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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

February 7, 2018 (AM)

If you can not view the video,click here(Japanese Government Internet TV)
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 earthquake in Taiwan. It appears that the earthquake that struck in the early hours of this morning has claimed many lives and caused many injuries. Could you tell us what the Government knows, including the safety of Japanese nationals?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I have received a report that in the early hours of this morning an earthquake occurred in the vicinity of Hualien City in eastern Taiwan, with a magnitude of 6.4, according to geological surveys. At this point in time, details about the status of damage remain unclear. The Government would like to express condolences for those who lost their lives in this disaster and extend heartfelt sympathies to those who have been affected. The Taipei office of the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association has contacted local hospitals and has received reports that two Japanese nationals sustained injuries. We are still currently confirming further details.
REPORTER: Does the Government have any plans at this moment to dispatch a disaster relief team to Taiwan?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: If we receive a request for assistance from Taiwan authorities we stand ready to provide any assistance required. At the current point we have not received any.
REPORTER: The Man Gyong Bong 92, a cargo-passenger vessel of North Korea, made a port call to a Republic of Korea (ROK) port, carrying a North Korean art troupe for the PyeongChang Olympic Games. Under its own sanctions, the ROK prohibits the entry of North Korean-registered vessels into ROK ports but has approved this entry as an exception. What is the Government’s view on this decision?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, the Olympic and Paralympic Games are festivals of peace and the Government appreciates that the ROK and North Korea have been coordinating to facilitate North Korea’s participation in the Games. Meanwhile, given the necessity for the international community as a whole to strengthen pressure on North Korea, it is important to avoid any actions that could be inconsistent with the policy to increase pressure. The Government will continue to closely monitor the developments of the arrangements being made between the ROK and North Korea for the Olympic Games, while continuing to obtain information from the ROK.
REPORTER: The Government of the ROK has indicated that it would provide food and fuel to the ship. In addition, a charter flight carrying ROK skiers to and from North Korea was also treated as an exception to the U.S. sanctions. There are concerns that such actions could incrementally detract from the sanctions that have been in place. Could you tell us whether there is a risk that cracks would appear in Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation efforts to place maximum pressure on North Korea, and how the Government would respond to them?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, it could be considered that, through ROK-North Korea consultations, North Korea is seeking to divert international attention away from its nuclear and missile development programs, giving it time to further develop such programs, and also gain beneficial concessions from various countries, including the lifting of sanctions, financial assistance, and the suspension of U.S.-ROK joint military exercises. It is important that we are not distracted by North Korea’s diplomatic charm offensive. In the Japan-U.S. summit telephone talk on February 2, Prime Minister Abe reaffirmed with President Trump that point. In any case, there is absolutely no change in our shared position of engaging in Japan-U.S. and Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation and working with the international community to use all means available to place maximum pressure on North Korea to make it change its policies.
REPORTER: The Russian forces conducted military exercises on Kunashiri Island on February 6. This was the day on which Japan-Russia vice-ministerial consultations were held and is also the day before the Northern Territories Day. Could I ask for a comment from the Government about these exercises and an explanation on what responses it will be taking?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I would like to refrain from commenting on the intentions of Russia. Meanwhile, we are building political dialogue with Russia and advancing Japan-Russia relations that will contribute to Japan’s national interests, and there is no change to the Government’s policy of engaging in negotiations on the territorial issue. We will continue to negotiate persistently with Russia, under a policy of concluding a peace treaty by resolving the issue of the attribution of the Four Northern Islands.
REPORTER: In response to questions at the Diet, Foreign Minister Kono stated that the Government has lodged a protest. Could you tell us the facts behind this protest and on what diplomatic level the protest was made?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As Foreign Minister Kono explained in his response to Diet questions, immediately upon receiving information relating to the military exercises, on the evening of February 6, the Government issued a protest to Russia through diplomatic channels, stating that such exercises lead to a build-up of the Russian military presence in the Four Northern Islands, which is highly regrettable and incompatible with Japan’s position on the islands. This protest was made by the Director of the Russian Division, European Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Minister-Counsellor of the Russian Embassy in Tokyo.
REPORTER: Prime Minister Abe is scheduled to meet Vice President Pence of the United States today. I imagine that the North Korean issue will be a major focus of the meeting. Could you tell us what outcomes the Government is expecting?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, between Japan and the U.S. and among Japan, the U.S. and the ROK, it has been confirmed on multiple occasions and at various levels, including at the leader and foreign minister levels, that Japan, the U.S. and the ROK will work closely together to further strengthen pressure on North Korea. I expect that, in today’s meeting too, the importance of close Japan-U.S. and Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation will be clearly confirmed once again.
REPORTER: You have just mentioned the close Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation. There is a rising mood of reconciliation towards North Korea in the ROK. How is today’s meeting positioned from the perspective of maintaining and strengthening close cooperation with the ROK?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In any event, we continue to engage in Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation, and as was confirmed in the recent Japan-U.S. summit telephone talk between Prime Minister Abe and President Trump, there is absolutely no change to our existing policy.

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