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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Tuesday, October 18, 2011 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura


CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:I also have a report concerning the visit of Prime Minister Noda to the Republic of Korea (ROK), from today, (Tues) October 18 to tomorrow, (Wed) October 19. The visit to the ROK is the Prime Minister's first overseas visit for the purpose of engaging in bilateral summit talks. The Prime Minister is scheduled to hold a summit meeting with President Lee Myung-bak and also visit Seoul National Cemetery, among other engagements. It is expected that the Prime Minister's visit to the ROK will provide an excellent opportunity for the Prime Minister to deepen trusting relations with President Lee and also for the two countries to reaffirm their efforts to strengthen their future-oriented partnership, given the ROK's status as Japan's most important neighbor.
I would also like to report that, at 8:10am this morning prior to the Cabinet meeting, the first meeting of the Government and Ruling Parties Council on the Formulation of the Budget was held. This meeting was established in accordance with the Guidelines for FY2012 Budget Requests Reformulation, which were approved by the Cabinet on September 20. This meeting will work to prioritize budget allocation in accordance with measures to prioritize the revival of Japan, and consider the important challenges facing the budget compilation process. In today's meeting the composition of working-level members was decided. In addition, in terms of immediate work, the working-level meeting was instructed by the Prime Minister to select specific items that require prioritized budgetary allocation in each of the measures for the revival of Japan.


REPORTER:Could you provide a little more detail about the instructions from the Prime Minister concerning the discussions on prioritization of budget allocation that are to be deliberated within the Government and Ruling Parties Council on the Formulation of the Budget? Also, could you provide more specific details about the working-level framework for the meeting?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:The instructions from the Prime Minister cover three items. Firstly, that the working-level meeting should implement interviews with each ministry and agency concerning their budget requests for prioritized measures. Secondly, that the working-level meeting should compile an interim report to the Government and ruling parties on the basis of the results of these interviews. Thirdly, that the working-level meeting should select specific items for prioritized budget allocation according to each of the measures for the revival of Japan, and report back to the Government and Ruling Parties Council on the Formulation of the Budget by the beginning of December. The working-level meeting is to be headed by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Saito and will comprise working-level staff, naturally from within the ranks of the Government and the ruling parties.


REPORTER:If Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Saito is the head of the working-level meeting, what kind of level is represented at the meeting?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Saito will chair the working-level meeting, with Senior Vice Ministers Ishida of Cabinet Office and Fujita of Finance serving as proxy chairs. In addition, other members will include the following: from the Government side, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Nagahama, Parliamentary Secretary of Cabinet Office Ogushi, and Parliamentary Secretary of Finance Yoshida; and from the ruling parties side, Deputy Chair of the Policy Research Council Sengoku, and proxy chairs of the Policy Research Council Mitsui and Sakurai. Mr. Kamei, Chair of the Policy Research Council of the People's New Party, will also serve on the working-level meeting.


REPORTER:With regard to the issue of Hokkaido Electric Power Company's involvement in the misrepresentation of public opinion, today the president of the company mentioned in a press conference that the pluthermal plan for Tomari Nuclear Power Station may be postponed. Do you think that the recent series of incidents concerning Kyushu and Hokkaido Electric Power Companies will have an impact on the pluthermal plan and also on the restarting of operations at various power stations?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:Firstly, I believe that the president's comment concerning the pluthermal plan was that the company sought to halt and restructure the plan. The Government's stance is to engage in deliberations in the form of the Energy and Environment Council and seek a wide range of public opinions concerning the formation of a mid- to long-term energy plan, including the ideal format for pluthermal power generation. This does not mean that the Government has sought to halt and restructure the pluthermal generation plan. This is the current status of the Government's views on this issue to date.

REPORTER:It also recently emerged that members of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) had been involved in the manipulation of public opinion at a symposium hosted by the Government and administrative penalties have already been imposed on those responsible. I believe that mistrust is targeted not just at the local level but also at the national level. Do you consider that it is acceptable to engage in wholesale discussions over revisions to energy policy in conjunction with decisions concerning those nuclear power stations with such clear evidence of improper behavior as well as those without?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:The Energy and Environment Council is engaging in discussions under a large framework, but it is also the case that each issue, such as the restarting of operations at nuclear power stations, is being considered separately. I believe that decisions will be made properly and accordingly on an individual basis.

REPORTER:Yesterday the Minister of Defense visited Okinawa Prefecture and stated that an environmental impact assessment report would be submitted by the end of the year concerning the relocation of Futenma Air Station. However, the local mayor and governor have shown their fierce opposition to this proposal. Therefore, I would like to ask how the Government intends to explain the situation to the local residents and gain their understanding.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:Minister of Defense Ichikawa stated that preparations would be made to submit the environmental impact assessment report by the end of the year, and between now and the end of the year various efforts will be made to provide explanations to local residents. Indeed, I believe that Minister for Foreign Affairs Gemba is visiting the prefecture today. When the time comes for the assessment report to be submitted, naturally its contents will be conveyed at the working level through various negotiation and liaison processes.


