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Press Conference by Prime Minister Naoto Kan

December 6, 2010
[Provisional Translation]

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY (MODERATOR): We shall now begin the press conference by Prime Minister Naoto Kan. We will begin with an opening statement from the Prime Minister. Mr. Prime Minister, please.

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Naoto Kan

Good evening, everyone. I am Naoto Kan. The extraordinary Diet session that spanned 64 days since October 1 drew to a close the other day, on December 3. Taking this opportunity, I called this press conference because I want to convey to you, the public the issues that the extraordinary Diet session addressed, and moreover the issues we intend to address as we head into next year.

First of all, at this extraordinary Diet session, we passed a supplementary budget amounting to approximately 5 trillion yen. As a result of its passage, we will, for example, double the number of "Job Supporters" cultivating employment among new graduates. Furthermore, maternity checkups, which had been provided up to five times without charge, will now be provided without charge up to 14 times, which is almost the entirety of the term of pregnancy. In addition, this supplementary budget provides funds towards the exploration for rare earth and related endeavors. These very important matters are among what the Diet achieved in this extraordinary session.

In so doing, we will be able to advance our steps towards employment and economic growth in a seamless manner, specifically through the "Step 1" measures using the reserve budget prepared earlier, these "Step 2" initiatives, and the forthcoming "Step 3" efforts through the use of the budget for fiscal 2011.

There were also a large number of international conferences that took place while the extraordinary Diet was in session. Above all, APEC, which was held in Yokohama on November 13-14, was able to be concluded with great success, with the adoption of the Yokohama Vision. Prior to this APEC meeting, a Cabinet decision was taken on a Basic Policy that will ensure that the promotion of trade liberalization and the revitalization of agriculture take place simultaneously and in a compatible way. As a result, with regard to agriculture, we established the Headquarters to Promote the Revival of the Food, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishery Industries and a "Council to help make this revival a reality" has also been launched through the participation of a broad-based variety of persons having experience in these fields. On Saturday, the day before yesterday, I visited [the] Wagoen [agricultural producers' cooperative] in Chiba prefecture as one step in this process to speak with the members of this group of about 90 young farmers who have been successful following a business model that includes primary industry, not only in growing their vegetables but also cutting them up and then freezing them after arranging them in nice-looking packages, secondary industry in which they process them, and also tertiary industry in some cases, by supplying their products at restaurants. I very much hope that young people such as these stand at the forefront as we proceed down the path of revitalizing Japan's agriculture while simultaneously pressing forward with trade liberalization.

Also while the extraordinary Diet was in session I attended a variety of meetings, including ASEM in Brussels and a meeting with the ASEAN nations in Asia that took place in Viet Nam. Above all, in Viet Nam, after the close of the meeting, I paid an official visit to the country. During this official visit I met with Prime Minister Dung. In the course of our meeting it was decided that Japan would undertake the work to construct nuclear power plants, the first time for us to do so overseas. Concurrently with this, Japan and Viet Nam will also engage in the development of rare earth. These matters were decided strategically and politically and now we are in the process of transitioning these decisions into execution.

The discussions of the Diet were at times also quite arduous, but through these outcomes I feel that this period of the extraordinary Diet session was an extremely fruitful time for me, both inside and outside the Diet.

We will soon be heading into the year end and the new year. What needs to be done from here on goes without saying, and that is the formulation of the fiscal 2011 budget. If I were to liken this to a mountain, we are now heading from the seventh station to approach the eighth, and entering a stage at which we need to decide on a series of major and important issues. For example, what should be done about the state contribution to basic pensions, and about the child allowance and issues surrounding child raising? And what should be done about block grants and corporate taxes? We will soon be facing decisions on such issues as these, one after another.

It will also go without saying that ultimately it will be none other than myself who will make these decisions, on my own responsibility. In that context, as for the issue of basic pensions, now that the state contribution has been raised to 50%, I would like to move forward in formulating a budget in which we manage to maintain that level.

Also, under our strategy to eliminate childcare waiting lists, through which a Task Force Team was created, at present about 24% of children under the age of three are being looked after at day care centers and other such facilities. Yet this is clearly insufficient. By bringing this level to about 35% over the next four years and to approximately 44% over seven years, it will be possible to look after essentially all the children whose mothers and fathers desire it. This is the proactive strategy we are now pursuing. While a budget of 20 billion yen will be required in the first year, I intend to ensure that this amount is squarely provided for.

