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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Press Conference by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda

Friday, September 30, 2011

[Provisional Translation]

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now begin the press conference by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. Prime Minister, your opening statement please.

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda

PRIME MINISTER NODA: I am sorry to keep everyone waiting. Today marks one month since I was selected by the Diet to become Prime Minister. I have taken on the great responsibility of this role, giving everything I have to this job. In this time, the Government has come together for rapid responses to the damage caused by heavy rains resulting from Typhoon No.12 and Typhoon No.15. I myself have visited the areas affected by these disasters and worked on various efforts including gaining an accurate understanding of the current situation. I want to express once again my heartfelt condolences to the people harmed by the disasters. There are still 23 people missing due to Typhoon No.12 and Typhoon No.15. We will continue to exert every effort to search for the missing, and additionally, I hope to do everything possible to prevent the occurrence of secondary disasters and support the victims of these typhoons.

I have also attended the General Assembly of the United Nations. In addition to expressing the gratitude of Japan for support received from each country in the General Assembly and at the High-level Meeting on Nuclear Safety and Security, I also explained the initiatives of Japan and our efforts for recovery, reconstruction, and toward the conclusion of the nuclear accident. I spoke of our resolve for reconstruction and the resolution of the nuclear accident while clearly expressing our intention to continue making contributions to global issues.

At the United Nations, I also held bilateral talks with many leaders, including President Barack Obama of the United States. I believe I made a good start at building relationships of trust.

And then today was the closing of the 178th session of the Diet. Through answers to questions from the representatives of the political parties and the exchange in the Budget Committee, I explained the priority issues of the Noda Cabinet as well as the direction of our initiatives. I believe that when it comes to the matters we must now act upon, while the approach of each party and group may differ, our basic recognition that we must act on these issues is something which I do not believe we differ greatly on. I renewed my determination that all we have to do now is act. Although many of the opinions I heard from those in opposition parties were critical, I nevertheless received many constructive proposals and opinions. I greatly appreciate having received such advice.

Among those many opinions, I listened earnestly to those concerning the project to construct housing in Asaka for public employees. I plan to visit the location of construction soon and make a final judgment after gathering my thoughts on the matter.

I would like to formulate the third supplementary budget as early as possible in order to implement the pillar policies that are the acceleration of recovery and reconstruction following the Great East Japan Earthquake, the swift conclusion of the nuclear accident, and emergency countermeasures related to the appreciating yen. In terms of concrete measures related to expenditures, in order to accelerate reconstruction work in the region affected by the disasters, I want to bolster such initiatives by carrying out the full-scale recovery of infrastructure like roads and creating subsidies that municipalities in the area can use as. For the response to the nuclear accident, in order to alleviate the concerns of regional residents over nuclear radiation, more than anything, I believe we should implement large-scale decontamination operations. I want to include needed funding for all of this within the third supplementary budget.

For countermeasures to the appreciation of the yen, I would like to focus on pillars such as financial support for those small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) now struggling in such a harsh environment, or for the fundamental expansion of subsidies to encourage businesses to locate within Japan thereby promoting domestic investment into growth industries. These items added up, I believe that the total size of the budget will be on the scale of 12 trillion yen. The financial resources supporting the implementation of these measures are something I also want to respond to in a responsible manner take responsibility for. The basis of this will be efforts made to the maximum extent possible for expenditure cuts and the securing of non-tax revenue. The Government and ruling parties have put together proposals for temporary tax measures for expenses that cannot be covered through such means.

I would like to ask for the understanding of the people of this nation regarding our fundamental wish to not leave the burden of our problems to the next generation. Those of us alive now should work together to take responsibility for all these issues.

Responding to the calls of those in the areas affected by the disasters and those SMEs currently struggling due to the appreciation of the yen will require the quick submission of the third supplementary budget and related legislation to the Diet. I ask the ruling and opposition parties to move discussion forward swiftly. In discussing this, I would like to listen with an open mind and humble ear to any good proposals from the opposition parties.

Turning to the measures toward the conclusion of the nuclear accident, in the meantime the parties concerned continue to work as one on this. After this press conference today, a meeting of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters will be held. We plan to officially decide to completely lift the designation of the Evacuation-Prepared Areas in Case of Emergency. Regarding further details, I believe there will be an explanation made by the minister in charge of this matter, Minister Goshi Hosono, as well as Minister Yukio Edano after the meeting of the headquarters. I want the entire Government to make every effort on decontamination in order to allow residents to return to their homes with peace of mind.

