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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Monday, March 11, 2013 (AM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga

  • The Second Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake

Today, March 11, marks the second anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake. I would like to take this opportunity to offer my heartfelt prayers for the repose of those who lost their lives. I would also like to express my sincere sympathies to those who have lost loved ones as well as those who continue to suffer. The Government will employ all means possible to accelerate reconstruction from the earthquake. This afternoon from 2:30 pm onwards, the Ceremony to Commemorate the Second Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake will be hosted by the Government at the National Theatre of Japan in the presence of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress and with the attendance of industry representatives.


  • The progress of post-earthquake reconstruction
  • Futenma Air Station
  • Consideration on constitutional amendments

REPORTER: As we reach the second anniversary, could you share with us the current situation and progress of reconstruction efforts?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Upon appointment of ministers, the Prime Minister provided three Prime Ministerial instructions for all ministers. This included instructions to work toward post-earthquake reconstruction. The Prime Minister instructed all ministers to share a common awareness that they are all ministers for reconstruction and exert every effort to carry out post-earthquake reconstruction. In light of this we have created a duel headquarter system and fostered an environment where decisions can be made locally so that efforts such as reconstruction and decontamination can be streamlined to thoroughly ensure that the focus remains on the affected areas. The Government has also decided that, as a new initiative, "roadmaps on residential construction" for each fiscal year will be developed in cooperation with local municipalities. Furthermore, the Government will accelerate site acquisition within the affected areas. To this end, the Government will enhance its communication capacity, build additional concrete plants, and employ additional national public servants to make up for the shortfall of materials and personnel. Furthermore, we are currently building a system that facilitates the deployment of former local civil servants. The Government has also implemented measures to increase the flexibility of reconstruction grant usage. Ultimately, the Government will take all possible measures and address the situation with all resources at its disposal to ensure expedient reconstruction. That is all I have to say.

REPORTER: I believe that before the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) took office, or regained power, one of the things that the members of the LDP, including yourself, criticized most frequently, were the delays of the reconstruction effort. Now that you are back in office and you have experienced first-hand the debris that still remains uncleared and seen for yourself the slow progression of radiation decontamination, what do you personally believe were the greatest problems that hindered progression of the reconstruction effort over the past two years?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that one of the greatest barriers were the vertically-segmented administrative structures within the Government. I myself have met a number of mayors of local municipalities and I have learned that decision making is not conducted locally. Therefore, I find it very important to have a system where each local municipality makes decisions while the Reconstruction Agency facilitates this process. As you may know, the former Vice-Minister of the Reconstruction Agency has been appointed to the position of Special Advisor to the Cabinet. The Government was most attentive to eliminating the vertical structures within the Government and sought to create an environment where decisions can be made locally. As for the lack of human resources, the liaison meeting of administrative vice-ministers is currently addressing local councils' needs for additional staff and developing an environment that encourages other local municipalities to provide assistance. I believe that what was most lacking was a system where decision-making could take place locally.

REPORTER: I would like to ask a question on a related topic. You just mentioned the importance of a system where local decision-making is possible, but those people living in the affected areas have voiced their dissatisfaction saying that the system is not effective, or that decision-making is still too slow. At this point, now that the LDP is back in office, are you satisfied with the current situation or do you believe that more change is required?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe that there are still a number of things that should be changed. In particular, I believe that efforts to allow more flexibility for reconstruction grant usage need to be made so as to match the needs of people living in the affected areas and the Government is determined to make every effort to achieve this goal.

REPORTER: With regard to the nuclear power station, there are some press reports that suggest that the Government has decided on a policy for the areas to which evacuation orders have been issued in Fukushima, under which, by next spring, if the annual cumulative dosage of radiation is below 20 mSv, residents will be permitted to return to the areas in which evacuation orders are ready to be lifted. What are the facts behind these reports?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: In the meeting of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters on March 7, I understand that a policy was discussed for the realization of detailed radiation reduction measures to be compiled by the end of this year. This is an issue on which the ministries and agencies concerned will continue to cooperate and engage in thorough discussions.

