Press Conference by Prime Minister Naoto Kan
CABINET SECRETARY FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS (MODERATOR): We shall now begin the press conference by Prime Minister Naoto Kan. The Prime Minister will first make an opening statement. Prime Minister, please.
Opening Statement by Prime Minister Naoto Kan
I am Naoto Kan, and I will formally assume the post of Prime Minister this evening, after being invested with the office by the Emperor. I should thus like to describe to the Japanese people my basic ideas as I take office.
My belief is that the role of politics should be to minimise the factors that make the people of Japan and the rest of the world unhappy. That is to say, politics should aim to build a society with a minimum level of unhappiness. I say this because, while seeking great happiness - such as through a romantic relationship or a favourite activity like painting - is certainly important, this is not an area in which politics should be engaged very much. On the contrary, I believe politics should seek to eradicate poverty and avoid war.
But what do we see when we look at Japan today? The twenties and thirties of the Showa era [mid-1940s to mid-1960s] when I grew up were marked by material shortages, but they were also a time when many new things came into being, and people were full of hope. During the past two decades since the collapse of the bubble economy, by contrast, the economy has remained stagnant, and more than 30,000 people have been taking their own lives year after year. There is a growing feeling of being fenced in, a vague sense that the whole country is being stifled. Such is the situation in which we find ourselves today.
I want to rebuild Japan from the ground up and make it a more dynamic country, one which also produces more youngsters who walk on to the world stage and distinguish themselves.
One way of doing so is to revive Japan's economy, rebuild Japan's public finances and turn Japan's social security system around. That is to say, we need to shore up the economy, public finances and social security together in a cohesive manner.
We are now completing our growth strategy. I believe that we as a nation have [so far] failed to fully capitalise on the great [economic] opportunities that lay before us.
For example, the 25 percent emissions-reduction target proposed by former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to combat global warming offers a golden opportunity for Japan to furnish the world with its energy-saving technologies and products and, consequently, to fuel robust growth. But we already find ourselves falling behind.
Again, we in Asia, find ourselves in the greatest growth period in our history. But when I visited China the other day, I was told that, despite the booming business there, Japanese companies were not getting much more than subcontracts offered by European firms. What is going on here? I believe this is the result of an absence of political leadership over the past two decades.
The growth strategy envisages Japan being involved in green innovation, lifestyle innovation and growth in Asia through its technology, capital and in other ways so that the changes taking place in Asia would lead also to growth in Japan. The distribution of fiscal resources [in Japan] would be based on this growth strategy.
The reason why Japan's fiscal situation has deteriorated as far as present is because, simply stated, government borrowing was repeated year after year for the past two decades in order to cover the shortfall in revenues, while it has been impossible to raise taxes. Resources were used to finance public works projects that have had little impact; a symbolic example is this is the fact that there are nearly a hundred airports in Japan, for example, but not one functions as a regional hub airport. Meanwhile, social security expenditures have also been mounting. These are the structural causes of the cumulative fiscal deficit we face today. Such weaknesses in the fiscal situation prevent us from taking bold [stimulatory] measures. Hence, I believe rebuilding public finances is a prerequisite to economic growth.
As for social security, too, in the past it was predominantly regarded as a perennial burden that threatened to thwart economic growth. But is this true? In Sweden and many other countries, expanding social security has become a way of creating employment, and it has enabled young people to feel assured in pursuing their studies or research. Many aspects of social security can thus actually promote economic growth. By adopting such a perspective, I think a path will surely open up, enabling us to promote the trio of economic growth, public finance and social security together as a cohesive whole.
I should also like to touch on international issues. Over the six decades since the end of World War II, the Japan-US alliance has served as the cornerstone of our foreign policy. This principle should continue to be upheld firmly today.
At the same time, as an Asian nation, we also need to deepen our relations with other Asian countries. There is also a need to promote partnerships with countries around the world, such as those in Europe, Africa and South America.
We caused anxiety among the Japanese public over the issue of [relocating Marine Corps Air Station] Futenma, concerning not only Japan-US relations but also its domestic consequences. We have reached an agreement with the United States, and we must proceed on the basis of this accord, but at the same time, as is mentioned in the Cabinet decision we took, we must make a sincere and all-out effort to reduce the burden on Okinawa.
This is a very difficult issue, but it is one that I hope to address with firm resolve and a clear sense of direction.
