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Press Conference by Prime Minister Naoto Kan

Friday, July 29, 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 am very pleased to report to the people about two decisions. First is that we were able to decide on the Basic Policy on Reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake during the meeting of the Reconstruction Headquarters in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake held moments ago. Second is that we were also able to decide today an important matter pertaining to our energy policies at the Energy and Environment Council after going through repeated discussions among relevant ministers. These two decisions were made to present a unified stance of the Government on reconstruction and energy and nuclear power policies, in light of the earthquake on March 11 and the occurrence of the nuclear incident. In that context, I think it is extremely important as well as desirable that two important decisions were made.

First of all, I would like to talk about recovery and reconstruction. The second supplementary budget was enacted on July 25. This two-trillion yen budget includes measures for recovery that are not sufficiently covered by the first supplementary budget. Additionally, the Basic Policy on Reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake was decided at the Reconstruction Headquarters in response to the Reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake which just convened. The Basic Policy presents the overall vision of the policies directed toward full-fledged reconstruction which must follow the recovery. It also includes a number of innovative policies with specific contents. It states that the fiscal expenditure during the intensive reconstruction phase for the next five years will be at least 19-trillion yen, which will be financed by issuing reconstruction bonds, and we will take responsibility for securing financial resources for reimbursement. Based on this Basic Policy, we will be intensifying efforts toward reconstruction, including the formulation of the third supplementary budget.

Next, I would like to present the basic stance of the Government on energy and nuclear power policies. With regard to restarting the operation of nuclear power stations, a framework for comprehensive safety assessment - specific plans for so-called stress tests - was fixed on July 21 and was made public. This sets out a new rule that involves not only the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) but also the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC). I would like to thoroughly inform the local municipalities as well as utility companies of this new rule, and thoroughly disclose information to the people concerning this rule. Then today, important decisions were made at the Energy and Environment Council among relevant ministers concerning our energy policies that also encompass nuclear energy. One was that we compiled immediate measures to be taken to stabilize energy supply and demand. Another was that we decided to reduce the reliance on nuclear energy as a part of the medium- to long-term Innovative Energy and Environment Strategy, and to create a roadmap and thoroughly examine our nuclear policies toward this end.

I have mentioned these points on various occasions since the occurrence of the nuclear incident on March 11. This includes the revision of the Basic Energy Plan, for example, which I have been considering with Minister for National Policy Koichiro Gemba and other relevant ministers, including Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Banri Kaieda and Minister of Environment Satsuki Eda. Further discussion will take place going forward based on the decision made today. I also have high expectations for a national debate to take place, and will be actively disclosing all kinds of information needed for debate. The Government will be moving forward to reduce the dependence on nuclear energy in a systematic and gradual manner, in aiming toward a society that that does not rely on nuclear energy.

As was already announced on July 19, we have taken a substantial step forward with regard to bringing the nuclear incident to a close. Specifically, we have achieved the targets set out in Step 1 toward the conclusion of the incident. The Government will make the utmost efforts toward the steady implementation of Step 2 going forward.

A group of junior high school students visited the Prime Minister's Office this evening and presented to me a banner with encouraging messages to the people engaged in the reconstruction from the earthquake. The messages included one that says, "We believe in the power of the Government," which touched my heart. With full respect to the sentiment of these junior high school students, as well as many people, who trust the Government and expect much from it, I renewed my resolve to do my utmost for the recovery and reconstruction from the earthquake and for the conclusion of the nuclear incident in order to fulfill my responsibility. Thank you for your attention.