In light of these initiatives, I believe that as we head into 2011, we must, as it were, create the frameworks and strengthen the systems that will bring such policies solidly into execution.

Today with the Social Democratic Party I once again held a meeting between party leaders and we will be acting in cooperation to ensure the passage of [a bill to amend] the Worker Dispatch Law. We were able to agree to strengthen our framework for cooperation still further through this and other areas of agreement.

I have also reached agreement with The People's New Party to work jointly through various strategic efforts, with the aim of bringing about the enactment of the Postal Reform Act.

I will be making all-out efforts to create the means to thoroughly enable both the realization of our policies and political administration regarding these points and other matters when next year's Diet session begins.

Roughly half a year has now passed since I became Prime Minister. I have always thought that the position of Prime Minister is an enormously weighty one, and as one aspect of that belief, I have, if anything, always endeavored to choose my words carefully when I speak. However, this fact means that I am also prone to be interpreted as somewhat lacking in gusto. In the future, I will be appealing directly to the public in as straightforward a manner as possible. I will be stating my views in such a way from now on. I will end my opening remarks here by asking for the public's understanding on this matter.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: I would like to move into questions now. I will designate who will ask the questions. If you are selected, please first state your media affiliation and name before posing your question. Please make your questions concise.

Mr. Matsuura from coordination of the press club, please.

REPORTER: I'm Matsuura, with Kyodo News. Thank you for taking my question. In the extraordinary Diet session, censure motions were passed against Chief Cabinet Secretary [Yoshito] Sengoku and Minister of LandCInfrastructure, Transport and Tourism [Sumio] Mabuchi. The LDP and some other parties are indicating that they will not participate in any Diet deliberations in which these two attend. Mr. Prime Minister, you said on the 3rd that you had no intention whatsoever to conduct a Cabinet reshuffle, but do you intend to go into next year's ordinary Diet session without making any changes to your Cabinet, including replacements for Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku and Minister Mabuchi?

Also, what tactics will you be taking in order to break the impasse of the divided Diet? Please answer in concrete terms, such as obtaining the cooperation of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in order to secure an override through a two-thirds majority in the House of Representatives during a second vote, or seeking cooperation with the New Komeito, or calling on the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to create a grand coalition.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: My thinking on this matter is not to carry out Cabinet reshuffling, but rather to consider how to create a framework through which political administration in its entirety will be able to move forward in a robust manner. With that firmly in mind, first of all, I intend to make all-out efforts to be able to create that kind of system between now and the next ordinary Diet session. That includes making our relationship with the SDP as well as our relationship with the People's New Party, with which we already have a coalition, closer and more strategic and moving ahead jointly. I would also be open to pursuing some type of discussions with other groups in certain situations, should the opportunity present itself. This is how I view the situation.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: I'll move to the next question, then. Mr. Takayama, please.

REPORTER: I'm Takayama, with the Chunichi Shimbun, coordinations of the press club.

Mr. Prime Minister, this morning you had a meeting with SDP leader [Mizuho] Fukushima, as you mentioned just now. I have heard that during that meeting, Ms. Fukushima urged you to adhere firmly to the three principles controlling arms exports. At the same time, it appears that within the government and the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) there is an increasing interest in relaxing these three principles. In the future, how will you be approaching this three principles controlling arms exports?

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: The fundamental aspect of the thinking regarding a ban on exporting weapons is something that we have arrived at through a variety of developments and circumstances over the years, for example, that exporting weapons to areas in conflict would cause the conflict to intensify, or, in the past, that we did not export arms to communist states. It is my belief that we must rigorously uphold these basic principles.

I gave instructions this morning while at the meeting to initiate an exchange of views among parties concerned immediately between policy research councils and other relevant members of the DPJ and the SDP regarding this matter.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: Let's continue with the next question. Mr. Yamaguchi, please go ahead.

REPORTER: I am Yamaguchi, with NHK. I would like to inquire about [the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station] Futenma.

You have indicated your stance that you will not be rigidly committed to a deadline for the settlement of this issue, yet at the same time, I believe that there is the possibility that [Marine Corps Air Station] Futenma, which is unsafe [for the surrounding community], will become locked into that location [rather than be relocated]. What sort of timing do you have in mind for the resolution of this issue?

