Saturday, February 8, 2014

Suga: Abe has good reason to attend Sochi ceremony

Japan's top government spokesman says Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has good reason to attend the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics despite planned no-shows by leaders of Western countries.

Leaders of the United States, France and other Western nations have said they will not attend the ceremony, apparently to protest Russia's human rights record, including discrimination against homosexuals.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Friday that the government is watching Russia's human rights situation but won't link it to the games.

Suga stressed that the government has a basic policy that human rights must be ensured, but that deciding whether to attend the ceremony should be done from a wider perspective.

He said given the major issue between Japan and Russia involving 4 Russian-held islands off Hokkaido, summit talks between Abe and Russian President Vladimir Putin are in line with Japan's national interest.

Suga also said it's extremely regrettable that the Virginia state legislature in the US passed a bill requiring school textbooks to use the South Korea-preferred name, the East Sea, along with the Sea of Japan.

He said the Sea of Japan is the only internationally established name for the body of water, and that the US government recognizes it as the only official name.

Suga added that Japan must firmly maintain its position while seeking support and understanding from the international community.