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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Monday, November 14, 2011 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:I have an announcement to make regarding the visit to Japan by Mr. Nouri al-Maliki, Prime Minister of Iraq. Prime Minister al-Maliki of Iraq will pay a working visit to Japan from next Sunday, November 20, to November 23. During his stay in Japan, Prime Minister al-Maliki will meet with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and exchange views on Japan-Iraq bilateral relations as well as regional and international challenges, including situations in the Middle East and North Africa. In addition, Prime Minister al-Maliki is scheduled to hold meetings with representatives of Japanese companies, among others.



REPORTER:According to our opinion poll over the weekend, the Nippon News Network's (NNN) opinion poll, the Cabinet's approval ratings fell to exactly 40%, roughly two-thirds of what they were when the Cabinet was inaugurated. That is number one. Secondly, regarding participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, 79.8% of the people responded that the Government and ruling party have not provided a sufficient and careful explanation to the people. Can you comment on these two items?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:Regarding the first item, as is always the case, the Government does not particularly comment on opinion polls and approval ratings. Also, regarding your point about lack of explanation, as I also briefly mentioned last week, Japan has not yet participated in the negotiations, and in terms of gathering information from relevant countries, I do believe that the information itself is indeed lacking and is not necessarily sufficient. As we enter into consultations toward participating in the negotiations with the countries concerned, we will be able to obtain information in a more careful manner and more directly from the relevant countries. From there, we intend to provide thorough explanations and announcements. We still have quite a bit of time. Through forums such as the "Opening of Japan Forum" - while I'm not sure if it will actually be called that - but something like the "Opening of Japan Forum," which was held around three times since last year before it was discontinued, we intend to provide a variety of explanations to the people.


REPORTER:I also have a question regarding TPP. U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Ron Kirk indicated an intention to take up, as key items on the agenda of the forthcoming preliminary consultations, such issues as beef and postal life insurance, mitigation or elimination of auto regulations, and elimination of barriers. What are Japan's thoughts on this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:I believe that was USTR's announcement. Moving forward, I believe a variety of countries other than the U.S., too, will be making such statements. While taking heed of these respective viewpoints, Japan will indeed be examining this matter, shouldering our national interests.

REPORTER:On a related note, once Japan enters into preliminary consultations, I believe a variety of countries will be making a variety of requests. Regarding the matters requested, will there be discussions within the party in parallel with the preliminary consultations and will the Government be inquiring or seeking recommendations from the party? Also, at what point will the Government next be deciding whether to move forward with or withdraw from participation? Is that when the preliminary consultations have finished? Or is that when the 90-day standard of the U.S. has passed? What is the time schedule you have in mind with respect to moving forward or withdrawing?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:Regarding your first question, Japan will be entering into preliminary consultations with relevant countries, in which Japan will be underscoring a variety of issues while respective countries will also be making a variety of statements and requests. The Government intends to provide careful explanations of these discussions to the people in Japan as much as possible. I believe this also applies to the discussions within the party. Also, I believe this is all still far into the future. Since we are now at the stage of entering into consultations with relevant countries, I believe the circumstances do not permit us yet to talk about the future with certainty.

REPORTER:I have a question related to the statement made by U.S. Trade Representative Kirk. Was the Japanese Government already anticipating that the USTR will be seeking the liberalization of those three areas?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:It is not so much a matter of whether or not the Government had anticipated. Rather, I believe everyone can probably understand that this stands a good chance. The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA), for its part, has its own comments. Respective countries are indeed shouldering their respective national interests. I believe these are matters which shall be negotiated moving forward.


REPORTER:With respect to the discussions on TPP during the Japan-U.S. summit meeting on November 12, the U.S. side announced that the Prime Minister had said that Japan will put all goods as well as services on the negotiating table for liberalization. This was immediately denied by the Japanese Government. What is interpreted to be the difference in opinion that led to this mix-up?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:This matter has already been discussed and settled between the two sides. Japan noted that the alleged statement differed from the facts and sought an explanation. It was confirmed that the U.S. release was based on its interpretation of Japan's Basic Policy as well as Japan's explanations to date to countries abroad, and that the Prime Minister did not make the alleged statement in the news release. The U.S. side has announced that the Prime Minister did not make such a statement during the negotiations, during the summit meeting.


REPORTER:With respect to the method of advancing the negotiations, domestically, for example, former Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hachiro, the Project Team Chair, has said that a "control tower" should be set up, that there should be a minister who will serve as the "control tower." Does the Government intend to set up someone as the command center?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:I believe the Prime Minister said something to the effect of creating a strong team at his press conference the other day. At that time, it was not anticipated at all that the head of the team will or will not be a minister. We recognize that we need to create such a team and that a strong negotiating team must sit on the negotiating table.


REPORTER:Changing the subject a little, I have a question regarding the armed clashes which occurred at the border of South Sudan and Sudan. At your press conference at the end of last week, you said that you were not yet fully aware of the situation as it was before dawn. There are reports that 18 people have died from the air raids, in addition to those reporting 12. What is the Government's understanding of the overall situation?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA:According to news reports, in Upper Nile state in northern South Sudan, there were clashes between South Sudan's army and insurgents that are seen to have crossed the border from Sudan. It has been reported that 18 people in total died, including five soldiers from South Sudan's army. This area is approximately 500km from the capital city of Juba. According to reports from the Japanese study team that was dispatched in advance, there are overall no direct threats to the United Nations (UN) in this area and the community members are receptive toward the UN Mission in South Sudan. With regard to the deployment of personnel from the Self-Defense Force (SDF) engineering unit to South Sudan, in order to pay sufficient heed to ensuring the safety of the personnel and confirm that they will be able to carry out full-fledged activities, preparations are being made for the dispatch based on a study that considered multiple aspects, including security and logistical support. At any event, we will continue to pay close attention to the security situation, including the situation in neighboring countries, and take all possible measures to ensure the safety of the SDF personnel at the time of their deployment.


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