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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Press Conference by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda

Friday, September 7, 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: The ordinary session of the Diet, a long session that lasted for 229 days, has come to a close.

In my policy speech at the start of this Diet session, I stated that my aim was to break away from "the politics that can't decide." One of the issues that was symbolic of this aim was the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems. I believe that the most significant outcome of this session of the Diet was that we have been able to achieve the passage of the eight bills relating to the comprehensive reform.

The eight bills relating to the comprehensive reform are intended to support stable financial resources for social security and to set a precedent as we seek to shift from a society that passes on the costs of social security to future generations. Through the approval and passage of three bills relating to children and child-raising, two bills relating to pensions, and two bills for the promotion of social security reform and for tax law, we have been able to make a significant first step towards strengthening the functions of social security.

I would ask you to recall the situation in the Diet just a few short months ago. At the end of last year, a draft plan had been compiled, but at that point in time there was not even the smallest hint of prospects for discussions on the plan between the ruling and opposition parties. We were therefore obliged to begin the process by calling on the opposition parties to participate in consultations. We were beset by the turbulence of a divided Diet, and although the government faced various twists and turns, with the cooperation of our colleagues in the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), the responsible ruling party, together with the support of our coalition partner, the People's New Party, and also the assent of the Liberal Democratic and New Komeito parties, under the leadership of President Sadakazu Tanigaki and President Natsuo Yamaguchi respectively, we achieved the approval and passage of the bills relating to the comprehensive reform. This fact stands as proof that if politicians can feel a sense of mission and preparedness as they work to put legislation together that focuses on the big picture, it is indeed possible to break through political stagnation. Through the passage of these bills I have been able to see and feel for myself a "can-do" attitude in action. Building on this achievement, we must now make efforts to ensure that politics that makes decisions becomes the everyday norm for Japanese politics. I have renewed my resolve in that regard.

I would like to emphasize that during this session of the Diet, many significant bills have been approved and passed in various areas other than the comprehensive reform bills. These include: the bill to reduce the remuneration of national publics servants, which is one of the reforms directly affecting legislators and the government; the bill for postal service reform, which will serve to boost the convenience of post offices that support local communities and also contribute to the securing of financial resources for reconstruction; the bill to amend the Worker Dispatching Act, which will contribute to the employment stability of non-regular employees; the amendment of the Labour Contract Act; the amendment of the Act concerning Stabilization of Employment of Older Persons; the Act on Special Measures for the Promotion and Development of Okinawa and the Act for the Promotion of Dezoning and Reutilization of Military Land in Okinawa, which will provide new innovation for the promotion of Okinawa; and the amendment of the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) Act, which, as I mentioned in a press conference recently, is essential for the monitoring and maintenance of the remote islands of Japan.

To date I have repeatedly stated that the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems is an issue that must be advanced comprehensively, together with measures to realize economic revitalization and political and administrative reform. Within the overall future picture for social security there are still some issues that will require further debate, and a national council will be tasked with giving these issues consideration. The one-year countdown to the deadline of the mandate for this national council has already begun. We must now swiftly initiate discussions, based on the recent three-party agreement.

In addition, we must achieve a turnaround in the economy as a prerequisite for raising the consumption tax, and set the Japanese economy on a surefooted course towards revitalization.

Furthermore, we must not waste a single day in carrying through measures to achieve reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake and to fight against the accident at the nuclear power station.

Also, in a situation in which incidents have occurred in succession relating to Japan's sovereignty in surrounding sea areas, from the perspective of our national interest, we must absolutely avoid creating a vacuum within the political response to such incidents.

Following this press conference, I will be departing for Vladivostok to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting. I believe that one of my important official responsibilities from the perspective of our national interest is to attend this meeting and engage with fellow leaders in discussions on the subject of the liberalization of trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region, while putting forward Japan's position.

The final days of the Diet session were beset by disruption and unfortunately we have had to close the session with a number of issues that require resolution still outstanding. We must work to expedite the process and deliberations on the important bills that could not be passed during the current Diet session.

