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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Press Conference by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda

Friday, January 13, 2012

[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:Today I reshuffled my Cabinet, and this afternoon I attended the attestation ceremony at the Imperial Palace for the new Cabinet members.

One thing that I would like everyone to understand related to the background of this reshuffle is that we will be inaugurating the Reconstruction Agency at an early date in February. With the inauguration of the Reconstruction Agency, I will be able to appoint a Minister, Vice-ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries to be in charge of this issue. Focusing on that point, I wanted to be thoroughly prepared for every possibility with regard to reconstruction. In addition, the ordinary session of the Diet is about to start, and there are many matters which we must work on, which we cannot turn away from, which we cannot put off. These include the passage of the budget as well as matters that have been major issues since last year, such as the acceleration of recovery and reconstruction, work to bring the nuclear accident to a close and the strengthening of various initiatives toward new struggles, or for instance, issues related to the revitalization of the economy - these have been major issues for the Noda Cabinet since the beginning - in addition to the administrative reform and political reform, and the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems. Today's reshuffle was done in order to create the best and strongest team within my government, so that we can steadily proceed toward conclusions to each of these issues. This time I have asked five new people to join the Cabinet. In order to overcome the various issues I mentioned a moment ago, I made selections in such a way as to form my Cabinet around members who could propel our work even further and help us achieve breakthroughs.

The Diet will soon start, and I believe that even more than this being a critical moment for the Administration led by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), this is a critical moment for Japan itself. One reason for this is, as we work together with those affected by the disaster toward recovery and reconstruction, we must thoroughly make sure to take up each issue that the affected face. It might be said that we must have "eyes of bugs" - in other words, we must see things in a down-to-earth manner. Another reason - and this is a very large issue which includes the matter of the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems - is that I believe we now require "eyes of birds" as well, so that we can view this era from an all-encompassing perspective. There are matters which we cannot solve by carrying on with the practice of politics as it has been up until now. When it comes to social security, everyone has concerns about the future. In order to dispel those concerns we must make social security sustainable. We must not just sustain it but also strengthen certain aspects, ensuring that the functions of social security can be maintained endlessly into the future. In order to do that, we will need to secure a stable source of funding. This means asking the people of Japan to bear the burden for social security. Politics is not the practice of winning the favor of the public by telling them what they want to hear. What I am saying may be difficult for the peopleto bear, but it is difficult for us to argue for as well. And it may make the election very tough. Everyone understands this. It is also hard for those bearing the burden for this. However, I believe that we face a critical moment here, one in which we find out whether or not we can create a political atmosphere in Japan that can thoroughly take up difficult themes and gain the understanding of the people on them.

The debt crisis in Europe is not a matter that can be talked about as someone else's problem. In consideration of this as well, I want to firmly discern the situation of the times inside and outside of Japan, I want to view it comprehensively from a bird's eye view, and I want to create a political atmosphere that can provide a firm answer to the question of 'what must we do right now?' It is for this purpose that I have reshuffled the Cabinet at this time. I hope to gain the understanding of everyone on this matter. This is all I have to say for my opening statement and explanation today. Thank you.


CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: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. Mr. Yamane, please.

REPORTER:I am Yamane of Kyodo News. In this Cabinet reshuffle you have appointed former Secretary General of the DPJ Katsuya Okada to the position of Deputy Prime Minister. Deputy Prime Minister Okada will be responsible for the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems and also for administrative reform and other measures, so how do you intend to move forward towards the submission of the relevant draft bills at the end of March and with reductions in expenditure that are a prerequisite for tax increases? Please tell us some specific details. Also, at the current point in time there does not seem to be any prospect for the realization of consultations between ruling and opposition parties that you have called for on frequent occasions. How do you intend to achieve a breakthrough?

PRIME MINISTER NODA:The reason I have asked Mr. Okada to serve as Deputy Prime Minister is because the Deputy Prime Minister is in a position to give advice to the Prime Minister on all matters relating to national administration, both domestic and external. In addition, he will also serve as the minister for the comprehensive reform of social security and tax systems, which is the greatest issue facing the upcoming session of the Diet. Mr. Okada is senior to me in terms of his service as a Diet member and he has always been one or two steps ahead of me in terms of his political career, meaning that I have followed in his footsteps in a certain regard. I have a heartfelt respect and regard for him as a politician and trust him as a person. I believe that he is a politician who will not flinch from such important themes with which he has been presented and will work unfalteringly to bring them to a conclusion. It is with such expectations that I asked him to take on the position of Deputy Prime Minister. At the current point, in the forum of the meetings among party secretaries general the opposition parties have stated that they will not enter into consultations before the new Cabinet structure is in place. Now that just such a new structure is in place I intend to request once again that they enter into consultations.


