Press Conference by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda
Friday, September 2, 2011
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now begin the press conference by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. Prime Minister, your opening statement please.
Opening Statement by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda
PRIME MINISTER NODA: Following my investiture by His Majesty the Emperor, today I have formally assumed the position of Prime Minister of Japan. I would like to address the Japanese people concerning the issues that my administration must deal with and my own political stance.
Before I go into further details, I would like at the outset to offer my heartfelt prayers for the repose of those who lost their precious lives in the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11. I would also like to express my sincerest sympathies to those who have been affected by the disaster and who still have to endure inconvenience in their daily lives as evacuees. Recovery and reconstruction from this disaster for which I have just offered my condolences and sympathies are the highest priority challenges for my administration, as we continue the work of the administration of Prime Minister Kan. To date, the Government has made every endeavor to engage in recovery and reconstruction efforts in the wake of this disaster. However, although diligent efforts have been made in such areas as the construction of temporary accommodation, the removal of debris and support for the livelihoods of the people affected by the disaster, we are still receiving comments about aspects of Government efforts that are insufficient. On the basis of such voices, I believe that my single greatest mission is to further expedite recovery and reconstruction operations.
In addition, an issue that we must approach with the highest priority is that of bringing the nuclear power station accident to a conclusion without delay. Two important challenges will be to ensure that the reactors at the Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station are stabilized without fail and also to engage in decontamination of the radioactive materials in the vicinity of the nuclear power station. Both the first and second supplementary budgets have made provisions for a response to decontamination operations. However, in order to advance these operations with greater urgency and on a wider scale, it will be necessary to first mobilize reserve funds. Following this, the Government must then continue to take the lead in implementing large-scale decontamination operations in eastern Japan in a cross-cutting manner that encompasses all government ministries and agencies. In addition, from the perspective of placing the interests and safety of children first, the Government will make every effort to assure the safety of pregnant women and children. One of the things I stated during the leadership election of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) was that without the revival of Fukushima Prefecture there can be no revival for Japan as a whole. Given that this process of revival will restore vitality to Japan and also in the sense that it will help to restore the trust of the international community in our country, I will make every endeavor in this regard.
Another important issue is our response to the various crises afflicting the global economy. It is my intention to create countermeasures for all the crises we currently face and to ensure that the nation does not fall into a crisis of confidence. I want to implement countermeasures to avoid the hollowing out of industry in Japan, restore the economy to robust health even in the midst of energy constraints, and make a vigorous response to the financial crisis that predates the earthquake and tsunami disasters. Firstly, due to the historic appreciation of the yen, it is only natural to feel an unprecedented sense of crisis concerning the hollowing out of industry. During my tenure as Minister of Finance, I worked in cooperation with other countries, and always reserved the option of intervention in currency markets, should the need arise. In the future too, I will seek to make a response in close cooperation with other countries. However, domestically, the issue of countermeasures in response to yen appreciation is one that is urgent and pressing. From last year we created relocation subsidies amounting to approximately 140 billion yen as part of ongoing economic measures to deal with yen appreciation and I am aware of the necessity to further augment such measures and subsidies.
The appreciation of the yen and deflationary pressures are adversely affecting many small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which are particularly hard pressed in terms of cash flow and funding. I seek to implement bold economic measures that will help SMEs deal with their plight. The appreciation of the yen is having an adverse impact on the status of the Japanese economy and our financial market as we attempt to recover from the effects of the disaster. At the same time, there are certain merits that accrue from yen appreciation. We recently created measures amounting to US$100 billion that are aimed at enabling the purchase of overseas assets or companies. It is my intention to utilize the merits of yen appreciation and continue to create such measures.
The next issue I will speak about concerns means to overcome energy constraints. Electrical power is the lifeblood of the economy and is the basis for all activities in this country. We were able to avoid scheduled power outages during the summer this year thanks to efforts by industry and the general public to conserve energy. While short-term concerns about energy supply and demand have been dispelled, the Government seeks to engage in efforts to revise mid- and long-term power plans. For the time being, we will restart operations at nuclear power plants, thoroughly ensuring safety on the basis of stress tests and regular inspections, and also premised on the understanding of local communities in accordance with prescribed measures. We will create a safety and regulatory structure based on the separation of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI).
