Press Conference by Prime Minister Naoto Kan
CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY (MODERATOR): We shall now begin the press conference by Prime Minister Naoto Kan. We will begin with an opening statement from the Prime Minister. Mr. Prime Minister, please.
The extraordinary Diet session, which included my first time to attend Budget Committee sessions since taking office as Prime Minister, has now drawn to a close. I have taken the opportunity of the end of this extraordinary Diet session to convene this press conference, in the hope of conveying to the public once more my approach to government administration in the future.
Through this extraordinary Diet session I have discerned the potential for fresh democracy, or fresh parliamentary democracy. Specifically, the longstanding system that had existed since 1955 was one of policymaking left in the hands of bureaucrats or politics centered on legislators with vested interests. But I feel that we are now at the inception of a democratic system in which the legislature derives its outcomes through lively debates, taking the diverse views of the public as its backdrop, a system I call participatory democracy, that has in some sense arisen fortuitously through this divided Diet. I emerged from this Diet session able to harbor such expectations. Given this, I felt once again that, through the discussions of this legislature and in the context of public debate, I should set forth future directions regarding the goals of putting the lives of the people first and revitalizing Japan.
At around the same timing as the ending of the Diet session, I also attended the memorial ceremonies marking the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, Mr. [John] Roos, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to Japan, and other representatives of a large number of countries, including states holding nuclear weapons, participated in each of these ceremonies. Through this I felt that the great drive towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons globally advanced still further through these [memorial services held at] Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
In addition, today I released a Statement, in light of this year marking the one hundredth anniversary of Japan's annexation of the Korean peninsula. I also spoke with President Lee Myung-bak by telephone, and he valued this Statement highly for embracing such sincerity. I consider this Statement to have succeeded in bringing full congruence to my intentions both to have the next hundred years of Japan-Republic of Korea relations develop solidly into the future and also to have the development of our relations lead to the stability of Northeast Asia and furthermore to world peace.
It is in these ways that I intend to pursue my best efforts in my forthcoming handling of the government, namely truly to have intense discussions within the Diet regarding the views of the people and then within the international community to increase the number of partners with which we can move forward together, acting in concert towards the grand goal of the total elimination of nuclear weapons. This is what I wish to convey to the public at the beginning of this press conference.
Thank you for your kind attention.
CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: From now I would like to accept questions. I will designate who will ask the questions. If you are selected, please first state your media affiliation and name before posing your question. Please make your questions concise.
Please raise your hand if you have a question. Mr. Matsuyama?
REPORTER: I'm Matsuyama with the Jiji Press. Thank you for taking my question.
I would like to inquire about your response to the Diet. Mr. Prime Minister, the extraordinary Diet session you referred to that just ended was the first time for the Diet to convene since the ruling parties suffered a setback in the House of Councillors election, resulting in a divided legislature. What sort of sense did you get in the course of debate with the opposition parties about the potential for cooperation with the opposition parties in passing important bills? That is my first question.
Also, in your previous press conference, you placed emphasis on the significance of then-Prime Minister Obuchi of the LDP passing a bill submitted by the DPJ by accepting it exactly as is during the "financial Diet" of 1998. Mr. Prime Minister, do you yourself regard there as being any possibility that you would accept a proposal by the opposition parties as is in order to realize important policies, such as continuation of provision of a child allowance?
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: First, over the course of Budget Committee sessions lasting for two days in each of the two Houses of the Diet, with regard to the various questions from the opposition parties I thought that overall there were many extremely constructive discussions.
Of course, this was the first time for the Diet to convene after the House of Councillors election, so various debates took place, including about the stances taken during that election, but even still, the ruling and opposition parties already reached agreement to pass a bill addressing hospital issues and other matters, and a bill on the so-called return of [portions of legislators'] salaries was also passed. Although this was a short Diet session, I felt that one case had already come forth in which reaching agreement through thorough discussions led to matters being decided in good order.
In the future, as I look to the next extraordinary Diet session and also to next year's ordinary Diet session, with regard to specific issues, I consider it a bit early to comment at this point on how individual bills might fare, but I had a very strong sense that it will definitely be possible to reach agreement on bills that lead to the realization of policies in the Diet to help the public by undertaking such careful and thorough discussions, with the ruling parties also adopting such an orientation.
You also posed a question just now about the financial Diet of 1998. I had mentioned that as one episode I have experienced. I realized very keenly through that and other experiences that Diet members, regardless of whether they are in the ruling or the opposition camp, have a sense of responsibility that through sufficient discussions, constructive outcomes will emerge, and must emerge.