The Noda Cabinet is now operating at full speed. Moving forward, we will continue to accelerate toward the realization of policies. Implementing one measure after another, I am resolved to meet the expectations of the public.

This concludes my opening statement.


: We will now move on to the Q&A session. When you are called on, we would appreciate it if you would first state your name and affiliation. Thank you. Mr. Indo, please.

REPORTER: I am Indo of the Nihon Keizai Shimbun. You have just mentioned the third supplementary budget for fiscal 2011, and also tax increases for reconstruction as well as related legislation and the challenges you face concerning discussions in the Diet over these issues. I have a question concerning how these issues will be carried forward.

The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has indicated that it intends to respond cautiously to consultations between the ruling and opposition parties on these issues prior to a Cabinet decision. I believe that there is a real possibility that although the Government's stated position is to seek entry into the consultations as soon as possible, this may not go according to plan. I would like to ask how you intend to convince the opposition parties to come to the table and how you intend to get this consultations on track, and also whether you intend to insist on consultations only prior to a Cabinet decision, or whether you would agree to further consultations after the Cabinet has come to a decision? My next question is about the convening of the next extraordinary Diet session. You have indicated that it should be convened in the near term, but what sort of time frame are you thinking of? If the deliberations on the third supplementary budget go on into November, this will overlap with a month in which around of international meetings are scheduled, which would make it difficult to convene a Diet session. If you are thinking of submitting the draft third supplementary budget bill by the end of October, you will have to reach swift consensus on its content. If that is your thinking, could you tell us about the timing and schedule of the next extraordinary Diet session?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: I believe that you have made two points in your questions. First, with regard to the consultations between the ruling and opposition parties, as I have just mentioned in my opening statement, the major pillars of the third supplementary budget include full-fledged measures for reconstruction, as well as economic measures to respond to the appreciation of the yen. It is for these reasons that I believe the people of Japan are expecting that this supplementary budget will be passed as soon as possible, and naturally the political parties also share the same recognition. In addition, in the actual compilation of the third supplementary budget, there are still some items that need to be finalized, including the revisions to the tax system, for example, and this will require consultations between the ruling and opposition parties on the basis of a three-party agreement. It was based on this recognition that we have compiled the government and ruling parties's version of the draft third supplementary budget, which represents the government and ruling parties' thinking and has also incorporated comments provided from the People's New Party in the course of discussions. At the earliest possible juncture we would like to move to engage the LDP and other opposition parties in discussions on the basis of this draft budget. In today's meeting between the secretaries-general of the ruling and opposition parties, I understand that Secretary-General Koshiishi of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has called on the other parties for their cooperation. I therefore hope to be able to advance consultations on the draft budget from early next week.

With regard to the timing of the extraordinary session of the Diet, as you have pointed out, there are various diplomatic engagements scheduled for November. Therefore, although it is of course essential for the content of the third supplementary budget to be finalized and all the necessary processes completed, I naturally would like to ensure that an extraordinary Diet session can be convened during the course of October at an early stage, although the timing has yet to be decided. The passage of the third supplementary budget would mean that full-fledged reconstruction projects could be implemented and it is for this reason that I would like to monitor the status of the submission and timing of the draft budget carefully and work to convene an extraordinary Diet session at the earliest possible juncture.


REPORTER: I am Mizushima of Jiji Press. In relation to the incident concerning contravention of the Political Fund Control Act that has embroiled a political funding organization related to former DPJ Leader Ichiro Ozawa, three former secretaries to Mr. Ozawa, including Diet member Mr. Ishikawa, have been found guilty in a court trial.

The opposition parties are demanding that Mr. Ozawa give sworn testimony under oath. What are your views on the accountability of the former DPJ leader? In December last year, Mr. Ozawa expressed his intention to provide an explanation to the Political Ethics Hearing Committee. As the leader of the DPJ, do you intend to urge Mr. Ozawa to account for himself?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: I believe that there are various ways of fulfilling one's accountability. During this recent Diet session, members of the opposition parties have called for Mr. Ozawa to explain himself to the Diet in sworn testimony. I have already expressed my opinion in the Diet, but as has been reported in the press, as Mr. Ozawa's trial is scheduled to begin next month, I think that extremely serious consideration must be given to whether it is truly appropriate to demand that Mr. Ozawa account for himself before a Diet Committee, given the impact this could have on the judicial process.


