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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Wednesday, March 21, 2012 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Fujimura

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: Regarding the overview of the Cabinet meeting, the meeting approved nine items for submission to the Diet and cabinet orders.

With regard to Japan-U.S. talks on the administration of the U.S. National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), Japan shares the same serious concern over Iran's nuclear issue with the international community, beginning with the United States (U.S.). Based on a "dialogue" and "pressure" approach, Japan is making efforts to peacefully and diplomatically resolve the issue by urging Iran to fulfill their commitments based on our traditional relationship, while applying effective "pressure" on Iran in concert with the international community. In the talks with the U.S. on the U.S. NDAA, Japan has explained to the U.S. in specific terms that Japan has reduced Iranian oil imports by approximately 40% over the past five years, that this trend is being accelerated even as Japan faces a difficult situation of an increasing demand for fossil fuels for thermal power generation following the Great East Japan Earthquake, and that Japan intends to continue to considerably cut Iranian oil imports in 2012. Through these talks, Japan requested the flexible administration of NDAA, including exemptions. And yesterday, March 20, U.S. time, the U.S. informed us that it has decided to apply the exemptions for NDAA to Japan.


REPORTER: Concerning what you just mentioned, can you discuss the Government's views on the fact that the exemptions that Japan had been seeking have been applied?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: As I stated a moment ago, Japan has gradually reduced its Iranian oil imports over the past five years from approximately 500,000 barrels/day in 2007 to 320,000 barrels/day in 2011. This was evaluated positively under the U.S. NDAA to some extent. Japan welcomes the fact that NDAA will not be applied as it stands.

REPORTER: Regarding Iran, has the Japanese Government presented any specific numbers to the U.S. in terms of the extent of the reduction (in oil imports)?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: What Japan has said to the U.S. is, as I mentioned a moment ago, that Iranian oil imports have been reduced over the past five years. Also, Japan is explaining its recognition that this trend will continue to be accelerated going forward and that a considerable reduction of imports will be realized. I would like to refrain from commenting on the details of the talks, such as specific prospects and the amount of future oil imports. What I can say is that Japan has been explaining sufficiently that we are moving in this direction.


REPORTER: I have a related question. As you also mentioned earlier, amid the tough electricity supply and demand situation that is forecasted for the summer due to the shutdown of nuclear power stations, I believe the dependence on oil for thermal power stations will increase. How does the Government intend to mitigate the impact of the reduction in Iranian oil imports on this situation? What is the Government's proposal for ensuring the power supply in Japan?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: It is hard to speculate about Iran's response in the future. Japan intends to continue to hold candid exchanges of views with Iran based on our traditional relationship of trust. Through these exchanges of views, Japan will properly explain its views on Iran's nuclear issue as well as our bilateral issues including oil imports. In this context, naturally since Japan is moving to cut Iranian oil imports, we will appropriately take steps in coordination with the international community while preventing the reduction from having impacts on Japan's oil market.


REPORTER: I have a question regarding North Korea's purported satellite--what is believed to be a missile. North Korea has notified the International Maritime Organization (IMO) about the trajectory. Does the Japanese Government have any plans right now to hold a ministerial-level meeting or other meetings? Also, Parliamentary Senior Vice-Minister of Defense Shu Watanabe has made remarks about deploying Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC3) missiles in Okinawa's main island and Ishigaki Island. What is the status of the Government's considerations on this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUJIMURA: I would like to say first of all that I believe all relevant countries agree that it is important to urge North Korea until the very end to refrain from actions that will erode peace and stability in the region. Meanwhile, in the case that North Korea launches the so-called earth observation satellite, the Japanese Government believes that it is also necessary to take all possible measures to protect the safety of the lives and assets of the people. From this perspective, I understand that the Ministry of Defense is now making a variety of considerations. However, as of this moment, as of today, no specific policy has been finalized and no decision has been made about holding a ministerial-level meeting or about its date. For details, I ask that you direct your questions to the Ministry of Defense.

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