Firstly, there is the bill on special provisions concerning issuance of government bonds. Approximately 40 percent of the general account budget is dependent on the issuance of special government bonds and without their issuance it would be impossible to execute fiscal management, no matter which administration is in power. It is regrettable that in this session of the Diet we couldn't receive cooperation from the opposition parties. In the face of this situation, the Government has been obliged to delay the execution of budget expenses to the greatest degree possible, making considerations to ensure that these delays do not impact the lives of the people of Japan. There is a concern that unless this situation is resolved there will be a significant impact in various areas. It is my sincere wish that the opposition parties will share this sense of crisis and cooperate in approving the passage of the bill swiftly in the next Diet session.

A second outstanding issue is the reform of the electoral system, including measures to correct the disparity in the relative weight of one vote and to reduce the number of Diet members. The realization of these reforms is most certainly the voice of the people, and I hope to promptly receive the understanding and cooperation of parliamentary groups in each party.

I am constantly aware of the fact that there are real voices of dissent targeted at politics and also at the DPJ itself. The only thing we can do is to steadily and surely carry through the things that must be done, and through these actions win the trust of the people. Economic revitalization, together with administrative and political reforms, which must be advanced inclusively together with the comprehensive reform, are still challenges that remain unfinished. Post-disaster reconstruction and the fight against the nuclear power station accident are also only half-complete.

We still face many challenges in order to ultimately ensure that all of these issues are set successfully on a course for realization. I cannot simply leave these various important issues of national policy half-done. It is my intention to continue to fulfill my official duty to grapple firmly with the outstanding issues that Japan faces, including the unfinished comprehensive reform and post-disaster reconstruction that is still in progress, and work to overcome these issues.

I would like to close my statement by stating my renewed resolve in this regard. 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 could first state your name and affiliation. Mr. Yamaguchi, please.

REPORTER: I am Yamaguchi of TBS.

I have three questions concerning the Diet session.

Firstly, during the current Diet session you achieved the approval and passage of the bills relating to the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems, including an increase in consumption tax, which was not included in the DPJ manifesto. Given that this has been achieved, there are some people who believe that the right thing to do would be to dissolve the House of Representatives during the current Diet session, in other words today, and take the issue of the consumption tax increase to the people in a general election.

Another point, given the fact that the censure motion submitted by the opposition parties was passed by the Diet, whatever you may say, it would seem that from now on the processing of and deliberations relating to important bills and Diet-related matters will become more severe. Given that this is the case, what is the reason for not dissolving the Diet? There are many people who believe that the dissolution of the Diet would result in various bills and items being expedited, including, for example, on the issues of the issuance of special government bonds and the electoral system. What are your thoughts on these issues?

The third point is that there are probably many members of the public who believe that your reason for not dissolving the Diet in the current circumstances is because the DPJ could be expected to be dealt a defeat in an election, and therefore you are prioritizing the logic of Nagatacho [where the Diet is located] over the lives of the people of Japan. What is your response to such doubts that people may have?

Could you please respond to these three points?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: You raised three points, but I think that you were basically asking about the dissolution of the Diet. You have framed your questions relating to the dissolution of the Diet from various perspectives; however, there is one thing I should say, which is this: After carrying through resolutely the things that must be done, at the appropriate timing we will then go to the people. It is nothing more and nothing less than this.

REPORTER: I believe that it would be more readily understandable for the public for the current Diet to be dissolved after the bill relating to the increase in consumption tax, which was not in the DPJ manifesto, was passed.

PRIME MINISTER NODA: There are those who share that opinion, but as I have stated earlier, there are still issues that we must deal with. Once we have dealt responsibly with those things that must be done, at that point we will go to the people in a general election.

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

REPORTER: I am Matsuo of Mainichi Shimbun. I have three questions in relation to the energy policy.