REPORTER: I am Yamaguchi of NHK. I have a question concerning the relationship between the DPJ and the New Komeito Party. In your responses to Diet questions in the Budget Affairs Committee, you have shown a very proactive response to questions concerning the Liaison Council on Miyake Island and also on cervical cancer. How do you intend to maintain your distance from the New Komeito Party going forward? Also, today the LDP announced a shuffling of party executives and they appear to have further strengthened their confrontational stance. Could you tell us whether you are still aiming to achieve a grand coalition, which is something that you have mentioned in the past?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: With regard to the comment about distance from the New Komeito Party, your point was based on my responses to Diet questions. On this point - and the same can be said for other parties as well as the New Komeito Party - I always listen to questions with an open mind and if a good point has been made in a question, I naturally always try to respond positively, or seek to incorporate the comment that was made, or make efforts to follow up on the observation. This is always my intention when responding to Diet questions from all parties, not just the New Komeito Party. Questions in the Diet are usually made on the basis of the members of the opposition parties' views and evaluation of my administration. My basic position when responding to Diet questions is to take up and respond positively to questions that I think have made a good point and to regrettably yet emphatically reject points that I believe invalid. I think that it just so happened that many of the questions being asked by the New Komeito Party were on themes that the DPJ has shown a relatively positive stance on in the past, including the issue of cervical cancer.

With regard to the new lineup of the LDP executive body, it is not possible to tell just from the selection of people what sort of stance they will take. For example, Mr. Motegi has been appointed chairman of the LDP's Policy Research Council, and he is acolleague from my days in the Japan New Party. Mr. Kishida is the new LDP Diet Affairs chief and he is the same age as me. I do not know whether sharing the same age will have anything to do with the severity of his stance to the Government, and it is therefore impossible to say what their overall stance will be merely by looking at the new lineup. Rather what we need to do, as the Government of Japan, is to consolidate our own stance and concepts and make efforts with "sincere spirit and just intent" to gain the understanding of the LDP. That is something that does not change, no matter who our counterparts in opposition are.


REPORTER: I am Sieg of Reuters. I have a question about nuclear power policy. You have stated that Japan will not build any new nuclear reactors in the future. I would like to confirm whether by around 2050 there is no mistaking that nuclear power will have disappeared entirely from Japan's energy mix. Also, discussions on Japan's mid- to long-term energy policy are due to begin next week in the Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy. This committee has a diverse membership and there are those who focus on the economic impact of energy policy, while others emphasize safety. Given the diversity of opinions in the committee, what do you think will be the standards that will be prioritized when determining Japan's future energy policy? There are some who say that a national referendum should be held on this issue. What is your view on a referendum?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: As I said in my press conference immediately following my appointment as Prime Minister, I believe that it will be difficult to build new nuclear power stations. My basic recognition on that point has not changed. Among the new power stations there are those where construction is at a fairly advanced stage, and while it will be necessary to make a decision on a case-by-case basis, there is no change to my basic recognition that it would be difficult to set about building completely new nuclear power stations.

You asked a number of other questions, and with regard to the basic plan for energy policy, revision will start from a clean slate. The current schedule is for a mid- to long-term plan to be drafted by the summer of next year. While we must naturally aim to achieve a best mix of energy that will alleviate public concerns, there are diverse opinions on what constitutes a best mix and therefore we seek to create a concrete plan by next summer that is based on various opinions, including thoseof a broad range of the public.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next person. Mr. Takada, please.

REPORTER: I am Takada of Fuji Television. In your opening statement earlier, you noted that you will be making an on-site inspection of the Asaka City housing project for civil servants. Around when and with what stance are you intending to make the inspection? Also, I believe it was in your response to a question asked at the Diet that you said the decision was made before the earthquake took place. In the wake of the earthquake, is there a possibility of this matter being reviewed again based on new impressions you have received during deliberations? Could you please elaborate?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: I believe the decision was made at the end of last year if I am not mistaken. At that time, there was an overall vision to carry out a variety of efforts to help ease financial burdens, including reducing the number of civil servant housing units by 15% as a whole. In this context, I believe a decision was made at the Government Revitalization Unit's review of government programs to tentatively freeze construction plans, and based on that, ministers, vice-ministers, and parliamentary secretaries requested that further discussions be carried out. Taking this into account, a decision was made in December of last year. Then, the great earthquake occurred. In this light, we received a variety of questions and suggestions at the Diet, taking into account the feelings of the people affected by the disaster and the public. Therefore, while I believe steps have been taken to resume construction since September 1, I would like to take a look at the progress made at the site and make a final political decision.

