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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Press Conference by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda

Friday, November 16, 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 dissolved the House of Representatives.

The reason for this dissolution is that I have stated that, upon bringing about the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems on which I have staked my political career, I would seek a popular mandate soon after achieving it. This dissolution fulfills that promise.

I believe that in politics, promises must be honored. This is because I have determined that it is only by doing so that we will be able to restore the public's confidence in politics.

Even if the budget were to pass the Diet, implementing it would be impossible as we lack the legal backing for the relevant financial resources. Likewise, even if everyone states their support for political reforms that put themselves on the line, we cannot even reduce the number of Diet members by ten per cent. This type of "politics that can't decide" has continued on the grounds of the political situation. I also felt that I wanted to break out of this deeply flawed situations by dissolving the Diet.

By making this decision, I believe that I have succeeded in carving out a path forward for the pending matters of the bill on [the issuance of] special government bonds, rectifying the disparity in the value of votes in different constituencies, and reducing the number of Diet members, which I have stated were the areas that would prepare the environment for dissolving the Diet.

Before I talk about what will be the points at issue in the upcoming general election, I would like to look back briefly on the roughly 440 days that have passed since I assumed the post of Prime Minister last autumn.

Together with others of the same persuasion, I have single-mindedly faced the various issues that can be called national crises head-on, without wavering or evasion. I have dedicated myself completely to getting motionless politics moving again amidst a divided Diet. I have endeavored to carry politics forward. While it has been an extremely steep mountain to scale, I have walked that road one step at a time.

There are various reasons why this has been such a rugged mountain to climb. More than anything else there have been the staggering mountain of debt and prolonged deflation, both of which were the adverse legacy of the LDP government. These were very major. There have also been the challenges of the European debt crisis and also various natural disasters and other problems. I assert that we have devised and promoted policies to address each of these issues in a realistic manner.

I have done my utmost to seek out solutions grounded in reality to enable the public to have peace of mind. However, the reforms that we sought to accomplish through the change of government are still only half complete, as are the matters which I set forth as the critical issues for the Noda Cabinet, stating "Without the revival of Fukushima Prefecture there can be no revival of Japan," namely recovery and reconstruction from the earthquake disaster, the fight against the nuclear accident, and the revitalization of the Japanese economy.

Will we be able to move even further forward in these areas that remain only half complete, or will we instead return to the old-style politics of days past? I consider this election to be testing this very question.

There have been times in the past when elections have been waged over single issues, such as the election centered on postal privatization. The significance of the upcoming general election is the issue of what sense of direction the leader of Japan will embrace to move forward after 2013. Will we move forward, or will we turn the hands of the clock back to before the historic change of government and return to the politics of the past? Will we move forward, or will we turn back? I regard this election as testing these issues.

Will we move forward, or will we turn back? I intend to address this question in five policy areas.

The first of these is social security. We have carried out a comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems in order to make social security, which has been a large source of anxiety over the future in the minds of the public, into something sustainable in which people can have peace of mind. This comprehensive reform is also only half complete. I believe that we must carry through on this by means of a National Council so as to foster an unwavering sense of reassurance towards the future concerning medical care, pensions, nursing care, and support for child-rearing, as well as social security.

At the same time, while the debate on this issue was carried out very carefully, there is also some regrettable movement towards returning to where we started.

We will carry through on these reforms that make use of the consumption tax as fiscal resources that will stabilize, reinforce, and enhance this social security system. We absolutely cannot waver from this line.

The second policy area is the choice regarding how to position the axis of our economic policy.

I expect that the LDP will talk about a future economy based on policies under a plan to make the nation's infrastructure more resilient.