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

REPORTER: I am Tanaka of the Mainichi Shimbun. First, I have a question on the interim compilation of the Energy and Environment Council. It is stated here that dependence on nuclear power will be reduced. However, in your press conference the other day, you said that you will aim for a society which will be able to fully function without nuclear power. Although the interim compilation does not set out a clear vision for achieving zero nuclear power and realizing a non-nuclear power society, do you believe that your ideas are sufficiently reflected? Secondly, the interim compilation provides that discussions will be carried out which go beyond the debate between the opponents and proponents of nuclear power. You said at a joint plenary meeting of party members of both houses of the Diet that energy policy will be the greatest focus of attention in the next national election. How is this view reflected in the interim compilation? Also, there is rising backlash, not only from opposition parties but also from within the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), with the fact that you, despite announcing your intention to resign, are presenting a long-term energy policy and a policy on taxation increase for reconstruction. What is your response to these criticisms?

PRIME MINISTER KAN: As I said a moment ago, following the nuclear incident that occurred on March 11, I have decided to review from scratch the basic energy plan, which called on nuclear power stations to generate 53% of the total electric power supply in 2030. Discussions on this have already begun within the Cabinet. Also, regarding the problem of NISA belonging to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) as well as the cascade of problems which have newly emerged, the Government has commented on these in its report to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and discussions have also taken place on making NISA an independent organization. The aim of these discussions and what I have been saying to date are not contradictory by any means. At the meeting of the Energy and Environment Council, we started discussions on the establishment of the Innovative Energy and Environment Strategy by comprehensively taking into consideration the comments I have made as well as what the Government has already begun discussing to date, and subsequently we decided on the interim compilation. In this sense, the Energy and Environment Council formulated its interim compilation after the relevant ministers carried out discussions on my comments to date and on the initiatives the Government has already started taking - in other words, everything that has been said or done as of this point. Minister Kaieda, Minister Hosono, Minister Gemba, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano came and explained this proposal to me the other day, and I gave my approval. In this sense, there are absolutely no contradictions. My understanding is that this vision was compiled based on my ideas. As to the point that it is not productive to frame the discussions around the dichotomy of whether or not to eliminate or promote nuclear power, I, too, believe that it is not at all desirable if, how shall I say, all we are doing is labeling each other and the discussions do not go anywhere from there. On that note, I believe this vision of the Energy and Environment Council for addressing the issues is a significant step forward.

Also, regarding your comment pertaining to my resignation that some suggest it is not alright for a variety of policies to be discussed, including the energy policy, I, on the other hand, very much believe that now is the time to have these discussions. It goes without saying that first, as far as I know, this is the first time that multiple nuclear power stations were involved in severe accidents simultaneously, of course in Japan but also in the rest of the world. I believe it is unnatural not to discuss the accidents when they happen bearing this fact in mind, and to start the discussions later. On top of that, many nuclear power stations are indeed currently shut down due to the effects of the earthquake and other reasons, and therefore, discussions need to take place on matters such as short-term forecasts regarding electric power supply and energy supply. In this sense, one of the two compilations addresses discussions on energy supply and demand. The Cabinet would not be fulfilling its responsibility if it does not discuss these matters. Naturally, I believe the Cabinet, as its responsibility, must thoroughly discuss both the short- and mid- to long-term issues concerning these matters.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: Next person. Mr. Imaichi, please.

REPORTER: I am Imaichi of TBS Television. Prime Minister, as you mentioned a moment ago, the second supplementary budget was passed. This means that one of the three so-called conditions for your resignation has been cleared, and two remain. Regarding the Bill to Promote Renewable Energies and the Bill on Special Measures for Government Bonds, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and others are voicing strong opposition against their early passage, saying that there is no assurance that you will resign even if they are passed. In this context, do you not have any intention to promise, using clear words, that you will resign during this Diet session which is scheduled to conclude by the end of August if the three conditions are met during the Diet session? Also, I would like to ask what you intend to do if even one of the two remaining bills does not pass during the current session of the Diet.

PRIME MINISTER KAN: The comments I made regarding my resignation at the meeting of the DPJ Diet members on June 2 and the following press conferences and other occasions are my own words, and I intend to take responsibility for them.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: Next person. Mr. Sakajiri, please.