What are my responsibilities as Prime Minister? Watching the news on television over the past few days, I have seen some of my Cabinet ministers and newly-appointed Democratic Party of Japan executives answering questions from reporters on a variety of topics. What did you think of them? Seeing these Cabinet ministers and party executives who are ten to twenty years younger than me and hearing their comments, I am sure you must have been pleasantly surprised by the fact that there are so many promising young politicians in the DPJ making very articulate statements. You must have been encouraged by their prospects.
Dr Hatoyama and I founded the Democratic Party (Minshutou) in 1996, and I became the inaugural President of the DPJ in 1998. Later, we merged with the Liberal Party, led by former DPJ Secretary General Ichiro Ozawa, to form the DPJ of today. That we have been able to attract so many talented individuals to our party makes me not only very happy but also confident that we can push ahead with the kind of reforms in Japan that I have just outlined.
Many of the people in our party are, like me, sons of ordinary salaried employees or have self-employed parents. That these young people who grew up in ordinary households can play a significant role in the world of politics - as long as they have the motivation and are ready to make the necessary effort - is how true democracy should be.
In working with such colleagues to address the many issues before us, my job is to indicate clearly a direction for us to pursue. I will have the Cabinet and the Party debate thoroughly where debate is called for, and after all [concerned] have agreed, I will harness everyone's energies in the chosen direction. This, I believe, is the role that I should fulfil.
Now that I am Prime Minister, I no longer have much time for private pursuits. I should like to complete my pilgrimage [to all eighty-eight temples on the island of Shikoku] as I have reached the fifty-third temple. I will have to put this off for a while, but the job before me here at the Prime Minister's Office, too, is a personal discipline of a kind. It is in such a frame of mind that I am resolved to dedicate all of my energies for the sake of Japan and the world. I promise to devote myself to making Japan and the world a better place, and with this I would like to conclude my message to the people of Japan.
Raise your hands please.
All right, Mr Nakamura.
REPORTER: Prime Minister Kan, I'm Mr Nakamura of the Mainichi Shimbun.
Prime Minister, in discussing the formation of your Cabinet at the press conference after you were elected Prime Minister by the Diet, you spoke of reinforcing the functions of the Prime Minister's Office so as to secure cohesion within the Cabinet. You were Deputy Prime Minister in the Hatoyama Cabinet: What kind of structural problems lay behind the early demise of that administration?
Drawing on these lessons, what concrete changes will you be making in the new Cabinet?
PRIME MINISTER: Since I was entrusted with the important role of Deputy Prime Minister in the Hatoyama Cabinet, I naturally feel both regret and a strong sense of personal responsibility for the short life of that government.
I was thus concerned when forming my new Cabinet to ensure cohesion around the Chief Cabinet Secretary. The Chief Cabinet Secretary acts as general manager of the Cabinet under the Prime Minister, and has to be someone who can disagree with even the Prime Minister should the need arise. People often cite Mr [Masaharu] Gotoda, who served under Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone as an example of this. I believe the Chief Cabinet Secretary needs to be precisely someone with that kind of authority.
Mr Sengoku and I have known each other for a long time, but nevertheless he is someone who doesn't let me feel at ease. I believe that having someone like that, who also has authority, as Chief Cabinet Secretary represents the first step in ensuring cohesion in this government. After that come the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretaries, the various ministers and deputy ministers.
There has been a lot of talk recently of the relationship between politicians and bureaucrats. We have absolutely no intention of excluding the bureaucrats and saying that politicians should consider all matters and take all decisions on their own. Bureaucrats are true professionals who have been engaged in policy-making and problem-solving in a wide variety of issues for many years. Diet members are elected by the people, and the Prime Minister is chosen by those elected members of the Diet. The Prime Minister, who is chosen by Diet members, who themselves were chosen by the public, forms a Cabinet which draws on the professional knowledge and experience of the bureaucrats and makes full use of their abilities. We will draw on the strengths of the bureaucracy as we implement our policies, while continuing to make the will of the people our foremost priority.
This is the kind of government and Cabinet I want to build. For this reason I spoke today with each of the members of my new Cabinet individually - if only for around 10 minutes each. As well as asking each of them to devote themselves to their work, I also said that I would make suggestions as necessary about the condition of their government departments, perhaps through the Chief Cabinet Secretary, pointing out areas where I think they might do things differently. As well as building cohesion [within the Cabinet], we will work hard to develop a better and stronger relationship between politicians and bureaucrats.
