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Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

October 26, 2020 (PM)

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Simultaneous interpretation services for this video are provided by a third party.

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary (Excerpt)

[Provisional Translation]

REPORTER: […] In his policy speech, Prime Minister Suga announced that Japan will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050. Could you comment on the significance of this announcement? He also mentioned that the Government will create a new forum for the national and local governments towards a decarbonized society. What specific kind of forum does the Government expect to establish?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: Firstly, in his policy speech, the Prime Minister has made it clear that Japan will devote itself to the greatest possible extent to bring about a green society, proposing a virtuous cycle of the economy and the environment as a pillar of Japan’s growth strategy, and that it will aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, or to realize a carbon-neutral, decarbonized society. Addressing climate change is no longer a constraint on economic growth, but rather, proactive climate change measures bring transformation of industrial structures as well as our economy and society, leading to dynamic economic growth. By setting a clear target year to achieve a decarbonized society and placing decarbonization as an apparent element of Japan’s growth strategy, the Government has made it clear the necessity to change the policy paradigm in this regard. With respect to consultations between the national and local governments, it is necessary for the national government to raise an ambitious target and for the entirety of Japan, namely the industries, academia, public sector, including local governments, and each and every citizen, to make all-out efforts towards the materialization of a decarbonized society. In that sense, decarbonization efforts in every area of Japan are very important and the number of local governments announcing their commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 is steadily increasing. It is also necessary for the Government to support local efforts to achieve zero carbon emissions, such as support for the introduction of renewable energies, paying attention to individual circumstances on the ground. We keep in mind that the forum for consultations between the national and local governments to be newly established aiming at addressing these points and relevant ministries, in particular the Ministry of the Environment, will coordinate on the details such as the composition of the forum.
REPORTER: […] With regard to the paragraph on carbon neutrality in his policy speech, the Prime Minister stated that Japan will establish a stable supply of energy by thoroughly conserving energy and introducing renewable energies to the greatest possible extent, as well as by advancing our nuclear energy policy with the highest priority on safety. In order to achieve carbon neutrality, does the Government intend to increase the share of nuclear energy in power source composition, along with renewable energies?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: Firstly, in achieving carbon neutrality, the efforts in the energy sector, which accounts for more than 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, of course play significant roles. The Government recognizes that, in order to realize a decarbonized society, it will be necessary to utilize all available sources to the maximum extent, including not only renewable energies, but also nuclear power that has been confirmed to be safe, along with pursuing new options such as carbon recycling and hydrogen. This month, an advisory council of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) began discussions on the revision of the Strategic Energy Plan. I expect that based on the Prime Minister’s policy speech, the Government will advance comprehensive considerations on an ideal energy mix, including nuclear power, which you mentioned, and industrial structures, with a view to achieving a decarbonized society.
REPORTER: […] In his speech, with regard to an alternative to Aegis Ashore and strengthening deterrence capabilities, the Prime Minister stated that the Government will advance discussions based on the statement issued last month (in September), and compile the polices that need to be undertaken. The statement of former Prime Minister Abe last month states that the Government will identify policies to be undertaken by the end of this year. Is there any possibility that the process of compiling such policies could be delayed to beyond the end of the year?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: As the Prime Minister stated in his speech, with regard to alternatives to Aegis Ashore and the strengthening of deterrence capabilities, the Government will advance discussions based on the statement issued by the Prime Minister on September 11, and work to compile the policies to be undertaken.
REPORTER: […] I have another question concerning greenhouses gases. I have an impression that this announcement of the goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050 marks a momentous step forward. Meanwhile, it is also the case that previous administrations have not gone this far, citing more realistic options in terms of energy supply and demand as the reason. While the announcement of this ambitious goal is something to be welcomed, the policy speech made no reference to how the challenges to achieving this goal are to be realistically overcome, nor did it set out specific measures. Could I ask for your comments on this point?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: Until now, various discussions, including on costs, have been made to date towards a decarbonized society, which also outlines challenges. The Government needs to discuss in detail how to address them as its policies going forward. Meanwhile, it intends to advance efforts to efficiently and effectively go green by mobilizing all policy measures without being constrained by conventional thinking, including promoting disruptive innovations and regulatory reform and other policy measures, such as the establishment of a forum for discussions among the national and local governments that I have just mentioned. In addition, as the Prime Minister noted in his speech, the Government aims to lead the green industry globally and realize a virtuous cycle of the economy and the environment. So, while setting out a clearly defined overarching target, we intend to achieve that by working on individual policy issues one by one towards that goal.