REPORTER: I'm Fujita, with the Nihon Keizai Shimbun. I would like to ask you about the Prime Ministerial Statement decided by the Cabinet today on the occasion of the centenary of Japan's annexation of the Korean peninsula, a matter you mentioned earlier.
Some in the opposition parties have raised concern over a ripple effect regarding the issue of the right to demand compensation and the issue of individual compensation, which upon the conclusion of the Treaty on Basic Relations Between Japan and the Republic of Korea have already been agreed legally. How would you respond to such views?
In addition, please tell us in greater detail what you discussed with President Lee Myung-bak of the ROK during the telephone conversation you mentioned earlier.
And as one final question, I would like you to explain the way in which you intend to make use of today's Statement from a strategic perspective to address what kinds of policy issues or Japan-ROK bilateral relations or [relations with other] Asian countries, should you have such a strategic objective in mind.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: This Statement was released at this juncture of the centenary of Japan's annexation of the Korean peninsula. Conversely, the Statement expresses remorse, in a proper manner, about those things within these hundred years regarding which we should be remorseful. It also seeks to move forward towards the next hundred years by working in joint cooperation. It was with such a frame of mind that I formulated this Statement.
In response, President Lee Myung-bak stated that he valued the sincerity of the statement. President Lee said-and this is something I too stated-that future Japan-ROK relations can contribute to the peace and stability of East Asia and furthermore of the world through the cooperation of our neighboring countries that share the same values of democracy, freedom, and the market economy. That was also what President Lee spoke of during our telephone conversation.
You used the word "strategy," and in that sense, the world now finds itself in a state that can be called an era of great global transition. As the economies of Asia now expand with tremendous momentum, a more stable form for this region is one having Japan and the ROK at the axis, and, adding the United States, is formed by the three countries of Japan, the US, and the ROK. This is a point of tremendous significance in my view. I announced today's Statement cognizant of this future outlook as well.
REPORTER: Mr. Prime Minister, the DPJ party presidential election is already scheduled for the 14th of next month, and within the DPJ there are calls for party unity, to include former [DPJ] Secretary General [Ichiro] Ozawa. Given that, do you have any intention to request cooperation from Mr. Ozawa? Also, please tell us whether or not you have at the present time any inclination to accommodate the opinions of those urging party unity.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: I convened today's press conference in my role as Prime Minister, upon the end of the extraordinary session of the Diet. I intend to state once more at an appropriate occasion my thinking on the party presidential election and my approach to the handling of party affairs. So, today, insofar as this is a press conference held in my capacity as Prime Minister, I intend to refrain from making comments on the party presidential election.
REPORTER: I am Kim of the JoongAng Ilbo, in the Republic of Korea.
Mr. Prime Minister, in your Statement, you used the phraseology "colonial rule which was imposed against the will... of the Korean people of that time." Looking at the joint statement issued by one thousand eminent persons in the ROK and Japan last month, it is claiming that the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty was in the same way imposed upon the Korean people against their will and thus fundamentally invalid. In today's Statement, you acknowledged that [annexation of the Korean peninsula] was against the will of the Korean people, but what is your recognition regarding the Annexation Treaty as being invalid?
Also, regarding cultural assets, please explain why instead of saying Japan will "return" items, the Statement goes so far as to use the expression "transfer." Additionally, are the items to be transferred the Royal Protocols of the Joseon Dynasty only, or will they also include books from the Korean Dynasty now in the possession of the Imperial Household Agency? Please share your views on those matters.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: As for the Japan-Korea Annexation Treaty, the Treaty on Basic Relations Between Japan and the Republic of Korea of 1965 sets out a recognition regarding that matter, and I believe I have adhered to that approach. Also, with regard to the various documents and materials from the Korean dynastic era stored at the Imperial Household Agency, by transferring these, Japan is fulfilling the wishes of the Korean people.
Just a little while ago the phrase "right to demand compensation" and so on came up [in another question]. From the perspective that such legal matters have already been resolved in their entirety, in my statement I used the expression "transfer."
REPORTER: I'm Hirata with the Mainichi Shimbun. It has been said that insofar as this year is the first time to mark the anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific since the inception of the DPJ-led government, you released your Statement on Japan's annexation of the Korean peninsula before that anniversary and no Cabinet members will offer prayers at Yasukuni [Shrine]. I would like to ask you to explain your thoughts and your approach regarding such matters.