REPORTER: I'm Mr Ogata, of Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS). My question is about the imminent election for the House of Councillors. Calls are being made for the vote to be held on 11 July, particularly from those members whose seats will be contested at this election. Do you plan to extend the current session of the Diet and postpone the date of the election? Also, could you tell us your thoughts on the likely points of contention in the House of Councillors election, the number of seats you aim to win, and where you see the line between victory and defeat?
PRIME MINISTER: The length of an ordinary session of the Diet is set at 150 days. We would normally hope to pass all the bills we want to pass within that time. Yet while the end of the present session is approaching, we are still not reached that situation. In particular, we have an agreement with the People's New Party to try to pass the postal services reform bill.
On the other hand, it would be difficult to pass all the [remaining] bills even if we do extend the session slightly. Given this, some people have suggested that it would be acceptable to try again to pass these bills after the election. I will decide which direction to take on this matter after a thorough debate to be conducted between the new [DPJ] Secretary General and Diet Affairs Committee Chairman and their colleagues in the other coalition party.
There is a lot of discussion about the "winning line" in elections, but for me the basic figure is the number of seats the party won in the House of Councillors election six years ago under then-President [Katsuya] Okada. How much better can we do than this, or can we really surpass it at all? In the near future we will set up a party strategy headquarters for the House of Councillors election. As head of that group, I will grasp the situation in all electoral districts to the best of my ability and will exercise hands-on leadership.
REPORTER: I'm Mr Matsuyama of Jiji Press. Prime Minister, earlier you strongly emphasized the necessity and importance of rebuilding public finances. I would like to ask about the position you will take on fundamental reform of the tax system, including the consumption tax, in the run-up to the House of Councillors election. Also, on the subject of rebuilding public finances, you have spoken about limiting new government bond issuance to 44.3 trillion yen at most, which was the figure for this fiscal year. Do you intend to list this as one of the pledges for the Upper House election?
PRIME MINISTER: I certainly did say that we would make the target 44.3 trillion yen at most. But please don't misunderstand me: we cannot rebuild public finances if we continue to issue government bonds of 44.3 trillion yen [each year]. Even this increases our debt. If we continued public spending on this scale for another three to four years, the ratio of outstanding public debt to gross domestic product would exceed 200 per cent in several years. In this sense, this is truly the biggest problem we must deal with as a nation.
I do have my policy speech before the national Diet, but I say here too that a debate transcending party lines needs to be conducted on a matter such as this. How much should we really do for the sake of rebuilding public finances? What should be done, in terms of both scale and timeframe? I think that in a sense, the time has come for non-partisan debate on this issue. In light of this, I will continue to consider the options, including, ultimately, including this as a government pledge.
REPORTER: First of all, I find it deeply moving that Prime Minister Kan has been born here in this way, fourteen years after the creation of the former Democratic Party in the summer of 1996. Looking back, at that time the Democratic Party set forth the idea of disclosure and called for open politics. If that spirit is alive, do you have the will, now that you have assumed power, for example to open up completely to the people the [details of the] Cabinet Secretariat discretionary funds, and to make official press conferences by all cabinet ministers open [to all kinds of journalists] like this one - in particular those by the chief cabinet secretary whom you mentioned earlier? Former Prime Minister Hatoyama promised to do so; how about you, Prime Minister Kan?
PRIME MINISTER: One talks about "opening [things] up", but exactly what form this should take? I haven't considered this yet in my capacity as prime minister. To be frank, while I think it's extremely good to make things "open", I also have the nagging sense that at times taking questions from journalists on this or that matter has itself tended to have an adverse effect on the government, dragging it into political quagmire.
In other words, the question is what a politician must do, meaning, in my case, what I am to do as prime minister; as for the question of how to communicate this, in the United States, for example, they have the institution of press secretary, and if you look at figures like President de Gaulle in the past, though apparently he didn't hold press conferences all that often, that doesn't necessarily mean he wasn't "open" to his people.
So being "open" doesn't necessarily mean that having many [press conferences] or always being available [to take questions on any matter]; what is important is doing what should be done and explaining when that is due. As for the possible modalities for this, I've officially taken this post just today, and I'd like to discuss the matter fully with those concerned.