I cannot imagine that Japan will be revitalized through a policy of distributing public works projects as it used to, giving only gross amounts with no basis for the estimated amounts. We will bring about a green energy revolution and life innovations while enabling the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries industries and small and medium enterprises to flourish. Rather than invest in concrete, we will attach importance to investments in people and foster the abilities of the people. We will also create employment. We will create a society in which people can have peace of mind, with "working" as an axis. Moreover, we will grow not limited by our narrow domestic confines but rather together with the globe, incorporating global demand. To achieve this, taking the protection of our national interests as a major premise, I intend to pursue and promote in a simultaneous manner such economic partnerships as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, the Free Trade Agreement between Japan, China, and the Republic of Korea, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in East Asia, while protecting to the end those areas that must be protected. I believe this election will become one that also tests how the axis for such an economic policy should be positioned.

The third policy area is how we should forge our energy policy. In response to the nuclear accident that occurred last year, we have decided upon a direction of creating a society that does not rely on nuclear power and will use no nuclear power at all in the 2030's, mobilizing all policy resources to achieve this end, and on the basis of this policy we intend to advance various measures in a steady manner. Meanwhile, what is the stance of the Liberal Democratic Party? They say they will decide on their main policy direction over the course of a decade. If they will be standing still for as much as a decade, we can only say that through inertia, they will in fact be executing the former energy policy.

So the third point at issue is that of ending reliance on nuclear power. Will victory come to a political party with a policy direction of creating a society that does not rely on nuclear power and of reducing our degree of nuclear dependence to zero, or will it come to a party advancing the energy policy we have had until now-I see this election as also testing that question.

The fourth area is that of foreign and security policy.

We have advanced a pragmatic foreign and security policy in a level-headed manner, taking a broad perspective. I intend to maintain that approach. Unfortunately however, I cannot help but think that a trend has been intensifying to use strong language and talk about foreign and security policy with charged rhetoric. Extreme arguments do not lead to true solutions. Wholesome nationalism is necessary. However, operating at the fringe leads to xenophobia. In my view it would be precarious for Japan to have a foreign and security policy influenced by such an atmosphere.

Should there be a country that takes a different stance, we must face that country's leaders with both fortitude and tolerance, embracing a firm resolve to advance a pragmatic foreign and security policy in a level-headed manner, taking a broad perspective. Simply talking about a strong foreign policy is utterly meaningless. I believe this election will also test the question of just who exactly can take responsibility for diplomacy at the head of state and government level and deal effectively with tough-minded world leaders.

The fifth area is that of political reform.

Regarding rectifying the disparity in the value of votes in different constituencies, we have been told that the current situation is in a "state of unconstitutionality" and an unlawful state, but we found it difficult to correct the situation this time. Three years ago, many political parties pledged to support a reduction in the number of seats in the Diet, and yet we failed to realize that change. In order to find a way out of that deadlock, I set forth my proposal at the Party Leaders' Debate the day before yesterday. We achieved a conclusion by deciding on the deadline. Through that process, I was this time able to achieve the conclusion of setting forth a path towards rectifying the disparity in the value of votes in different constituencies and towards reducing the number of Diet seats, and of cutting Diet members' salaries by 20 per cent until the reduction in seat numbers is realized. I regard this outcome as having come about through the initiative of the DPJ. I hope to obtain the public's understanding about which political parties were backward-looking in reducing the number of Diet seats, and which party made the most strenuous efforts to achieve it.

In the future as well we are determined to spearhead political reform without fail in order to bring about a reduction in the number of Diet seats and also to take steps towards breaking free of hereditary politics. It is my belief that we must not return to the old-style politics in which hereditary politicians dominate.

I have just now spoken about our overall direction in five policy areas, asking whether we will move forward or backward. I would like to obtain a proper decision from the public after engaging in extensive debates of this kind over the next month.

I expect that the candidates who will be officially endorsed by us at the DPJ will be those who are thinking of not the next election but rather the next generation. Who is anxious about this country, considers the future of our nation in earnest, and endeavors to break new ground with fortitude and resolve? I very much look forward to receiving the decision of the public regarding which politicians have such thinking and what political party embraces such ideas most intensely.