REPORTER: With regard to the issue of Futenma Air Station, in the recent meeting of the Diet Budget Affairs Committee Prime Minister Abe expressed the view that it would be difficult to relocate the air station within the prefecture. Currently the timing of the application for land reclamation at Henoko is the focus of attention. Could you tell us the status of progress on this application and an outlook for when it may be submitted?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: As the Minister of Defense responded in the Diet Budget Affairs Committee, negotiations are currently ongoing with the fisheries industry in Okinawa Prefecture. There is no change to our policy to advance measures one by one in accordance with the Japan-U.S. agreement. One of the conditions for going forward, however, is that we would like to seek the understanding of the people of Okinawa to the extent that it is possible. The prefecture has stated its strong request also for the return of the land south of Kadena and we are currently working hard to progress this and other issues. No decision has been made with regard to the timing of the submission of the application.

REPORTER: On a related note, there are press reports on the weekend that draft proposal for the relocation to Henoko will be treated as a temporary measure. What is the current status of considerations within the Government on this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There is no truth to the reports.

REPORTER: With regard to the issue of disaster-related debris, 46 percent of all debris in the three prefectures affected has now been disposed of. What is your appraisal of the current status and what is the outlook for further disposal operations?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The issue of disaster-related debris is for me one of the symbols of reconstruction from the disaster and I take a direct interest in matters relating to debris disposal, issuing instructions for removal and disposal. The target for complete disposal of all debris is March next year and I believe that plans for where debris will be used in landfills have pretty much been completed. There are various other issues to consider, such as the timing of such landfill projects, but I understand that an outlook for what kind of debris is to be used and where has been formulated and the Government will continue to work hard to meet the expectations regarding disposal of debris.

REPORTER: I believe this was a topic that was also mentioned in today's meeting of the Diet Budget Affairs Committee, but on March 9, Prime Minister Abe mentioned the amendment of Article 96 of the Constitution while on television and then went on to discuss the right to collective self-defense. I believe that constitutional amendments are being discussed by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), but has the Government also decided on a course to seek amendment of the Constitution? Also, could you tell us your view of the comments made by the Prime Minister and why they were made at this time?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I left the Diet Budget Affairs committee part way through discussions to come to the press conference. It is the case that the Prime Minister has previously stated the Government's stance of making every effort to realize the amendment of Article 96 of the Constitution. I believe that this is an issue that will require a good deal of discussion and therefore what the Government is currently considering is just the amendment of that article.

REPORTER: On a related note, with regard to amendment of Article 96 before other amendments to the Constitution, it is probably the case that the Government would gain the understanding of a number of parties on this issue. However, with regard to the LDP's coalition with the New Komeito, there are some who believe that amendment of Article 96 would be difficult if it were to become the forerunner to amendment of Article 9. There are some members of the New Komeito who have indicated their opposition to the statements made by the Prime Minister. What are your thoughts on this matter?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I believe it is merely the case that the Prime Minister's true intentions were not conveyed properly, given the fact that his statements are based on press reports. The Prime Minister has already stated that each political party understands the importance of amending Article 96 and therefore the Government will first of all concentrate efforts on achieving amendment of this article. Absolutely no such decision has been made that after achieving amendment of Article 96, moves will immediately be launched to amend Article 9 or others. The process will be a gradual one from now. However, it should be noted that the LDP has raised the issue of constitutional amendment as a policy of the party and it is likely that Prime Minister Abe was asked about this policy in his position as president of the LDP and therefore offered his opinions on it. The question of what happens following amendment of Article 96 is one that will require due discussion and therefore the Government is first committed to working to achieve amendment of Article 96.

REPORTER: So there is no change to the Government's intention of advancing this issue in line with the proper procedures?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: There is absolutely no change whatsoever to our stance. The work of achieving amendment of Article 96 will be a considerable task in itself. We will provide explanations about the proposed amendment in order to gain the understanding of many of the people of Japan.

REPORTER: On a related note, I believe that you will be meeting tomorrow with Secretary General Matsui of the Japan Restoration Party, which is very positive about constitutional amendment. What discussions will you be having with Secretary General Matsui?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I will be meeting with Mr. Matsui in his position as governor of Osaka Prefecture, and discussing the special zone initiative that is being implemented by the prefectural government.

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