REPORTER:Today, certain media sources reported that the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) would be applying for up to 1 trillion yen in assistance in order to pay out compensation. There are plans to incorporate this into the emergency program to be drafted by the Government and TEPCO in early November. As of present, how far have adjustments and considerations being made between the Government and TEPCO advanced?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:I am aware that that depending on the news outlet the amount of financial assistance being reported is anywhere between 700 billion yen to 1 trillion yen. The Corporation in support of Compensation for Nuclear Damage has announced its policy to divide the special program into two stages. One is the special emergency program to be released in early November and the other is a comprehensive special program to be released next spring. The content is actually still being discussed. It is my understanding that the minister in charge, Minister Yukio Edano, will determine the appropriateness of these special programs when deciding whether to approve them, from the perspectives of the prompt and proper payment of compensation and minimizing the burden on citizens.

REPORTER:On a related note, there are also reports that the program will circumvent a price increase in conjunction with the restart of operations at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station. Is the restart of operations at this nuclear power station linked with the minimization of the burden on citizens?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:No. That is simply based on inaccurate conjecture by the media. A report by the Investigation Committee on TEPCO's Management and Finances (TEPCO Management and Finance Investigation Committee) indicates that, while the possibility of rate increases will be kept in view, regulating authorities should promptly pay serious consideration to regulations for a rate system that is suited to the future circumstances of TEPCO and other power companies and the operation of such a system. In response of this report, an expert panel will be established within METI and considerations are about to commence on structural revisions. So, I believe that proposals will be made for the special programs after adequate consideration has been paid to those circumstances. Yesterday, I think that Minister Edano announced the establishment of an expert panel on revising management of the electricity rate system, and moving forward considerations are going to be made by this panel. So, any relationship with the restart of operations at nuclear power stations is only based on media conjecture at this point.

REPORTER:On a different subject, what announcement can be made at this moment concerning the membership of the National Strategy Council, which was mentioned yesterday? Also, I would like to ask whether the People's New Party will be connected with the Council.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:This is a governmental council chaired by the Prime Minister. First of all, I commented about the Cabinet membership yesterday. I believe that Minister Motohisa Furukawa also made an announcement about private-sector Council members, but for now there will be five organizational representatives, who will join in their individual capacities; Mr. Kazumasa Iwata, Mr. Sadako Ogata, Mr. Nobuaki Koga, Mr. Yasuchika Hasegawa, and Mr. Hiromasa Yonekura. At the same time, however, the attendance of Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa has also been requested to serve as chair of related organizations. The new Council will comprise these members in addition to six ministers and the Prime Minister will serve as chair. Initially, we had of course considered having the ruling parties participate as well, but the decision was made to start with the membership that I just listed.

REPORTER:Is it conceivable that private-sector membership will increase further in the future?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:No. One reflection made on last year's New Growth Strategy Council was that it was too big from the start, so we have no plan of increasing membership at this moment.

REPORTER:With regard to the selection of the lineup for the Council from both the private sector and Government, two individuals from economic organizations were selected, and one from a labor organization. What are your intentions in this area?


REPORTER:Your intentions.



CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:We composed last year's New Growth Strategy Council in the usual way, with the participation of economic organizations, labor organizations, and academic experts. Considering some ways to improve on last year's council, emphasis this time was placed on individual capacity. Also, as the National Strategy Council will be discussing important policy that affects internal and external Japanese affairs as well as the mid- to long-term national vision, the Prime Minister selected individuals with a global perspective and insight into a wide range of fields, including the economy.

REPORTER:With regard to the "individual capacity" that you mentioned, are you referring to, for instance, if a member resigned from the current post in his/her organization, the same person will continue to service on this Council, rather than his/her successor in the organization?


REPORTER:Please comment on the fact that two of the six non-Government members, Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa and Mr. Kazumasa Iwata, are affiliated with the Bank of Japan.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:Like I said, Mr. Iwata was selected because of his capacity as the President of the Japan Center for Economic Research (JCER). The Prime Minister made his selections from the perspective that I just mentioned, without worrying too much about such overlaps.


REPORTER:This question is with regard to Mr. Iwata and Mr. Shirakawa, which you just commented about. As there are various criticisms about the monetary policies that the Bank of Japan has formed in the past, it is likely people will criticize the decision to select two persons affiliated with the Bank of Japan to join the Council, as it damages the balance of the Council. How do you respond to such criticism?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:As I just said, Mr. Shirakawa will serve as the chair of related organizations in his capacity as Governor of the Bank of Japan. However, the Prime Minister made the decision to select the other five members based on their high level of expertise that each possesses in various areas. This decision has no direct connection to whether there is any criticism about the Bank of Japan.

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