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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Monday, October 17, 2011 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:I have a report concerning the Ministerial Council on Monthly Economic Report and other related issues that was held today from 2:00pm. With regard to the current state of the Japanese economy, it was noted that although the economy is continuing to pick up while difficulties remain due to the Great East Japan Earthquake, the speed of the recovery has slowed and has been revised downwards. With regard to the prospects for the economy, while it is expected that the economy will continue to pick up, caution is required as there are downside risks stemming from further slowing down of less resilient overseas economies, and volatile fluctuations in exchange rates and stock prices. For details, please direct your questions to officials in charge of Economic and Fiscal Analysis of the Cabinet Office.

The second item I have to report concerns the visit of Prime Minister Noda to Fukushima Prefecture. The Prime Minister will visit Fukushima Prefecture tomorrow, October 18, returning to Tokyo the same day. In the prefecture he will visit locations where residential housing is being decontaminated and will also visit locations such as temporary accommodation facilities and a kindergarten. He will also be speaking with evacuees and parents of kindergarten children to listen to their concerns about daily life.


REPORTER:I believe that discussions have taken place this morning in a preparatory meeting for the establishment of a National Strategy Council. Could you tell us if anything was decided in this meeting?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:I believe that what I will say will be the same as the information provided by Minister Furukawa in his press conference. Today the Prime Minister presided over a meeting of ministers concerned, including Minister for National Policy Furukawa, the Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. These ministers engaged in an exchange of opinions concerning the outline for the new Council and the composition of its membership. The body will be known as the National Strategy Council. The basic thinking on the composition of the Council is that it will be chaired by the Prime Minister and include the six ministers present at the preparatory meeting today, as well as some members from the private sector. With regard to the composition of the private sector members, this will be at the discretion of the Prime Minister and arrangements will be made promptly, following which I expect that I will be able to report on the private sector members in tomorrow's press conference after the Cabinet meeting. The Council is expected to act as a control tower for important domestic and foreign policy. In addition to compiling important basic policies it will also engage in the construction of a mid- to long-term national vision. The details of the Council will be finalized from now through discussion among relevant parties, based on the opinions raised in the preparatory meeting today, and the aim is for the establishment of the Council to be approved by the Cabinet on Friday this week. I believe that further details have been provided by Minister for National Policy Furukawa in his own press conference, the content of which is the same as the details I have just mentioned.


REPORTER:When will the first meeting of the new Council take place?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:It was announced today that the aim is to hold the first meeting during the course of this month.


REPORTER:Returning to the creation of the National Strategy Council, in the preparatory meeting held today, were any specific themes for discussion identified or were any decisions made on what type of subcommittees will be established under the Council?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:I believe that the theme of most immediate importance will be to compile an outline for a revival strategy for Japan and announce it by the end of the year . It was decided today that subcommittees will be established under the auspices of the Council. These subcommittees will not merely go over what already existing bodies have engaged in to date, but will work on building more substantial pillars for the revival of Japan.


REPORTER:What is the schedule for the creation of a subcommittee that will compile a revival strategy for Japan?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:If the first meeting of the National Strategy Council is held during this month, I believe that it would engage in relatively detailed discussions on a revival strategy for Japan and from then would accelerate measures to announce a broad framework by the end of the year.

REPORTER:So is it expected that the strategy will be advanced by the Council itself rather than in a subcommittee?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:I believe that the image for how the compilation process will progress will be first subject to discussion by the Council itself. This also relates to a prior question concerning the energy-related environment, and as I mentioned in that context as a plan has to be devised by around summer next year, rather than creating a subcommittee it would be most expedient for discussions to progress in the forum of the main National Strategy Council until the end of the year, after which, if necessary, subcommittees could be created. I believe that this is the format that work on the revival strategy will take.

REPORTER:There is already an Energy and Environment Council in existence. Would this be placed under the auspices of the National Strategy Council?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:The opinions exchanged today in the preparatory meeting were broadly of that view.

