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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Tuesday, November 1, 2011 (AM)

Press Conference by the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Saito

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SAITO:The Chief Cabinet Secretary is attending the plenary session of the House of Councillors, so I, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tsuyoshi Saito, will handle this morning's press conference on behalf of him.

First, I would provide an overview of the Cabinet meeting. Approval was made on 9 general and other matters, legislation, and personnel decisions. Concerning ministerial comments, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Minister of Defense commented on preparations for international peace cooperation operations in South Sudan. Minister Renho spoke about the fiscal 2011's month to emphasize child and youth development assistance. The Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare commented on the fiscal 2011's month for the promotion of prevention of child abuse, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs spoke about emergency grant assistance in response to flooding in Thailand. Finally, Prime Minister Noda made comments with regard to the appointment of acting Ministers during overseas trips.

Before the Cabinet meeting, a joint meeting was held between the Review Meeting on Power Supply and Demand and the Energy and Environment Council. During this meeting a decision was made on countermeasures for the supply and demand of electric power this winter and on an action plan to stabilize energy supply and demand over the ensuing three years. With regard to this winter, restrictions will not be placed on the use of electricity; however, we ask for the cooperation of all domestic consumers excluding Okinawa in saving electricity between the months of December to March. Furthermore, for consumers that fall under the jurisdiction of the Kansai Electric Power Company and Kyushu Electric Power Company, which face particularly harsh circumstances in terms of supply and demand, we will be limiting the period and asking that everyone in these areas cooperate in reducing electricity usage by 5% to 10%, respectively, compared to previous year levels. We also ask that hospitals, railway companies, and other lifeline providers conduct efforts within a range that does not adversely affect the function of those lifelines. With regard to factories and other industrial facilities, we ask that you carry out efforts to a degree that does not substantially impact production activities. As per next summer, in the event that peak demand is on par with the previous year and if operations at the nuclear power stations have not been restarted, we expect to encounter a supply-demand gap of about 10% on the national level. The Government will exert every effort in order to avoid planned power outages and usage restrictions, and that is why it has adopted this action plan. However, as there is still uncertainty, a further detailed examination on supply and demand will be carried out in aim of completing a review by next spring. Minister Yukio Edano and Minister Motohisa Furukawa will be providing further explanations, so I ask that all inquiries concerning this matter are forwarded to them.

Next, I would like to comment on the dispatch of an engineering unit of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in relation to international peace cooperation operations in South Sudan. In response to a request received from the United Nations concerning Japan's cooperation in the new peacekeeping operations (PKO) following the independence of South Sudan, we are currently making preparations for dispatching command personnel. Moreover, we have conducted considerations within the Government on the possibility of dispatching an SDF engineering unit that would assist with the development of infrastructure such as roads and other operations. Governmental survey teams were dispatched in September and October to conduct onsite surveys, and after comprehensive considerations were carried out based on their survey report, it was decided that it would be favorable for Japan to respond to the United Nations' request to dispatch the engineering unit. Moving forward, an official decision will be made concerning the dispatch of personnel following adjustments with the United Nations. As preparations leading up to the actual dispatch of personnel will require a commensurate amount of time, at today's Cabinet meeting the Chief Cabinet Secretary requested cooperation in advancing preparations for the dispatch of the unit.


REPORTER:With regard to PKO in South Sudan, what is the tentative schedule in working towards future dispatch plans, and by when generally are you expecting to dispatch the personnel?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SAITO:You have just asked about the size and timeframe of the engineering unit to be dispatched, but such details are going to be worked out together with the United Nations in the near future. As such, while details could potentially change, we hope to begin dispatching units starting in January of next year. Concerning the size, at present, I have been told as a general estimation that the first unit will comprise approximately 200 personnel and the second unit approximately 300 personnel.

REPORTER:Following up on the same question, do you mean to say that the first unit will be the advance team - in other words, the unit that constructs the camp, etc. - and the second unit will be the engineering unit that lays roads and conducts other operations?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SAITO:The Defense Council will be holding a meeting from 1:10pm today in response to the requests to make preparations in order to discuss what steps are to be taken moving forward. The Minister of Defense is to give the order to commence preparations, so I would like to ask you to forward further questions to the ministry in charge of this matter.


REPORTER:This issue also arose in yesterday's press conference, but a clash between government and rebel forces near the border has left some people dead. What consideration is this issue being given during deliberations on preparations for the dispatch?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SAITO:I just mentioned about the governmental survey teams that were dispatched in September and October. That team has declared the area to be safe and the order to advance preparations was given today in light of this report, as the premise for making dispatch preparations for the engineering unit is safety. We will remain vigilant, but we intend to make a proper decision based on the report of the survey team.

REPORTER:Does that mean that you have not taken into account the situation since the report was completed? A clash that took place very recently caused fatalities. Do you mean to say that this incident is not being taken into consideration?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SAITO:Well, even the survey team has just returned. Our decision is a comprehensive one that includes regional situations under consideration, and, as I just mentioned, we are coordinating with the United Nations. While obviously things could happen after the survey - this is a region that has experienced long-spanning conflict and it has now become a country. There are various projections about what will take place in the future, and I ask for your understanding that today's Cabinet decision was reached in light of these projections as well as all past circumstances, including the content of the survey team's report and work being carried out with the United Nations.


REPORTER:This question concerns the bill on the establishment of the Reconstruction Agency, which was decided on today by the Cabinet. It turns out that the Reconstruction Agency will not be independently in charge of carrying out operations related to reconstruction programs. What is the Government's understanding of this matter?


REPORTER:Yes. The Agency's main task will be to conduct overall coordination, planning, and liaising with affected municipal governments, not the direct administration of reconstruction operations. So, the Agency will not be an independent body with primary control over reconstruction programs. Please comment again on your understanding of this situation.

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SAITO:As there are no materials related to the Reconstruction Agency, and decisions made at the Cabinet meeting, I am a little worried that my response will be inaccurate. At any rate, while related ministries will continue to maintain primary charge over actual operations, the Reconstruction Agency will be conducting all coordination efforts. I generally position the Agency as being slightly above others in the sense that it has total control over these related issues. So, each ministry has independent control, but the Reconstruction Agency has overall jurisdiction. Well, I do remember that in several meetings Minister Tatsuo Hirano made comments indicating that the Reconstruction Agency - I do not know if the right word is "superior" - carried out that type of function.


REPORTER:With regard to the restart of operations at Unit 4 of Kyushu Electric Power Company's (KEPCO) Genkai Nuclear Power Station, I have heard that the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has told prefectural and town officials that KEPCO's investigative efforts and recurrence prevention measures have been deemed appropriate and that the decision to restart operations is up to the electricity companies. Currently, however, the plant is stopped because of trouble with the condenser - it is on automatic shutdown. Some locals are voicing opposition to the fact that the Government is permitting the restart of operations without first confirming the will of local residents. Do you see this as a proper way of handling things? Also, please comment on the Government's judgment.

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SAITO:With regard to this case as well as all other cases, and for that matter all other cases, it is common understanding that companies will provide a thorough explanation and information to local residents. Therefore, I am sure that information and an explanation will be provided - I actually get the feeling that these efforts have already begun. In light of this point, I believe that electricity companies will make a proper decision on the restart of operations. Therefore, my answer is that, of course, I believe that information and explanations will be provided to local residents.


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