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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

January 18, 2018 (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 ROK-North Korea talks. In yesterday’s consultations, agreement was reached on forming a joint team and both countries’ marching together at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games. We are beginning to see conciliatory moves around the Olympic Games. How does the Government of Japan regard such moves?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, we highly assess North Korea’s participation in the Olympic Games. Meanwhile, North Korea has continued to develop nuclear weapons and missiles. Furthermore, on January 16, at the meeting on North Korea among the foreign ministers of relevant countries held in Canada, the international community sent out the message that it will work in solidarity to place maximum pressure on North Korea. The Government is being fully informed of the outcomes of the talks from the Republic of Korea (ROK), and is coordinating its North Korean policy on this basis.

REPORTER: What kind of impact do you think these aforementioned moves will have on the effort led by Japan and the United States to put greater pressure on North Korea?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We believe there will be no impact. This has already been confirmed at the foreign ministers’ meeting held in Canada that I just noted, as well as at the Japan-ROK and Japan-U.S. meetings.

REPORTER: At the dinner on the 15th prior to the foreign ministers’ meeting on North Korean issues held in Canada, Secretary of Defense Mattis of the United States stated that the United States also has a “war plan” for dealing with North Korea. What is the Government’s analysis as to why the Secretary made this remark publicly, i.e., in a setting where various countries were present, as well as the Secretary’s intention behind making this remark at this timing?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, as we are not aware of the details, the Government should refrain from making comments. Having said that, as I just stated, it was extremely significant that through the recent meeting the international community as a whole sent out a message that North Korea’s possession of nuclear weapons is absolutely unacceptable, and that the international community would work in solidarity to place maximum pressure on North Korea. In any event, there is no change to our approach of continuing to work closely with the United States bilaterally and with the United States and the ROK trilaterally, as well as with Russia and China, and put maximum pressure on North Korea to compel it to change its policies.

REPORTER: It will be one year on January 20 since President Trump took office. Before taking office, President Trump made highly visible criticisms of Japan regarding the host nation support for the U.S. Forces in Japan as well as trade. Looking back on the past year, can you once again share your impressions concerning how the Japan-U.S. relationship has changed?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: First of all, I believe the Japan-U.S. relationship is the most solid it has ever been in history, supported by the strong relationship of trust between Prime Minister Abe and President Trump. In the short span of a year since the President took office, the two leaders have held a total of 5 face-to-face summit meetings, including on the occasions of the Prime Minister’s visit to the United States and the President’s visit to Japan, and as many as 17 summit telephone talks. The Japan-U.S. Alliance has evolved into a relationship in which the leaders can talk to each other anytime about anything. In particular, with regard to the North Korean issues, the leaders are 100% in agreement with their views and have held very substantive discussions. Based on this unwavering relationship of trust between the two leaders, the ministers will demonstrate their capabilities and continue to further strengthen and deepen the solid Japan-U.S. relationship in the areas of security and economy, and build a new era of the Japan-U.S. Alliance.

REPORTER: I have a question regarding North Korea. With the situation in North Korea becoming extremely unstable, some have pointed to the risk of spontaneous disruptions. Would there not be risks for Japan if it continues to fully move in step with the Trump administration that advocates applying maximum pressure on North Korea?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: It is totally inconceivable that strengthening the Japan-U.S. Alliance would present any risks.

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question regarding the name of the coming era that will come into usage with the accession of the new emperor. Some media have reported that the Government is considering announcing the name this autumn or later. What is the current status of the considerations?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We have still not considered this at all.

REPORTER: I believe a summit meeting with the Hon. Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister of Australia who is visiting Japan, is scheduled to take place as early as this afternoon. Firstly, what achievements do you expect from the meeting? Secondly, what achievements do you expect especially with respect to a Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, Prime Minister Turnbull of Australia is making a working visit to Japan today. Prime Minister Abe is scheduled to hold a meeting with Prime Minister Turnbull and host a dinner. Japan and Australia are special strategic partners that share fundamental values and strategic interests, and we hope today’s visit will further deepen the special strategic partnership that the two countries have established in a wide range of areas. Furthermore, based on this partnership, the leaders are expected to discuss an array of topics at the summit meeting, including bilateral cooperation on the security and defense issues as well as economic issues along with the urgent issue of North Korea.

REPORTER: With regard to security, you described the significance of a VFA at your press conferences last year. Can you share with us your views once again? You spoke about matters such as the status of the negotiations and the significance of a VFA.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: We are in the middle of earnest negotiations, and I would like to refrain from conjecturing on the future outlook at this point in time.

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question concerning the launch of Epsilon. Early this morning, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched Epsilon-3, the third Epsilon launch vehicle. I believe this marks the third successful launch in a row since the launch of the first vehicle in 2013. Can you please share your comments? Can you please tell us what achievements you expect from this launch vehicle if any?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, today’s launch marks the third consecutive successful launch. The Government will continue to work on further enhancing the level of sophistication and reliability of the national flagship launch system. In addition, the launched satellite was developed by a private company aiming for the development of an earth observation satellite at around half the usual price while maintaining high performance. We expect that the launch vehicle will contribute to dramatically expanding business opportunities through the use of satellite data and other means. Furthermore, it is already decided that a vehicle will be exported to Vietnam, and we expect it will lead to infrastructure exports to other countries, mainly to emerging economies.

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