I would like to state that amidst the political choices of either moving forward or turning back, we are determined to fight it out with all our strength in order to work for the people, foster peace of mind about tomorrow, fulfill our responsibilities towards tomorrow, and move politics forward, as well as to make every possible effort to ensure that the DPJ is able to shoulder the responsibility of steering this nation over the next four years.
I will also say that we must not create a political vacuum after this dissolution of the House of Representatives. We will continue to take all possible measures to bring about recovery and reconstruction from the earthquake disaster. We will also thoroughly formulate seamless economic policies and take all possible measures regarding both foreign and security policy and crisis management. I would like to urge the Japanese people once more to feel reassured regarding these matters.

With that I will end my opening statement.


CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now move on to the Q&A session. When you are called on, please first state your name and affiliation before asking your question. Mr. Shikata, please.

REPORTER: I am Shikata with the Nikkei Shimbun.

We can expect a highly challenging campaign for the ruling parties in the upcoming election. Mr. Prime Minister, you said just now that you intend to appeal to the public regarding moving forward or turning back, regarding five policy issues. But regarding those points at issue, I would like to ask you to share your thoughts on the point or points within those five policy issues that you intend to prioritize above all.

Also, with regard to the TPP Agreement, an issue regarding which there is a strong argument within the DPJ for playing it safe, while you mentioned it just now, do you have any intention to make a more in-depth statement regarding promotion of the TPP, such as a pledge, to make it prominent among the points at issue in this election?

As a further question, with regard to the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems, after the election, do you consider it appropriate to continue to pursue further a three-party path forward, acting together with the two parties of the LDP and The New Komeito, from whom you obtained cooperation concerning the comprehensive reform?

Moreover, do you consider a coalition or some other cooperative framework necessary?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: Your questions span quite a broad range, so please let me know if I neglect to answer any part.

First of all, talking about the points at issue, I stated that this is an election in which we will decide an overall direction or sense of direction concerning whether to move forward or turn back. I consider the differences in our senses of direction to be critical in various ways in the five areas I mentioned in particular. So I think that debates on such points will become the axis of the election. Beyond that, I expect that the public is especially interested in the issues of the economy or energy in particular.

Within matters related to the economy, there is the issue of the TPP that you mentioned. I also stated it in my opening remarks, and I included expressions of this type within my Policy Speech to the Diet as well. The Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) is a goal in a true sense that has been agreed upon both within Japan and overseas. We will create free trade within the Asia-Pacific region. In order to bring about that FTAAP, there are frameworks for economic partnerships such as the TPP and the Japan-China-ROK FTA, as well as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in East Asia, a partnership that includes ASEAN. Concerning the TPP in particular, we will promote and pursue the TPP Agreement simultaneously with the other two I mentioned just now, namely the Japan-China-ROK Free Trade Agreement and RCEP, on the assumptions that we protect national interests and that those things which should be protected are protected thoroughly to the end. That is my fundamental approach.

Since I have no idea how such an issue will be addressed by other parties, I really cannot say if this will be a major point at issue in this election, but I intend to appeal to the public regarding where we stand.

As for the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems, we will undertake this reform on the basis of the three-party agreement. We have already reached this agreement among our three parties, so regardless of the election results, we will squarely set forth a conclusion through discussions by a National Council and other means so as to bring peace of mind and an even more secure sense of reassurance to the public regarding social security into the future. In that area we must take responsibility jointly, I believe. That is not a coalition or any such thing, but rather purely and simply a matter of having joint responsibility with regard to a matter concerning which we reached an agreement among our three parties.

I daresay that since we will be putting forth a conclusion on the recent matter of reducing the number of Diet seats during next year's ordinary Diet session, we will be assuming joint responsibility on that kind of issue as well. So it would seem that there are a number of topics of that nature.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: I'll take the next question. Mr. Sasaki, please.

REPORTER: I am Sasaki of Jiji Press.

First of all I would like to inquire about the reapportionment of Diet seats and the reduction in the number of Diet seats at this juncture. As for the reapportionment of seats, revisions will not be reflected in next month's House of Representatives election. This means that we will be undertaking the House of Representatives election while in a "state of unconstitutionality," and that this Lower House election will be conducted against a backdrop of indications that it is possible for the Supreme Court to hand down a decision that the election is invalid. Please share your thoughts on the legitimacy of such a situation.