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: As you are all aware, as for this Futenma issue, an agreement was reached 14 years ago between the leaders of the time, Prime Minister [Ryutaro] Hashimoto and [U.S.] President [Bill] Clinton, to eliminate the risks caused by Futenma. Since that time, the change of government taking place last year and the launch of my administration have been among the various developments that have surrounded the relocation site. Japan and the U.S. reached agreement once more on the relocation to Henoko on May 28th of this year, under the Hatoyama administration. During the [2008] election, Mr. Hatoyama as leader of the DPJ, myself, and others did indeed say that we would aim for a solution outside of Okinawa or outside Japan, and the fact that this was unable to be realized is something that the DPJ considers extremely regrettable. I personally also consider it deeply regrettable.

Within that context, as for how we will approach this issue from here on, the question is how we can lessen the burden of the [U.S.] military bases upon Okinawa, given the agreement reached by Japan and the U.S. on May 28. We have moreover received a request from the governor for various ways to realize prosperity of the Okinawa economy and for there to be a meeting convened on this topic before the end of the calendar year. I will work in good faith to gain the understanding of the people of Okinawa, including through such efforts.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: All right, let's have another question. Mr. Hirata, please.

REPORTER: I'm Hirata, with NHK. Listening to the remarks you made just now, it sounds as if you are saying that in the lead-up to the ordinary session of the Diet, you will pursue political administration in which you thoroughly solidify [collaboration between] the three parties of the DPJ, the SDP, and the People's New Party, not hesitating to make use of a second vote with a two-thirds majority. If that is the case, then would it be correct to think of this as a substantial toning down of the approach you mentioned before the extraordinary Diet session began, in which you said you would call for policy consultations with opposition parties, including the New Komeito and the LDP?

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: Until this extraordinary session of the Diet began, or, I should say, even after it had come into session, even in my policy speech to the Diet I set forth five critical policy issues, saying that, as a "Deliberation Diet," we should overcome party lines to discuss in the forum of the Diet the road forward so as to achieve solutions and not hand problems down to future generations. That is the approach under which I have been operating. However, ultimately it was not really the case that this Diet session had these issues at the central core of discussions — for example, the issues of growth, or the rebuilding of public finances, or social security, or regional sovereignty, or diplomacy in which the people of Japan are the main actors. Against such a backdrop, the question is what form we should adopt to address this situation as we set our sights on next year's Diet session. Naturally, the orientation that I had indicated before towards the LDP, New Komeito, and the other opposition parties has not changed at all and in fact I intend to continue to appeal for us to be able to hold discussions in that format. That is how I view the matter.

At the same time, with regard to the DPJ's relationship with the People's New Party, our coalition partner, and furthermore our relationship with the SDP, with whom we used to have a coalition, while we have reached agreements in the course of developments thus far on a number of common policies, some of these have not yet been achieved, and I intend to foster an even closer cooperative relationship with them to bring these policies to fruition.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: All right, let's have another question. The lady in white in the very last row, please.

REPORTER: I'm Fujioka with Reuters. I would like to inquire about the National Defense Program Guidelines.

According to some media reports, the National Defense Program Guidelines which will be decided upon by the Cabinet this month stipulates the new concept of "dynamic defense force," a switch from the Basic Defense Force Concept. This can be viewed as a policy reflecting vigilance towards China's activities in the East China Sea and elsewhere. Do you believe that these National Defense Program Guidelines will impact future Japan-China relations? Even though Japan and China took a step forward towards improving their relations at the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting, are you concerned that this policy in Japan's future defense policy will interfere with the movement in that direction?

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: Very intense discussions are currently underway by relevant members of the Cabinet regarding the National Defense Program Guidelines. Discussions have been ongoing on this shift from the concept of a Basic Defense Force to that of "dynamic defense" as you pointed out, in light of creating a defense system that can respond to changes of the times and changing circumstances, taking into account over a long time various points for consideration. Developing definitively just such a unique defense force for Japan is something that Japan should be doing as a matter of course. Doing this does not lead in any way to Japan becoming a direct threat to any nation. That is my view on the situation.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: Another question now. Mr. Sakajiri, please.

