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Last Update : Monday, February 13, 2017

JapanGov Weekly

Cabinet Secretariat [Monday, February 6, 2017]

Courtesy Call from U.S. Defense Secretary Mattis

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe received a courtesy call from the Hon. James N. Mattis, Secretary of Defense of the United States of America, at the Prime Minister's Office.

The Prime Minister said,

“I would like to express my congratulations on the inauguration of the Trump administration and on your appointment as Secretary of Defense.

I welcome the assumption to the office of Secretary of Defense by you who have a long military career, and are well versed on security and foreign policies.

I understand that you have been stationed in Okinawa as a member of the Marine Corps. I imagine you are well aware of the situation in Japan.

During my recent telephone talks with President Trump, the President noted that the choice of East Asia and Japan as the destinations of the first overseas visit by Secretary Mattis shows that the United States attaches importance to Japan for security reasons and as a U.S. ally. I expect and am convinced that with you and the Trump administration, we will be able to demonstrate at home and abroad that the Japan-U.S. Alliance continues to be unwavering.

In addition, I hope that you and Minister Inada will build a relationship of trust and develop a firm relationship.

I look forward to the summit meeting, seeing President Trump, during my visit to the United States from February 10 next week.”

Cabinet Secretariat [Wednesday, February 8, 2017]

2017 National Rally to Demand the Return of the Northern Territories

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended the 2017 National Rally to Demand the Return of the Northern Territories, held in Tokyo.

The National Rally is held every year on February 7, which is Northern Territories Day. It is an event for related members of the public and private sectors to gather at a single venue to call for the further and broader development of the national movement for the return of the Northern Territories, and to express to those both inside and outside Japan the strong resolve of the people of Japan to demand the early return of the Northern Territories.

The Prime Minister said in his address,

“I would like to offer some remarks upon the opening of the 2017 National Rally to Demand the Return of the Northern Territories.

I would like to express my heartfelt respect and gratitude for the tireless efforts of the many people across the nation, including those in attendance today, who are working passionately for the campaign for the return of the Northern Territories.

It is an unusual situation that even now, 71 years since the end of World War II, there is no peace treaty between Japan and Russia. We must find a way to achieve a breakthrough on this situation. I approached the summit meeting with President Putin of the Russian Federation in Yamaguchi last December with this in mind.

Before the meeting, I had the opportunity to directly hear the views of former island residents. I was told that visitors to most of the 52 Japanese cemeteries on the islands can only go to their vicinity and cannot enter them. The current average age of the former islanders is over 81 years. I took firmly to heart the earnest feelings of the former islanders that were expressed in comments such as, “There is very little time left” and “I want to freely visit my hometown and welcome the morning on the island.”

At the summit meeting, I spent over five hours with President Putin, including dinner. Of this, 95 minutes were spent in a one-on-one discussion between President Putin and myself. The majority of this time was spent discussing the issue of the peace treaty.

At the start of these discussions, I frankly conveyed the feelings of the former islanders to President Putin. President Putin carefully read a letter written in Russian by a former islander on the spot, and later stated at the press conference that it was an extremely moving letter. Your feelings have directly reached the heart of the President of Russia. We will quickly start considerations to respond to the feelings of the former islanders, toward the realization of their being able to freely visit their hometowns and their family graves.

In order to resolve this issue which unfortunately has not moved a millimeter in 70 years, rather than simply being caught up in the historical course of events, it is necessary to have future-focused ideas to identify measures for resolution from the creation of a vision of the future of the Northern Territories. With these ideas, based on a new approach, we have agreed to start negotiations in regard to the special arrangement to carry out joint economic activities in the Northern Territories.

I am certain that this is an important step toward concluding a peace treaty. In order to quickly realize this, this afternoon the Government, working as one, will start consideration toward formulating proposals.

At the press conference, President Putin stated that it is wrong to suggest that our interest is only in economic aspects and that the peace treaty will be put off, and that the most important thing is to conclude a peace treaty. Moreover, in writing, President Putin and I expressed our sincere intention to find a solution to the peace treaty issue. Both President Putin and I share a strong determination to bring this issue, which has remained for the entire postwar period, to a close. I believe this is more important than anything else.

Of course, the conclusion of a peace treaty, an issue that has not been resolved for a period of over 70 years, will not be easy. However, taking firmly to heart the earnest feelings of the former islanders toward their hometowns, I am determined to steadily advance forward one step at a time. In order to push negotiations forward, it is essential that each individual member of the public deepen their interest and understanding of this issue, and that the government and the people of Japan unite their efforts.

I would like to finish my remarks by again requesting your powerful support and cooperation toward the settlement of this issue in accordance with the basic policy of resolving the issue of the attribution of the Four Northern Islands and concluding a peace treaty with Russia.”