In addition, with regard to reducing the number of seats in the Diet, today a memorandum of understanding was exchanged among the three parties, saying that they will undertake the necessary legal revisions during the next ordinary Diet session. However, insofar as the post-election framework is still uncertain, doesn't the act of exchanging a memorandum amount merely to a verbal agreement? In addition, Mr. Prime Minister, you stated at the Party Leaders' Debate that realization of these revisions during the ordinary Diet session would be a worst-case scenario. Were your efforts adequate to avoid the worst-case scenario? If you dissolved the House of Representatives today without having made sufficient efforts, then it sounds as if it was simply expedient to avoid being forced to dissolve the Diet. What are your thoughts on that?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: First of all, insofar as the disparity in the value of votes in different constituencies has been deemed to be in a "state of unconstitutionality," it was a given that this would be rectified during the current term. Of course, in light of the need for voting rights-the rights of the people-to be restored properly, in keeping with rectifying the disparity in the value of votes in different constituencies, a body to deliberate the re-zoning of electoral districts would be convened, then the re-zoning process would take place, and once this work was completed it would then need to be finalized definitively and then beyond that there would need to be a period for making people acquainted with the revisions. I think it is only after completing all of these steps that the rights of the people will be restored. Waiting for that to be completed would be one path forward. I do think it was an option within reason. However, I believe that a dissolution of the Lower House, which is my exclusive prerogative as Prime Minister, is not constrained. I made a political decision in a comprehensive manner, including such matters.

As for the number of Diet members, various political parties appealed for a reduction in the number of seats even in the previous election, held in 2009. These pledges were not able to be upheld. As I mentioned just a minute ago, I believe that now we are able to see which political parties tried to uphold their pledges to the end and which did not. However, this memorandum of understanding we signed recently is naturally something I consider to be very weighty indeed.  The comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems is also something that we have been engaged in based on this type of memorandum as the foundation. And at the same time as we have this memorandum, the leaders of the political parties discussed the matter and made a promise right in the public eye in the form of the Party Leaders' Debate. Should there be any political party that fails to uphold that promise, I would expect it to be severely criticized by the public.

I think that great significance lies in the fact that a promise was made in the Party Leaders' Debate, a forum open to public view. It is not a matter of what was said or not said during meetings between party heads. The promise was made in full view of the public. Therefore, it is something that must be achieved during next year's ordinary Diet session and also something that can be achieved, in my view.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: All right, we'll take the next question. Ms. Sekiguchi, please.

REPORTER: I'm Sekiguchi, with Dow Jones News Wire.

LDP President [Shinzo] Abe stated yesterday in a speech that he would set an inflation target of 2 or 3 per cent and that the Bank of Japan should choose a policy of unlimited monetary easing. In response to that, the markets moved dramatically and there was weakening of the yen and an increase in stock prices. Mr. Prime Minister, how do you regard the remarks that shook up the markets so dramatically in this way made by the leader of the largest opposition party, particularly as the remarks of the President of the party that is seeking to take the reins of government?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: While I am not familiar with the specific contents of those remarks, if for discussion's sake they were remarks on the government formulating monetary policy, for example concrete means or the government setting a target, then I would think there is the potential for problems to emerge in connection with the independence of the Central Bank, a matter which has been common wisdom in countries around the world, including in Japan up until now.

Of course there is no doubt that the government and the Bank of Japan need to act in close cooperation in order to break out of deflation and revitalize the economy. Therefore I have sat down face to face with [Bank of Japan] Governor [Masaaki] Shirakawa multiple times to exchange views, and recently the government and the Bank of Japan wrote out a shared compilation of actions that we must each undertake and also released a joint statement, in order to break out of deflation at an early time.

I consider it desirable to have monetary policy advanced and to have decisions made decisively in a timely and appropriate way, with us having this type of close relationship while securing the independence of the Bank of Japan.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: And we will now take the next question. Mr. Sato, please go ahead.

REPORTER: I'm Sato, with the Nippon Television Network.