The matter of restoring fiscal health is an urgent and pressing matter that cannot be delayed. However, I am not a fiscal fundamentalist. I will take a realistic approach to respond to the situation. I have repeatedly stated that without growth there can be no restoration of fiscal health, and without fiscal health being restored there can be no growth. Striking the right balance in this regard is something that I intend to do in the days ahead.
Before that, I am resolved to advance government revitalization to ensure that all wasteful measures can be thoroughly eliminated. A final draft of the integrated reform of the taxation and social security systems that has been compiled by the Government ruling parties needs to be implemented in concrete terms. To this end, discussions will be advanced among the ruling parties on specific system designs, and consultations with the opposition parties will also be sought in a careful manner. In the midst of a difficult situation, the immediate and highest priority issues facing the Cabinet will be those that I have just laid out, namely overcoming the crises presented by recovery and reconstruction from the earthquake disaster and nuclear power station accident, and also overcoming the various economic crises we currently face. In responding to these crises, we must ensure that we do not become inward looking. Now is the time to turn our attention overseas as we seek to resolve global challenges, and with high aspirations to contribute to the future of humanity, we must seek to engage in the development of the marine and space policies, create rich and bountiful hometown environments, and expand the frontiers of human resource development. I intend to advance various policies based on such concepts.
With the rise of emerging nations, the world is becoming increasingly multi-polar. The security environment in the Asia-Pacific region is undergoing significant changes. In these circumstances, it is essential that we advance foreign and security policies that can robustly respond to the requirements of the times. I believe that the linchpin for such policies is none other than the Japan-US Alliance. We must work to further advance and develop this alliance. Last night I held telephone talks with President Obama of the United States. During those talks I spoke about the basic policy that I have just mentioned, of advancing and developing the Japan-U.S. Alliance as a means of contributing to peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. I plan to attend the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and there I will meet directly with President Obama and convey to him clearly Japan's basic concept, which will serve as a starting point for relations of trust between Japan and the United States.
Another basic stance of the Government is to develop the strategic relationship of mutual benefit with China. I will make every effort to build relations of goodwill not only between Japan and China, but also with other neighboring countries, including the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Russia. To date I have engaged in my own way in economic diplomacy in matters such as currency and international finance, and in the future it is my intention to also engage actively in multi-faceted economic diplomacy, including even greater levels of economic cooperation and also diplomacy relating to natural resources, among other issues. In particular, I believe that it is essential for Japan to draw on the inherent vitality in the Asia-Pacific region. From this perspective too, I will engage in active efforts to promote economic diplomacy.
I have just briefly referred to the UN General Assembly. At the General Assembly I will convey and share the lessons of Japan's experiences of the recent nuclear disaster as well as the countermeasures Japan is currently engaged in. I aim to work quickly to create personal relations of trust with the leaders of the major countries of the world and further deepen exchange with the people of these countries. This concludes my explanation of the basic challenges that we currently face and the measures that will be taken to respond to them, as well as my political stance on such issues.
There are many other things that I would like to mention, but in terms of a basic philosophy, as I have said on frequent occasions in the past, domestically it has been the case that the solidity and depth of the middle class of Japan has been a source of our fundamental strength and dynamism. Regrettably, there are some people who have fallen from the ranks of this middle class, including people in the regions affected by the recent disaster, and it will be important to ensure that such people can return to those ranks. From this perspective, I seek to build a society in Japan that can ensure that the middle class continues to grow, while maintaining a basic philosophy of prioritizing the livelihoods of the people.
I believe that once we have achieved stability in domestic affairs, restored public trust in politics and overcome each of the various challenges we face, a new source of diplomatic strength will eventually emerge. Faced with the frenzied pace of international developments we must not fall into the trap of single country economic and financial policy. Bearing this point duly in mind, it is my intention to work diligently to create a basis for stability in domestic affairs, from which we can work quickly to build a structure that will enable a revitalized Japan to make an even greater international contribution than before. I would like to conclude on that note. Thank you.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now move on to the Q&A session. When you are called on, we would appreciate it if you would first state your name and affiliation. Thank you. Mr. Mizushima, please.
