Press Conference by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda
Monday, June 4, 2012
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now begin the press conference by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. Prime Minister, your opening statement please.
Opening Statement by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda
PRIME MINISTER NODA: The Noda Cabinet was inaugurated in September of last year. Since then we have been grappling with our most important objectives - reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake, the fight against the nuclear power station accident, and the revitalization of the Japanese economy. At the beginning of this year, just before the start of the ordinary Diet session, I implemented my first Cabinet reshuffle. Since the start of the Diet session, everyone pooled their strength on the many missions which required action of us, including for the passage of the FY2012 budget, the establishment of the Reconstruction Agency, the passage of legislation related to the Postal Service Privatization Act - something in particular which remained a pending issue - and furthermore, the reduction of national public servant remuneration.
As we continue to work on each of these initiatives, we are quickly coming to an extremely important phase, with the end of the Diet session approaching in approximately 20 days. In light of this, I feel that I should create an environment that can advance the many issues, including the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems currently being debated in the Diet. I have reshuffled the Cabinet aiming at the above-mentioned goal from the perspective of strengthening its functions.
I of course believe that the Cabinet will continue to pool its strength to do what must be done such as initiatives to overcome deflation and administrative reform.
With that, I would like to announce the members of my second reshuffled Cabinet.
The Minister of Justice will be Mr. Makoto Taki. He will play a very important role, both working to realize a judiciary that is closer to the people and recovering trust in the prosecutors' office. He has repeatedly served as Vice Minister of Justice, and is an expert in judicial administration. I have thus asked him to serve as Minister of Justice.
The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will be Mr. Akira Gunji. The revitalization of the food, agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries is something that is not limited to the region affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake but is an issue for the entirety of Japan, and one for which work must be done immediately. Mr. Gunji has worked as the Vice Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and is currently serving as the senior director of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Committee in the House of Councillors, and I have thus asked him to serve as Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and Minister for Ocean Policy will be Mr. Yuichiro Hata. Building upon the lessons of the earthquake, we must make progress on the creation of a sustainable, disaster-resilient national land. Mr. Hata has served as the head of the Land and Transport Committee in the House of Councillors and has also been using his political experience for coordination between the ruling and opposition parties recently as the chair of the Diet Affairs Committee of the House of Councillors. I thus asked him to serve as Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and Minister for Ocean Policy.
The Minister of Defense will be Mr. Satoshi Morimoto. It bears no repeating here that he is among the foremost experts on security issues within Japan. I am confident that he will exercise his great abilities in protecting the peace and security of Japan within the uncertain security environment we are embroiled in partly because of issues with North Korea. I also expect that he will expend all possible means to provide information to the public.
The roles of Minister for Postal Reform and Minister of State for Financial Services will be held by Mr. Tadahiro Matsushita. We are now at the stage of implementing postal reform based on the Postal Service Privatization Act. We are faced with many important issues related to financial administration as well, such as actions to protect Japan from the effects of the crisis in Europe, to the double loan issue in the disaster-affected region, and our response to international accounting standards. I asked Mr. Matsushita to take up the position considering his long political experience, such as his role working for such a long time as Vice Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry after the start of Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) rule and his relentless work for the rebirth of Fukushima and the reconstruction of the disaster-affected region after the earthquake.
Other than the people I have mentioned to this point, all other Cabinet members will continue on in their respective positions.
These are all of the members of my second reshuffled Cabinet. From 5:00 p.m. there will be the investure of the Cabinet members, at which time they shall officially begin their duties. The first Cabinet Meeting is scheduled for 8:45 p.m. tonight.
For the next approximately 20 days, as we move toward the end of the current Diet session, I believe we will reach a time during which we must make a grand decision - one that shall help shape the future of Japan. Up until now, I have repeatedly said that what is important is not the political situation, but rather the big picture. I hope this thought would be felt by all politicians across party borders - actually I think that it is felt already. Building on this, we are now seeing debate on the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems in the Diet. While the leaders of the DPJ must surely acknowledge the fellow members' dedicated work of long hours in order to formulate this bill, the opposition parties as well, starting with the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDJ), are also approaching this issue head on, and we are now seeing frank debate in special committees. My recognition is that we are seeing the accumulation of constructive debate.
The Diet is a place for discourse. It is a place where democracy is put to the test through thorough deliberations that extend beyond each side's initial positions and works toward agreement. And in order to show this to the public, I want to again ask for the cooperation of the opposition parties, especially the LDP, for consultation among political parties in addition to the Diet deliberations.
As politicians, our decisions are greatly influenced by the individual opinions of each member of the public. In order to see social security made sustainable within the currently difficult fiscal situation, we must continue to carry out reform. Is it right for us to continue to say that things are fine, and to continue to put off work on the issue? For how long will we continue to pass responsibilities to future generations? We must reach a conclusion in this Diet session, in light of this current situation.