REPORTER: I'm Sakajiri with the Asahi Shimbun. Mr. Prime Minister, I have a question about the consumption tax.

You brought up the topic of increasing the consumption tax rate during the House of Councillors election, but I believe that since that time, after suffering a setback in that election, your statements about it have decreased dramatically. In looking at this extraordinary Diet session as well, it can be said that most regrettably, we did not hear that on the consumption tax issue you asserted leadership to call for consultations between the ruling coalition and the opposition.

Yet, as you said in your introductory remarks just now, for the state contribution to basic pensions, you may manage to make do somehow for fiscal 2011 through the use of special-purpose budget accounts or some other means, but I believe that this is an issue that does not allow for being passed down to fiscal 2012 and beyond.

So, once more Mr. Prime Minister, how do you plan to approach this issue of the consumption tax? And, if you are planning to tackle this issue, by when do you intend to finish doing so? Please share your thoughts on these matters.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: As for this issue — that is, the issue of the state of social security and fiscal resources — within the policy research council that the DPJ has relaunched, preparations are now underway to discuss this issue in combination with discussions on the tax system, including the consumption tax, income tax, and corporate tax. We also have at present a forum for the government and the ruling parties to hold discussions on social security and fiscal resources.

In that sense, and this is something that I said immediately after the House of Councillors election as well, I believe that regarding this issue we are moving forward on this as we shore up our foothold firmly, including in terms of efforts being taken by the DPJ.

Moreover, within our relationships with other parties, as other parties debate the future state of social security, it would be desirable if we could indeed make just such a forum between the ruling and the opposition parties, insofar as there are a couple of influential political parties that take the position that it is also necessary to discuss the issue of fiscal resources, in other words, the issue of taxation. This is something that I was saying during the election of the House of Councillors, and my way of thinking is unchanged. Whether this kind of things could be realized toward the next Diet session as the "Deliberation Diet" or not. This is something that I will tackle upon firmly.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: Another question now... Mr. Igarashi, please go ahead.

REPORTER: I'm Igarashi with the Yomiuri Shimbun. I would like to ask a follow-up question regarding your cooperation with the SDP.

I believe that the approach that you mentioned just now is one of aiming to have what could be considered a partial alliance with the SDP regarding individual policy areas. In the future, do you have an eye for forming a parliamentary group, or even perhaps for having the return of the SDP to the coalition government?

At the same time, insofar as the SDP departed from the ruling coalition citing the issue of the Futenma base of the U.S. forces, which also constitutes the linchpin of Japan's security policy, I believe that there are significant differences in the area of national security policy. In what areas, and in what way, do you intend to overcome this situation?

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: What we discussed today at the meeting between the leaders of our two parties was, as I mentioned earlier, that we should act in solid cooperation regarding several policy issues. The SDP for its part conveyed to me its wishes, laying out its thinking regarding the several issues I had brought up.

Additionally, as for the budget for fiscal 2011, we would like to create various venues in which we share our views — or among the three parties, including the People's New Party, as the case may allow — and regarding the budget for fiscal 2011, I said that I would like to align our views to the greatest extent possible.

At the current stage, anything beyond that — to have some sort of parliamentary group or a revival of the coalition — is something that we have not discussed yet, and in fact various complications would arise if we were to think too far along that line, so at this stage, I intend to engage with the SDP in cooperation regarding policies we share in common and also regarding the budget. I believe that it will be important to mutually reinforce our trust through proceeding in this way.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: All right, let's have another question. Ms. Egawa, go ahead.

REPORTER: In the Meeting to Examine the Nature of Investigations and Prosecutions held the other day, Senior Vice Minister of Justice [Toshio] Ogawa said that it was the mission of the entire government to elucidate the problems in investigations and prosecutions and restore trust. However, since the Ministry of Justice has in key posts persons who previously served as prosecutors, I think that, absent strong political leadership, reform will be quite challenging no matter how many proposals are made.

You were asked a little earlier about a Cabinet reshuffling. I should think that within that context, regarding the Minister of Justice, it is particularly necessary for there to be a Minister whose sole responsibility is that post. Do you have any intention to appoint at an early timing a minister serving exclusively in that post? Please share your thoughts on that.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: Various problems have emerged regarding the current state of affairs of investigations and prosecutions. Against that backdrop, I understand that a forum for discussing the issues had come into being during the tenure of former Minister of Justice [Minoru] Yanagida and discussions are ongoing. Regarding this issue, I have had Mr. Sengoku also take on the Justice Minister's remit concurrently, and I understand that the work is moving forward sufficiently amidst such a setting.

