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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

August 30, 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: In an emergency meeting the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has unanimously adopted a draft Presidential Statement, the compilation of which was led by Japan and the United States, that condemns the latest missile launch by North Korea. Until now the UNSC has issued a press statement, but on this occasion the condemnation was issued in the form of a stronger Presidential Statement. How does the Government evaluate this statement?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, at the request of Japan, the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK), in the early hours of August 30 an emergency meeting of the UNSC was convened. As a result of this meeting a UNSC Presidential Statement was adopted that strongly condemns the ballistic missile launch by North Korea that flew over Japan. The Government of Japan highly evaluates this clear and united message from the UNSC to North Korea. Japan will continue to work closely with the United States and the ROK and will give serious consideration to the most effective means of further strengthening pressure on North Korea, including the possibility of seeking the adoption of a new UNSC resolution.

REPORTER: There has been discussion about further sanctions against North Korea. Will Japan be proposing to ban imports of oil as a stricter sanctions measure?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In any event, we will consider our future response, including the possibility of seeking a new UNSC resolution, while determining what would be the most effective means of strengthening pressure on North Korea in order to resolve all issues of concern. The matter of oil imports is one that has been raised previously, and is of course one of the options.

REPORTER: I have a question concerning approaches to China and Russia, whose perception of the situation surrounding North Korea differs from that of Japan, the United States and the ROK. Next month Prime Minister Abe is scheduled to attend the Eastern Economic Forum, where he will meet with President Putin of Russia, and at the United Nations General Assembly later in September he will meet with President Xi of China. In what specific ways will Japan be approaching these two countries in order to overcome differences in respective stances and what sort of a response is anticipated?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, both China and Russia have an extremely important role to play in responding to North Korea-related issues, given that both are permanent members of the UNSC and are also members of the Six-Party Talks process. China’s role is of particular importance, given that it accounts for approximately 90 percent of trade with North Korea. Japan has continued to call on both China and Russia at various levels to play a responsible and constructive role. Specifically, we are encouraging China and Russia to play a further role in strengthening pressure on North Korea and are calling strongly on them to use their influence to ensure that North Korea refrains from provocative actions, and also to fully implement relevant UNSC resolutions. In any event, we will use all opportunities at various levels of government to underline our position, based on our current stance.

REPORTER: It is being reported by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) that yesterday’s missile launch was the successful test launch of a Hwasong-12 missile. The report stressed that the launch was in response to the joint exercises being conducted by the United States and the ROK. Does the Government’s analysis also suggest that yesterday’s launch was successful?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government is constantly considering North Korea’s missile launches and the situation relating to it in close cooperation with the United States and the ROK. At the very least it is a fact that through repeated launches North Korea’s missile capabilities are gradually growing. The details are currently still being analyzed.

REPORTER: It is being reported that Chairman Kim Jong-un has issued orders for many more missile test launches into the Pacific Ocean. What response do you think the Government of Japan should make to North Korea, which shows no signs of halting these acts of provocation?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Certainly we are aware of the reports. These acts, including the latest launch, by North Korea are clear provocations to the security not only of Japan, but also the security of the region and the international community, and as such they are entirely unacceptable. It goes without saying that the strong deterrence capability of the Japan-U.S. Alliance is vital for defending Japan and ensuring peace and safety in the region. From this perspective, Japan highly values the Trump administration’s stance of keeping all options on the table, as demonstrated by both words and actions. President Trump has also stated that the United States is with Japan 100 percent. Under the robust Japan-U.S. Alliance we will continue to maintain a high sense of alert and maintain an advanced surveillance and monitoring structure as we make every effort to ensure the safety and security of the people of Japan.

REPORTER: In a speech yesterday Minister Aso stated that what matters for politicians is results and that Hitler, who killed millions of people, was no good, even if his motives were right. This comment could be interpreted as defending the motives behind the Holocaust and Minister Aso subsequently retracted his comment, but it has attracted criticism from opposition parties. Can I ask for your views on this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As you have noted, Deputy Prime Minister Aso has retracted the comment, noting that Hitler was clearly wrong in his motives and that it was inappropriate to use Hitler as an example. I hear that Deputy Prime Minister Aso will explain this matter himself in due course.

REPORTER: Have you been in contact with Deputy Prime Minister Aso about this matter?


REPORTER: I have a further related question. In the past Deputy Prime Minister Aso made a similar comment, which he also retracted, suggesting that Japan could learn from Nazi Germany about revising the Constitution. There are concerns that a Cabinet minister who uses Hitler and the Nazis as examples could invite misunderstanding. What are your thoughts on such comments by Cabinet ministers?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Deputy Prime Minister Aso has himself stated that the comment was inappropriate and has withdrawn it and I believe that he will provide an explanation himself in due course.

REPORTER: I would like to return to the topic of the missile launch. Yesterday there were a number of cases in which the details issued through the national early warning system (J-ALERT) were not broadcast by the disaster management radio communication networks of some local governments. Given the importance of a means of providing information swiftly to the public in the event of an emergency, what response to this issue does the Government consider to be necessary?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, I have received a report that 16 municipalities experienced difficulties in transmitting the information sent through J-ALERT in response to yesterday’s ballistic missile launch by North Korea. I hear that the majority of difficulties related to connection issues between disaster management radio communication networks and J-ALERT equipment, or a failure to send out information to registered e-mail addresses. The causes behind these glitches are currently being investigated. I hear that the Fire and Disaster Management Agency is working to fully identify the causes and ensure that such trouble does not occur again, and is also planning to provide information to all municipalities and relevant organizations to ensure that similar issues do not arise in other local government authorities. Another important issue relates to the level of proficiency in handling J-ALERT equipment. The Government will respond by revising training methods, including increasing opportunities for training, and will work to ensure the smooth provision of information so that a situation like that which occurred yesterday does not happen again.

