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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

December 12, 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]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga
(There was a statement on the overview of the Cabinet meeting.)


REPORTER: Mr. Charles Jenkins, the husband of Ms. Hitomi Soga, who was a victim of abduction by North Korea, has passed away. Mr. Jenkins provided a great deal of valuable testimony, based on the approximately 40 years he spent living in North Korea. Can I ask for a comment from the Government on his passing?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I would like to offer my sincere condolences and prayers on the passing of Mr. Charles Jenkins and Ms. Nobuko Masumoto. In particular, 39 years have now passed since Ms. Rumiko Masumoto, Ms. Hitomi Soga and Ms. Miyoshi Soga were abducted, and it is 13 years since Mr. Jenkins came to Japan. We are acutely aware that quite a number of years have passed since the abductions and it is a source of tremendous sorrow that, after Ms. Hitomi Soga, the return to Japan of other abductees could not be realized, including that of Ms. Rumiko Masumoto. The families of other abduction victims are now also at an advanced age and we share their sense of urgency in strongly calling for a resolution to the abduction issue without any further delays. The abduction issue is a top priority for the Abe Cabinet and we will never waver from our strong determination to resolve the issue. We will continue to demand the fulfillment of the Stockholm Agreement from North Korea and devote every effort to realizing the return of all the abductees as quickly as possible.


REPORTER: I have a question about the comfort women issue. A statue of a Filipino woman, symbolizing the comfort women, has been installed in Manila in the Philippines. This is the first installation of such a statue in the Philippines. Can I ask for a comment from the Government about this development?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, I understand that a comfort woman statue has been installed in Manila and that an unveiling ceremony took place on December 8. The installation of comfort woman statues in various countries is extremely regrettable. We are currently confirming the facts behind the installation with the Government of the Philippines. For many years, Japan and the Philippines have been true strategic partners and friends, and the Government of Japan will respond by engaging in thorough consultations with the Government of the Philippines on this matter.

REPORTER: Can we understand from your statement that the Government will request the Government of the Philippines to remove the statue?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, the installation of comfort woman statues in other countries is incompatible with the Government’s position and therefore extremely regrettable. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already issued a protest to the Government of the Philippines and is planning to issue a similar protest to the city authorities of Manila. In any event, we will respond by engaging in thorough consultations with the Government of the Philippines.

REPORTER: In relation to the comfort women issue, yesterday the Japan-Korea and Korea-Japan Parliamentarians' Unions held a joint general meeting at the Diet and issued a joint statement. This statement did not include any mention or request for the 2015 Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) agreement on the comfort women to be implemented. This seems to differ from the position of the Government. Can I ask for your views on this point?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, the statement was compiled by the two parliamentarians’ unions, and I should refrain from commenting on behalf of the Government about the activities of such bodies. There is absolutely no change to the Government’s position that both countries confirmed the final and irreversible resolution of the comfort women issue with the agreement at the end of 2015. The agreement has also been welcomed by the international community and it is important to ensure that it is steadily implemented. We will continue to use all available opportunities to call on the ROK to do so.

REPORTER: I have a further question about the joint statement. In consideration of the ROK side, the statement included a request for efforts to be made to realize voting rights in local elections for foreign permanent residents in Japan. What is the Government’s position on this issue?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I would like to refrain from commenting on the activities of the parliamentarians’ unions on behalf of the Government.

REPORTER: I have a question about President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. In press conferences to date you have repeatedly and strongly criticized North Korea for contravening United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions by conducting missile launches and other actions. On the contrary, with regard to the relocation of the capital of Israel to Jerusalem, the UN adopted a resolution in 1980 in which it was stated that any alternation of the character and status of Jerusalem would be null and void. It can be therefore understood that the United States is seeking to engage in acts that would contravene a UNSC resolution, but the Government of Japan has yet to make any critical observations about these moves. Could you tell us once again why this is the case?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, from the perspective of realizing stability in the Middle East region, Japan seeks to maintain close communication with countries concerned, including the United States. In any event, Japan supports a two-state solution and our position is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be resolved through negotiation between the parties, based on relevant UNSC resolutions adopted to date and the agreements previously reached by the parties concerned, including on the issue of the final status of Jerusalem.

REPORTER: At the end of November, U.S. Defense Secretary Mattis announced that the U.S. will be considering ship inspection measures in international waters, in relation to the repeated missile launches by North Korea. He stated that the U.S. will seek the cooperation of 16 nations, which once participated in United Nations Command on the Korean Peninsula and did not include China, Russia, and others, with a view to implementing such inspections. Such inspection measures could be viewed internationally as a so-called military intervention and some people have noted the possibility that they may trigger an accidental conflict. Prime Minister Abe has often stated that Japan stands in complete agreement with the United States, so could you tell us the position of the Government on ship inspections in international waters and whether you agree with such actions?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I have not heard anything about such a matter. Japan will respond in accordance with our own basic concepts. That is all. I will not respond to hypothetical questions.

REPORTER: Can we understand, therefore, that at the current point the Government cannot offer a view on the United States’ moves to consider United Nations-backed ship inspections?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As I have just noted it is a hypothetical question.

REPORTER: It is not hypothetical. What is Japan’s response to the announcement that the United States is considering ship inspection measures?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government is not aware of such a statement. It is only natural, therefore, that I should refrain from expressing a Government view on what is still a hypothetical matter.

REPORTER: I have asked this question before, but the Congressional Research Service of the United States has compiled a report that includes estimates of casualties in the event that a conflict were to break out on the Korean Peninsula. The report notes that up to 25 million people could be affected and that the ROK would suffer devastating damage, in addition to which the U.S. bases in Japan and Japanese cities would also be in danger. A thinktank in Europe, the European Council on Foreign Relations, has also reported that not only the U.S. bases in Okinawa and other regions in Japan but also Japanese cities such as Nagoya, Kyoto and Osaka could also be targets for a North Korean nuclear strike. These and other overseas damage estimates are being published and the Ministry of Defense has indicated to the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper that it has also run various simulations. At the current point, is the Government considering announcing damage estimates in the event that a contingency situation arose on the Korean Peninsula?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The answer to your question was as provided by the Ministry of Defense.

REPORTER: When I asked this question previously, you indicated that you could not respond to a hypothetical question. When I inquired with the Ministry of Defense I was told that simulations were being run in response to the situation changing daily, including figures for damage estimates. This would suggest that the ministry checks and calculates damage estimate figures on a regular basis. Could you tell us whether any consideration is being given to publicly disclosing the damage estimates that the Government possesses?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I have already stated that I should refrain from making any comment about reports such as that compiled by a single official at the Congressional Research Service in the United States. I do not know whether your question is based on an understanding of what the Congressional Research Service actually is. In the case of Japan, it is only natural that the Ministry of Defense is engaging in various simulations, because ensuring the safety and security of the people of Japan is the ultimate duty of the Government. That is all.

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