Politics aims to make decisions and implement policy following thorough deliberations. I believe that everyone wants to see debate that goes beyond the boundaries of ruling and opposition parties. Although I took up the position of Prime Minister in the midst of this very difficult situation, I consider myself to have found my calling to a certain extent. We must do what should be done for the nation. My heart is guided by nothing else beyond this resolve. I have said that I will put my political career on the line for this, and today as well - in fact, everyday - I am giving my all to this, making important decisions on a day-by-day basis.
The public possesses sound common sense. In offering this report and opening statement today, I ask again for the understanding of the public.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now move on to the Q&A session. When you are called on, we would appreciate it if you could first state your name and affiliation. Yes, please.
REPORTER: I am Mochizuki of the Yomiuri Shimbun.
It has not even been five months since the last reshuffling of the Cabinet on January 13, and now you are reshuffling the Cabinet again. You stated then that you had assembled the best and strongest talents possible. I think you cannot avoid this being perceived as the result of there being issues with your selection of personnel. What is your opinion on this?
Within the reshuffle this time, for the first time ever, you have selected someone from the private sector to fulfill the role of Minister of Defense. I think that there are many perspectives on this. Could you provide a comment on this matter?
In addition, I believe that this time you have swapped out the two ministers that were being requested to resign early following the approval of no-confidence motions against them, and I think you will be seeking discussion toward modification from the LDP on legislation related to the raising of consumption tax. LDP President Tanigaki has questioned whether or not there isn't a need to seek the true opinion of the people through an election as a means to set things right. Are you thinking of calling for a direct meeting with him as a party leader to seek his direct cooperation?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: Shall we split that into two statements I suppose?
First was the issue of why this reshuffle is taking place at this time. As I said in my opening remarks, the basic significance of this is that it will strengthen the functions of the Cabinet in order to advance work on a number of pending issues, including the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems.
You also raised the issues of timing and personnel appointment. I believe that I have selected the appropriate personnel at the appropriate times. Including the selection of the Minister of Defense from the private sector, I have made my selections from the perspective of putting the right person in the right post.
As for the latter question, I believe that you asked me if I would meet with President Tanigaki. Currently - I don't know if you would call it a modification - but as we work with the LDP for consultations between our two parties, watching the progress of this, if it is needed, at some stage I think that I definitely must meet with its leader.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next, please. Yes, Mr. Sato.
REPORTER: I am Sato of Nippon Television. Thank you.
The end of the Diet session on June 21 is approaching, and so I would like to ask for concrete information about how you will work on the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems, including the increase in consumption tax, during the final stages of the Diet session. Is my understanding correct that you instructed at the meeting between the Government and the three senior officials of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) earlier that this legislation should be voted on within the current Diet session? Also, in the middle of this month will be the G20 meeting. In consideration of your schedule, substantially, I think you will need to have a vote on this before June 15, and if you instructed that vote, I would like to know the reason for that. More specifically please tell us the reason why you want to vote on this in the current Diet session.
PRIME MINISTER NODA: We will realize the legislation on the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems during this Diet session. That is fundamental. I believe we must do this. I want to exert every effort for this. And since we have partners in this matter, I want us to be on the same page during the debate, and cooperate with a feeling of mutual trust. In order to do this, naturally, we need to fix our sights on the set date of June 21, and see a vote by that time in the House of Representatives. I believe that it is the duty of the Government and ruling parties to exert the maximum possible effort to this end. I communicated this again today to the members of the meeting between the Government and the three senior officials of DPJ.
For this purpose we will again thoroughly request discussion toward modification, asking that this issue be advanced substantially day by day. I stated that what is important is the big picture, and that because of this I want to receive accurate information every day and I will make a necessary major decision, although I will delegate day to day business of negotiation to the people directly in charge.
REPORTER: Is it correct to understand that you instructed that there should be a vote by June 15?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: The end point is June 21. We will look toward this date and create an atmosphere in the House of Representatives in which a vote can take place. There has been reference to June 15, but it would be troubling if debate was not coordinated and the issue was rejected when it went to vote. I believe that we will watch the state of progress in the deliberation before deciding the date for the vote. Since June 21 is the basic endpoint, we will exert every possible effort toward creating an environment in which a vote can take place up until then.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next, Mr. Hirokawa, please.