REPORTER: Prime Minister Abe has recently held a summit telephone talk with President Moon of the ROK, following on from his telephone talk with President Trump yesterday. Does the Government consider that this demonstrates to Japan and the world the close cooperation between the three countries?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Rather than seeking to demonstrate a stance, what is of the utmost importance is for Japan, the United States and the ROK to respond practically to the repeated provocative actions of North Korea. Given that China and Russia are permanent UNSC members and members of the Six-Party Talks process, it is also important for us to work closely with these countries too, at various levels of government.

REPORTER: With North Korea elevating its confrontational stance some people have noted that there are limitations to the current missile interception system. What is the Government’s view on the need to consider a capability to strike enemy bases?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, no matter how tense the North Korean situation becomes, the greatest duty of the Government is to ensure the safety and security of the people of Japan. In that sense, at the same time as continuing to respond under the Japan-U.S. Alliance and through Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation, we are also working with countries such as China and Russia in order to put an end to provocative actions by North Korea. That is the priority. With regard to a strike capability, under the current division of roles in the Japan-U.S. Alliance, we rely on the United States for such capabilities. The Self-Defense Forces currently do not possess any equipment or weapons systems for the purpose of striking enemy bases and there are no plans at the current point to acquire such systems. Given the increasing severity of the security environment it is also important to give constant thought to various options for protecting the lives and peaceful daily lives of the people of Japan. There are no plans to engage in specific considerations on the acquisition of a capability to strike enemy bases.

REPORTER: With regard to Japan’s missile interception structure, in yesterday’s press conference you explained that the Ministry of Defense always makes the required response, taking all matters into consideration. Given that North Korea has made an announcement that could be construed as a warning that more missiles will be fired into the Pacific Ocean, does the current missile defense structure cover the whole of Japan?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Due to the nature of the matter I would like to refrain from going into details about Japan’s missile defense structures, but it is the case that the Ministry of Defense and the Self-Defense Forces have the required structures in place to protect the lives and peaceful daily lives of the people of Japan in any situation. I would add that PAC-3 units have been deployed in the Chugoku and Shikoku regions, where there were none previously, and that PAC-3 units remain in place as before at Chitose Base and Shariki Sub Base. Looking at the overall situation, I therefore think that we have a comprehensive structure in place.

REPORTER: Following the latest missile launch some people have pointed out that even if the J-ALERT alarm is raised they do not know how to respond or where they should seek refuge. You have already mentioned increasing opportunities for training, so do you think it is necessary to discuss expanding the number of local governments that are implementing evacuation training or the construction of shelters?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In any event, there is a section that details such matters on the website about the J-ALERT system. However, this was the first time for the J-ALERT system to be mobilized over a wide area in response to a specific situation. Therefore, it is only natural that various issues, such as those you mentioned, will become apparent and the Government will seek to address each and every one of these issues appropriately. I believe that one of the issues that has emerged on this occasion is the need for the implementation of more training in various aspects.

REPORTER: Families of the abduction victims have expressed various frustrations, noting that the Government is not implementing all independent measures against North Korea that it should be implementing and calling for more information about preparations for negotiations on the return of the abduction victims. What is your view on this issue?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Many years have passed since the abductions by North Korea. It is a matter of the greatest regret that the return home of the abduction victims has still to be realized and the Government recognizes that we can afford no more delays. On August 25, we implemented further independent measures against North Korea in cooperation with the United States and other countries concerned, towards resolving outstanding issues of concern including the abductions issue as well as nuclear and missile programs in a comprehensive manner. The abductions issue is a top priority for the Abe administration and under the principles of “dialogue and pressure” and “action for action,” the Government will continue to urge North Korea to implement the Stockholm Agreement and make every possible effort to realize the return of all abductees at the earliest possible date. I would like to add that in various meetings, including Japan-U.S. summit meetings, the Government has engaged in specific actions towards the resolution of the abductions issue. However, it is a matter of the greatest regret that the issue has yet to be resolved after so many years and the Government will continue to engage in all measures, giving it top priority.

REPORTER: I have a question on a different topic, concerning the emergency landing of an Osprey aircraft yesterday at Oita Airport. Information suggests that smoke was coming from the aircraft. Does the Government intend to request U.S. Forces to engage in measures to prevent a reoccurrence?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, with regard to this matter, I have received a report that an Osprey aircraft made a preemptive landing at Oita Airport and that no people were injured, nor was there any material damage. In response, the Government has provided local governments concerned with information swiftly, and has also requested the U.S. side to implement thorough safety management and continue to provide additional information. The Government considers that ensuring safety is a prerequisite to flights of U.S. military aircraft and we will continue to request the U.S. side to make every effort to ensure the safe management of its aircraft.

REPORTER: Plans are being advanced to deploy Osprey aircraft to Saga Airport, but local residents are increasingly concerned, given the recent spate of accidents and emergency landings. How will the Government seek the understanding of local residents as it continues to advance this deployment plan?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, as I have just noted, ensuring safety is a prerequisite to flights of U.S. military aircraft. Naturally we are calling on the U.S. side to pay maximum attention to safety aspects and minimize the impact of deployment on local residents. In addition, with regard to the Osprey aircraft of the Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF), from the perspective of ensuring integration with the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade stationed in Sasebo City, we will continue to seek their deployment at Saga Airport. However, if any new information about the preemptive landing of the U.S. aircraft yesterday becomes available, we will provide such information swiftly to Saga Prefecture and other related parties, and provide thorough explanations in order to gain the understanding and cooperation of residents in the prefecture.

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