to that effect. However, the Government would like to refrain from commenting on U.S. military operations. In any event, it is a fact that the Government and the Self Defense Forces coordinate closely with the U.S. military.

REPORTER: I have a question relating to the recent cyberattack. In response to a question earlier, you stated that there was no cause for concern. However, business activities will be getting underway with the start of the work week, so can you please explain the Government’s response to this issue going forward, such as whether meetings will be held with relevant ministries and agencies?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government responds urgently to each cyberattack or terrorist incident, which started in the U.K., as they occur.

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