Of course, the administration of justice is a truly critical area, and while I am fully aware of its importance, I would like to examine this while also giving consideration to the overall state of the Cabinet, and indeed while giving consideration to the various matters all across the board that will enable us to prepare for the ordinary Diet session next year. I intend to examine this matter within the context of the entirety of issues to address, rather than focusing on necessarily doing it at an early date.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: I'll take the next person now. Mr. Aoyama, please.

REPORTER: I'm Aoyama of the Nippon Television Network. In this extraordinary session of the Diet, the summoning of former [DPJ] President [Ichiro] Ozawa to the Diet that had been strongly demanded by the opposition parties ultimately did not take place. Although DPJ Secretary-General [Katsuya] Okada had said that he would endeavor to bring it about, in fact it was not able to be accomplished. When you say that you would like to organize a framework in the lead-up to the ordinary Diet session, do you have any intention of you yourself, Mr. Prime Minister, persuading or otherwise making efforts of some sort with regard to the issue of summoning Mr. Ozawa to the Diet? Alternately, please share with us any thoughts you have on making a different kind of move, for example, deciding as party representative to recommend his withdrawal from the party, or other such ideas.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: I have been saying this repeatedly in my answers at the Diet as well, but during the presidential election [of the DPJ], Mr. Ozawa himself said that he would act in accordance with the decisions of the Diet at any time, and therefore it was he himself who suggested that he provide an explanation in the Diet. Consequently I feel that it is indeed necessary for Mr. Ozawa to properly provide a convincing explanation to the Japanese public in person at the Diet.

Currently, Secretary-General Okada is making ongoing efforts in that direction, and at the final stage, should there be any need for me to take any sort of decision, I will do so in keeping with what I have just said. So, in order to have Mr. Ozawa himself provide an explanation in the Diet, if it becomes necessary for me to take a decision, then I plan to address the situation from that position.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: Another question now. Mr. Inudo over there, please go ahead.

REPORTER: I'm Inudo with the Nikkei Shimbun and I have a question regarding the budget.

Regarding the several issues that you brought up yourself a little earlier, I think it will be necessary to advance these issues a bit more in the future. However, if I may ask about your stances on certain matters, first of all, there is now debate about lowering the corporate tax by 5 per cent. Is 5 per cent a number that you yourself are strongly committed to? Next, the overall outline [on budgetary matters] has already been decided, with general government expenditures to be 71 trillion yen and 44 trillion yen of new government bonds to be issued. I would like to know if you consider this to be belt-tightening.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: As I stated earlier, I consider corporate taxes to be one of the important issues within the upcoming formulation of the budget. Various spirited discussions are now underway among the parties concerned.

As for what percentage the corporate tax should be, this is something that I will make the ultimate judgment on, but I will refrain from saying at this time what percentage I would consider good and what I would consider bad.

As for the 44 trillion yen in new government bonds and the general government expenditures of 71 trillion yen, I have been saying words to that effect from when I was serving as Finance Minister. Since that time, it has been incorporated in part into the Fiscal Management Strategy regarding which a Cabinet decision has been reached.

In that sense, as it has gone so far as to become a Cabinet decision, naturally I intend to follow that closely.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: I'll accept another question now. Mr. Jimbo in the back, please.

REPORTER: I'm Jimbo. Mr. Prime Minister, you said earlier that you have used discretion in your statements to date, and that from now on you will be appealing to each member of the public directly. As a point of fact, ever since your administration came into office, it has been rather difficult to say that information disclosure, which used to be the very 'meat and potatoes' of the DPJ, has made much headway, particularly since the launch of your administration. Press conferences have all but stopped and there has been no progress in making the budget formulation process more transparent.

You said that you will be appealing directly to the public, but concretely speaking, in the future how will you be taking this new approach? Will you be increasing the number of press conferences you have, or taking some sort of measures to enhance transparency? I would appreciate it if you would explain this in more concrete terms.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: As for my press conferences, my understanding has been that they are fundamentally open [to all members of the press], including press conferences such as this. If that is not the case, then that is something that must be remedied, but that is how I myself understand the situation.

