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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura

  • An overview of the Cabinet meeting
  • Decision to conclude operations by Self-Defense Force (SDF) personnel in Haiti

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I would first like to give an overview of the Cabinet meeting. The meeting approved 12 general measures, as well as ministerial ordinances and personnel decisions. With regard to statements by ministers, the Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications made a statement concerning the 2012 White Paper on Information and Communications in Japan. The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister of Defense and I each made statements concerning the preparations for the conclusion of operations by the International Peace Cooperation Corps in Haiti.

In ministerial discussions following the Cabinet meeting, Minister Nakagawa made a statement concerning the onsite report of the Government survey team, which had been dispatched to assess the damage caused by the torrential rains brought by a seasonal rain front, affecting mainly the Kyushu region.

I have one more item to report, concerning Japan's peacekeeping operation (PKO) activities in Haiti. Since February 2010, Japan has dispatched a Self-Defense Force (SDF) Engineering Unit and headquarters staff to participate in the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). These personnel have engaged in such activities as the removal of debris and ground leveling, providing assistance to the areas of Haiti that were significantly damaged in the Haiti earthquake. Two-and-a-half years on from the earthquake and there has been corresponding progress made in recovery efforts in Haiti, and the necessity for emergency recovery activities such as those that have been implemented by the SDF Engineering Unit is now decreasing. Given this situation, and in view of the fact that the SDF can be seen to have made a considerable contribution to post-earthquake recovery efforts in Haiti, the Government has decided to implement preparations to conclude operations by the International Peace Cooperation Corps in Haiti. In specific terms the Government is seeking to conclude the activities of the Engineering Unit by mid-October this year, after which withdrawal operations would be implemented. The Government will engage in coordination with the United Nations based on this schedule. The withdrawal operations are currently projected to last approximately three months. Today, in the Cabinet meeting, I made a statement expressing respect for the diligent efforts of Japanese personnel to date, who have engaged in assistance to persons affected by the Haiti earthquake in the midst of a severe environment. I also requested the cooperation of ministers concerned with regard to preparations for the conclusion of operations.


  • The deployment of Osprey transport aircraft to Okinawa
  • Press reports on the dismissal of Chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army in North Korea
  • Demonstrations calling for the abolition of nuclear power generation and public hearings on energy policy
  • The Japanese Ambassador to China's temporary return to Japan
  • Shika Nuclear Power Station in Ishikawa Prefecture (regarding the activity of the crushed zone under the station)
  • SDF personnel's withdrawal from Haiti


REPORTER: With regard to the matter of the Osprey transport aircraft, yesterday the Prime Minister appeared on a television program, in which he stated that the deployment plan for the aircraft is a policy of the United States and therefore is basically not something about which Japan can say anything. Given the fact that the date for the arrival of the Osprey aircraft at Iwakuni, which is expected to be around July 24, is drawing near, does the Government intend to make any further requests to the United States Government concerning revisions or a delay to the deployment plan?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: The Osprey transport aircraft-related accidents in Morocco in April and then in Florida in June have been a source of great concern not only for the local areas in Okinawa, but also for the people of Japan, and the Government is duly aware that such concerns continue to spread. At the current point, with regard to the safety of the MV-22 Osprey transport aircraft, the Prime Minister and related ministers are working together and various opinions have also been expressed by the ruling parties, as well as requests being submitted to the United States for the prompt provision of information relating to the accident investigation results and safety-related matters. The Government's continued stance is to provide prompt and proper explanations to the people concerned, starting with local residents, as soon as information on the results of the accident investigation is forthcoming from the United States, and make utmost efforts to seek understanding with regard to the deployment of the Osprey transport aircraft to Okinawa.


REPORTER: You have just mentioned that you have heard the opinions of the ruling parties, however, last weekend, on July 11, Policy Research Council Chair Maehara met with U.S. Ambassador Roos. In that meeting it was noted that if matters progress in their current state it could have a negative impact on the foundations of the Japan-U.S. alliance and therefore Japan is seeking to revise the current plan. Are we to understand that these comments reflect an agreement with the Government and represent the policy of the Government?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I have heard that in his position as Chair of the Policy Research Council of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), Mr. Maehara met with Ambassador Roos and discussed various matters.

REPORTER: So, are you saying that the understanding of the Government with regard to this matter is not necessarily the same as that of Mr. Maehara?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I believe that the positions of the Government and Mr. Maehara are distinct from one another.


REPORTER: The recent dismissal of Chief of the General Staff of the Korean People's Army Ri Yong-ho in North Korea is considered by some to be the first signs of a power struggle within the Kim Jong-Un regime. Please tell us the view of the Japanese Government with regard to this matter. Are there also concerns that this dismissal will have an impact on military policy and other matters in North Korea?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I am aware of the reports that you mention. The Government is constantly engaged in the collection of intelligence relating to developments in North Korea, but given their sensitive nature I would like to refrain from making comments. I hear that Chair of the DPJ Policy Research Council Maehara has spoken about this matter with Republic of Korea officials in Korea. However, as that meeting was conducted by the Chair of the DPJ Policy Research Council, it is not for the Government to comment on the content.