REPORTER: I am Mizushima of Jiji Press. I would like to ask about relations with the opposition parties. The response of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) appears to be very circumspect concerning the working-level talks on disaster reconstruction and taxation system reform that you have proposed. What kind of roadmap have you drawn out in order to realize these talks? Also, do you still have your eye on forming a grand coalition? Furthermore, the LDP is requesting that the House of Representatives be dissolved after the third supplementary budget is passed. In your past writings you indicated that it is not desirable for an illegitimate administration to oversee the steering of national policy. Please tell us your opinion on dissolving the House of Representatives at this point in time.
PRIME MINISTER NODA: Thank you for your questions. Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak with LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki, LDP Secretary-General Nobuteru Ishihara, New Komeito Party President Natsuo Yamaguchi, and New Komeito Party Secretary-General Yoshihisa Inoue. My intention was to share with them my frank opinions about what Japan's current issues are, and together realize policy and produce results while creating a relationship of trust with them, as we are truly facing a national crisis. With that intention I conveyed my feelings to them.
Specifically, for the immediate future the issue is, as you have stated, recovery and reconstruction. Each party has its own recommendations in terms of recovery and reconstruction policy. I hope to consolidate the third supplementary budget in consideration of those recommendations. For that purpose, I proposed the talks so that we would have a venue to carry out sufficient discussion together on an equal footing - I mean, a venue that goes beyond party and faction for the sake of affected residents and national citizens, which, I believe, will allow us to quickly produce results towards resolving issues.
Moreover, for drafting the third supplementary budget, we need to first address the issue of tax system revision - although we did manage to pass the special measures concerning taxation. We have streamlined a portion of the policy-based tax system, which included a donation tax system; however, the main portion of tax system reform remains. We will be discussing issues concerning this including the reduction of corporate tax in parallel to the third supplementary budget - and we have conducted these on the working-level in the past - so I proposed that we create a project for the taxation system, as well as hold discussion on financial resources for reconstruction after that, as this will come into question as well.
We also still face issues such as the appreciating yen, which I touched on earlier. I proposed that, at least concerning issues that must be dealt with in the immediate future, we exchange views and ideas about how to address economic countermeasures.
I feel that everyone shared to a sufficient degree what the issues are. Next, a mechanism to carry out discussion must be decided on the level of Secretary-General and Policy Research Council Chairman - although there must be various opinions within parties and procedures that must be dealt with - I strongly hope that opposition parties will quickly cross that line and commence discussions.
You also asked about the timing for a snap general election. Among the various major remaining issues that I just mentioned, I can say at the very least that the issue of reconstruction is not one that will be resolved within this year. In addition to discussion concerning what to do about the third supplementary budget, we still must continue to work to address reconstruction and we will still have to make various further efforts for the economy going forward. Therefore, my basic stance is that this is not a time that we can afford to create a political blank.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next please, Mr. Endo.
REPORTER: I am Endo of the Nihon Keizai Shimbun. On a related topic, you just mentioned the revision of the tax system. Yesterday you told Mr. Hiromasa Yonekura of the Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) that you would be implementing economic policy in an uninterrupted manner. I have two questions related to financial resources, as they are going to be necessary no matter what you plan to do. My first question is with regard to the tax increase in order to facilitate reconstruction. Opinions were divided over this issue during theDPJ presidential election as well, and this is currently an issue of focus. You once said that this tax increase would be implemented next fiscal year. Actually, I don't remember if it was next year or next fiscal year, but my first question is whether this is still your intention. My next question is with regard to the comprehensive reform of the social security and taxation systems. Regarding the related bill which would raise consumption tax to 10% by the mid-2010s, do you still intend to submit the bill to the Diet by March of next year, as is written in the supplementary clauses of tax law? My question is whether you are still determined to submit that bill to the ordinary session of the Diet next year.
PRIME MINISTER NODA: My basic position is that no policy can be implemented without financial resources. Reconstruction is imperative. We must also thoroughly discuss, however, how we are to finance reconstruction. I believe that there are two major premises. The first is the Basic Policy on Reconstruction, which received the approval of the Cabinet. The basic idea is that discussion on financial resources will be carried out based on the principle that we will not leave the burden for future generations to bear, but that the people of today will cooperate on sharing that burden among themselves. The next premise is the Basic Act on Reconstruction. Even if reconstruction bonds are to be issued, law stipulates that we must clarify a roadmap for reimbursement. This is something that was agreed on between the ruling and opposition parties. I believe that the correct approach is responding to the issue based on this Basic Policy and Act.