I believe today, the DPJ submitted a recommendation to you to achieve zero operating nuclear power stations by the 2030s. While I realize that the Energy and Environment Council will be the one that officially decides the policy of the Government, my question is, bearing in mind also that a great many people wish to have zero nuclear power, do you believe, at this time, that the Government's policy should be in line with the policy of the DPJ? That is my first question.

My second question is that the DPJ's recommendation is viewed by some as lacking a specific roadmap for achieving zero nuclear power. What is your opinion on the extent to which other energy sources will be able to compensate for nuclear power - that is, not only thermal power generation, which is now compensating for nuclear power generation, but also the development of renewable energies, whose future growth is particularly unforeseeable?

Thirdly, if the Government decides to aim for zero nuclear power, then municipalities may say that they will return the spent nuclear fuel that has been accumulating in their districts, such as Aomori Prefecture. Is it possible that the Government will elect not to maintain the nuclear fuel cycle policy?

These are my three questions.

PRIME MINISTER NODA: The question of what our future energy policy will be is the subject of much public interest in light of last year's accident. National debate is being conducted at this time, and I believe they it has been confirmed that at least a majority of the people wish to have a society that does not depend on nuclear power. Meanwhile, there are a variety of views on the timing and feasibility of realizing such a society.

In this context, yesterday, the DPJ held intensive discussions, and following this, compiled a recommendation aiming to achieve a society free of nuclear power. The Government takes this recommendation seriously, and will be working to set out a Government direction moving forward.

In this process, as you noted, we are currently asking for the views of municipalities hosting nuclear power facilities, which have long supported Japan's nuclear power policy or nuclear fuel cycle policy, including Aomori Prefecture. On the question of expanding the use of renewable energy that you pointed out, a feed-in tariff scheme was introduced in July. I believe the scheme has made a good start. Renewable energy is identified as one of the key priorities of the Comprehensive Strategy for the Rebirth of Japan, and the Government will continue to promote bold initiatives for expanding the use of renewable energy.

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

REPORTER: I am Mure Dickie of the Financial Times. Amid recent developments related to Takeshima and the Senkaku issue, I understand you will not be holding formal meetings with the leaders of the Republic of Korea (ROK) and China on the sidelines of the APEC Summit, according to Minister for Foreign Affairs Koichiro Gemba. Can you explain what the reason is? Also, will you be discussing the territorial issue with President Vladimir Putin of Russia?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: First, formal meetings with President Lee Myung-bak of the ROK and President Hu Jintao of China are not scheduled at this point in time. However, if there is an opportunity, such as a conversation in passing, I would like to once again convey to them the position of Japan.

Secondly, I am scheduled to meet with President Putin of Russia tomorrow. The date is set. I look forward to having thorough consultations on the Northern Territories issue, as well as discussing concrete matters for advancing our bilateral relations in a range of areas, including the economy. 

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

REPORTER: I am Kano of Sankei Shimbun. I would like to ask a question on the issue of the nationalization of the Senkaku Islands. Will the Cabinet ultimately make a decision on nationalization on September 11? Also, Governor of Tokyo Shintaro Ishihara has been urging the Government to construct facilities to protect and manage the Senkaku Islands. Is there a possibility that the Government will take such measures? Furthermore, what is your view regarding the need to establish legislation for the patrolling of Japanese territories?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: The consultations on Senkaku are being carried out from the standpoint of continuing to maintain and manage the Senkaku Islands peacefully and stably. However, I am not able to elaborate any further on the details as they also concern the rights and interests of the landowner. Likewise, at this stage, I am not able to give you any dates.

As for the patrolling issue, as I also touched upon in my opening statement a moment ago, legislation to strengthen the functions of JCG was able to pass barely before the end of the Diet session. I believe taking measures in this way, which will allow JCG to fully deal with these matters, is a realistic first step forward.

Our first priority is the peaceful and stable maintenance and management of the Senkaku Islands. What follows from there is up to future review. The first step is to carefully maintain and manage the Senkaku Islands.