REPORTER: I am Sakajiri of the Asahi Shimbun. I have a question on the Basic Policy for Reconstruction, which you mentioned in your opening statement. In response to the basic policy, the ruling party, the DPJ, has voiced its opposition to raising taxes. I believe the basic policy that was decided does not clearly specify the size or duration of the interim tax increase. The Reconstruction Design Council, which you established, clearly sets out an intention to repay the reconstruction bonds by temporarily increasing taxes. Compared to that, it seems that the approach has taken a step backwards. Is the central pillar of your approach this notion that if reconstruction bonds are issued, they need to be repaid by temporarily increasing taxes? Or if there is a lot of opposition from the ruling party, do you intend not to dwell so much on increasing taxes? Which of these two is your approach?

PRIME MINISTER KAN: I would like you to carefully read the basic policy first. I believe the issue you raised is described quite thoroughly. I understand that Minister Hirano will be giving a press conference on the details later on. If you read the basic policy literally, I believe in this document you will find the entire answer to the question you just asked.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: Next person. Mr. Matsuyama, please.

REPORTER: I am Matsuyama from Fuji Television. I have a question related to a foreign policy issue. Last week, Mr. Nakai, former minister in charge of the abduction issue, and a senior official from North Korea met in China. The member of staff from the Headquarters on the Abduction Issue who accompanied Mr. Nakai has acknowledged that the staff member was also in attendance. I would like to confirm once again whether you really had no knowledge of this fact, not even about their travel to China? The opposition parties are criticizing this meeting, saying it is dual diplomacy. In general terms, do you believe that these informal meetings with North Korea, in some sense, are necessary for the resolution of the abduction issue? Also, what do you think about the significance of the Japanese prime minister going to North Korea once again to hold direct negotiations to resolve the abduction issue, whether this is you yourself or the next prime minister or farther future prime ministers?

PRIME MINISTER KAN: I was not at all aware of (the meeting in China). Regarding the resolution of the abduction issue, my fundamental belief is that no efforts shall be spared or that all possible efforts shall be made.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: We will now take a question from the foreign press. Ms. Sekiguchi, please.

REPORTER: I am Sekiguchi of Dow Jones. I would like to ask about foreign exchange. The domestic manufacturing industry is currently facing harsh market conditions, including the first yen appreciation in four months. What government countermeasures are you considering in response to companies that are thinking about making a shift overseas? Also, if you were to make a foreign exchange intervention at this point in time, do you think that you could get the support of the United States?

PRIME MINISTER KAN: One-sided movement has been a recent trend in the foreign exchange market. I intend to continue to pay close attention to the exchange market, however I will refrain from commenting on exchange rate levels or a future exchange intervention at this point in time.


REPORTER: I am Sato of the Nippon Television Network Corporation. This was brought up several moments ago, but while there is only one month left in the regular Diet session I think that passing the Bill on Special Measures for Government Bonds is tremendously important for reconstruction. What do you think about the speculation that the opposition party is not cooperating on this issue because you do not clarify a specific time for your resignation? I think that you should clearly state whether or not you are going to resign. What are your thoughts on this?

PRIME MINISTER KAN: As I just said, I am firmly aware that I must take responsibility for comments that I have made in the past.


REPORTER: I am Nanao of Nico Nico Douga. At the beginning of this press conference you told us that children told you that they believed in the power of the Government. Moreover, you also said that you want to take responsibility for your own remarks. I apologize for bringing this up again, but from the perspective of Japanese citizens, the innovative policies and measures that you described at the beginning of the press conference cannot be perceived as authentic or genuine unless you clarify whether you intend to remain in office or resign. What do you actually think about this situation and how would you explain it to Japanese citizens?

PRIME MINISTER KAN: I have always paid close attention to whether my Cabinet is able to firmly deliver on what is currently required of it. Of course I understand that there are various opinions. However, in response to the earthquake and tsunami, as well as the nuclear power station incident, I won't say that the Cabinet would receive a perfect 100 points in terms of doing what it should have done, but I am working hard to do what needs to be done. Some people feel that this response has been fast or slow, but things are moving steadily from a stage of recovery into reconstruction. Furthermore, as I just mentioned there was initially a period of concern among people related to the nuclear incident over how much we would really be able to control the nuclear reactors, but we have now completed Step 1 generally according to schedule and we are now carrying out earnest efforts in moving towards Step 2. In that respect what I must do is to ensure that my Cabinet is doing what it needs to be doing, and I believe it is, so I hope that this will acquire the understanding of national citizens.