This includes exhaustive efforts to cut expenditures, securing non-tax revenues, selling national assets - we will employ all means available. And concerning the issue of how to handle portions for which we still lack sufficient funding, taking time-limited taxation measures is the resolution derivable from the Basic Policy and Act. However, we must do a good job of assessing the economic situation. Not everything can be resolved using a fundamentalist approach. That is why even when taking time-limited taxation measures, various options will make themselves available, including when to commence such measures, how long the period of reimbursement should be, or, if taxation measures are taken, how to combine them with fundamental taxes, as this is an issue that is also supposed to be considered. I intend to quickly create a new structure, have the discussions at the Tax Commission, and particularly the working groups, swiftly put into motion, have the multiple options presented, and then have them submitted to the DPJ leadership. Next, the ruling and opposition parties shall carry out discussion in consideration of those options. This is the order that things will take. With regard to the comprehensive reform of the social security and taxation systems, intense discussion has been held concerning this matter and final draft guidelines were compiled. Supplementary Article 104 of the guidelines stipulates that a law concerning fundamental reform of the taxation system must be submitted during fiscal 2011. I therefore intend to make solid preparations before March of next year, the end of fiscal 2011. Some people have the impression that the introduction of this law will mean immediate tax increases, but just as is written in the Basic Policy as well as the guidelines, this is to be implemented in a step-wise manner by the mid-2010s. It was also written that factors such as administrative reform efforts or whether the economic situation will turn for the better will be taken into account in order to decide when to implement the law. Some people have mistakenly interpreted that once we have created a law, we will be implementing it right away. It is important that the content that I just mentioned, which is included in the guidelines, is also written into law, so I ask that people take care not to misunderstand our intentions.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next person. Mr. Anai, please.
REPORTER: I am Anai of the Yomiuri Shimbun. While you have said that you will overcome "grudge politics," do you believe that with the personnel you have chosen you will be able to overcome the feud which has existed around former DPJ President Ozawa led by the anti-Ozawa and Ozawa-fleeing camps? Also, those in the Ozawa camp will be requesting that the party lift the suspension of Mr. Ozawa's party membership. In this context, how do you intend to establish party unity?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: During the DPJ presidential election, I argued that we should put an end to "grudge politics." Let's put an end to this reference to fleeing-someone or another, anti-someone or another, or pro-someone or another. I made these comments with the belief that making references to "anti" or "pro" is not desirable for underscoring the legitimacy of our actions. Furthermore, after the presidential election results were out, I urged the party to realize an environment with "no side." With regards to making this more than mere words and how this will be materialized specifically through personnel decisions, I have given great thought to decisions on the party personnel structure and the Cabinet members who I have announced today. I do not know how these decisions will be assessed. Nonetheless, I believe I have placed the right person in the right job while being grounded in the basics. This stance will be maintained going forward.
And the latter part of your question was?
REPORTER: It was about the suspension of Mr. Ozawa's party membership.
PRIME MINISTER NODA: I believe in principle we need to pay full heed to the conclusion that was carefully compiled over several months by the past party leadership. On this basis, under the new structure, I believe it is also necessary to once again carefully listen to the processes which led to the suspension. However, this is not to say that there will be any sudden changes in particular. I believe the task at hand is not to be in any great hurry but is to carefully listen to what the former leadership has to say.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next person. Mr. Dickie, please.
REPORTER: I am Mure Dickie of the Financial Times. First, congratulations on your inauguration as Prime Minister. Regarding energy policy, can you tell us how quickly the nuclear power stations currently shut down for inspection can be restarted? Also, regarding the nuclear power stations which are being constructed and which have not yet been completed, will they ever be switched on in the future?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: I believe 14 nuclear power stations were planned to be newly constructed. However, the construction of new power stations is now, I believe, unrealistic. What will happen in my opinion is that the respective reactors will be decommissioned when they reach their life spans. The reactors which have reached their life spans will not be restored. They will be decommissioned. That is my basic stance. As to the immediate issues, as I also touched on in my opening remarks a moment ago, the reactors which are deemed operable based on rigorous safety checks, including the stress tests, will be restarted in the context of providing thorough explanations to the community members in order to obtain their understanding. Although looking at the electricity supply and demand I believe we will be able to get past this summer and winter, there is some degree of concern about next year. For this reason, I believe the reactors which can be restarted need to be restarted. This will be based on thorough checks. They will not be restarted lightly. Based on thorough safety checks, I believe we have to create a suitable environment for restarting the reactors, in particular, obtaining the understanding of the communities.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next person. Mr. Matsuura, please.
