Friday, January 6, 2012 (AM)
Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)
Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: First, I will present an outline of the Cabinet meeting. The meeting approved two general and other measures, and also approved the promulgation of a treaty, cabinet orders, and personnel decisions.
As for statements from ministers, Minister Furukawa; the Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications; the Minister of Finance; the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare; and Prime Minister Noda spoke about the draft proposal for the comprehensive reform of the social security and taxation systems. The Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications spoke about the results of a labor force survey and the results of consumer price index and household budget surveys, and Minister Renho as well as Minister Yamaoka spoke about the promotion of measures to prevent traffic accidents. I, temporary acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, spoke about the typhoon disaster in the Philippines and emergency grant aid to the Republic of Yemen for the holding of its presidential election. Prime Minister Noda made remarks about temporary acting Ministers during periods when they are on an overseas visit.
During the discussion among cabinet members that followed the meeting, Minister Furukawa spoke about the Frontier Subcommittee of the Council on National Strategy and Policy.
Next, I have a report on matters of personnel within the Cabinet Office that were decided at the Cabinet meeting.
From January 10, Vice Minister of the Cabinet Office Jun Hamada will retire. Director General of the Minister's Secretariat in the Cabinet Office, Takashi Matsumoto, will be promoted to replace him. In turn, Director General of the Decoration Bureau in the Cabinet Office, Kazumichi Sakamoto, will be promoted to replace Mr. Matsumoto, and in turn, Deputy Director-General for Policy Evaluation Mitsuo Takegawa of the Minister's Secretariat in the Cabinet Office will be promoted to replace Mr. Sakamoto.
On the same day, Vice-Minister for Policy Coordination Yuji Fukushita will retire. Osamu Shimizu, Director General for Okinawa Affairs in the Cabinet Office will replace him.
Also on the same day, Vice-Minister for Policy Coordination Tadashi Harada of the Cabinet Office will retire. Kenji Matsuyama, Director General for Economic, Fiscal and Social Structure in the Cabinet Office will replace him, and Masao Nishikawa, Director-General for Policy Coordination of the Minister's Secretariat in the Cabinet Office will replace Mr. Matsuyama.
Furthermore, on the same day, Jun Saito, Director General for Economic Research of the Cabinet Office will retire, and Bunpei Nishizawa, Executive Research Fellow at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) of the Cabinet Office will replace him.
Next, at 9:40am today, a meeting of the Headquarters of the Government and Ruling Parties for Social Security Reform was held, and the draft proposal for the comprehensive reform of the social security and taxation systems was approved.
In addition to thanking the related members of the government and ruling parties, the Prime Minister stated that he intends to:
- Call on each opposition party to debate the draft proposal;
- Join efforts in order to submit related legislations within the fiscal year;
- Realize the reform of the social security and taxation systems, as well as the integrated reform of political system, administrative system, and economic revitalization.
Regarding an outline of today's meeting, it was as explained by Minister Furukawa during his press conference. For details on the draft proposal for the comprehensive reform, I request that you please inquire at the Social Security Reform Office of the Cabinet Secretariat.
After the meeting, a report was made to the Cabinet meeting, and it was decided that the draft proposal would be debated among the ruling and opposition parties.
Prior to the Cabinet Meeting, a meeting of the National Security Council was held.
The meeting discussed the situation, etc., following the passing of Chairman of the National Defense Commission of North Korea Kim Jong-il.
The meeting heard reports from each ministry and agency about the situations following the passing of Chairman of the National Defense Commission of North Korea Kim Jong-il. The Prime Minister requested that relevant members of the Cabinet continue to work to gather and share information, maintaining a posture that is prepared for any manner of contingency.
As for the concrete content of the meeting, I shall refrain from answering any questions due to the nature of the topic.
Next, I will speak on the progress of discussion regarding the state of the Imperial Household system.
According to the current Imperial Household Law, should any female members of the Imperial Family marry outside of the Family, they lose their status as an Imperial Family member. The government recognizes that maintaining the stability of the activities of the Imperial Household and lessening the burden of official duties placed on Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress are major issues of a high degree of urgency. Having received instructions from Prime Minister Noda about this, we have been considering how to proceed with discussions on this topic since the end of last year. The way we will proceed is as follows.
- First, given the need to respond to this matter quickly, we shall focus on discussing the issue related to female members of the Imperial Household, separating it from the issue of succession.
