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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Wednesday, October 16, 2013 (PM)

Press Conference by the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]


  • Typhoon No.26
  • The Prime Minister Abe's video message for the Diplomatic Conference for the Minamata Convention on Mercury
  • The special intelligence protection bill
  • The Global Communications Strategic Planning Team
  • The Japan-China -ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting

REPORTER: Continuing with the questions raised this morning, with regard to the damage caused by Typhoon No. 26, could you tell us what the Government currently knows about the present situation, as well as the Government's response going from now on?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SEKO: Strong wind and rain from Typhoon No.26 have left widespread damage to areas stretching from the northern to western parts of Japan. According to information that I am presently in possession of, it has been confirmed that 15 people have died, 55 people are missing, many are injured, several houses have collapsed or flooded, among other damages, including in Izu Oshima Island. The details are currently under investigation. I would like to express my condolences to the victims and offer my heartfelt sympathy to everyone who has been affected. Based on the Prime Minister's directive issued at 9 a.m. today, the Government has dispatched the Ground Self-Defense Force 1st division, mobile squad from the Metropolitan Police Department, and Emergency Fire Response Teams from the Fire and Disaster Management Agency to the affected areas. Maximum effort is being made toward searching for and rescuing missing persons. Going forward, the Government will continue to stand united in its efforts, and work in close cooperation with the related local governments in response to this disaster.


REPORTER: My question is related to today's interpellation session. Earlier, in a video message for the Diplomatic Conference for the Minamata Convention on Mercury, Prime Minister Abe declared that Japan has recovered from the damage caused by mercury. With respect to this, President Kaieda of the Democratic Party of Japan mentioned during the interpellation session today that many people felt uncomfortable about the message. He asked if the Prime Minister wished to express any kind of remorse over the matter. However, the Prime Minister did not touch on that at all in his response. The other day, the Chief Cabinet Minister Suga explained what the Prime Minister meant at his press conference noting that it was a pity that real intentions behind that message were not understood. If the Prime Minister himself is aware that his true intentions have not been communicated, I think it would have been a good idea for him to explain that in person in his response today. What are your views on this?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SEKO: The background to the Prime Minister's statement that Japan has "recovered" from the mercury problem lies in the fact that Japan has significantly reduced its mercury risks in the aftermath of the outbreak of Minamata disease, and in the initiatives that residents of Minamata themselves have taken proactively in order to become an advanced region in terms of environmental issues. I believe that the Prime Minister had used the word "recovered" based on these. In the same message, the Prime Minister also offered condolences to those who had suffered from illness as a result of mercury poisoning, and sent out heartfelt sympathies to those who continue to battle mercury-related illnesses today. In this sense, I believe that he does not consider the Minamata problem to be a problem of the past. I am not fully aware of the details leading up to his response today and would therefore like to refrain from commenting. However, the Prime Minister himself is clearly determined to continue putting efforts into resolving this issue so that the people of Minamata can lead worry-free lives.

REPORTER: With respect to the special intelligence protection bill, the Prime Minister explained in his response to Diet questions today that the right to access information and freedom of the press are important. With regard to freedom of the press, members of the New Komeito have called for press coverage actions to go unpunished as long as they have not been found to be in violation of the law or achieved through methods that were clearly inappropriate. What is the Government's stance on this?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SEKO: I believe the Government is currently still engaged in final negotiations with the New Komeito with regard to this law. Since adjustments are still being made, I will refrain from discussing the contents from the Government's perspective at this point in time. I will only say that, as the Prime Minister pointed out in his response today, the rights of the people to access information and freedom of the press, and of course, the freedom of press coverage that accompanies these rights, are stipulated in our Constitution. As such, I am certain that the Prime Minister recognizes the great importance of taking these rights into consideration.

REPORTER: Returning to the topic of Typhoon No. 26, amidst the widespread damage caused by the typhoon, do you think that there were any problems with the Government's actions in raising the alarm, or in the response measures taken?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SEKO: First, as of this point in time, we wish to commit all our efforts to searching for and rescuing missing persons. Whether or not there were any problems in the response to this typhoon at the respective levels, I believe, a matter that should be examined and verified after the search-and-rescue efforts. On the Government's part, I believe the Japan Meteorological Agency strived to provide adequate information repeatedly to Tokyo and the relevant municipalities. Regardless, we intend to investigate if there were any problems after things are settled. For now, our aim is first to inject all our efforts into search-and-rescue.

REPORTER: I believe the fourth meeting of the Global Communications Strategic Planning Team led by you, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, was convened today. This Team has met several times to date. Could you tell us a little about the objectives of the Team, and the progress status of the meetings as of this point in time?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SEKO: These are working-level meetings that involve vigorous discussions. We are currently engaged in concrete discussions about the type of content that should be released in the future and about different information dissemination methods for different groups bearing in mind their respective interests instead of simply releasing the same content in a single format to everyone. Since we have only held our fourth meeting today, we are still in the process of vigorous discussions. We aim to report about concrete actions that the Government will formally decide to take.

REPORTER: According to some reports, the convention of the Japan-China-Republic of Korea (ROK) Trilateral Summit Meeting will be postponed for this year. Is there any fact to these reports, and is the Government on the same page with regard to this?

DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SEKO: The Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting is chaired by the ROK this year. Hence, the ROK is responsible for making most of the arrangements. On our end, our understanding is that nothing has yet been fixed as of this point in time. Of course, Japan, alongside China and the ROK, are in accord with respect to working together toward the future. Under the leadership of the ROK, which is chairing the Summit this year, we will continue to work in cooperative partnership with China and the ROK.

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