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Press Conference by Prime Minister Naoto Kan

Monday, June 27, 2011
[Provisional Translation]

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: We will now begin the press conference by Prime Minister Naoto Kan. Prime Minister, your opening statement please.

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Naoto Kan

PRIME MINISTER KAN: Today I requested one person to take up a Cabinet role for the first time and one of the existing Cabinet ministers to take on a new role within the Cabinet. The objectives of these new positions are to advance recovery and reconstruction in response to the disaster, and to create a system to prevent the recurrence of an accident at a nuclear power station. The new Cabinet ministers will work towards these two objectives. I have requested Mr. Ryu Matsumoto to serve as Minister for Reconstruction in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake and Mr. Goshi Hosono to serve as Minister for Conclusion of the Nuclear Incident and Prevention of Recurrence.

Minister Matsumoto has served as Minister of State for Disaster Management since the disaster struck and he has been directing operations from the frontlines. He is the person with the best understanding of the situation in the disaster-affected regions and I have judged that he is the most appropriate person to continue to advance the process from recovery through to reconstruction. In addition, Minister Hosono has been serving as Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on the Nuclear Accident since the outset of the accident, and in this position he has been working as the Secretary General of the current Government-Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) Integrated Response Office. In addition, he has been responsible for the compilation of the Government report to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) so that he has come to perceive in a most profound way the problems associated with the current nuclear energy administration. I have made the decision to appoint him with the wish that he takes responsibility for creating a blueprint for preventing recurrence of nuclear accidents.

Next, I would like to refer to the comments I made on June 2 to the meeting of Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Diet members, in which I stated that once certain progress has been made in the response to the disaster and the nuclear accident I would like to hand over responsibility to the younger generation. My concept for "certain progress" is the following: the passage through the Diet of the Bill for the second supplementary budget, the passage of the Bill to Promote Renewable Energies and the passage of the Bill on Special Measures for Government Bonds.

The second supplementary budget incorporates items that were not included in the first supplementary budget and for which there is an urgent need. For example, when I visited the city of Kamaishi the other day, I was told that although fisheries businesses wish to launch their fishing vessels there is no special allowance for ice. The ice-making machines and refrigeration facilities were all washed away and none remain. In the second supplementary budget, I have therefore given instructions that measures be included that would provide financial support for such items, without the owners having to take out a second loan on top of the ones they had taken out previously. In addition, the rubble and debris remaining from the disaster include a great deal of wood-based materials. This could be disposed of, for example, by creating wood-burning power generation facilities. Then, with a view to the future revitalization of the forestry industry in the region, such power generation facilities could continue to be used in the form of biomass power generation, utilizing lumber from thinned forests. I have given instructions that the second supplementary budget incorporate expenses for surveys before making plans for such issues. In addition, from the perspective of protecting children, the second supplementary budget includes provision for the distribution of dosimeters, and thorough decontamination measures, including decontamination of school routes, among others. It is these sorts of measures that the second supplementary budget seeks to address and I will make every effort to see it compiled and passed by the Diet.

Furthermore, I intend to make every possible effort to prevent a recurrence of a nuclear accident. For one week after the accident on March 11, I was truly unable to sleep due to worry. Speaking frankly, I believe that Japan's preparations for such a severe nuclear accident were extremely vulnerable. The report that was submitted to the IAEA seeks to set out the problems in as open a manner as possible. For the prevention of the recurrence of a nuclear accident, I have given instructions that at the very least an overall blueprint for measures should be shown at the earliest possible juncture. It is my wish that Minister for Conclusion of the Nuclear Incident and Prevention of Recurrence Hosono will be the central figure in implementing such work.


CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: We will now move on to the Q&A session. We would appreciate it if you would state your name and affiliation. Thank you. Mr. Yamaguchi, please.

REPORTER: I am Yamaguchi of NHK. Prime Minister, you have just set out three conditions for your resignation. Are we to take it that if the legislation you mentioned, including the Bill to Promote Renewable Energies and the Bill on Special Measures for Government Bonds do not pass the Diet, you will remain in office as Prime Minister after September 1?

