Friday, May 18, 2012 (AM)
Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)
Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I would like to give an overview of the Cabinet meeting. The meeting approved 21 general and other measures and also a bill, cabinet orders, and personnel decisions.
With regard to statements by ministers, the Minister for Foreign Affairs made a statement concerning emergency grant aid for refugees and others affected by the political instability in the Syrian Arab Republic, and the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology made a statement concerning the launch of the Global Change Observation Mission 1st-Water "SHIZUKU" by H-IIA Launch Vehicle No. 21.
Next, with regard to the summer's electricity supply-demand measures, today, a joint meeting of the Electricity Supply-Demand Review Meeting and the Energy and Environment Council was held, and this summer's electricity supply-demand measures were approved. Ever since the Great East Japan Earthquake, the people have been tremendously cooperative in saving power, both last summer and this past winter. And during this period, electric power companies were also asked to make utmost efforts to increase their supply capacity. However, with all nuclear power stations currently shut down, all electricity consumers in Japan, except for Okinawa, will be asked to save energy once again this summer. With regard to areas served by Kansai Electric Power Company and Kyushu Electric Power Company that confront a tight electricity supply and demand situation, in order to secure power interchange capacity, areas served by Chubu Electric Power Company, Hokuriku Electric Power Company, and Chugoku Electric Power Company - areas which have secured generation reserve margins - will be asked to save more than 5% of electricity compared to two years ago. Areas served by Shikoku Electric Power Company, which have not secured the necessary reserve margins despite supply capacity exceeding demand, will be asked to save more than 7% of electricity compared to two years ago. Areas served by Kansai Electric Power Company will be asked to save electricity by more than 15% compared to two years ago and areas served by Kyushu Electric Power Company by more than 10% compared to two years ago. In addition, areas served by Hokkaido Electric Power Company, which have not secured sufficient supply capacity, will be asked to save electricity by more than 7% compared to two years ago. Assuming these initiatives are taken, the Government would like to avoid implementing the uniform and compulsory measure of ordering restrictions on the use of electric power, including in areas served by Kansai Electric Power Company. Planned power outages will not be implemented in principle. However, in order to be ready for the occurrence of any troubles and so on at large-scale power stations, preparations for planned power outages will be initiated in areas served by Kansai, Kyushu, Hokkaido, and Shikoku Electric Power Companies as a safety net in the event of an eventuality. In implementing the measures which were approved today, considerations will be given to prevent interference with the functions of lifelines, including hospitals and railroads. Also, considerations will be given to those affected by the earthquake disaster and the elderly. Moving forward, how the measures approved today will be implemented and realized will be critical. The Government, too, will make maximum efforts to minimize, as much as possible, the impact that power-saving will have on the lives of the people and economic activities. I would like to take this opportunity to once again ask for the peoples' further cooperation with power-saving.
Next, today, the second meeting of the Reconstruction Promotion Council was held. Today, with a view to further advancing the initiatives for reconstruction, the ministers once again shared recognition on two agenda items. The first was the status of the progress of the recovery and reconstruction as well as the work plan and roadmap for reconstruction measures. This includes the outcomes of the FY2011 initiatives and the outcome goals for FY2012. The second concerns the reconstruction and revitalization of Fukushima - the status of the review of the basic guidelines on Fukushima reconstruction and revitalization, pursuant to the recently established Act on Special Measures for Fukushima Reconstruction and Revitalization, and also the guidelines on the initiatives for the time being concerning the evacuation zones and so on in Fukushima. I believe Minister for Reconstruction Tatsuo Hirano has discussed the details of this.
Next, following the Cabinet meeting, a meeting of the Ministerial Council on Monthly Economic Report and Other Relative Issues was held today. The current state of the economy has changed for the better to: "The Japanese economy is on the way to recovery at a moderate pace, reflecting emerging demand for reconstruction, while difficulties continue to prevail." On prospects for the economy, the report states that, reflecting emerging demand for reconstruction, movements toward sound economic recovery in the Japanese economy are expected to take hold. However, there are downside risks that could stem from sharp fluctuations in the financial and capital markets, and further slowing down of overseas economies caused by the growing uncertainty about the prospects of the Eurozone debt crisis, and attention needs to be paid to these. For details on this matter, please inquire with the Cabinet Office (Economic and Fiscal Analysis).
