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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

May 31, 2017 (PM)

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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 about the explosion in Afghanistan. The explosion has caused many fatalities and injuries, and it has also been reported that Japanese nationals are among the wounded. Could you tell us any information the Government is aware of at the current time?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We have received a report from the Embassy of Japan in Afghanistan that all Japanese nationals in Afghanistan, including the embassy staff, are safe. The report notes that the embassy building has sustained damage, including broken windows, and that two Japanese embassy staff members have suffered minor injuries, such as cuts and grazes, but no serious wounds. The embassy has established an emergency response headquarters and is working to confirm the facts and collect information about this incident.

REPORTER: Are you saying that the number of Japanese injured will not rise?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: My understanding is that it will not.

REPORTER: Ramadan has just begun and there were concerns about terrorist attacks during this period. What reports have you received from Afghanistan about whether this explosion is being treated as a terrorist attack?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I have received a report that authorities in Afghanistan are currently investigating the incident.

REPORTER: There is also a possibility that this was a terrorist attack targeting the area of Kabul where many embassies are concentrated. What counterterrorism measures is the Government taking to ensure the safety of overseas diplomatic missions?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA:The Government issues strict instructions to staff at overseas diplomatic missions on a daily basis concerning counterterrorism measures and we have ordered that all such missions should operate on the highest alert.

REPORTER: The Prime Minister has earlier announced that the Government’s target to achieve zero children on waiting lists of licensed childcare facilities will be put back three years to the end of FY2020. What efforts will the Government be making to work towards this new target?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA:Firstly, the Abe administration has made the empowerment of women and enhanced support for childrearing two of its top priorities and has focused in particular on achieving zero children on waiting lists. In specific terms, we set a high target of increasing the capacity of childcare facilities by 530,000 places by the end of this fiscal year on March 31, 2018. In the five years of the Abe administration we have sought to increase capacity by 2.5 times in comparison with the previous administration and it is expected that we will successfully exceed the initial target by 130,000 places. Over the last four years, however, the number of people in employment has increased by 1.85 million, of which 1.52 million are women. It can therefore be appreciated that the number of applications for childcare places has also increased at an unprecedented rate, meaning that we have yet to achieve zero children on waiting lists in some places, predominantly in major cities. I understand that it was against this backdrop that the Prime Minister announced the Plan for Raising Children with Peace of Mind in a speech given today. This plan will secure budget over the next two years to assist local governments that are making efforts to bring forward the elimination of childcare waiting lists by further expanding capacity by 220,000 places in three years. Our aim is to achieve zero children on waiting lists nationwide at the latest in three years’ time.

REPORTER: As you have just noted measures in major cities will be the key to the success of this plan, so could you tell us what measures will be important for major cities in particular?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA:When we say major cities, we are referring to Tokyo in particular. More than one-third of waiting lists are accounted for in Tokyo, so this could well be said to be a Tokyo problem. We hope the governor of Tokyo and the mayors of the relevant wards and cities will combine forces in tackling this issue as we seek to achieve zero children on waiting lists.

REPORTER: You have just mentioned that as childcare facility capacity is expanded this results in a similar increase in people seeking to return to work, making this a long-running issue. Is it the Government’s view that under the new target achieving zero children on waiting lists is an achievable goal?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA:The employment rate of women was a little over 60% before this administration came to power and it now stands at more than 70%. In Europe, which is said to be the most advanced region in terms of childcare provision, the employment rate of women is approximately 80%. The new targets we have set on this occasion are designed to increase capacity to be able to respond to an 80% employment rate.

REPORTER: Are we to understand from your comment that it is the recognition of the Abe administration that the reason why childcare waiting lists have yet to be eliminated is because the number of women seeking to join the workforce has been above and beyond the expectations of the Government?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: That has been overwhelmingly the case. The number of women in employment has increased by 1.5 million over the course of the last four years. The employment rate of women four years ago was 60-something percent and today it stands at 72 or 73%. Given that the highest employment rate of women globally is above 80%, we have set a target that seeks to develop facilities to respond to such an employment rate.

REPORTER: I have a question about the report of the United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur. The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has posted a report on its website concerning the situation of freedom of expression in Japan, in which it is stated that the Government places direct and indirect pressure on Japanese media. The Government has responded by providing comments of its own on the report, so can I ask for your view on this matter once again and how the Government intends to ensure its opinions are reflected in the report?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, the explanation and response by the government has been made available on the website of the OHCHR. With regard to the points raised by the Special Rapporteur in the report, the Government explained our stance and the facts pertaining to the various points to the special rapporteur. It is therefore extremely regrettable that despite these careful explanations, the Government’s position has not been sufficiently reflected in the contents of the report. I will not repeat the points here, but the Government’s response and explanations related to the report have been made available on the website of the OHCHR.


REPORTER: I have a question about Prime Minister Abe’s meeting with State Councilor Yang Jiechi of China. In his opening statement the Prime Minister indicated his intention to work with China on resolving issues relating to North Korea. Can I ask what was discussed on North Korea after the press left the meeting room?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA:Today from 2:20 PM for over 50 minutes the Prime Minister received a courtesy call from State Councilor Yang Jiechi of China. Based on the principle of the Mutually Beneficial Relationship Based on Common Strategic Interests and given that we are marking major milestones with the 45th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China this year and the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and the People’s Republic of China next year, in the meeting it was confirmed that Japan and China will work to further improve relations. With regard to North Korea, the Prime Minister noted that China’s role is very important and he called strongly for China to play a proactive role. The two sides also agreed that Japan and China will continue to cooperate closely towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. I believe that overall the meeting was extremely significant, in view of the fact that a senior Chinese official responsible for foreign policy has visited Japan and has engaged in extended exchanges of opinions with officials in Japan towards improving our bilateral relations.

REPORTER:I have a related question. The Government of Japan has stressed the importance of pressure rather than dialogue when dealing with North Korea, so did the Prime Minister make any requests for cooperation in applying pressure on North Korea, such as requesting that China fully implement sanctions approved by the United Nations Security Council?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA:As these are diplomatic matters I would like to refrain from commenting on the details, but in any event it was agreed that Japan and China will work together in tackling issues relating to North Korea.

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