Also, Mr. [Akira] Nagatsuma, Minister [of Health, Labour and Welfare], today expressed his view that it is necessary to consider [the creation of] a national memorial facility. With regard to this matter, does your administration have any intention to put an end to this historical issue?
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: Upon assuming office, I stated that I would not visit Yasukuni Shrine while serving as Prime Minister. In the 65 years since the end of the war, there has been a longstanding debate over this issue and I will not be repeating that at this venue. The stance I have expressed on this matter has been unequivocal since the very beginning so I ask for your understanding on that.
REPORTER: I'm Yamaguchi with NHK. You stated that at this press conference you will not speak about the party presidential election, but I would like to ask roughly when as Prime Minister you will be indicating your stance towards that election. Also, [former DPJ president and current Minister of LandCInfrastructureCTransport and Tourism] Mr. [Seiji] Maehara, who is supporting you in that election, has said that he would like you to formulate and enunciate a vision once again, and I would like to know if you are in fact thinking along those lines.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: This press conference itself is for responding to inquiries about what sort of stance I will take in the future when approaching the management of the government and also for conveying that message to the public. I do think that this press conference contributes to such purpose.
However, as I mentioned earlier, today I am refraining from commenting on matters directly related to my approach to the party presidential election as I would like to make a statement at a different timing for that.
REPORTER: I'm Iwakami, a freelancer. At your first press conference after assuming the office of Prime Minister, I asked you about the use of the Cabinet Secretariat's "secret funds." At that time, with regard to the issue of these secret funds being channeled to or used on politicians or media organizations and so on, digressing from their original purpose, as to whether or not you were inclined to pursue an investigation or disclose [the usage of these funds] publicly, your response was that you would leave it to the discretion of Mr. [Yoshito] Sengoku, the Chief Cabinet Secretary. Since that time I don't suppose there has been a great deal of progress on this issue, but I would like to ask once more for your views at the present on the state of progress on this matter. At the same time, I would also like to ask you to give me your outlook on whether or not there are any plans to open up the official press conferences by Chief Cabinet Secretary Mr. Sengoku and all Cabinet ministers in the future [to all kinds of journalists]?
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: At this time there has not been any particular change to the views that I stated before. As for the Cabinet Secretariat discretionary funds, I have asked the Chief Cabinet Secretary to oversee this matter, including making various decisions regarding the funds, and I intend to address this issue by taking such an approach.
REPORTER: I am Araki, with the Chugoku Shimbun. Mr. Prime Minister, you stated yesterday at the Nagasaki Peace Ceremony that you would like in your own way to take up consideration of making the Three Non-Nuclear Principles the law of the land. However, at a press conference held on the 6th, Mr. Sengoku, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, expressed the view that insofar as the Three Non-Nuclear Principles are already sufficiently publicized both within Japan and overseas, there is no need to legislate them. Is it correct to understand that in the future the government will consider the possibility of enshrining the Three Non-Nuclear Principles in law? Please tell us your outlook on this matter.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: I fielded this question at a press conference in Nagasaki as well. Because I am not necessarily fully aware of various finer points regarding how recent discussions in this area have developed, I said at that time that I would like to consider things within a larger context of my examining in my own way the discussions that have taken place so far.
REPORTER: I am Nishiyama with the Asahi Shimbun. Thank you for taking my question. I would like to pose a question to you regarding the Manifesto. There have been some views voiced by the opposition parties even within the Diet discussions that the Manifesto set forth by the DPJ during the general elections of 2009 is highly unlikely to be implementable. I believe that, considering the strained state of public finances, there are also voices within the party arguing that it is not necessary to strictly adhere to the 2009 Manifesto. Will you be adhering to the 2009 Manifesto in the future as well? Or, do you consider a certain degree of modification unavoidable, in light of the severe state of public finances? Please tell me your views regarding this matter.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: The 2009 Manifesto was the Manifesto for the House of Representatives election in which we fought aiming to bring about a historic change of government. As such, I consider it to have held extremely major significance of course at the time but also at the present.
Taking our approach of casting off politics dominated by bureaucrats as an example, I think that probably many people are aware that, or perhaps I should say they sense that, extremely substantial changes have come about in the nature of politics in accordance with this Manifesto, with the abolition of administrative vice ministers' meetings, the establishing of teams of three political-level appointees to lead the operations of the ministries and agencies, and other changes regarding which I won't go into detail now.
