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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 (AM)

Press Conference by the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


  • The situation in Syria
  • The incident involving two Japanese nationals in Turkey
  • The Senkaku Islands
  • The special intelligence protection bill
  • The contaminated water issue
  • Two and a half years since the Great East Japan Earthquake
  • Economic measures
  • The right to collective self-defense

REPORTER: U.S. President Obama delivered a nationally televised speech at 10 am. In relation to the Russian proposal to place Syria's chemical weapons under international control, Obama recognized the merit of the proposal and said that a peaceful solution is preferable, and that the Russian proposal has the potential of removing the threat of chemical weapons without resorting to military action. Yesterday Prime Minister Abe held a summit meeting with Russia, but what are your thoughts on the fact that President Obama supports the proposal?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: We believe that it is imperative for all nations concerned that we make every effort to ensure that chemical weapons are never used again. As such, during the summit meeting with President Putin that you just mentioned, we recognized the proposal's merit and support its implementation. From that perspective, we view the comments made by President Obama as recognition of such international efforts. We will keep a close eye on the development of the situation and carefully monitor and examine the sincerity of Syria's response. At the same time, we will continue to cooperate closely with the concerned nations in order to ensure that appropriate measures are taken. Ultimately, Japan is committed to contributing to the international community's effort to stop the violence, initiate political dialogue and improve the grave humanitarian situation in Syria.

REPORTER: During the televised speech, President Obama sought public understanding for his strong intention to maintain military action as a possible response. I believe that it is partially dependent on Congress' decision, but if the U.S. goes ahead with a military strike, could you once again share with us how Japan will respond?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: Currently, numerous efforts are being undertaken so I must refrain from prematurely answering questions regarding future events or hypothetical situations.

REPORTER: I believe that in relation to the incident where a university student was killed in Turkey, the Government has obtained information concerning the suspect. Could you please share with us all the information you have obtained?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: Two Japanese women traveling in Turkey were victims of this incident. One woman was killed while the other sustained serious injuries. An official of the Embassy of Japan in Turkey is staying with the injured woman and I have been informed that she is fully conscious and is slowly recovering.

REPORTER: Could you share with us any information concerning the suspect?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: I understand from the announcement made by the local governor that a suspect has been taken into custody and will be arrested as soon as charges can be laid.

REPORTER: Today marks the one-year anniversary of the nationalization of the Senkaku Islands, which are also known as the Diaoyu Islands in China. Could you share with us how the Japanese Government views Japan-China relations of the past year? Could you also tell us how the Government intends to address this issue?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: Needless to say, Japan-China relations are one of the most important bilateral relationships of Japan. Furthermore, in our positions as the world's second and third largest economic powers, I believe that both countries shoulder responsibility not only for regional peace, stability and development but also that of the entire international community. I understand that cooperating in a broad range of areas, including national security and the economy, and pursuing stable development of Japan-China relations will be beneficial for not only both countries and our citizens but also for the broader region and the international community. However, as you pointed out, Japan-China relations presently face challenges, but our stance is that we will not allow the individual issues we have to influence the greater relationship between the two countries. To this end, we will each endeavor to develop our relationship in keeping with the basic principle of pursuing a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests. We believe that it is imperative that we engage in dialogue at various levels, including summit meetings and meetings of foreign ministers. We always keep our door open for dialogue and moving forward we will maintain this stance.

REPORTER: I have another question on a related topic. What are the current Government's thoughts on the decision to nationalize the Senkaku Islands, which was carried out under the leadership of the Democratic Party of Japan?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: Before discussing if the decision was right or wrong, the Senkaku Islands are an inherent territory of Japan, in light of historical facts and based upon international law, and in fact the Senkaku Islands are under the valid control of Japan. The Government has always maintained that there is no territorial issue to be resolved in relation to the Senkaku Islands.

REPORTER: Although you say that, Chinese vessels violate Japanese territorial waters almost daily. What are the Government's views on the current situation? I believe that action such as this is an obstacle to improving the currently poor relations of the two countries and holds dialogue back.
Could you share with us the Government's thoughts on this?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: The repeated violations of Japanese territorial waters by Chinese vessels are extremely regrettable. We recently lodged a strong protest against such action but we will maintain a firm yet calm attitude with strong determination to fiercely protect the territorial land, waters and airspace of Japan as we address the current situation where China is resorting to force in its attempt to overturn the status quo. We have, however, no intention of escalating the situation ourselves. We will engage in tenacious dialogue with China to release tension from the situation.

REPORTER: I believe that the Government is currently seeking public opinion on the special intelligence protection bill, which is scheduled to be submitted to the extraordinary Diet session. Some people believe that the two-week period for gathering public opinion is too short. Could you share with us the Government's thoughts on this?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: Our solicitation of public opinion on the special intelligence protection bill that you mentioned does not fall under the Administrative Procedure Act and there is no specific requirement for its duration. I also understand that in the past there have been instances of solicitations of public opinion on bills for which the period was only two weeks. Regardless of the duration, we will strive to listen to as much public opinion as possible during this period.