REPORTER: […] You just mentioned the revision of the Strategic Energy Plan and I expect that, in order to achieve the net zero emissions target by 2050, it will be necessary to also engage in discussions on the targets for power source composition by 2030. Could you tell us whether the Government intends to revise the power source composition targets for fiscal 2030 in order to bring them in line with the net-zero emissions target for 2050?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: As I already noted, an advisory committee of METI started discussions on the revision of the Strategic Energy Plan earlier this month and I expect that the Government will conduct comprehensive considerations on an ideal energy mix and industrial structures, with a view to achieving a decarbonized society, based also on the Prime Minister’s policy speech.
REPORTER: […] In his speech, the Prime Minister stated that the Government will drastically change its longstanding policies on coal-fired power generation. In this regard, the Government has already announced a policy of phasing-out coal-fired power stations that are inefficient and have high CO2 emissions. However, some pointed out that these stations are small scale and it does not significantly change unless the Government takes into consideration the termination of large-scale and highly efficient coal-fired power stations. Could you tell us what is meant by a “drastic change” and whether it will result in the formulation of any new policies besides those already set out by the Government?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: Firstly, while coal-fired power generation has the advantages of offering a cheap and stable supply of energy, the environmental burden it imposes in terms of CO2 emissions has been seen as a challenge. There are several options on the table in this regard, such as a method to reform fossil fuels into hydrogen or ammonia, which do not produce CO2 when burned—a fundamental paradigm shift from the conventional idea that CO2 is emitted when fuel is burned—, or carbon-recycling, which captures CO2 generated when burning fossil fuels and reuses it. Therefore, the Government intends to lead the world in promoting and realizing a decarbonized society, while maintaining Japan’s high technological prowess in this area
REPORTER: […] Then Prime Minister Abe did not refer to the construction of the new base at Henoko in Okinawa Prefecture in his January policy speech. Could you tell us why Prime Minister Suga included it in his speech on this occasion?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: Each Prime Minister makes their own individual choices about what to include in his policy speech and formulates the content in response to the various situations they face. As such, simply comparing policy speeches with one another does not lead to meaningful discussions. Having said that, mitigating the impact of U.S. Forces on Okinawa was also the issue of a highest priority under the Abe administration and it continues to be so under the Suga administration. In particular, the fact that Prime Minister Suga specifically mentioned steadily advancing the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma to Henoko in order to eliminate the risks associated with it as quickly as possible, demonstrates the Prime Minister’s extraordinary determination on this issue. It therefore also expresses the Government’s resolve to continue to make thorough efforts to gain the understanding of the people in Okinawa and endeavor to achieve the total return of MCAS Futenma as early as possible and, in so doing, mitigate the impact of U.S. bases.
REPORTER: […] In his speech, the Prime Minister mentioned his expectation that each party present its ideas, and the ruling and opposition parties hold constructive discussions which would lead to a national debate at the Commissions on the Constitution. Could you provide us with the Government’s views on the current situation in which discussion on constitutional revision is at a standstill, including the draft bill to amend the Act on Procedures for Amendment of the Constitution of Japan, which was submitted more than two years ago, and also how discussion should be advanced during the current Diet session?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: The amendment of the Constitution is something that is proposed by the Diet and ultimately decided by the people of Japan in a national referendum. The Government would like to refrain from making comments on this matter. I believe the Prime Minister also bore this in mind when referring to constitutional amendment in his speech. The Prime Minister mentioned his expectation that each party present its ideas, and the ruling and opposition parties hold constructive discussions which would lead to a national debate at the Commissions on the Constitution. With regard to the Act on Procedures for Amendment of the Constitution of Japan, more than two years has now passed since the Government submitted a draft bill to the Diet. However, as it has already been submitted, I believe the Diet will decide on how specifically to handle it.