REPORTER: I am Matsuura of Kyodo News. While you are in office, do you have any intention to visit Yasukuni Shrine? Also, what is the reason why you will or will not? In 2005, you submitted a written question to the Government in which you stated that Class A war criminals are not war criminals. Are you disclaiming the ruling of the Tokyo Tribunal? Do you believe that Class A war criminals have no responsibilities, including moral responsibilities?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: Regarding the first part of your question about whether I will or will not visit Yasukuni Shrine, I will continue the course which the Cabinets to date have followed. The Prime Minister and Cabinet members will not be making official visits. Although I believe there are a variety of opinions on this matter, from a holistic perspective, including international politics, I believe this stance is necessary.
You asked about the background and my thoughts with regards to my written question from 2005. As one politician, I prepared a written question to request the Government to confirm the legal position of the so-called Class A war criminals. Since this is the position of the Government, my basic stance was to address this issue based on the response presented by the Government. Therefore, it was not a criticism of the Tokyo Tribunal. Please understand that it was a written question to request the Government to confirm the position of the Class A war criminals in terms of how their case is to be interpreted legally.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next person. Mr. Jimbo, please.
REPORTER: I am Jimbo of Video News. I would like to ask an additional question about restarting the nuclear power stations. A moment ago, you said that nuclear power stations which are deemed operable based on stress tests will be started following thorough checks. At this present time, the agency which evaluates the results of the stress tests, NISA is still within METI. I understand that there are plans to change this system starting in April. However, in the meantime, is the current system going to be maintained for evaluating the stress tests, and on the basis of thorough checks, in order to restart the nuclear power stations? Or, is your opinion that thorough checks will only be possible after the new system has been fully established?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: I believe the people probably do not have very much confidence in the checks conducted under the current system. If so, can we wait until April of next year when the new system is established under the Ministry of the Environment? I think that is too late. We are right in the middle of the transition. As to what we can do to eliminate the concerns of the people in this transitional period, I hope to quickly make a decision through thorough discussions which will include the minister in charge of nuclear affairs and others.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Yes, next please. Mr. Sato, please.
REPORTER: I am Sato of the Nippon Television Network. Thank you for taking my question. Personally, looking at the list of senior party officials and new Cabinet members, I really get the feeling that a considerable amount of thought was put into maintaining balance within the DPJ. I would like to ask what your aim was and what you prioritized in selecting personnel. Furthermore, some in the public are calling this the "Catfish Cabinet," but if you were to give yourself a nickname, what would you call it?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: While it's true that I thought a lot about the balance of my Cabinet, basically my decisions were made based on the principle of the right person in the right job. The right person, in the right job. As I said earlier, Japan is currently faced with a number of issues, and so of course the final basis of my decision was that I wanted to assign the person who would be the most proficient in each field. I think you could say that I found a good balance among a number of factors within the framework of putting the right person in the right job. Now, how people view the decisions I made - that's something that is really up to public. There are various kinds of personnel in any organization, and it's pretty difficult to decide personnel affairs that can please everyone. I made my own judgments with all of this in mind.
As for my Cabinet's catchphrase or slogan, I don't dare to give you anything. When I campaign I use my own catchphrase. But I don't presume that it really sticks with people. Cabinets throughout history have created numerous catchphrases. Think about whether those phrases always reflected the way each Cabinet really was - they didn't, of course they didn't. So I won't dare offer anything. Nor will I talk about some of the terms being applied to us, like "loach" or "catfish." I believe that the term the public calls us after they see the way we focus on our work, how we aren't afraid to sweat or get our hands dirty, how we push politics forward - that term will be the true statement about who we really are. Rather than come up with a name now, I want to be the kind of Cabinet that the public gives a name to.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next please. Mr. Abiru, please.