REPORTER: I'm Mr Tsunoda of NHK. This is related to the House of Councillors election. With the change in government and change of the Prime Minister, do you have any intention of, for example, calling elections for both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors on the same day?
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: First, the new government will receive a verdict from the public in the House of Councillors election. From time to time various people mention a House of Representatives election, and this is something that I understand to a degree. First of all we will be debating issues thoroughly in the House of Councillors election, including public pledges that were made to an extent during the election campaign last year and also stated here just now, and also matters regarding which we have gradually come to establish a firm direction in a meaningful sense. Therefore I feel that the first thing we will do, or rather the first thing we must do, is get the verdict of the people regarding such things.
In that sense, whether or not an election for the House of Representatives should also be undertaken at present is something I view as an entirely blank slate.
REPORTER: I'm Mr Nanao of Nico Nico Douga. The previous government often talked of leadership by politicians and yu-ai (fraternity) politics. Please tell me if there are any key words and the like which symbolise the Kan administration or indicate the direction in which it will aim.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: I myself am a politician with a grassroots background, so the expression "grassroots politics" is one that comes to mind. But if I were to proffer something a bit more daring, my taste would be to call this the Kiheitai (volunteer militia) Cabinet. Ryoma Sakamoto is now drawing a great deal of attention, but I myself was born in Choshu, and our Shinsaku Takasugi was a historical figure that was quick both to flee and to attack. He took decisive actions and was a figure who exercised great influence in bringing about the Meiji Restoration.
It is necessary right now is to take decisive action in order to break out of the stasis in which Japan finds itself. The Kiheitai was a militia whose members did not necessarily come from elite samurai families. In fact various people participated from outside the samurai class to form the Kiheitai. I want the Diet members of my party, the DPJ, who themselves hail from various sectors of society, to have a spirit like that of the Kiheitai and take on issues with fearless courage. With that hope of mine in mind I would be very pleased if you would call this Cabinet the Kiheitai Cabinet.
REPORTER: I'm Ms Igarashi of the Yomiuri Shimbun. Former Prime Minister Hatoyama cited the issues of "politics and money" and the relocation of Futenma [Air Station] as his reasons for stepping down. As for the matter of "politics and money", concerning the attendance of former [DPJ] Secretary General Ozawa at the Political Ethics Hearing Committee of the House of Representatives, yesterday [DPJ] Secretary General Edano indicated that he would leave the matter to Mr Ozawa's discretion. As the new Prime Minister, what is your stance on this?
Also, as for the Futenma issue, construction methods and various details are to be decided between Japan and the US by the end of August, but in Okinawa the movement opposed to the relocation still has not abated. What sort of decision are you intending to take on this matter?
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: In his remarks on his resignation, Former Prime Minister Hatoyama cited the issues of "politics and money" and Futenma, as you mentioned in your question. That is to say, he chose to stand down because these issues had made it impossible to gain public understanding on what the DPJ government fundamentally needed to do.
In that sense, I believe that my government, which took over, must take the feelings of former Prime Minister Hatoyama to heart seriously and carry through with them. As for the issue of "politics and money", owing in part to Dr Hatoyama's behest, Mr Ozawa has withdrawn from the position of Secretary General of his own volition. There are various views on whether this was sufficient, but in the political world, I think that a line has been drawn under this matter to a certain degree with the resignation of the Prime Minister, who was also the President of the DPJ, and that of the Secretary General, who occupies the most important position within the party.
Beyond this, what will be necessary additionally in the Diet or on other fronts? On Diet matters in particular, other political parties have their various assertions. I should like to hear their views, mainly through the Secretary General. The Secretary General will take decisions accordingly, as I will myself.
Looking at Futenma, I believe that it is necessary firmly to maintain the principle of acting in line with the Japan-US agreement. That said, I am fully aware that currently we are nowhere near a situation where we can say we have the support of the people of Okinawa. It is true that having experts indicate a way forward in August is an agreement on the schedule which exists between Japan and the US. Yet we need to move forward in parallel on that matter and on gaining the understanding of the people in Okinawa.
Naturally, the understanding of the Okinawan people will automatically follow on every point which is decided between Japan and the US. In that sense, as I mentioned earlier, we must work resolutely to reduce the burden on Okinawa and hold discussions with the people of Okinawa, including on that point.