REPORTER: I understand that the Government recently announced its intention to be at the fore of addressing the contaminated water issue. Could you once again share with us the specific measures the Government has in mind in relation to Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairperson Tanaka's claims that it is necessary to release the contaminated water into the ocean after dilution to a level below acceptable limits?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: The Committee on Countermeasures for Contaminated Water Treatment is currently discussing future actions, including the possibility of releasing water that passes through an underground bypass or sub drain with a radiation level below the acceptable limit into the ocean. As we implement these measures, we will not only leverage the insight of specialists but we will also ask the Nuclear Regulation Authority to cooperate in order to ensure that we have the understanding of the local residents in Fukushima.

REPORTER: As of today, it has been two and a half years since the Great East Japan Earthquake. We still face a mountain of issues with many people still yet to return home, not to mention the issue of contaminated water. Could you share with us how the Government intends to work through the issues with these people?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: As you pointed out, it has indeed been two and a half years since the earthquake. The reconstruction following the Great East Japan Earthquake is extremely challenging, even compared to, for instance, the reconstruction that followed the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, due to the earthquake's strength, the size of the affected area and the disaster's complexity. Therefore, the Government developed plans and a schedule for removing debris and redeveloping infrastructure and housing and is managing its progress by regularly monitoring the recovery and revising the plan as necessary. As for the current state of reconstruction, 79% of the disaster waste and debris have been disposed, with completion forecast to occur this year in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures. Furthermore, the reconstruction of infrastructure has been advancing almost as planned following the schedules created by each municipality. Furthermore, as for the redevelopment of housing, which is the most pressing need of the residents of the affected areas, the legal procedures for the group transfer for disaster prevention in the planned areas has been completed and more than one third of the locations have commenced land development. I understand that more than half of the land required for the construction of public housing for disaster victims has been secured. However, on the other hand, with regard to the redevelopment of Fukushima Prefecture, while the initiatives to enable the return of residents are underway, with the revision of the evacuation zones having been completed, we are in a situation where it is difficult to make an accurate forecast due to health concerns and anxieties caused by radiation. In light of this, budget requests for FY2014 have been made in order to address the issues we are facing at this stage of recovery, which include the steady redevelopment of housing as per the schedule, industrial reconstruction by leveraging local resources, redevelopment to enable the return and settlement of residents after the accident, and the development of communities for long-term evacuees. Moving forward, we will continue to listen to the affected communities and strive to accelerate reconstruction while assessing the effectiveness of each measure we take. Furthermore, we will go beyond mere reconstruction and aim to rebuild Tohoku as a region of new creativity and potential. The Government will use all the resources at its disposal to achieve full recovery from the earthquake.

REPORTER: Prime Minister Abe stated during the International Olympic Committee Session that the issue of the contaminated water in Fukushima is absolutely under control and that the water is completely blocked within the 0.3 km2 area of the plant. On what grounds did the Prime Minister make these claims? Could you also tell us how large is the area in which the Japanese Government conducts tests of seawater near the power plant?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: The Prime Minister said that the influence of the contaminated water is completely blocked. As you know, the Government is monitoring the level of radioactive material in the seas around Japan and in waters further afield. The results of this monitoring shows that the influence of the contaminated water is contained in the bay within the 0.3 km2 area of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Furthermore, the readings in the bay measure below the limits. Additionally, as a result of the monitoring of the seas around Japan, we have discovered the level of cesium in the waters of the Pacific Ocean off the coast from Miyagi down to Chiba Prefectures, including Fukushima, is very low and presents no problem and is 1/500th of the WHO's drinking water maximum allowable level (10 Bq/liter) at the highest reading. I understand that given this situation, these are the grounds on which the Prime Minister said that the influence of the contaminated water is completely blocked.

REPORTER: I have a question concerning the economic measures, or economic package, on which Prime Minister Abe instructed his Ministers during yesterday's ministerial discussions. Could you tell us how large it will be and what period the package is likely to cover?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: The Prime Minister only yesterday requested that the package be developed so the details, including its size, have yet to be decided. As for the effective period of the package, the Prime Minister did ask for it to be finalized before the end of the month, but I gather that you were asking about the length of period for which the package will have effect. As for that, I understand that the package will be co-implemented with the "three arrows" of economic policy in order to achieve economic growth and each measure will have an individual period of effect. Therefore, I believe that the effective period of the package will be determined as we look at each of the measures.

REPORTER: Chief Representative of New Komeito Yamaguchi presented a speech in Washington during which he said that while the discussions of the Government advisory meeting on the right to collective self-defense are underway, it is imperative that the understanding of neighboring nations is sought and that he expects it to take some time. How do you view these comments?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: With an understanding that in the midst of an ever intensifying national security environment, it is necessary to redevelop a national security legal infrastructure that enables Japan to respond appropriately, the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security is currently discussing the issue, including the right to collective self-defense, to establish a clear picture in relation to the Constitution. The Government is now awaiting the outcome of discussions, or rather will commence deliberations while we learn from the Advisory Panel's discussions, and I believe that what you just mentioned is indeed something that we will deliberate on while we take into account the discussions of the Advisory Panel. However, we have always provided explanations to our neighboring countries for any action we have or intend to take. Therefore, as a matter of custom, we will maintain this stance as we address this issue.

REPORTER: Do you believe that it is necessary to gain the understanding of neighboring countries in relation to the issue of self-defense or so called Constitutional interpretation?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: Gaining understanding is indeed what the discussion will be about but I believe that, in principle, we will provide explanations for the policies Japan develops and seek understanding of those policies.

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