REPORTER: I am Yumoto of Yomiuri Shimbun. Earlier you repeatedly stated that you will dissolve the House of Representatives after carrying through the things that must be done. However, it seems to me that since the Diet passed a censure motion, and as the end of the Diet session approaches, the Government and the DPJ have lacked the determination to enact the bill on special provisions concerning issuance of government bonds, a very important bill. In short, even though you said you will carry through the things that must be done, I cannot see clear evidence of your determination to achieve this. In the same way, since the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP) is also seeking to begin with "0 increase, 5 reduction" to address the issue of the disparity in the relative weight of one vote, I believe that starting with this may be an option.

I would like to ask if you have considered doing this, and if you truly believe that you have carried through the things that must be done.

PRIME MINISTER NODA: With regard to the bill on special provisions concerning issuance of government bonds having not yet been enacted, I spoke earlier about budget restraints, and I am mindful that if the nation's wallet runs out of cash, the nation cannot function. We are fully aware of the urgency of the matter. Because of this, we were determined to pass this bill, which secures revenue, in March together with the budget - although the budget was not actually passed until April. Furthermore, both before and after budget enactment, I worked as hard as possible to have constructive consultations between the ruling and opposition parties, and I am deeply hurt that you have questioned my resolve. I have worked extremely hard to get the consultations moving and I have continued to work hard, particularly during the second half of the Diet session.

With regard to the disparity in the relative weight of one vote and the reduction of the number of Diet seats, as it has been said, the disparity in the relative weight of one vote is in violation of the Constitution and law, and we are fully aware that this must be corrected as soon as possible. On the other hand, the dominant public opinion is that we should begin with the reforms that involve our own sacrifices while undertaking actions we call on others to take. We have introduced the Election System Reform bill that addresses both issues, and Acting Secretary-General Shinji Tarutoko, Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi, Chair of the Diet Affairs Committee Koriki Jojima and I have been working for a long time to call for consultationsand gain support for the bill and, as you know, the bill itself is not beneficial to the DPJ. The bill has been proposed with consideration of the small and medium-sized political parties and is not partisan interests. Therefore, with persistence I will continue to attempt to gain support for this bill. We are approaching the end of the current Diet session; however, while the Diet is out of session, I believe that the two issues that I have raised will still need to be worked on; therefore I am determined to wholeheartedly call for consultations.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We are almost out of time, so the next question will be the last. Next, Mr. Jimbo, please.

REPORTER: I am Jimbo of FNS. I would like to ask a question regarding the members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

I believe that one of the most important issues of this current Diet session was the establishment of a nuclear regulatory agency and a nuclear regulatory commission to replace the current Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA). However, as of yet, neither of them has been established. I would like to ask if you are intending to apply the exemptions of Article 7 of the bill concerning the establishment of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which allows the establishment of a commission without Diet consent after the end of the session, in order to establish the commission by September 26.

The members proposed to sit on the new commission have already been submitted to the Diet but have not been approved. Some have taken the view that you are waiting for the end of the Diet session so that you can make the appointments without requiring Diet approval, and there are some who think that this may jeopardize the legitimacy of the commission. I believe that this commission is a very important one, as this has been planned in response to the mistakes made in Fukushima, and I would like to know why you have taken this approach.

PRIME MINISTER NODA: I believe that almost everyone has agreed to the principle idea of eliminating conflicts of interest, i.e. separating regulatory and advocacy roles. Furthermore, the Diet debates have concluded that the party responsible for regulation as a control tower should be completely independent. With this understanding, I believe that the most important thing is to establish a regulatory commission and agency as soon as possible, or rather, in September as scheduled.

Unfortunately, we are currently unable to gain sufficient consensus within the Diet regarding the proposed members of the regulatory commission. However, I believe that this organization must be launched because important roles such as the work of building standards for stronger safety regulations cannot be neglected. Therefore, I would like this organization to be launched with the members as appointed by myself, and at appropriate timing I hope to see these members gain Diet approval.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: I would like to bring this press conference to a close. Thank you very much.

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