REPORTER: Is there still a possibility of the decision being reversed?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: I will make a final decision taking into consideration a variety of factors, including the situation when I go to the site.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next person. Mr. Nanao, please.

REPORTER: I am Nanao of Nico Nico Douga. Regarding the latest Diet session, I got the impression that you were sticking to defensive driving from beginning to end. However, from the standpoint of the people, they also cannot help but have the impression that it has become more difficult to know the philosophy the Prime Minister employs to run the administration. In your opening statement, you said that you will be accelerating forward. In the future, under what specific philosophy and vision do you intend to speed up government operations?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: My philosophy is, well, as I also stated in my policy speech, for example, the middle class has been shrinking, and furthermore, there is a growing number of people who have become poor, if I may say so, and cannot rise back up. We have to overcome this situation. My basic philosophy is that turning this country into one which has a substantial middle class can provide us with fundamental strength. When such a country is established, then I believe there will be a basis for people to feel happy for being born in Japan. In turn, people will be able to say with greater pride that they are happy to have come to Japan as well. I would like to make Japan such a country. That is my philosophy. Also, at the Diet too, I was often asked about individual policies in the medium- to long-term - in essence, what I would like to accomplish. But, before turning to what I would like to accomplish, the question is what I ought to accomplish. There are things which need to get done right now. The administration's greatest and highest priorities are, without a doubt, issues such as the recovery and reconstruction from the earthquake, bringing the nuclear accident to a conclusion, and rebuilding the economy. This is what I said. Since this was the focus of my discussions, perhaps the assessment is that I was practicing defensive driving. However, I cannot start speeding outrageously from the beginning of my administration. No matter what the speed is or whether I accelerate, I would like to keep driving safely.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next person. Mr. Takatsuka, please.

REPORTER: I am Takatsuka of Mainichi Shimbun. In Futenma, there are still a great many people who seek the relocation of the US Forces' Futenma Air Station to a location outside of Okinawa Prefecture. In this context, how do you intend to move forward in implementing the Japan-US agreement, in other words, the relocation to Henoko?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: I am also fully aware that there are many people in Okinawa who seek the relocation of Futenma to outside of the Prefecture. Our basic stance is that the bottom line here is we must reduce the burden on Okinawa based on the Japan-US Agreement. I said this, too, during my recent meeting with President Obama. Also in the sense of largely reducing the burden on Okinawa, I believe this basic stance is our number one priority. I believe the United States understands that the danger Futenma poses needs to be eliminated. We will make efforts to obtain their understanding by providing careful explanations.


REPORTER: I am Uchikawa of the Jichi Nippo, a special newspaper on regional sovereignty. I would like to ask about local sovereignty reforms, which were considered the most important policy issue by the Hatoyama Cabinet. From the launch of the Noda Cabinet, you have not commented on this topic. You did not in your inaugural press conference, and your Cabinet's basic policy also fails to mention the subject. In your policy speech you only devoted one line to the issue in which you simply indicated your intention to continue promoting it. Local governments are growing increasingly concerned, including President Keiji Yamada of the National Governors' Association (NGA). I believe that it is the opinion of the local governments that it is vital to work with them on issues that you will be tackling in the future, such as recovery and reconstruction from the disasters, the comprehensive reform of the social security and taxation systems, and the child allowance. Please tell us again what your thoughts are on local sovereignty reforms.

PRIME MINISTER NODA: NGA President Yamada also directly pointed out to me that there was only one line in my policy speech about the subject. I explained this to him as well, but whether I wrote a lot about it in my speech or whether it was only briefly mentioned is no indication of my passion for the issue. As I just mentioned, and I also said this in my policy speech, fundamentally my administration bases itself on the issues of recovery and reconstruction from the disaster and resolving the nuclear power station accident, which are the biggest and highest priority issues that we currently face. Therefore, of course in the speech, and on various occasions when I speak, those issues become the center of focus. However, local sovereignty has been an important theme for the DPJ since its formation, and it once even made a front page of our Manifesto, in particular, with the message that we want to create a decentralized federal state. I have no intention of forgetting that. I actually intend to address this issue in a more vigorous manner than in the past.

I intend to work to promote local sovereignty, including the themes that you pointed out, while exchanging views with local authorities through a forum for dialogue between the national and regional governments. I will also promote more and more projects that will serve as so-called pioneers in local sovereignty during reconstruction, including easy-to-use grants and the establishment of special zones for reconstruction.

