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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

January 26, 2016 (PM)

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]



REPORTER: Switching topic, Kansai Electric Power communicated to the Nuclear Regulation Authority that it plans to restart operation of the Takahama No. 3 Nuclear Reactor located in Fukui Prefecture following the weekend, from as soon as January 29. This will be the second location to restart reactor operations under the new regulatory standards, following the Sendai Nuclear Plant in Kagoshima. What is your impression of the plan to resume operations and, in the same vein, what are your thoughts on the apparent intent of the power company to lower electricity rates along with the resumption of reactor operations ahead of full liberalization of retail electricity sales from April?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Firstly, the Government’s overall policy puts priority on safety over all other considerations regarding nuclear plants. It is the top priority. At the same time, Government policy accepts resumption of operations if the reactor has received approval by the Nuclear Regulation Authority of being in compliance with the new standards. Regarding the Takahama No. 3 Nuclear Reactor, we have received a notification from Kansai Electric Power that it plans to operate the nuclear reactor, as preparations are finalized, at some point on or after January 29. The Takahama No. 3 Nuclear Reactor is currently still under inspection. The Government obviously expects Kansai Electric Power to manage the situation with a top priority on safety and hopes that the Nuclear Regulation Authority will conduct a rigorous inspection. On the topic of a rate reduction by Kansai Electric Power, my understanding is that the company is currently conducting a review of the specific scale and timing of such revisions. Nevertheless, the Government would welcome any action that shares the benefits of lower fuel costs from resuming nuclear reactor operations with consumers in the form of a reduction of electricity rates. Furthermore, the Government hopes that any savings for the general public and companies from lowered electricity rates will help to stimulate economic activity along with market liberalization, in light of the planned start of full liberalization of retail sales from April.

REPORTER: United States Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to visit China tomorrow, and it is thought that he will discuss the response to North Korea’s nuclear test. While it will soon be three weeks since North Korea’s nuclear test took place, there still appears to be a divide between the stances of Japan, the United States, and the Republic of Korea (ROK), and that of China. Could you please explain again the nature of the Government’s commitment to United Nations sanctions, and could you also provide an update on the review of independent sanctions?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Let me start by addressing the potential Security Council resolution. While it is not possible to predict the timing for adoption of a Security Council resolution, my understanding is that related countries are currently vigorously engaged in negotiations through bilateral discussions and other formats. Japan intends to continue its active participation in the Security Council’s process, while working closely with the United States, the ROK, and other related countries, with the aim of achieving timely passage. Regarding Japan’s independent measures, the Government is conducting a review, which is also taking into account North Korea’s reaction and trends in the international community, and plans to take a resolute and firm stance toward North Korea.

REPORTER: On a different topic, I would like to ask about the agreement on comfort women between Japan and the ROK. Two former comfort women visiting Japan held a press conference this morning and commented that they intend to continue making requests to the Japanese Government for a direct apology from Prime Minister Abe and compensation. Please explain the Government’s view of this request.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: I am aware that the former comfort women are currently visiting Japan. I am also well aware that a variety of opinions exist regarding the comfort women problem and the recent agreement between the Japanese and ROK Governments, particularly in the ROK. However, both Governments confirmed that the comfort women issue is finally and irreversibly resolved with this agreement. The leaders of Japan and the ROK also affirmed the agreement in a summit telephone call. I think it is important for both Governments to take responsibility in ensuring proper implementation of the agreement in accordance with its content.

REPORTER: Related to this, one month will soon have passed since the agreement between the Foreign Ministers of Japan and the ROK on January 28. Would you please review the state of relations between Japan and the ROK since the agreement and planned initiatives for implementation of the agreement content?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: Both Governments confirmed that the comfort women issue is finally and irreversibly resolved with this agreement. They also acknowledge that it is important to take responsibility in ensuring the proper implementation of the agreement, as affirmed by the leaders of the two countries. Japan and the ROK are currently interacting with each other on various levels regarding issues between the two countries, including implementation of the agreement, and the Government intends to continue working closely with the ROK side.


REPORTER: Moving to a different topic, I would like to ask about the Russian economy. The Russian Government announced yesterday that the country’s GDP shrunk 3.7% from the previous year in 2015. This is the largest setback since the financial crisis in 2009 and reflects a direct impact from cheaper crude oil prices. What are your thoughts on the potential impact on the Japanese economy?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Russian Government announced a 3.7% decline as the preliminary value for the GDP growth rate in 2015. The Japanese Government intends to continue to carefully monitor economic trends in Russia and other major countries, while sufficiently factoring in how these trends might affect the global economy, including Japan.

REPORTER: Let me ask something related. I think it was agreed in a phone conference between the leaders of Japan and Russia held on January 22 that Prime Minister Abe will make an unofficial visit to Russia prior to Russian President Vladimir Putin coming to Japan. While this is still a fairly new development, could you give an update on the status of coordination regarding the timing and meeting location?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY SUGA: The Government plans to move forward with coordination for an unofficial visit by Prime Minister Abe to Russia at a suitable time prior to President Putin coming to Japan, but it has not made any specific decisions beyond this level thus far.

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