Mr. Prime Minister, just as you say, this general election will also test various policies, but another aspect is that through the general election the Prime Minister-the next leader of Japan-will be chosen. Therefore, in light of today being a turning point, the first thing I would like to ask is what you, Mr. Prime Minister, consider a "good" leadership philosophy and a "good" philosophy as a leader, or, alternately, how a leader should be, from your vantage point of now having led Japan for more than a year.
In addition, LDP President Abe could perhaps become Prime Minister. Or, according to today's most recent news reports, the likelihood of Mr. [Toru] Hashimoto of the Nippon Ishin no Kai (the Japan Restoration Party) and Mr. [Shintaro] Ishihara of Taiyo no To (the Sunshine Party) merging their parties has increased, and I would like to ask how you evaluate this "third force" and how you, Mr. Prime Minister, differ from this "third force."

PRIME MINISTER NODA: I consider the Prime Minister of Japan to be a position in which you must make a final determination on the full range of policy decisions, and is thus a position holding responsibility for those things. There is a continual succession of very weighty political decisions. You must make weighty political decisions, even as the variety of the challenges exceeds that of years past, and in particular even though there are topics which こcould divide public opinion into two.

What is necessary to make it through such a situation is that once you make a decision through careful consideration, you are called upon to exercise politics that can make decisions without wavering, evading, or putting off the issue as well as politics that will absolutely move into execution once the decision has been made. This is the desirable approach for the leader of Japan to have. You also need a considerable amount of fortitude and resolve.

Against this background, it would be presumptuous of me to evaluate LDP President Abe or any of the other various persons you mentioned engaged in a "third pole" movement. That is something for the Japanese people to decide. I spoke a few minutes ago of this election being one that will decide the direction of politics from 2013, whether we will move forward or return to what lies behind us. I spoke about several policy areas, but one more thing that will be put to the test is that this election will select the leader of Japan-the Prime Minister-from the standpoint that I just mentioned. I look forward to the rightful judgment of the Japanese people from that standpoint, regarding who is best to serve as Japan's leader.


REPORTER: I am Egawa, a freelance journalist.

I would like to inquire about the issue of nuclear power. In your statement you spoke of using no nuclear power in the 2030's and of not relying on nuclear power. I think that these two points are slightly different. Please tell us if you will clearly put forth a target of achieving zero nuclear power usage in concrete terms. There are criticisms that the Cabinet decisions to date have been unable to settle on a definite conclusion at the last moment. What are your views on that point?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: We will have no nuclear power generation in the 2030's. We will mobilize all policy resources to achieve that. That is included in the "Innovative Strategy for Energy and the Environment" that we compiled. We will promote various policies and measures on the basis of this policy. I intend to state these explicitly.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We are running out of time, so this will be the last question. Next, Mr. Sato, please.

REPORTER: I'm Sato, with the Asahi Shimbun. I would like to ask about the line separating victory from defeat as you engage in this election campaign.

Earlier, regarding the line separating victory and defeat, DPJ Secretary General [Azuma] Koshiishi indicated a recognition that it would be [to secure a relative majority, but] quite a challenge to secure an absolute majority [of seats in the Diet]. My first question is how you, Mr. Prime Minister, view the line separating victory and defeat, and [my second is] after what sort of election result you would intend to take responsibility as party president.

PRIME MINISTER NODA: More than anything, I would like for us to be allowed to continue to hold the reins of government for the next four years. The steering of this nation is a major element and I hope that the leadership is entrusted to us. We will engage in the campaign aiming to emerge victorious. I consider that victory to entail, first of all, securing a relative majority as the most important point of all. There is some talk of what would happen should we fail to do this, but the fight to make this a reality begins today. I more than anyone will be making myself hoarse in my support for like-minded candidates throughout the country, and I will approach this situation with all of my might and work to the utmost of my ability so that a large number of fellow-minded candidates are victorious in the election. I consider the fulfillment of that responsibility to be the most important thing at this time.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: With that, I would like to bring the Prime Minister's press conference to a close. Thank you very much.

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