REPORTER: […] In his policy speech in January, then Prime Minister Abe stated that “The Republic of Korea is naturally our most important neighbor, which shares fundamental values and strategic interests with Japan.” In today’s speech, however, Prime Minister Suga referred to the ROK simply as a highly important neighbor and stated that Japan urges the ROK to take appropriate actions. Why were such expressions used in today’s speech?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: Japan’s position on bilateral relations with the ROK has remained consistent from the Abe administration through to the Suga administration. However, with regard to specific wording on this matter in each policy speech, particularly the two speeches you have just compared, the one for a regular session of the Diet and one for an extraordinary session of the Diet, are different in many ways, including in length. Anyway, the Prime Minister considered various points in a holistic manner, including such a balance as the speech as a whole and the latest diplomatic situations, which were reflected into the expression you see.
REPORTER: I have a question about the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The U.S. State Department has announced that Azerbaijan and Armenia agreed to a humanitarian ceasefire that was scheduled to take effect on October 26. However, both countries have failed to uphold two previous ceasefire agreements and the number of publicly acknowledged fatalities alone stands at more than 1,000. Can I ask for a comment about the expanding conflict and the Government’s expectations for this latest ceasefire?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met each of the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Washington D.C. on October 23, and I understand that the two countries agreed to a humanitarian ceasefire that was scheduled to take effect at 8:00 a.m. local time on October 26. Japan welcomes the efforts of countries concerned, including the United States and Russia, to reach a ceasefire. In addition, Japan calls on all parties concerned to comply with the ceasefire agreement and work towards reaching a resolution through negotiations. The Government hopes for a peaceful resolution based on the principles of international law. The Government has repeatedly conveyed this position to both countries, through a statement by the Press Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs dated September 28, and via our embassies in both countries.
REPORTER: Some press reports are suggesting that, regarding the purchase by foreign capital of land that is crucial to national security, the Government is considering enacting legislation that would designate areas in the vicinity of important defense-related facilities as well as near national borders and on outlying islands, requiring the prior notification of the nationality of persons intending to purchase land in such areas. Could you tell us the position of the Suga administration on this issue?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: The Cabinet Secretariat is currently identifying issues related to the use and management of land that is important from Japan’s security perspective. The Government will conduct the necessary reviews with a view to possibly introducing a new system, including some legislative measures. Given that that this is a longstanding issue, Prime Minister Suga has instructed Minister Okonogi to proceed with reviews with a view to producing firm results. The Government will proceed with this matter in a thorough manner, as explained by Minister Okonogi in a press conference on October 9.
REPORTER: […] The purchase of land and other uses of foreign capital is an issue that relates not only to land that is important from a national security perspective, but also the economic slumps experienced by tourist and other areas as a result of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis. Even though there may be aspects where it is difficult to implement legislative regulation, what is the Government’s view on this point?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: My answer just now related to land that is important from a security perspective, but with regard to the broader matter that you have just raised, we are aware that there are various discussions on regulating land purchases by foreign capital, reflecting various perspectives, such as Japan’s economic growth and regional revitalization. As a first step, I believe a wide-ranging national discussion with the public is needed.
REPORTER: […] I have a question about the disposal of Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS)-treated water at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. A committee of the National Assembly of the ROK has adopted a resolution calling on the Government of Japan to withdraw its plan to discharge treated water into the ocean. The Government of China is also requesting Japan to provide advance explanations and information on this issue. As discussions on the disposal plan reach their final stages, I believe that it will also be necessary for Japan to gain the understanding of international community, including neighboring countries. Could you share with us how the Government intends to seek such understanding?
CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY KATO: With regard to the handling of ALPS-treated water, the Government provided information with the international community, including the ROK, on numerous occasions, such as briefings to diplomatic missions in Tokyo, the provision of information at international meetings and other opportunities, and the websites of ministries and agencies concerned. Discussions on the handling of treated water have also been reviewed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). With the cooperation of the IAEA and other bodies, the Government will continue to carefully and attentively provide information to the international community on this subject.

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