REPORTER: I am Abiru of the Sankei Shimbun. I believe that we are now seeing the fifth Minister of State for the Abduction Issue since the DPJ came to power. I think this must be somewhat of a disappointment for the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea (AFVKN). Before former-Prime Minister Kan left office, he instructed that discussion be undertaken on the possibility of making domestic schools for ethnic North Koreans free to attend, something which might send the wrong signal to North Korea. It has been suggested that Japan would end up sending, how to put it, a 'misleading signal' to North Korea if this is done without there having been any progress made on the abduction issue. Have you considered rethinking the decision made by Mr. Kan?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: First of all, it is not just the Minister of State for the Abduction Issue that has changed, I'm really sorry to say that we have had no choice but to change out the Cabinet members responsible for every field quite frequently. In terms of continuity, including with regard to the abduction issue, I think that the first responsibility of this Cabinet is to revive the public's trust in the Government. I do acknowledge that on August 29, former Prime Minister Kan issued such an instruction regarding the issue of schools for ethnic North Koreans to the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. In the background of this issue is the incident in November of last year when a North Korean vessel bombarded Yeonpyeong Island of the ROK. There have not been any similar militaristic activities since then, and in addition, we have since then seen a US-North Korea dialogue in July and a North Korea-ROK dialogue as well. So I believe that Mr. Kan's decision was made based on the judgment that the situation is slowly returning to the way it was pre-bombardment. That is just my guess. That said, the procedures for this will be handled by the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. The examination, I mean. I want him to carry out a very strict examination.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next please. Mr. Shimada, please.
REPORTER: I am Shimada, a freelance reporter. Thank you for taking my question, and I congratulate you on becoming Prime Minister. I would like to ask you about your plans to counteract the rising value of the yen. You previously stated as Minister of Finance that you would not hesitate to intervene, and you did so a few times as well. But many still have concerns about whether those interventions actually did any good. As Prime Minister, will you also be considering monetary policies, for example, as countermeasures against the rising value of the yen, or do you plan to address the issue as one part of a more comprehensive, broader flow of events?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: As Minister of Finance, I intervened in the markets three times. I did so in September of last year, in March of this year and in August of this year, through independent, cooperative, and independent interventions respectively. I leave the judgment of whether these interventions were effective up to the public. I myself believe that these interventions turned violent shifts into moderate shifts, and that as policy measures, they had a certain effect in terms of stabilizing chaotic movement in the markets. However, I believe you are perhaps asking about, or concerned about, the response of the Japanese Government to a greater overall shift toward a market trend that is more deep-rooted, something which differs from such immoderate shifts or chaotic movement. One thing I can say about that is that I believe we must create a comprehensive economic policy, one that includes a third supplementary budget, and I think we will have to offer support for companies deciding to base their operations within Japan or financial support for SMEs, among other initiatives. The other option is to enact policy that takes advantage of the merits of the high yen, which is something we have been doing up until now and which I want to continue doing. The other really important issue here is monetary policy. I believe that the Bank of Japan (BOJ) shares a considerable amount of concern on this matter. When we intervened in the market, the BOJ proposed to greatly expand the scope of its asset acquisitions. I hope to continue to work closely with the BOJ and to continue to share our recognition of this issue. Although monetary policy is something that is ultimately carried out by the BOJ, I want to share our recognition of this issue even further and respond appropriately, and in such a way that finance will prop up the Japanese economy. I want to thoroughly cooperate with the Bank on this.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next please. Mr. Sakajiri, please.
REPORTER: I am Sakajiri of the Asahi Shimbun. I would like to ask you a question in light of this being your first press conference as Prime Minister. It relates to your intention to respond to doorstepping interviews. Since the time when the LDP was in power, every weekday the Prime Minister would stop while walking between appointments and answer questions from reporters. Since the DPJ came to power, Prime Minister Hatoyama and Prime Minister Kan basically followed suit. In the case of Prime Minister Kan, unfortunately, after the Great East Japan Earthquake he stopped giving such interviews, with the excuse that he was busy. Reporters repeatedly requested that he again continue to give doorstepping interviews, but up until the very end, he never did. I believe that you also place high priority on creating a dialogue with the public, and while I understand that you will be immediately busy with matters related to reconstruction following the Earthquake, it seems to me that you will not be in the position of calling for a meeting of the Crisis Management Center every day. All this in mind, I would like it if you would take this opportunity to return the situation to normal and again stop to answer our questions every now and then. How do you feel about this?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: I know that requests like that were made. I believe that former Prime Minister Kan responded the way he did for a variety of reasons. Personally, I want to hear about the background behind his decision and consider the issue for myself.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next please. Mr. Tanaka, please.