- The actual discussion shall occur within the Cabinet Secretariat. In order to contribute to the discussion, we will hold hearings once or twice a month from next month with experts knowledgeable about the Imperial Household system, the constitution, religion, history, culture, the arts, and many other fields, as well as experts from the financial world and private sector.
- Furthermore, the Cabinet Secretariat shall prepare a draft revision plan, submitting it to the ruling and opposition parties for widespread discussion among all sections of the populace.
That is all I have to report on this. We have not yet determined which experts we will be hearing the opinions of or the timetable for compiling a draft revision plan. We will be making decisions on these matters as we proceed with discussion moving forward.
I will explain more details about the hearings with experts once the holding of the first hearing has been decided. If you have any questions about this, I would like to direct you to the Office for the Preparation of the Revision of the Imperial Household Law within the Minister's Secretariat of the Cabinet Office, which is in charge of this.
Furthermore, in order to ensure that the hearings with experts and discussions within the Cabinet Secretariat are fruitful, I shall today appoint former Supreme Court Justice and lawyer Itsuo Sonobe to the position of Special Advisor to the Cabinet, as he is highly knowledgeable about the Imperial Household system and formerly served as proxy chairperson for the Advisory Council on the Imperial House Law held in 2005. He will provide us with advice regarding the future state of the Imperial Household system.
Next, I have information on Prime Minister Noda's visit to disaster-affected areas.
On January 8 (Sun.), Prime Minister Noda will visit Minamisoma City and Fukushima City in Fukushima Prefecture. On January 10 (Tue.), he will visit Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture and Ofunato City in Iwate Prefecture. Each of these visits will be day trips, and it is planned that he will have an exchange of opinions with local entrepreneurs and those living in temporary housing in these areas.
REPORTER: The European Union (EU) has reached a preliminary agreement on banning imports of crude oil from Iran. There is the possibility that calls from the United States and Europe for Japan to conform to this embargo on Iranian crude oil will strengthen moving forward. How will Japan respond to such calls? Minister for Foreign Affairs Koichiro Gemba is now to visit Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries. Is it correct to say that one of the aims of these visits is to secure a substitute procurement source in place of Iran?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: At the Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministerial Meeting held in December of last year, Foreign Minister Gemba expressed his concern about the impact that a crude oil embargo on Iran would have on the Japanese and overall global economy. Minister Gemba is currently on a visit to the Middle East and he intends to respond to this issue while holding close exchanges of views with the related countries. Moreover, as the Middle East is a region of vital importance for Japan in ensuring its energy security, Minister Gemba will visit Gulf countries that are particularly increasing their presence, such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, and work to strengthen relations with these countries and exchange views about how to respond to the so-called Arab Spring and the disquieting situation in Iran. The Minister has departed for the region with several objectives.
REPORTER: It has been discovered that last summer the United States carried out a new type of nuclear test. Does the Government intend to protest this?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: It is my understanding that these were tests carried out between July and September 2011 to survey the performance of plutonium under ultrahigh pressure and ultrahigh temperature conditions in order to maintain the safety and effectiveness of the United States' nuclear weapon stockpiles. It is also my understanding that these tests did not incorporate nuclear blasts that are prohibited by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). In order to support the efforts of United States President Barack Obama aimed at realizing a world without nuclear weapons, Japan intends to lead discussion within the international community while cooperating with the United States. Japan has absolutely no intention of expressing some form of protest or making any demands.
REPORTER: Does not protesting these tests mean that the Japanese Government tolerates them?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: Put simply, the tests are not prohibited by the CTBT.
REPORTER: This question is concerning the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems. The Prime Minister has stated that after cutting expenditures and employing a growth strategy, the remaining gap will be covered by a tax increase. The Stratedy for Rebirth of Japan is set to be unveiled in mid-2012, but I get the impression that the order is backwards, as the agenda for a consumption tax increase precedes the release of the strategy. What are your thoughts on this?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: Even during discussions held right up until the end of the year, a large majority of people agreed that we must give priority to tightening our own belts. A policy for the comprehensive reform was compiled in June of last year with regard to future consumption tax problems, and in light of that, there is a common and shared awareness that various administrative and political reforms must be laid out that first and foremost being led by a more aggressive level of expenditure cuts.
REPORTER: It seems as if the growth strategy portion is behind schedule. Will the strategy not be pushed forward?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: We have come up with the necessary measures in order, such as assistance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and subsidies to encourage businesses to locate within Japan, in this fiscal year's supplementary budgets; however, we plan to finish compiling a broader growth strategy - a national strategy - by the middle of the year.