Within that context, although I cannot say we realized all the items found in the Manifesto, in my view in the first year we moved into action and made progress on an appreciable number of policy issues appearing in it, such as the issues of the child allowance and the individual household income support system for families engaged in agriculture, among many others.
In the future, I want to implement furthermore those items within the Manifesto that can be executed in good faith. That said, we did not necessarily succeed in executing all of our pledges even within the current fiscal year, for example with regard to the provisional tax rate on gasoline. In the future, with regard to those pledges that, given various constraints, are difficult to implement or which require modifications, we intend to respond in a sincere manner, including faithfully explaining the reasons [for these setbacks] to the public and making efforts to obtain their understanding.
REPORTER: I'm Yamashita of the Hokkaido Shimbun. I would like to ask you about trends within public opinion. In opinion polls conducted by media organizations, a quirky situation has arisen in that Cabinet approval ratings have been declining across the board since the House of Councillors election, while at the same time a majority of the public would like you to continue on as Prime Minister. What is your interpretation of this sort of public opinion? In addition, in the run-up to the party presidential election in September, some within the DPJ support you continuing on as Prime Minister, but it appears that many of the reasons for this support are passive ones, in that it would not be good to change the Prime Minister one after the other in a short period of time.
From the perspective of your handling of the government, I would like to know how you interpret such a mood within your party and how you will respond to that.
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: I assumed the office of Prime Minister on June 8th, and in light of that I have just now finally passed the two-month mark. Within this time, the House of Councillors election was held, there have been Summits, and so on, and in that sense I have been managing the government during an extremely busy time.
During this extraordinary session of the Diet I finally attended Budget Committee questioning and, just before and after these sessions, embarked on formulating a full-scale budget.
In the initial stage I believe the public held a variety of views, but I think that concrete activities within the Kan administration's handling of the government have finally come to be visible. I regard the public as making different assessments of these activities of the Cabinet, and also myself, that have come to be visible to the public.
REPORTER: I'm Nanao, with Nico Nico Douga. I would like to read to you a question posed by one of our viewers. On the 7th, the Cabinet Office released a survey of public opinion regarding people's daily lives. Within this survey, right alongside the top-ranking response of "improving social security" were calls for economic countermeasures, which reached 69.3%, an all-time high. Mr. Prime Minister, how do you view the degree of correlation between the direction of the policies you aim to pursue, or are currently pursuing, and the mindset of the public?
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: During the House of Councillors election I used the phrasing of a strong economy, robust public finances, and a strong social security system, and at the Budget Committee I changed the wording somewhat to reinventing economic growth, reinventing fiscal health, and reinventing social security. I said that I would move forward with these three areas of reform in an integrated manner.
Within these efforts, economic countermeasures are most certainly one of the biggest issues, not only as short-term measures but also as measures that will lead to economic growth over the mid- to long term. I therefore consider the recognition of the public to coincide fully with the understanding of this Cabinet.
REPORTER: I'm Matsuda with the Mainichi Shimbun. Reading the Prime Ministerial Statement released today, I feel that Japan-ROK relations are changing significantly. Politics has been the slowest to do so. In fact such areas as popular culture, people-to-people exchanges, and tourism have all been moving forward while politics invariably lags behind. For that reason, [Japan should] create somewhat more strategic Japan-ROK relations at a political level to ensure that politics doesn't fall any further behind. I would think that by doing that, rather than only releasing these Statements at every sort of milestone anniversary like this, more forward-looking discussions would come about, but what is your view regarding that point? What do you consider to be the best way forward in order to advance Japan-ROK relations in a positive direction?
PRIME MINISTER NAOTO KAN: I recognize that major changes have been taking place especially in the last few years, in the area of political relations as well. President Lee Myung-bak in particular has been engaged in fostering Japan-ROK relations throughout his presidency through an extremely forward-looking stance, shall we say-consistently, he has taken that approach. At the same time, as you indicated just now, in Japan too, cultural aspects and people-to-people exchanges have been steadily reflected into politics, and while it may indeed have been the case that the general public was ahead [of the government] in recognizing that cooperation between Japan and the ROK results in greater benefits for both countries, I believe that this recognition has also been intensifying within the realm of politics.
In addition, a positive situation has been building step by step in our bilateral relations in the political sphere as well, including through the fact that, under this very same recognition [that cooperation benefits both countries], Japan responded in a firm manner regarding the stance of the ROK in the case of the recent incident of sinking of an ROK military patrol vessel, both at the G8 by myself personally and also at the United Nations. I hope that this Statement makes such a relationship more solid and leads to truly new progress with a view to the future.