The members of the Cabinet have adopted a variety of formats, but fundamentally, I would like to make the point that press conferences are to be open to the extent possible at Cabinet meetings and ministers' meetings.

[Your question is,] what style it will take beyond that. My interactions with you in the media can't realistically be as free as they were when the DPJ was an opposition party—in the past, several people would come to my house and we would talk about various things over a drink or two. [This change] is not only a result of me restricting that, but also because if only certain people had that opportunity to do so with the Prime Minister, then to some extent, there may also be problems among you in the media, from the opposite perspective. So, what would be the best means for me to convey what I am thinking more frankly to the public through you? This is an area in which I really want to apply myself, so if you have any good ideas, Mr. Jimbo, I hope you share them with me.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: All right, another question now. Mr. Yamashita.

REPORTER: I'm Yamashita of The Hokkaido Shimbun Press. I have a question regarding the Chief Cabinet Secretary.

Mr. Prime Minister, at the press conference you held half a year ago upon taking office, in discussing the nomination of Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku, you brought up the name of former Chief Cabinet Secretary Masaharu Gotouda, saying that the Chief Cabinet Secretary should be a powerful person with a presence that is a somewhat uncomfortable one for the Prime Minister, and you explained your intention to have your Chief Cabinet Secretary serve at the central core of the Cabinet. Recently, the House of Councillors passed a censure motion against that Chief Cabinet Secretary. Now that half a year has passed, what is your evaluation of Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku? Just now you said that you plan to squarely advance political administration as a whole, while the opposition parties are demanding Mr. Sengoku's ouster. How do you intend to make these compatible?

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: As Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku is with us here today, it is somewhat difficult to express this appropriately, but he has done his job quite thoroughly throughout his tenure, meeting or exceeding my expectations, and he continues to do so now. That is my take on the matter. At that time I may indeed have talked about the Chief Cabinet Secretary having an "uncomfortable" presence. Even now, in some sense, having counting on his judgment as Chief Cabinet Secretary, I can say that in doing his job he has performed in a manner that exceeded my expectations, including in the sense that he invariably tells me various things I need to hear.

As for the matter of censure, there have been various debates on this, but in light of my position as Prime Minister, I think that saying various things about the system is something that might not turn out especially well for the opposition parties. That said, generally speaking, should a no-confidence motion pass the House of Representatives then there are the options of [the Prime Minister] resigning or dissolving the House, but in the case of the House of Councillors, in the case of someone being the object of censure, whether it is a single individual or the Cabinet as a whole, resigning is of course an option but dissolving the House of Councillors is not. In that sense, censure is of course a very significant expression of the will of the House, but if that were to mean resignation in some cases then I believe it is necessary to, in a different sense, have proper debate on whether or not this is in fact a case of a certain type of tension envisaged by the Constitution between the Cabinet and the House of Representatives, in which, upon the passage of a no-confidence motion, the Prime Minister should either resign or dissolve the House.

CABINET SECRETARY FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS (MODERATOR): I'll take the next question. Mr. Goto, please.

REPORTER: I'm Goto with the Jiji Press. The other day when you met with [Co-president of the Sunrise Party of Japan, Kaoru] Yosano, talk of a grand coalition arose at least from among some politicians. Three years ago when there was some commotion about [the possible formation of a] grand coalition, you were dismissive of a grand coalition from the perspective of the function of the Diet as a check [against the leadership]. I would like to know if at the present time your thinking on grand coalitions has changed.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: I believe that was under Mr. Ozawa as party president, during the Fukuda Cabinet. It was never the case, even from that time, that I was against a grand coalition per se under any and all circumstances. However, speaking about the situation at the time, if a grand coalition were to have come about then, then the ruling parties would have held in some cases a proportion of 90 per cent or so of the seats in both Houses — something which might also be true in the current case. If that did in fact come to be, then what would be the function of the legislature? To some degree, unless it is a situation in which it is absolutely necessary because matters will not move forward for Japan as a country and we would face a national crisis, or unless it were for a limited period, for example three years or what have you, or for only certain issues, then the situation becomes one of, yes, you could address it that way, except at the same time there are many things that won't be able to be addressed during that period. For example, I think it would be difficult to gain the understanding of the Japanese people if the Diet were in a state in which a grand coalition had been formed without there being properly-formed premises that were accepted by the public, such as that for the duration of this grand coalition we would not take up the topic of revising the Constitution. It was in this sense that I stated my opposition to it at that time.