I have one more announcement. It is about the Government representative for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement. Effective today, Mr. Shotaro Oshima, former member of the World Trade Organization Appellate Body, has been employed as a Councillor of the Cabinet Secretariat and appointed as the Government representative in charge of the consultations with relevant countries toward participating in the TPP negotiations. Mr. Oshima has served as the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Permanent Representative of Japan to the International Organizations in Geneva, among other posts. For many years, he has been engaged in Japan's diplomacy with Europe, the United States (U.S.), Asia, and more, and played a central role in Japan's economic diplomacy. Mr. Oshima has the wealth of practical experience, highly specialized knowledge, and outstanding negotiation skills necessary for advancing the consultations with relevant countries toward participating in TPP negotiations, and he is expected to execute his work properly and smoothly as the Government representative.
- The appointment of Mr. Oshima as the Government representative in charge of the consultations with relevant countries toward participating in the TPP negotiations
- The revision of the guidelines on nuclear power stations' ability to withstand earthquakes in 2006
- Power-saving measures
- The special safety monitoring system which Governor of Fukui Prefecture requested
REPORTER: Regarding Mr. Oshima, the Government set up the TPP cross-ministry-agency team in December of last year and the Government representative position remained vacant. What are the reasons for appointing the Government representative at this timing?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I gave the reasons for appointing Mr. Oshima a moment ago. At the recent Japan-U.S. summit meeting on April 30, the leaders both concurred to make progress on the bilateral consultations. In view of such circumstances, it was deemed appropriate to appoint a high-level Government representative for further advancing the consultations, and therefore, the appointment was made at this point in time.
REPORTER: I presume the high-level prior consultations are at the stage of working out the final details going forward. By around when does the Government want to conclude the formal prior consultations, in particular, the preliminary consultations with the U.S.? At this present time, what is the goal of the Government?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: Yesterday, there were news reports about the U.S. outlook. However, from our standpoint, as I have stated repeatedly, Japan is now carrying out consultations with relevant countries toward participating in the TPP negotiations in order to have a leading role in the establishment of free trade and investment rules through a high-level economic partnership. The Government will continue to collect information and make efforts to provide this information, and, through sufficient national debate, reach a conclusion on the TPP faithfully from the viewpoint of national interests. At this time, there is no deadline, such as by when.
REPORTER: It has come to light that in 2006, with respect to the revision of the guidelines on nuclear power stations' ability to withstand earthquakes, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) requested the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) to demonstrate in writing that the old guidelines were not disadvantageous. What is your view on the fact that NISA made such a request to the highly independent NSC? Also, my other question is, I believe many residents feel concerned that steps are being taken to restart operations at Oi Nuclear Power Station while this system remains intact. What impact will this have on the restarting of operations?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: As this was 2006, I am not aware of the details. However, if I may explain some of the facts, I understand that some sort of legal action had taken place at that time, and from the perspective of responding to this legal action, then-head of the Nuclear Safety Special Investigation Division of NISA requested the NSC Secretariat to clarify that the revision does not make the old guidelines illegitimate as screening standards for granting permission to set up nuclear reactors, but rather, that the revision was intended to further improve their safety in terms of resistance against earthquakes. I understand that this took place in the context of this litigation from a bit a while ago. As you said a moment ago, I believe it is a fact that in some sense, the mindset or the consciousness of both NISA and NSC changed significantly since 3.11 last year. Also, the restarting of operations at the nuclear power station will be decided at the four ministers' meeting based on the opinions of not only NISA but also external experts, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and NSC, and so on. In this respect, I believe the system is entirely different.
REPORTER: I would like to ask a question regarding power-saving measures. You said that the Government will avoid issuing an order on restricting the use of electricity. Does this mean that with the power-saving initiatives you mentioned a moment ago, the Government will be able to avoid the restriction order no matter what the situation is this summer? Or are you saying that the restriction order will be avoided for the time being, and in the future, the Government will review the need based on how the situation unfolds? Which is it?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: As this is about the future, I cannot say anything with certainty. However, at this moment in time, the Government has decided to avoid the restriction order, though thorough preparations will be made with regard to planned power outages.
REPORTER: So, you anticipate that even in the event of a trouble occurring at a thermal power station and so on, for example, you will be able to avoid having to issue the electricity use restriction order through the planned power outages and so forth?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: That is the outlook. However, in order to be ready for eventualities such as the one you just mentioned, planned power outages are, after all, done according to a plan, and therefore, the Government will be prepared.
REPORTER: What is the status of the special safety monitoring system which Governor Issei Nishikawa (of Fukui Prefecture) requested?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: With regard to a special monitoring system, the specific system is now under review. I understand that Minister Yukio Edano has already instructed NISA to conduct a review of practical matters, and the review has started.