PRIME MINISTER KAN: As I have just stated, at the meeting of DPJ Diet members on June 2, I stated that once certain progress has been made in the response to the disaster and the nuclear accident, I would like to hand over responsibility to the younger generation. My concept for a level of "certain progress" is as I have just mentioned, one being the passage of the Bill for the second supplementary budget, another being the passage of the Bill to Promote Renewable Energies and the third being the passage of the Bill on Special Measures for Government Bonds. That is the essence of my concept for "certain progress."


REPORTER: I am Aimoto of the Nishinippon Shimbun. You have expressed a strong interest and desire to implement a review of renewable energy policy, one of the three conditions you have just mentioned. If it is the case that criticism of your extended period in office is not a consideration, I would like to ask whether you intend to seek the opinion of the public on energy policy in the form of a general election, in the event that you are unable to gain the cooperation of the opposition parties on the passage of the bill for renewable energies that has been submitted to the Diet?

PRIME MINISTER KAN: Following the experience of the accident at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, we must initiate a full-fledged discussion on how we should formulate Japan's national energy policy. Given that the existing Basic Energy Plan no longer fits with current realities, I have announced that it will be revised from scratch, and that a new direction should be sought, whereby energy policy, which to date has been largely dependent on fossil fuels and nuclear power will be expanded to incorporate the two pillars of renewable energies and energy conservation. This new direction is exactly laid out in the Bill to Promote Renewable Energies that has already been submitted to the Diet, and I would like to see this bill pass the Diet under the responsibility of my administration.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: Next question, please. Mr. Tanaka.

REPORTER: I am Tanaka of the Mainichi Shimbun. I have a question concerning the appointment of Mr. Kazuyuki Hamada as Parliamentary Secretary for Internal Affairs and Communications. Upon receiving this appointment Mr. Hamada announced that he would leave the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and by making this appointment from within the ranks of the LDP there is already fierce opposition from the opposition parties, especially inside the LDP. I believe that it will be essential to have the cooperation of the opposition parties for the passage of the three bills that you have mentioned. However, already there is a cold atmosphere even within the DPJ about having created a situation to break down these three conditions that you have set. What was your intention in appointing Mr. Hamada and how do you intend to overcome the current opposition from the opposition parties and achieve a breakthrough?

PRIME MINISTER KAN: Mr. Hamada himself has had a strong desire to engage in recovery and reconstruction efforts based on his experiences of this disaster and make a contribution to this area. I was advised that he had made such a judgment and sought such a role, and I therefore appointed him with the wish that he join us in the recovery and reconstruction efforts.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: May we have the next question? Ms. Igarashi, please.

REPORTER: I am Igarashi of the Yomiuri Shimbun. I have a question concerning the appointment of Minister Hosono. You have just stated that you want to show an overall blueprint for the prevention of a recurrence of a nuclear accident, so does this mean that this has been added as a new condition for your resignation from the position of Prime Minister? I believe that the work towards preventing a recurrence and the revision of nuclear policy will be extremely demanding, and you have said many times that it would be difficult for one minister to take the entire task in hand. Are you considering a support structure for Minister Hosono, including Senior Vice Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries?

PRIME MINISTER KAN: I am well aware that since the occurrence of the nuclear accident on March 11, the person who has been most significantly involved in the various measures to respond to the situation has been Minister Hosono. I know this because I am the person who asked him to engage in this work. We are now at a time a little over three months since the disaster struck and it is time now to begin discussions on how to prevent a recurrence, and if, in the event that a similar accident did occur, whether our current structures would be appropriate and capable of making a response In that sense, I believe that it is necessary to appoint a Minister for Conclusion of the Nuclear Incident and Prevention of Recurrence and give instructions for an overall blueprint to be devised. I am not in any way saying that this blueprint is automatically connected to the level of "certain progress" that I have mentioned in the past.

The nuclear accident is a cause of worry for all people in Japan and indeed, all people around the world. It is therefore necessary to make an appropriate response and set out a clear direction. There are various forums for discussion, including at the IAEA and also in the Investigation and Verification Committee on the Accidents at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station of Tokyo Electric Power Company. Given the situation that the Cabinet must address this issue and must create a system to respond to it accordingly, I have made the decision to appoint a minister responsible for such measures. With regard to Senior Vice Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries who support the Minister, given the limitations on the actual numbers of Cabinet members and other junior ministers, I will be making further efforts to ensure that a structure can be created that is capable of advancing the necessary work in an expeditious manner.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: Next question, Mr. Takenaka, please.