Consequently my fundamental thinking has not changed at all. That is to say, it is not that I oppose everything or support everything in every case, but rather that, as I said at that time as well, if the Diet were to result in such a situation, it would be necessary for the public to see that, all right, it is unavoidable to adopt such a form at certain times. For the Japanese people to indicate that they understand that is an appropriate prerequisite, shall we say. Without it, I think that [forming a grand coalition] would be quite difficult.

CABINET SECRETARY FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS (MODERATOR): We are near the end of our scheduled time, so this will be the final question. Mr. Matsubara, please go ahead.

REPORTER: I'm Matsubara of TBS. It appears that for the administration, hitting back any balls coming immediately at it seems to be as much as it can handle right now. I believe that the public has no idea what this administration is hoping to do — they haven't gotten the message. So, I would like to ask once more what exactly it is that this administration is hoping to achieve.

PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: First of all, you said that it is all we can do just to knock back balls coming at us, but during this Diet session, in almost every case, including at the Budget Committee, my schedule was so very packed that there was almost no margin remaining for myself considering various matters, meeting with different people, and making various statements. Even in mentioning this type of thing, I am not certain that it is something that most people will understand, but to mention one case here, for example the G20 was held immediately before APEC, and before the G20 there were three days of general questioning and intensive deliberations [at the Diet], lasting 7 hours, 7 hours, then 6 hours, so I was involved in this for many hours daily after getting up at 5 AM. In that context, then I do suppose that I might have appeared to the public to be that sort of condition.

However, as I said earlier, with regard to APEC, in preparing for it we decided upon a Basic Policy which includes trade liberalization and the revitalization of agriculture, and then again there were matters involving ASEM and many other things, such as the decisions reached with Viet Nam recently on rare earths and developing nuclear power plants there, and what's more, we finalized negotiations on EPAs with India and Peru. In light of that I don't agree with this notion that I was being constantly harried only by things said or pointed out. If you take a careful and dispassionate look at the facts, you will see that there are even more things that were achieved [than what I just mentioned].

This administration has been addressing a number of issues that previous administrations were unable to, such as the issue of "open skies" or, as something from the administration that just ended, from when Mr. Hatoyama was in office, for example the lifting of visa requirements so as to increase the number of overseas tourists. In that regard I do indeed realize that there was no time to convey to the public all of these things we accomplished.

What I think now needs to be done, and what this administration considers to be necessary, is exactly what I laid out at the beginning of this extraordinary Diet session. That is to say, Japan has been in a slump for twenty years now. I think that right now we are truly standing at a dividing line in some sense, as to whether we will be able to spring back to life or whether we will simply continue along this path of gradual decline. I consider this to be a fork in the road. Therefore, [I laid out] five critical policy areas, none of which are issues that arose over just a short time. Economic growth is stalling, and we must do something. Our public finances are in an extremely difficult condition, and we must do something. Social security too will, if we continue on this path, go awry as a result of the declining birth rate and graying of society, and we must do something. Regional sovereignty is not making much headway, and we must do something. There are many philosophies concerning diplomatic modalities, but we need to do something to make foreign relations something that the public firmly considers to be something they themselves have a hand in. Taking the position that Japan will be on a path of gradual decline if we are unable to overcome these issues and we continue on as before, I asserted that regarding those five policy issues we do not have the luxury of discussing whose responsibility they should be. Whether in the ruling or the opposition parties, we need to debate these issues so as not to pass these problems down to future generations. Charged with that thinking, I made that appeal to the Diet, writing that policy speech myself.

Regrettably, however, during Diet questioning, there were very few questions that took up that content head-on. In some cases, in the media reporting there was not always a great deal of commentary about the points that I had emphasized the most, and that too is somewhat unfortunate.

In that sense, my role is to bring about the theme the DPJ put forth in the House of Councillors election, about reviving a vibrant Japan.

CABINET SECRETARY FOR PUBLIC RELATIONS (MODERATOR): With that, I will bring the press conference to a close. Thank you for your cooperation.