During the previous government, various people seemed to bring to former Prime Minister Hatoyama a range of ideas and opinions. While listening to a variety of views is a good thing, having different people dealing with the same matter may well lead to confusion. Thus I intend to have the Chief Cabinet Secretary examine the way we should deal with this issue - what would be the appropriate manner of handling this issue, taking into account of course the fact that we have ministers in charge of foreign affairs, defence, and in some cases, Okinawa affairs. We cannot proceed leisurely on this matter, but since today marks the official new start [of my government], for now we will carefully consider the question of what sort of team should be formed and what framework we should utilise to consider this issue.
REPORTER: I'm Mr Aoyama of the Nippon Television Network. Regarding the people you have chosen [for various cabinet and party posts], some say that this line-up has swept away any tinges of Mr Ozawa. However, at the same time, the opposition party is criticising this as concealing Mr Ozawa['s influence] before the House of Councillors election.
Recently you said that you hoped Mr Ozawa would stay out of the limelight for a while. Does "for a while" mean until the House of Councillors election, and what sort of distance do you intend to maintain from now between yourself and Mr Ozawa?
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: You know, looking at media reports, there are always comments about being close to or distant from Mr Ozawa or about "shades of Ozawa". However, in choosing my ministers and party officials, the biggest factor was who should be given a particular portfolio in order to advance our agenda more effectively.
As you will notice if you look closely at the persons I selected, I have appointed to appropriate posts people who have their own views as well as the ability to carry through on matters.
What I wanted to say about Mr Ozawa was that, for example in my own case in 2004, I resigned as DPJ President over unpaid social insurance annuities, although ultimately this was found to have been [caused by] an error by the Social Insurance Agency. After resigning, I was determined to maintain a very low profile for a while.
Or, in the case of Mr [Katsuya] Okada, [the DPJ] suffered a major defeat in the 2005 House of Representatives election - the election on postal reforms during the Koizumi government. That was an election which, looking back now, was entirely the province of Koizumi, and while "appalling" may be in some sense too strong a word, it was an election in which everyone was made to dance on the Koizumi stage. Yet Mr Okada took responsibility [for the electoral defeat] and resigned [as DPJ President], after which time he visited literally every single colleague around the country who had lost nationwide. In this way he kept out of the limelight and acted in a way that would be useful in the future.
So I don't think I said anything out of the ordinary [on what Mr Ozawa should do]. The Prime Minister (Dr Hatoyama) resigned for reasons including "politics and money" and he explained [in his resignation speech] that the Secretary General (Mr Ozawa) had accepted the Prime Minister's behest also to stand down for the same reason. So I said what I consider a perfectly natural thing, that if indeed Mr Ozawa stepped down having felt responsibility in some sense, then for everyone's sake, including his own, it would be better if he stayed out of the public view for a while.
As for the meaning of "for a while", this is as I just explained, and I won't go into details. It is not a matter of how many days or how many years would be right. But judgement can be made when a new situation comes to pass.
REPORTER: I'm Mr Monahan of Dow Jones Newswires. I would like to ask you about the balance between rebuilding public finances and economic growth policies. Prime Minister, what kind of measures could be taken in order to achieve this balance? Also, is there any way in which the depreciation of the yen can make a contribution to this?
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: The depreciation of the yen? What about the depreciation of the yen?
REPORTER (MONAHAN): Whether or not depreciation of the yen would assist in attaining such a balance.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: Earlier I spoke about addressing the economy, public finances and social security together in a cohesive manner. If there were enough time I could talk about this in detail, but I have already spoken about it in various places, and I will deliver my policy speech at the Diet in the near future, in which I intend to address this in somewhat more detail.
Fundamentally, when making public finances sound, or indeed to give an extreme case, if we were to raise taxes and allocate the additional receipts to paying off government debt, this would clearly be a policy that would aggravate deflation.
Bearing this in mind, it is imperative that the uses to which public finances are allocated be in fields that definitely lead to economic growth.
Furthermore, borrowing the savings of the public in the form of national bonds and using them to promote such economic growth is naturally conceivable as economic policy. But the thing that was wrong was the uses [of these borrowed funds]. To have used the funds in such a way as to build ninety-some airports but not to have a single hub airport like Incheon means we did not achieve growth although our debt increased.