REPORTER: Yesterday there was a large demonstration in Tokyo, calling for the abolition of nuclear power generation. According to the organizers, approximately 170,000 people attended this event, and there were also people protesting against the Government's decision to restart operations at nuclear power stations. What is the administration's response to such opinions?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: The Prime Minister also made a statement yesterday, and I have also previously stated here that the Government recognizes that this is a significant theme that could divide public opinion. The Government seeks to listen carefully to various opinions. However, with regard to the restarting of operations at the Unit 3 and 4 reactors of Oi Nuclear Power Station, the current situation is that the Government is advancing measures in line with the conclusion that was reached.

REPORTER: I have a related question. Public hearings on energy policy were convened over the weekend. How does the Government intend to draw on the opinions raised at yesterday's demonstration to establish the future energy policy?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: First, hearings are being held across Japan to listen to the peoples' opinions on the three options presented, although the choice will not necessarily be one of the three options (the three options are to reduce dependency on nuclear power to 0%, 15%, or 20-25%). We will of course also be receiving public comments. Furthermore, a new, deliberative poll (DP)  will be conducted independently under the leadership of Professor Yasunori Sone of Keio University. While receiving a range of opinions through these and other means, the Government will ultimately make a responsible judgment, probably in August. I believe it will be this kind of a process.

REPORTER: Related to the previous question, at the hearings held in Nagoya and Sendai over the weekend, electric power company personnel were among the people to express their views. Some people questioned why these personnel were permitted to speak at the hearings. Does the Government intend to make any improvements to the way in which the hearings are conducted in the future?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: Participants were solicited from the general public and selected by a lottery. If, as a result, personnel from electric power companies expressed views on behalf of their organizations, then this is regrettable. On the other hand, even if such personnel participate in a private capacity - and I believe they have various views of their own, I think it would be quite difficult to completely rid the views of workers on site. The Government will review how to make improvements regarding the participation of employees and others from electric power companies and make an announcement at an early date.


REPORTER: Japanese Ambassador to China Uichiro Niwa was back in Japan during the three-day weekend. What was the meaning of this? Also, it has been two years since Mr. Niwa became Ambassador. How do you evaluate Mr. Niwa's performance as Ambassador?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I would like to first briefly explain the facts. Ambassador Niwa returned to Japan temporarily on July 15. For over one hour, Ambassador Niwa briefed Minister for Foreign Affairs Koichiro Gemba on the current situation in China, in particular, China's policy on Japan. Based on this report, talks took place on how bilateral relations should move forward. On this basis, Minister Gemba gave instructions to Ambassador Niwa, including instructions to continue to accurately convey Japan's views to China and seek China's understanding, as well as to further strengthen information gathering activities. This is what I have been informed. My impression is that Ambassador Niwa has played a variety of roles actively during his nearly two years in office.

REPORTER: Regarding this issue, opposition parties are requesting that the Ambassador be replaced. Do you wish the Ambassador to continue to remain in his post?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I am aware that there are a variety of opinions. It is up to Minister Gemba to make this personnel decision. I believe Minister Gemba will make a judgment.

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question in relation to Shika Nuclear Power Station. According to some reports, an active fault is suspected to lie immediately below the nuclear power station. What is the Prime Minister's Office's current understanding of the situation? Also, if it turns out that there is an active fault, I believe this will have direct implications not only on the restart and so on, but also on crisis management due to the existence of spent nuclear fuel. How does the Government intend to address these issues?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: Regarding Shika Nuclear Power Station in Ishikawa Prefecture, in the safety inspection conducted in 1988, when authorization was granted for its construction, direct observations conducted by digging a trench did not confirm displacement and morphing of geological layers of 120,000 to 130,000 years ago. Therefore, experts assessed that activity would not pose a problem - in the past. Taking into consideration new knowledge and other information obtained from the Great East Japan Earthquake, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) is once again reviewing the evaluations of the current status of the crushed zones within the premises of other nuclear power stations in Japan, and holding discussions since the July 3 hearing to hear the opinions of experts. Regarding the activity of the crushed zone under Shika Nuclear Power Station, a NISA hearing will be convened this afternoon, at which the opinions of experts will once again be heard. Based on the opinions, if necessary I believe instructions will be given for gathering additional information or performing surveys.


REPORTER: I would like to confirm one item regarding the PKO in Haiti. You said that the SDF will be withdrawn within three months after starting its preparation from mid-October. My understanding then is that the withdrawal is forecasted to be completed by the January 31 deadline. Is this correct?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: Yes, the withdrawal operation will start with this as our goal.

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