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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Thursday, September 15, 2011 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:Today, from 6:30pm, the 20th meeting of the Government Revitalization Unit is scheduled to be held. This will be the first such meeting since the establishment of the administration of Prime Minister Noda. In conjunction with this, it has been decided that chairman of the Central Japan Railway Company, Mr. Yoshiyuki Kasai, and Professor Emeritus Takafumi Matsui of the University of Tokyo will join the unit as expert members. In addition, it has also been decided that Professor Yoshihiro Katayama of the Faculty of Law of Keio University and former Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, will be reappointed as an expert member of the unit, as he was prior to his appointment as minister. The Prime Minister's policy is to continue and strengthen efforts towards government revitalization and given their experiences to date the expert members will be called on to provide various advice towards the overall revitalization of Japan's government administration.

I have one more item to report, concerning the Meeting of Ministers on Okinawan Affairs, which is scheduled to be held from 8:40am tomorrow, September 16, at the ministerial office in the National Diet Building. This meeting will be held to address various issues relating to Okinawa, including reducing the burden of military bases and development and promotion for the prefecture, and will provide an opportunity for relevant ministers to engage in a frank exchange of opinion from the perspective of the Government working as a whole to make serious efforts in this regard. I will be presiding over the meeting and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister of Defense, Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs and Minister of Finance will also be attending.


REPORTER:With regard to the vessel that was found off the coast of the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, in your press conference in the afternoon of September 13 you stated that, as the information at that point pertained to an "unfamiliar vessel", the situation had not reached a stage that required an inter-ministerial liaison meeting to be established. However at the press conference in the afternoon of September 14 you stated that a liaison structure had been created headed by the Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary. It has been pointed out in some quarters that following the confirmation of the vessel the establishment of a specific structure to respond to this matter was rather delayed. Do you consider that a swift response was made to the situation? Were there not any inadequacies in the liaison structure inside the Government?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:It seems that there were some factual errors in what you have just stated, therefore I would like to explain once again the Government's initial response. The situation was first confirmed by the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) and subsequently confirmed by the Government in the morning of September 13. Before 9:00am on the same day, the Prime Minister and I were in touch through our aides and I received instructions from the Prime Minister to confirm the situation and then respond appropriately, ensuring that there were no omissions in the Government's response. Further reports on the status of the situation were subsequently provided, also through our aides. At 8:55am on Tuesday, September 13, a JCG rotorcraft arrived on the scene and confirmed the presence of a drifting vessel. Subsequently the JCG established a response office, headed by the Director General of the Guard and Rescue Department. At 1:00pm on the same day, a meeting was held among the JCG and other related ministries and agencies for the purpose of sharing information and discussing a response.

At 5:00pm on Tuesday, September 13, a meeting of relevant ministries and agencies was held at the Prime Minister's Office, headed by Assistant Chief Cabinet Secretary Kawai, and later both Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretaries and a number of director general-level officials from relevant ministries and agencies gathered at my office, where I was provided with a report on the status and confirmed the policy for a response to the situation. Given the fact that the JCG patrol vessel that was carrying the passengers who had been on the drifting vessel was expected to reach the seas off the Port of Kanazawa shortly after 7:00pm, I gave instructions that in order to deal with the situation promptly all ministries and agencies involved should engage in thorough liaison and coordination, and also provide regular reports to the Prime Minister's Office. As you can see, therefore, in our response to this situation, from the outset the Cabinet and the relevant ministries and agencies were involved in making a swift response while liaising closely with each other and I do not believe that your observations and criticisms are valid.

REPORTER:On a related note, this time, until the wooden vessel was discovered by a local fishing vessel, it had not been detected or apprehended. Does this not point to problems in terms of crisis management? For example, please tell us how the Government intends to respond to situations in which individuals from North Korea board wooden vessels and attempt to make incursions on Japanese territory.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:This was a case that first came to light following the discovery and notification about a drifting wooden vessel. Given the details of the situation, it was not recognized as an incident that would present an immediate threat to the security and territorial defense of Japan. In addition, upon receiving notification from a private fishing vessel the JCG quickly dispatched a patrol vessel, which apprehended the wooden vessel, and the Government does not consider that there were any problems with this initial response. The defense of Japan's territorial waters is ably carried out under a robust structure by the Ministry of Defense and JCG. Based on the response to previous incursions by North Korean spy vessels, the Government will continue to take every measure to ensure the defense of Japan's territorial waters, including the use of high-speed vessels capable of quickly apprehending suspicious vessels.