What's more, Japan has accumulated the highest [ratio] of debt to GDP among all the world's developed nations. Given that the markets are a formidable entity, the time has come when we need to debate in earnest whether fiscal outlays through debt issuance are acceptable even for appropriate purposes, or, alternately, whether it is preferable to use new fiscal resources to be gained from a change in the tax structure. Insofar as there are quite a number of people within the Liberal Democratic Party and other opposition parties who share this sense of crisis, I would like my ideas to lead on to discussions in a [multi-party] context, rather than unilaterally put forward the government's approach.
As for the depreciation of the yen, generally speaking, depreciation is a plus for exports, and I am well aware of views that this depreciation would in general terms serve as a plus for the Japanese economy, as exports assume considerable weight within it.
However, I was told when I became Finance Minister not to comment too much on the markets, so I will leave my remarks at that.
REPORTER: I'm Mr Fujita of the Nihon Keizai Shimbun. This came up earlier, but I would like to another question on relocating the US military's Futenma Air Station.
What are you intending to do in concrete terms in order to change Japan-US relations for the better, so as to rebuild Japan-US relations which are now strained? For example, a [G8 and G20] summit will be held in Canada shortly, so will you be utilising the time before or after to visit the US on your own initiative, or similarly bringing Japan-US relations onto a more favourable course? Please explain.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: A summit will be held soon in Canada, at the end of this month. I hope to be able to meet President Obama there. Final plans have yet to be completed, but that is what I am thinking.
In our telephone conversation the other day, President Obama said that he was looking forward to meeting me in Canada, so I think it likely that we would have a meeting there.
There are various options, such as to visit the US before then, but of course I will be engaged with the Diet and naturally the US President has other global matters to deal with. So, I expect now that I will have the opportunity to meet and hold talks with President Obama for the first time as Prime Minister at the summit.
That is where we now stand.
REPORTER: I'm Mr Hatakeyama, a freelancer. I have a question regarding free speech, as you see it.
This is the third press conference at which freelance journalists have been able to ask questions to the Prime Minister. However, there are a host of stringent requirements in order to participate. Additionally, one freelance journalist, who applied and was turned down three times in a row says that when negotiating on the matter, the special coordinator in the Kantei (Prime Minister's Office) press division told him: "I have total authority to deny you participation at a press conferences." This is a journalist who has been pursuing wrongdoing by a senior management-track officer(s) of the National Police Agency and exposing scandals by a public prosecutor(s). So you could say that he is not a "friendly" person as seen from persons of power and authority. I would like to ask you if you consider it right to permit or deny journalists' participation in press conferences based on the contents of their past activities or their ideas and beliefs.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: A little earlier, there was also a question on the opening up of press conferences like this one. Generally speaking, I consider it desirable to make them as open as possible. However, I say once again that the desirable format in the concrete is a matter which I will consider by listening carefully to all the relevant parties concerned.
For example, the number of times I have spoken on the streets is probably in the thousands, not hundreds, although now that I am Prime Minister there may be various constraints in trying to do the same thing. I did my speeches in various circumstances. At times someone would disrupt me by coming close by and blaring a big speaker, or people may come as a group and make derogatory remarks. Many things happen. As various situations can arise, while respecting on the one hand the principle of making press conferences as open as possible, I believe it is also necessary on the other hand to think through the operational aspects, such as the rules and their application.
REPORTER: I'm Mr Wada of the Fuji Television Network. Looking at the line-up of your new Cabinet, there are quite a number of members of the House of Councillors. Is that because of this summer's House of Councillors election and because you have in mind the possibility of a Cabinet reshuffle in September after the DPJ President election? Or, did you rather choose these Cabinet members with the determination to keep them at least until the next general election?
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: To speak in general terms, former Prime Minister Hatoyama stepped down less than nine months since the inauguration of his government. This means that all other members of his Cabinet have been in office so far for less than nine months. When I attended my first G7 meeting in Iqaluit, and introduced myself as Naoto Kan, Japan's fourth Finance Minister during the last year, my counterparts smiled wryly. In other words, in my opinion it is not desirable for the sake of what I might call the "quality" of the administration, for various reasons, that ministers, let alone the Prime Minister, should come and go too frequently.
Consequently, as for my Cabinet this time, I retained most of the ministers of the previous government as I had seen, having been a member myself, that they were conducting their work well, although there were of course a few who expressed the wish to take a break from ministerial duties and left for various other reasons.