REPORTER: I am Tanaka of the Mainichi Shimbun. My question concerns nuclear power stations. A moment ago you stated that you would decommission old nuclear power stations. However, you think that creating new power stations will be realistically difficult. From that perspective, thinking about this issue over the long term or in terms of the future of society or socioeconomics, are you saying that you envision a society that can operate without relying on nuclear power? Any comments?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: Yes, that is what I mean - a society that doesn't rely on nuclear power. I believe that the future will see a movement away from nuclear energy. As you just stated, once nuclear power stations have lived out their periods of usefulness, we will decommission them, and shall not build any new stations. That will be the basic flow of things. Alongside all of this, we will promote the development of new energy sources, the spread of alternative natural energy sources, and the adoption of energy conservation measures. We need to create a basic plan on energy following thorough and careful consideration. I also think that in order to do away with concerns among the public, I truly hope to realize a new best mix of energy sources. That is the mid- to long-term plan. The issue we currently face is exactly as I just stated. It will be impossible to reduce our reliance on nuclear energy to zero immediately, but I hope to discuss how to organize our society in such a way that we will be able to achieve this in time.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next person please. Mr. Yamazaki, please.
REPORTER: I am Yamazaki of TV Asahi. I have a question about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). As you of course know, the new Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry Yoshio Hachiro has strong ties to the agricultural industry, and I believe that in terms of whether he is for or against the TPP, he seems quite hesitant about it. Is his appointment intended to send the message that Japan will consider joining the TPP in such a careful manner in the future? Also, in terms of the TPP, there will be an APEC meeting in November in Hawaii - how do you intend to proceed forward on this issue?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: Minister Hachiro is not being used to send a message on the TPP. In appointing him Minister, we are not saying that we are hesitant about the TPP or that we are against it. Minister Hachiro has many thoughts on the issue, and is a very pragmatic person. For example, I believe that he will listen to each different opinion and act very carefully with regard to the issue of nuclear power stations and the issue of the TPP. He was not selected with any certain motive in mind. Regarding the TPP, we will continue forward with the previous policy of the Government. A decision will be made comprehensively after gathering information. I hope to reach a conclusion on this issue at an early stage.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We are running out of time so I would like to make the next question the last. Mr. Miura, please.
REPORTER: I am Miura of the Tokyo Shimbun. I have a question concerning increased taxation for reconstruction and consumption tax. You have talked about the timing of redemption and the increase in the tax rate. I think that there are many people who are worried that over the long-term there will be tax increases. You stated that you seek to boost the strength and depth of the middle class, however, given that in the long-term it is likely that tax increases will be introduced, how do you propose to increase the numbers and strength of the middle class?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: I believe that there is a basic assumption that if taxation is increased it will have a negative impact on the life of the people of Japan overall. Requesting the public to bear a tax burden does indeed have an impact on household finances, but this depends on the areas designated for taxation. However, the money gained from tax collection can be invested in various areas, and there is therefore an element of taxation being utilized to boost the economy in such areas for investment, namely using money from tax revenue in an active manner. We must also consider the ways in which confidence can be gained in Japan both at home and abroad and weigh up the positive and negative factors for and against taxation when coming to an overall decision. If there are concerns that taxation could have an impact on the economy, then it should be approached carefully and in a gradual manner. The issue that I have mentioned is that without fiscal resources there can be no government policy. So if it is not the case, we then arrive at a debate about whether we should pass on the burden to the next generation. There are many countries that see the terrible situation Japan faces in the wake of the disaster and wish to see Japan recover and engage in reconstruction. However, when these countries, which are also engaged in efforts to ensure robust fiscal health of their own economies, view Japan's fiscal discipline, one cannot avoid wondering what sort of judgment they make. I have therefore stated that one of the greatest priorities for my administration is to strike a balance between growth and fiscal health. The answers we arrive at to the questions of how to address specific themes such as the issue of reconstruction and the issues of taxation and social security will be of the utmost importance.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: With that, I will bring the press conference to a close. Thank you for your cooperation.