REPORTER:There are also concerns that in the future the situation in North Korea may result in the flow of large numbers of refugees to Japan. In such an event how would the Government respond from the perspective of crisis management and does the Government have scenarios in place for such an event?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:The Government has response measures in place in the event that large numbers of refugees were to enter Japan, and these measures are continually revised in response to changes in the situation. It is envisaged that the basic procedures to respond to such a event would include the following: (1) In the event that refugees are discovered, place them under protective custody, provide emergency supplies and implement medical inspections; (2) implement landing procedures, including immigration, customs and quarantine; (3) establish and operate a shelter facility; and (4) engage in investigation concerning whether the refugees are eligible to be granted asylum by Japan.


REPORTER:I have a question on a slightly different topic regarding the revision of the Constitution. At today's query session by representatives of political parties at the Diet, Prime Minister Noda stated that although he has his own cherished opinion about revising the Constitution, reconstruction from the earthquake and bringing the nuclear accident to a conclusion are pressing matters and that he does not consider revision of the Constitution a priority. Does this mean that the Noda administration will not address the issue of revising the Constitution? If so, why did Prime Minister Noda, who also describes his cherished opinion in his book, become Prime Minister?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:Former Prime Minister Hatoyama has also presented his own draft version of the Constitution. However, as I have repeatedly said, overcoming the national crisis -- broadly speaking, coping with the Great East Japan Earthquake, including the nuclear accident, is truly one of the greatest of all challenges for Prime Minister Noda right now. The other challenge is fiscal rehabilitation or fiscal matters, including spurring the Japanese economy in the context of the current international economy. As has been repeatedly emphasized, these will be the foremost major challenges for Prime Minister Noda for some time to come. Therefore, even if he were to have cherished opinion on revising the Constitution, I believe he considers that Constitutional revision will not be a priority for a while longer.


REPORTER:It will be two full years tomorrow, September 16, since the change of government. Can you share with us the achievements made during this period and your thoughts as well as any challenges moving forward, etc.?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:The Prime Minister was also asked a variety of questions about this at today's plenary session of Diet. It has been exactly two full years since the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has been entrusted with the reins of government based upon many peoples' great expectations. I believe, bearing the responsibility to realize the manifesto, the DPJ has indeed made diligent efforts to this end. Recently, when the party's manifesto verification committee issued a report, the opposition parties criticized that nothing has been done. However, looking carefully, in broad terms we have adopted a child allowance system which is largely different from the children's allowance system that had existed until then, although yes, we are still short of the amount we had pledged initially. We have also made high schools tuition free. This was truly the first such measure in 60 years to be implemented as a result of the change of government since the new high school system was implemented after World War II. These are just two examples. While we have now had three prime ministers in two years and there are of course things we need to reflect upon, over these two years we have steadily made accomplishments as a result of the change of government that were unmanageable or unachievable under the previous administrations.

Nevertheless, as you noted a moment ago, we are still only half done with the variety of pledges we have made in the manifesto. Moving forward, during the next two years remaining in the terms of the members of the House of Representatives, the Noda administration will indeed go back to the starting point of the manifesto without undermining its principles. Meanwhile, in light of the two national crises we will be facing for some time to come, the Noda administration will boldly carry out the pledges while naturally taking into account the order of priority. That is my impression.

REPORTER:According to some reports, President Obama sent a personal letter at the end of August to then Prime Minister Kan asking Japan to make diligent efforts in the nuclear security area. Can you verify the facts?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:Traditionally, written exchanges between leaders, including their existence, are not disclosed. I hope you will understand. In any event, Japan fully realizes the importance of nuclear security and is actively involved in this area ahead of the next Nuclear Security Summit to be held in Seoul in March of next year. Between Japan and the U.S., we have held the Japan-U.S. nuclear security working group meetings in January and August of this year and are promoting close partnership and cooperation. Therefore, I do not believe there is any truth to the characterization of the reports you mentioned.


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