You also referred to a Cabinet reshuffle. You among the media really do seem to like things like a reshuffle or a fresh change. It's hard to get covered by the media if the same person just keeps doing his or her job well. In any event, I have no intention whatsoever of a reshuffle or anything of the like. By all means, take a good hard look at what is being done now by the ministers doing their jobs dependably, and what has been accomplished. And then, could you ask whether I intend to do this or that with that in mind?
REPORTER (WADA): What I wanted to ask on this topic was whether or not your enthusiasm was such that you were determined not to change the line-up until the next general election.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: So, including with regard to that point, I have no intention whatsoever of a reshuffle or the like. Generally speaking, I consider it desirable to have ministers continue in their posts for a certain length of time, but since the Prime Minister recently resigned unexpectedly, I shall refrain from making definite statements about the future.
REPORTER: I'm Mr Imagawa of the Hokkaido Shimbun. I would like to ask about the issue of the Northern Territories. Former Prime Minister Hatoyama cited the Northern Territories issue as one his unaccomplished tasks. He had promised to hold three summits [this year] with President Medvedev of Russia: one at the [G8/G20] summit in June, the next at an international conference to be held in Russia in September, and the third at the APEC [Leaders' Meeting] in November.
Will you uphold the promises made between President Medvedev and former Prime Minister Hatoyama? And, in specific terms, what sort of principles will you apply in addressing the Northern Territories issue?
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: Regarding that matter, presently I am not fully aware of the promises former Prime Minister Hatoyama made with President Medvedev, or of the [foreseen] sequence [of meetings] which you mentioned in your question. As this matter is of course a very important one, and one which, historically, has been a major issue for a very long time, I should like to make my judgement on how best to deal with it after first giving thorough consideration to the history of the issue and also the content of the promises made between [former] Prime Minister Hatoyama and President Medvedev.
REPORTER: I'm Mr Iwagami, a freelancer. This also came up in the question a bit earlier by Mr Uesugi, but with regard to the issue of the Cabinet Secretariat's "secret funds", I would like to ask a further question as it seemed that you did not answer his question.
Former Chief Cabinet Secretary [Hiromu] Nonaka has spoken on the record that he had given out money from these "secret funds" to public commentators and persons from the mass media - thus he had manipulated information and public opinion, so to speak. After that, both I myself and Mr Uesugi covered this story, and not only is there the statement by Mr Nonaka, but also a person(s) has emerged who have clearly admitted that they received these "secret funds".
Mr Masaru Sato, the commentator, clearly stated to me that he had in the past received "secret funds" from Mr Kenji Eda. This problem of not "politics and money" but rather "the press and money"... or perhaps we could say, the problem of "politics, the press and money". I believe that these problems are very serious indeed. Will you conduct a proper investigation into these matters? And, do you intend to disclose publicly the uses of these "secret funds", both how they have been used thus far and also how they will be used in the future? Please state your thoughts clearly. I very much look forward to your answer.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: This issue of these "secret funds" contains some very fundamental issues. Literature on the matter tell us that, for example, at a certain time in the past, which I believe was before World War II, Colonel Akashi used a great deal of such funds in conducting investigations into the actions of the then-Soviet Union, conducting a kind of intelligence operations.
This is an example of the distance which may lie between what the public might expect [concerning information disclosure] based on their standards of daily life and the [necessities of confidentiality stemming from the] inherent character of "secret funds". I believe that this inherent character could well be inscrutable for someone with only this general, everyday sense.
I understand that this issue is now being examined by the Chief Cabinet Secretary. In Japan, the rules concerning diplomatic secrets, that they will be disclosed to the public after a certain length of time, were also unclear to some extent. I believe that some rules are necessary also concerning the "secret funds", and I have entrusted consideration of this matter to the Chief Cabinet Secretary.
As for how the media should be, I think that it is not for me to comment but rather for you yourselves in the media to consider. Or, if some sort of self-imposed rules are necessary, then I think that it would be most appropriate for you to think of your own voluntary rules. Every now and then I have doubts about the accuracy of certain news articles. But when I ask the source on which these articles are based, the common reply is you cannot say because you have to protect the confidentiality of your sources. That may be one line of thinking, but then, isn't it necessary also with regard to the problem of politics and money that you in the media first think for yourselves what kinds of rules and ethics you should uphold?
We shall thus conclude this press conference. Thank you for your cooperation.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: Thank you.