REPORTER: I am Takenaka of Reuters. I have a question concerning Japan-China relations. Last weekend, senior officials from the United States and China engaged in talks in Hawaii, including the agenda about the tensions between China and neighboring countries in the South China Sea. Also, last week a Chinese research vessel entered Japan's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off the coast of Miyagi Prefecture, prompting Japan to make a formal protest to China. In Okinawa Prefecture too, the Chinese navy has been increasingly engaged in activities in the waters around the prefecture. How do you view this series of events? How do you think Japan should approach and deal with China, in view of the long relations to date and also mindful of China's status as an economic and military superpower?

PRIME MINISTER KAN: I am fully aware that China is strengthening its various maritime activities. The question is in what form these activities will affect Japan and other neighboring countries. I believe that a large country also has the responsibility to act like a large country and would hope that China engages in responsible actions.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: Next, can I ask Mr. Shimada, please?

REPORTER: I am Shimada, a freelance journalist. Following the disaster on March 11, there have been increasing discussions about the changes in the national psyche and in society as a whole in Japan. Has your philosophy changed since March 11, and if so, how do you seek to impart your philosophy to the public and show leadership? I would like to ask about your personal intentions and wishes.

PRIME MINISTER KAN: I believe that following the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident on March 11, many, if not all, of the people of Japan have been giving thought to the disaster and been considering how they can utilize their experiences to their actions in some ways. I think that in such situations, when an enormous disaster has struck, it is linkage with others that is the most dependable and important in our lives, whether it be linkage through families and neighbors, or with companies, local governments and various other people. This is what the recent disaster has made many people feel most acutely from respective standpoints - the importance of linkage in our daily lives. I believe that such linkages should be put to use in various forms towards the revival of Japan.

Just recently, a law was passed that will greatly expand the tax deductible for donations to non-profit organizations (NPOs), which is part of the "New Public Commons" initiative that we have been advancing since the time of former Prime Minister Hatoyama. In order to be able to stand up once again following such a tremendous disaster, it is important to have the support of the Government and also support through taxation. I believe that the approval of this recent bill on the taxation system marks a significant step forward that will enable each and every person to support others to do so, and further expand such charitable giving.

I hesitate to talk about two much reminiscing, but I am reminded of a trip I made to the United States during my first year as a Diet member. While in the United States, I visited many civic organizations, including Common Cause and Consumers Union. Almost all of these organizations had employees numbering between 100 and 200 people, who were all on a salary, albeit a modest one. The money to fund these organizations was sourced from donations. When I returned to Japan, I wondered whether such a culture of giving could be further expanded in Japan. The election campaign of Ms. Fusae Ichikawa and others was said to be based on contributions and volunteering, but in comparison to the tremendous size of NPO and civic organization finances in the United States, the scale here is beyond comparison. Thirty years have passed since my visit to the United States, and I hope that a spirit of mutual support can be nurtured from this disaster, for example in the form of donations, and I believe that if such actions can be expanded in specific terms we will have made significant progress.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: The next reporter may ask a question now.

Please ask your question, Mr. Aoyama.

REPORTER: My name is Aoyama from Nippon Television. Regarding the earlier matter involving the House of Councilors member Hamada, you said you made him join your team because he felt strongly about reconstruction. I do not understand very well what your strategy or rather your thinking is regarding how you can obtain the cooperation of the opposition parties going forward to pass the bills. Are you attempting to move in the direction of overcoming the problem of the divided Diet by drawing House of Councilors members one by one in this manner, or are you thinking that you would like to seek an attitude of cooperation with the opposition parties regarding the bills? Or are you thinking that you will approach the issue using the method you stated earlier for passing the three bills, your conditions for resignation, namely that if the lawmakers want you to resign they should pass the bills first? What approach are you thinking of taking to pass the bills at this stage?

PRIME MINISTER KAN: When I answered the earlier question, I was talking about the fact that Diet member Hamada said he took the action that he did because he had a number of connections internationally of which he wanted to take full advantage in tackling the great earthquake disaster. I have already taken a number of opportunities to say that I want to cooperate across the traditional party factions, and I want them to cooperate with me in tackling the great earthquake disaster. For example, I think it was extremely good when the bills for the Basic Act on Reconstruction and other laws were resubmitted to the Diet by the LDP, New Komeito, and the DPJ and the bills were passed with the cooperation of all of those parties.