REPORTER: I am Anai of Yomiuri Shimbun. Earlier you mentioned that there was no contradiction between your previous press conference statement and today's mid-term report of the Energy and Environment Council. However, there is a definitive difference between the ultimate goal of totally eliminating nuclear power generation and utilizing it while reducing dependence. What are your thoughts on this? On a concrete level, this relates to, for example, whether new nuclear power stations are going to be constructed or how the export of nuclear power generation to overseas is going to be addressed. What are your thoughts on this?

PRIME MINISTER KAN: If you read the mid-term report carefully, you will see that it takes various different possibilities and divides them between - how should I put it - policies that can be provided at the current point in time, and options that require further discussion. A schedule chart separates these into short-term, mid-term, and long-term issues and includes six basic principles. There is no contradiction between carrying out discussions in that fashion and what I have said.


REPORTER: I am Yamaguchi of NHK. Do you have any intention to remain in office and hold the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) presidential election earlier? Mr. Sumio Mabuchi has already stepped forward. Do you not plan to push the election forward in order to ensure a smooth transition?

PRIME MINISTER KAN: I apologize for giving you the same answer, but regarding what I have personally said concerning my resignation, I intend to take responsibility for my comments and move forward with care. However, it is not ultimately myself that will decide all aspects of how and what will happen in relation to this.

REPORTER: Then if Mr. Okada says it would be better to push things forward, you would agree, right?

PRIME MINISTER KAN: No, what I just said was that I can only speak on behalf of myself.


REPORTER: I am Mizushima of Jiji Press. Today, a problem surfaced that the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) engineered symposiums with so-called fake questions as well as questions that favored the Chubu Electric Company and others. Please comment on how you take this issue. Also, concerning the schedule for revising nuclear power policy, Mr. Hosono has said that he will aim to have a draft policy laid out by this August and to put that policy into practice by April of next year. Do you plan to work according to this schedule or do you plan to push that schedule forward? Please offer a forecast for the revisions.

PRIME MINISTER KAN: There have been new news reports speculating that NISA has staged fake questions. If it is true then it is an extremely serious problem and a thorough investigation of the facts must be carried out along with a firm response in light of the investigation. Before it was pointed out that such accusations existed for electricity companies, however this time it is NISA, a division of the government that oversees nuclear safety. If NISA has done something that would contradict, go against, or conflict with their position as a governmental body, then it would be a problem that would put their very existence into question. It has already been mentioned in the Government Report to the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) that NISA be separated from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and Minister Kaieda agrees with this. I received a telephone call from Minister Kaieda while this problem surfaced and he noted that a third-party commission was to be formed, and I encouraged him to carry out a solid and thorough response. Furthermore, regarding the revision to nuclear policy, I have instructed Minister Hosono, the minister in charge, to handle this issue appropriately. Concerning a specific schedule, however, this depends on how Minister Hosono views the issue - or rather, it depends on how much preparation is needed for the revision - basically I have entrusted the matter to him, instructing him to handle the matter properly.

CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: We are running out of time so the next question will be the last. Mr. Indo, please.

REPORTER: I am Indo of the Nihon Keizai Shimbun. As the Basic Policy on Reconstruction takes shape, some DPJ members have requested that a future third supplementary budget be completed under the new administration. This is not included in the Government's policy, but do you think that the third supplementary budget, and the next fiscal year budget that will follow, as well as the passing of the bill and other matters that must be handled in the Diet - do you think that these issues should be addressed under the new administration?

PRIME MINISTER KAN: I am aware that the DPJ has had such a discussion.

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