REPORTER:I am Sekiguchi of the Tokyo Shimbun. Within the DPJ Mr. Okada has distanced himself from former party leader Mr. Ozawa. There are many Diet members who support the former leader and who are critical of a rise in consumption tax. The appointment of Mr. Okada as Deputy Prime Minister and as Minister for Comprehensive Reform of Social Security and Tax has raised opposition from Diet members supportive of Mr. Ozawa, who have indicated that this could cause the party to split, and there is also a possibility of increased resistance to consumption tax hike. How do you intend to reconcile intra-party differences towards the realization of comprehensive reform of social security and tax systems in the future?

PRIME MINISTER NODA:Are the voices of opposition that you have mentioned really so numerous? Do you believe so?

REPORTER:Yes, I believe so.

PRIME MINISTER NODA:I do not believe that the there is such an atmosphere within the party, and at the time of the leadership election it was my intention at the very least to put an end to talk of factions for or against various persons. I believe that it would be best to put an end to the kind of narrow-minded politics in which if somebody takes up a position others try to distance themselves from it. If someone has policy differences, then I believe it is all to the good to air such a difference, but to come out and say that a grouping around such-and-such a person is taking such-and-such a stance is no way to engage in discussion. The reason for me saying this is because during the intra-party discussions to finalize the party idea on the comprehensive reform there was no particular voices of dissent whatsoever. Rather, it has been the case that the most earnest and numerous opinions, concerning what must be done, have been provided for administrative reform. It is Mr. Okada in his position as chair of the DPJ Research Commission who has been at the center of party discussions on administrative reform. In the Cabinet reshuffle Mr. Okada has therefore been appointed to a position of responsibility for administrative reform and comprehensive reform of social security and tax systems as a combined package. My recognition is therefore different to yours in that I believe that rather than opposition to the appointment, on the contrary, it is the case that there are many people who have high expectations of Mr. Okada in this role.


REPORTER:I am Imaichi of TBS Television. I would like to ask about your intentions behind the appointment of Mr. Naoki Tanaka as Minister of Defense. Although he has experience serving as Chair of the House of Councillors Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense, there are those who question whether he is a Diet member sufficiently well-versed in security and defense-related issues. Could you therefore tell us the reason for appointing Mr. Tanaka to the position of Minister of Defense?

PRIME MINISTER NODA:I recognized and highly evaluated Mr. Tanaka's rich political experience and expertise and also noted that the role of Chair of the House of Councillors Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense is a very significant one. The way he has discharged his duties to date in that role was also one of the factors on which I based my decision.


REPORTER:I am Hirokawa of Bloomberg. Yesterday when Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner of the United States met with Minister of Finance Azumi, Minister Azumi announced a policy whereby imports of crude oil from Iran would be reduced incrementally. I would like to hear specifically when the Government will move to act on such a policy and to what degree it intends to reduce imports. In addition, as it has been the case to date that Japan has maintained independent diplomatic relations with Iran, please tell us about the ways in which Japan can contribute to the efforts by the international community towards the resolution of the nuclear issue in Iran.

PRIME MINISTER NODA:I also held a meeting with Secretary Geithner yesterday. In that meeting I expressed my strong concerns with regard to the nuclear development being pursued by Iran. This is a concern that is shared with the international community. Accordingly, in cooperation with the international community, including the United States, it is Japan's basic stance to see a diplomatic and peaceful solution to the issue. Having said that, the United States has also compiled legislation known as the National Defense Authorization Act and Japan has expressed its concern that the implementation of this legislation could have an adverse impact on the economy of Japan and on the global economy. In this regard, and particularly in the case of Japan, over the last five years we have reduced our imports of crude oil from Iran by approximately 40%. With regard to what we do from now, I believe that this must be decided after due consultations, including with economic and business circles, and further details will be discussed on the occasion of the scheduled visit to Japan next week of the Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury. These consultations at the working level will continue to discuss what the impact on corporations will be and how negative impact can be avoided. I think that the comments made by Minister Azumi represented his personal view of the background to the reductions in imports implemented to date and his outlook for the future. The Government's stance is that a response will be finalized on the basis of detailed working level discussions.


REPORTER:I am Sasaki of Jiji Press. Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) executives have requested that the House of Representatives be dissolved. Please tell us your thoughts on dissolving the Diet based on consultations with the LDP.

PRIME MINISTER NODA:I have no intention of dissolving the Diet.


REPORTER:I am Sato of Nippon Television. As you just commented, administrative reform is a tremendously important issue along with consumption tax. I feel that certain issues, such as, for instance, reducing the number of Diet members, should be addressed at a more expedited pace. You have expressed that you would submit a bill related to consumption tax by the end of March, but I think that you should provide your intended time schedule or a deadline for other issues as well. What do you have in mind for such issues?