Furthermore, for example, the number of ministers, senior vice-ministers, and parliamentary secretaries is very limited, and so for the launch of the reconstruction headquarters I want to engage these top three ministerial posts in the work toward reconstruction after the earthquake disaster, such as acting as heads of the local reconstruction headquarters, a little more, while being in charge of the daily work of each government ministry and agency. However, we have not been able to obtain agreement in this area yet. In any case, this is not a problem between political parties; I believe that if we can all approach the issues from the perspective of what is most needed by the Japanese people and by the people in the affected regions, then we can make forward progress on the many issues we face.


Go ahead Mr. Sakajiri.

REPORTER: My name is Sakajiri from the Asahi Shimbun. I would like to ask a question about the problem of restarting operations at the nuclear power stations. The other day, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry announced a policy stating that if the safety of the nuclear power stations closed for regular inspections, etc., and the other existing nuclear power stations could be confirmed, then restarting operations at those stations would be acceptable. I want to ask if you also would consider restarting operations at the nuclear power stations acceptable if their safety were to be confirmed. Moreover, officials from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry have been visiting the various communities since the weekend to persuade and explain to the prefectural officials about this problem. As you stated earlier, the problem of the nuclear power stations will be discussed as an important issue of the Cabinet in the upcoming extended Diet session as well. If this is so, I think it would be good if rather than the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry the Prime Minister yourself went to these communities to provide explanations. What do you think regarding this point?

PRIME MINISTER KAN: Firstly, as a result of the incident, every citizen of Japan is aware of the fact that the safety of the nuclear power stations is extremely important; that is my understanding. In that sense, it goes without saying that safety should be thoroughly confirmed for stations undergoing regular inspections. In that context, my view is that if we look at the medium- to long-term to some extent, at some point in time at least, we will probably have to use slightly more fossil fuels such as petroleum, natural gas, and coal. This is because renewable natural energy, excluding hydroelectric power, currently accounts for no more than about 1% of total electricity generation, so it will be difficult for such energy to immediately supply a large enough volume to replace fossil fuels and conventional nuclear power. In these times of extreme need, it will surely be necessary to mobilize every means, including use of independent power plants, to supply the necessary amount of electricity. Now I am having a survey carried out to determine how many independent power plants exist currently and how many thermo-electric power plants using so-called fossil fuels could be put into operation. Together with these steps, I believe regarding the nuclear power stations I talked about before that once we have properly confirmed their safety, since the residents near these stations are worried, we should explain the situation to them carefully, and put into operation those plants for which safety has been confirmed.


Go ahead Mr. Iwakami.

REPORTER: Just now you commented regarding the restarting of operations at the nuclear power stations undergoing regular inspections, but if this means that you will put into operation or restart operations at stations for which safety has been confirmed, are we to understand that you intend to maintain the nuclear power stations just as before? You have shown enthusiasm for the passage of the renewable energy bill, so do you intend to steer to the direction of reducing the number of nuclear power stations and decommissioning reactors? I would like you to give us your thoughts about the general direction you want to pursue, either maintaining the nuclear power stations, or decommissioning the reactors. Thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER KAN: I think the way of thinking regarding safety itself is now being questioned. Certain standards existed before, and we were operating with the belief that if those standards were met, then the stations were safe. However, that approach resulted in a major incident, so now safety itself is being questioned. Therefore, I think it is obvious that when considering how to ensure this safety, the former standards and the former approaches, unmodified, are not good enough.

If we do not begin there, we will end up responding with pre-supposed conclusions, as in the question just now, which doesn't reflect my current position. Rather we should thoroughly consider what we mean by safety. Surely it is necessary to start from there. At the same time, as I have said many times, I believe that in the long term it is necessary to change the direction of Japan's energy policies, which are highly dependent on conventional fossil fuels and nuclear fuel, and energy itself, in order to reduce dependency on those fuels and rely more on natural energy sources and energy conservation.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: We have run out of time now so I will conclude the Prime Minister's press conference. Thank you very much everyone.