Today, in ministerial discussions, Minister Tatsuo Kawabata - and this is directly related to local sovereignty - indicated that he has prepared prefectural subsidies in the form of a lump sum grant from this fiscal year's budget amounting to 512 billion yen. Next, in forming next fiscal year's budget we will make the subsidy funds for municipal governments a lump sum. I have made strong requests to each ministry concerning this issue. Therefore, I would like to respond by taking things one step at a time and producing real results in order to dispel the skepticism that I just spoke of. We still face major challenges such as government branch reform, and I intend to demonstrate unwavering leadership in addressing them.


REPORTER: I am Sakajiri of Asahi Shimbun. I would like to ask about the emergency tax increase related to the third supplementary budget. In a press conference yesterday and at a Joint Plenary Meeting of Party Members of Both Houses of the Diet today, Chairman of the Policy Research Council Seiji Maehara, who plays a major role in the administration, commented that the amount provided through tax payments would be 9.2 trillion yen while non-tax revenues would increase to 7 trillion yen, and that this would be separately included in the emergency tax increase bill. Meanwhile, however, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura, Minister of Finance Jun Azumi, and the Ministry of Finance claim that tax payments will amount to 11.2 trillion yen and that this amount is to be written into the tax increase bill. As such, there appears to be a discrepancy within the administration. The difference between 9.2 trillion yen and 11.2 trillion yen is massive for national citizens, who will be bearing the burden of this decision. Would you please clarify this issue? Also, why did the explanation differ depending on who in the administration was commenting? These questions may depend on whether you were in charge of these discussions, but please also comment on the reason behind the contradiction.

PRIME MINISTER NODA: The content is the same. The Government and the ruling parties agreed on one paper. Agreement was made on a paper that was created not only by the DPJ, but by the People's New Party as well. I am sure that this has been distributed to everyone here. That is the paper I speak of. You will find all of the information there. There may be differences in what people want to particularly emphasize, but however you analyze it, the content is objectively the same. We will be asking citizens to bear a burden of 9.2 trillion yen through a so-called primary taxation measure over the next ten years while collecting 7 trillion yen in non-tax revenues. We must submit the bill for this in October. When proposing this bill, the amount of non-tax revenue that can be considered at this point within the ensuing five-year term set as a concentrated period of reconstruction is 5 trillion yen. As such, the amount thatcitizens will bear will be 11.2 trillion yen, and we will basically be drafting a bill for that purpose. When drafting that bill we will of course have to discuss, for example, how to incorporate the said ten-year time span into the law. Perhaps it could be included as a supplementary provision. My understanding of the situation is that everyone is saying the same thing, but that they express the numbers from a slightly different perspective.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We are running out of time so I would like to make the next question the last. Mr. Miura, please.

REPORTER: I am Miura of the Tokyo Shimbun. In response to the previous question from Reuters on nuclear power policy, you made it clear again that construction of additional nuclear power stations would be difficult. However, you also said in your address at the High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Safety and Security held in New York that Japan will respond to the interest of countries seeking to use nuclear power. I took this to refer to the export or transfer of nuclear power technology. What do you think about the consistency of the statements, one being that construction of additional nuclear power stations within Japan would be difficult and the other being in support of nuclear power station construction overseas?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: Well, this is an extremely simple matter. There are surely lessons Japan has learned from the recent nuclear accident. There are also points to reflect upon as well as knowledge we have acquired though this experience. These lessons and points for reflection are what countries around the world are interested in knowing, as they are all concerned about the issue of nuclear power. Sharing these will lead to the improvement of the safety of nuclear power technology on a global level. Japan will spare no effort in cooperating to this end, and this may also entail technical support. Therefore, I don't see any inconsistency between these two statements.

REPORTER: What are your thoughts on the export of nuclear power technology itself?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: With regard to the export of nuclear power technology, I would like to first complete a thorough investigation of the nuclear accident and then put together the Government's position. It seems that my speech at the High-Level Meeting has been perceived as giving a green light to the export of nuclear power technology. I didn't say a word about this. I would like to decide national policy on this while considering the thorough investigation into the accident.

REPORTER: Do you mean that the accident investigation will be the basis of considerations for exportation?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: Yes, we will consider the investigation.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: With that, I will bring the press conference to a close. Thank you for your cooperation.

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