PRIME MINISTER NODA:Political reform, including the issue of reducing the number of Diet members, is an issue left over from last year. For some issues, including the issue of the disparity in the relative weight of one vote, for instance, there is some form of a schedule in place. While keeping in mind issues such as submitting the bill on defining constituencies or the committee for defining constituencies, there are still diverse opinions among the parties concerning how to reduce the number of Diet members. While everyone agrees with the concept itself, views diverge among each party when it comes to the treatment of proportional representation districts and balance between single representation districts, or for deeper issues related to overall electoral reform. The ruling party has its own singular point of view, but I do not think that means that we should simply submit a bill. We must effectively reduce the number of Diet seats. To that end, as you have said, we must advance discussions among parties with a sense of urgency. The bill on the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems will be submitted by the end of March. I intend to ensure that a conclusion is reached on the reduction of the number of Diet members or that it begins to take form at the earliest stage possible before then, but we are not at a place yet where we can provide a concrete and clear schedule. I intend to come to a decision as soon as possible.

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

REPORTER:I am Hatakeyama, a freelance journalist. A moment ago, you noted that difficult themes, too, must be addressed, rather than discussing only what is pleasing to the ear. Meanwhile, the public is also confronted with the issue of a consumption tax increase, which was not included in the manifesto at the time of the change of government. How do you intend to find out the public's opinion as to whether or not you will be able to obtain the public's understanding? If you can, please elaborate on this.

PRIME MINISTER NODA:With regard to what's written in the manifesto, I believe those themes must be realized as much as possible going forward while we are the ruling government. A variety of mid-term assessments were made in the mid-term verification compiled in August of last year. I believe we must continue to do everything we can based on these assessments.

On the other hand, I believe there are emerging themes which were not written in the manifesto but require decisions to be made in view of the domestic and overseas situation as I mentioned a moment ago. You just asked about consumption tax. This was not written in the 2009 manifesto. However, as then-DPJ President Hatoyama noted, for example, it was said that while the consumption tax will not be increased during his term of office, this matter will still be discussed. And after that, I believe we all recognized the need for discussion and have been discussing this for some time. Through the discussions, finally a draft plan was compiled last year. The draft plan was compiled, and we are now at the stage of developing an outline. Based on this approach, all throughout the discussions, we have been saying that gaining public confidence must be sought before implementing a tax increase. I would like this to be firmly upheld all the way forward. In the meantime, what this requires is indeed not avoiding these issues. That is to say, what I am most worried about right now is that less and less people believe that tomorrow will be better than today, especially after the collapse of the bubble. In our times, back in the days depicted in the film "Always, Sunset on Third Street," there was still a bit of this feeling that tomorrow will be better than today. Now, with all the difficult themes being passed onto the future, it can hardly be thought that tomorrow will be better than today. It is critical that this condition is first amended. I believe the real work starts from here, that of making full appeals to the people, including about what I just mentioned, and giving thorough explanations with the three political-level appointees taking the lead in order to obtain the public's understanding.


REPORTER:I am Sakajiri of the Asahi Shimbun. I would like to ask you once more about going straight to the people by dissolving the Diet. You have just reshuffled your Cabinet, and you have said that you will make a renewed call for discussion between the ruling and opposition parties. However, at this moment in time the opposition parties are taking fairly tough stances toward the DPJ. It does not seem like they are prepared to have smooth discussions. And against this backdrop, if you cannot gain the understanding and cooperation of the opposition parties - then I wonder if you haven't considered another option, which would be to dissolve the Diet?

PRIME MINISTER NODA:I believe that you are grouping everyone in the opposition parties together as one. For example, even among the LDP, we have recently seen many prominent politicians who are coming out and calling for a return to campaign promises, who are saying that we ought to have a fair and open discussion. I still believe that depending on the situation in the opposition parties, their feelings may change, and that there is the possibility that the responses of party leadership may change as well. As such, we are not yet at the stage of being able to discuss possibilities beyond that. At any rate I want to continue to call on the public on this issue, creating an environment in which the opposition parties come to have serious discussion with us, spurred on by the voices of the people.

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

REPORTER:I want to ask about the establishment of a bill to criminalize conspiracy, which I have heard is being discussed within the Government. Some are even criticizing or pointing out that we are going to see the return of the Peace Preservation Act. Former Minister of Justice Hiraoka said that we must be very cautious about the establishment of such a bill. Was the removal of former Minister Hiraoka related to this? In addition, what is your opinion on the bill to criminalize conspiracy, as well as the confidential information security act? I would like to hear your thoughts.

PRIME MINISTER NODA:The choice to replace out Mr. Hiraoka this time was not related to the issue of conspiracy. There is no direct connection. The issue of conspiracy is currently being discussed within the entire Government, including the Ministry of Justice, and I hope to continue to watch over the progress of that discussion.

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

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