REPORTER:You have just stated that the new Council will engage in the compilation of important basic policies. However, if it will not deal with such issues as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement or taxation and social security issues, which are important issues facing the Noda Administration, what kind of important basic policies is the new Council expected to compile?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:Although I have stated today that the Council would not directly deal with such issues, and I might have made a similar statement in the past, discussions are already in progress on various issues, including the TPP, for example. However, it is highly likely that the new National Strategy Council will engage in exchanges of opinion in some form on issues such as the TPP under its Ministerial Council. It is also likely that opinions may be expressed on tax and social security issues, and if that were to be the case, then those opinions would be provided to the bodies of the Government and the ruling parties' that are primarily responsible for dealing with these issues. Also, with regard to the budget for next fiscal year, if there are parts of the budget that are closely related to the national revival strategy for Japan, then the new Council would provide opinions accordingly. That was the gist of the discussions that took place in the preparatory meeting today.

REPORTER:In other words, are you saying that the aim is for the National Strategy Council to be positioned as the final decision-making body for discussions within the Government?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:It will be the final decision-making body for matters relating to the revival strategy for Japan, but it will not be positioned as such for other issues.


REPORTER:This is completely unrelated to the last question, but according to some media sources the Government is to grant fishing rights to companies in the special zones for reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake under certain conditions, such as that they hire seven or more local fishermen. Please clarify the authenticity of these reports and the situation of considerations currently being made on the release of fishing rights.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:I saw that the media had written some specific information about this, but to put this more accurately, we are currently in the final stages of considering a special zones bill. We are considering a special exception for fishing licenses as a special measure for regulations and procedures. The content of that exception is in line with the Basic Act on Reconstruction, and it indicates that a system should be established that allows companies in communities of need that mainly comprise local fishermen to acquire fishing rights without being subordinated to fishery cooperatives. We are currently making further internal considerations on this policy.

REPORTER:You just mentioned that the National Strategy Council would be discussing issues related to economic and fiscal policy. Is it correct to say that you will have Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa join as a member?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:We should be able to announce the membership during the press conference tomorrow following the Cabinet meeting.

REPORTER:In a group interview held earlier, the Prime Minister clarified that he would not be responding to impromptu interviews. In what way, then, including some form of regular press conference, does Prime Minister Noda intend to maintain accountability to citizens if he will not respond to impromptu interviews?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:I believe that I have said this several times before, but the Prime Minister intends to set aside a proper time to respond to citizens in order to more thoroughly convey his ideas, but not through impromptu interviews. This is why a group interview was held today. The Prime Minister will of course determine a specific way to do so, including press conferences, as has been said a number of times. This could be in response to major milestones or in light of the evolving circumstances. Be that as it may, the Prime Minister fully intends to carry out his responsibility to remain accountable to citizens.

REPORTER:You said that he would provide explanations at times of major milestones, but looking at the management of the administration over the past month and a half - for instance, the resignation of Yoshio Hachiro, then Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, the surfacing of Prime Minister Noda's acceptance of contributions from a non-Japanese national, the appointment of Yukio Edano (as Mr. Hachiro's successor) , when the decision was made to implement a tax increase for reconstruction, and others - there have been times when the Prime Minister has not provided explanations on the day of various milestones. Is it correct to say that this will change in the future?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:There may be a difference in how one interprets the meaning of "major milestone," but as I said before in September as well, looking back over the month of September, I believe that the Prime Minister has done a rather good job of utilizing various forums to comment on the issues at hand.

REPORTER:This question is with regard to the lending of pandas to the affected areas, which came up in this morning's press conference. Has Sendai City made any further contact with the Government on this issue following the morning press conference?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:Nothing of note at this point of time.

REPORTER:(Concerning the relocation of the Futenma Air Station to Henoko,) earlier, in relation to the environmental impact assessment, you commented that the future steps to be taken would unfold in a natural fashion. This assessment is of course for a landfill, so when you say "naturally unfold" do you mean to say that this is a package deal where once the assessment report is submitted the next natural course of events will be an application for the landfill?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:No, such decisions have yet to be made. First, preparations are being made to submit the assessment within the year. There are absolutely no decisions being made at present on what will hypothetically be done following the submission of the assessment.
REPORTER:If that is the case, what exactly is to naturally unfold?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:There is a 90-day period once the assessment is received and then an inspection, I believe. It is my understanding that these administrative procedures are fixed.
REPORTER:So, there is absolutely no connection between that and an application for the landfill?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:At present, absolutely no decision has been made about what will happen following the submission of the assessment.

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