REPORTER: I am Hirokawa of Bloomberg. Amid the continuing rise of the yen, the Topix index, today, again, fell to an all time low since the end of the bubble period, and Japan is facing a serious situation. The Japanese Government has so far been indicating that it will not stay away from a unilateral yen-selling, dollar-buying intervention in response to sharp fluctuations in the exchange rate. I believe this is what the Government has actually been doing in practice. Is my understanding correct that there is no change to the stance of the Government? Also, since the end of last week, there have been observations in the market that Japan has gone ahead with the yen-selling, dollar-buying stealth intervention. Can you confirm the facts?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: I believe it is inappropriate for me to speak about certain forecast for exchange rate trends or to comment on the level of the market. However, I recognize that the recent yen appreciation moves are one-sided movements that do not represent the real state of the Japanese economy.
On that basis, there was a question now about intervention. As the Minister of Finance has the exclusive right over this matter, it is also inappropriate for me to comment on this from above. In principle, I believe the Minister of Finance is carefully monitoring the current market with a sense of tension. I believe the Minister is watching the current market, naturally based on the existing policy of responding to excessive fluctuations and disturbing movements.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next, Mr. Takatsuka, please.
REPORTER: I am Takatsuka of Mainichi Shimbun. Prime Minister, a moment ago, you said that you will make every effort to create an environment which will allow for the legislation to be voted on. However, within the LDP, whose cooperation you are seeking in order to pass the consumption tax increase legislation, I believe there are members who are strongly demanding that you call a snap election at an early date. Meanwhile, consumption tax increase was not part of the DPJ's 2009 Manifesto. If your decision to increase the consumption tax was made also from the standpoint of promoting sound democratic politics, it is pointed out that the snap election should be conducted at an early date. What are your thoughts on the snap election?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: It is as I have been saying from before. The comprehensive reform is of course included. While this is a major element, after we have gotten through with what needs to be done, then we will elicit the public opinion. That is my stance.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next, Mr. Jimbo, please.
REPORTER: Thank you. I am Jimbo of Video News. Prime Minister, I would like to ask a question about the issue of restarting operations at the nuclear power station (Oi Nuclear Power Station). At the four ministers' meeting on May 30, you stated that ultimately you, the Prime Minister, will be responsible for making a judgment regarding the resumption. Naturally, I assume that this responsibility includes responsibility for the occurrence of nuclear accidents. When you used the word "responsibility," what was in your mind in terms of the Prime Minister's responsibility concerning nuclear power stations, in particular, the responsibility for the occurrence of accidents?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: With regard to the resumption, I would like to once again state three points.
The first is that we have learned many things from the accident. We must never let a similar accident happen ever again. Based on such a resolve, the Government, as well as the nuclear operator, will make every effort to have in place safety measures and emergency responses.
Secondly, in light of the accident, the so-called safety measures and standard have been developed based on a range of recommendations presented by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as well as on the opinions of a variety of experts, including the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC), which, as I have said repeatedly, have been collected through open forums held on more than 40 occasions in addition to discussions. As a result, measures have already been taken to prevent damage to the reactor core even if an earthquake and tsunami similar to last year's were to occur, and safety will be thoroughly maintained.
The other point is about necessity. It is necessary and important to restart the nuclear power station not only to secure electricity for the summer, but also to achieve energy security, to keep electricity prices under control in order to prevent the burden of the people from increasing as a result of electricity price increases, and to promote the further development of the Japanese economic society as a whole. This is my understanding.
Having said this, a moment ago, there was a question about me. Today, too, Minister of State for the Nuclear Power Policy and Administration Goshi Hosono and Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tsuyoshi Saito will visit Fukui and provide further explanations. If we are able to obtain the understanding of the local municipalities, ultimately the four ministers will make a judgment. However, I am ultimately responsible for the judgment. Based on the judgment which is made, I would like to fulfill my responsibility by carefully ensuring safety and making every effort to prevent the occurrence of the concerns you raised a moment ago.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: This will be the last question. Mr. Kano, please.
REPORTER: I am Kano of Sankei Shimbun. I would like to ask about future ruling-opposition party consultations and about the cooperation of the opposition party. With regard to the ruling-opposition party consultations, will the consultations be held only with the LDP, or will you be seeking and aiming to obtain the consent of all opposition parties? That is my first question.
My other question is about future ruling-opposition party cooperation. On matters related to the reconstruction from the earthquake and tsunami and so on, I believe there was quite a bit of cooperation between the DPJ, LDP, and New Komeito. In the future, do you have any intention of forming a grand coalition or to move the cooperation in that direction?
PRIME MINISTER NODA: First, with regard to the former question about the framework of the ruling-opposition party consultations, naturally, in efforts to pass the legislation, it is most important to hold thorough consultations with the members of the largest opposition party, the LDP, and obtain a final draft. On the other hand, I personally would like to reach a conclusion on this critical theme with the consent of as many members as possible. Therefore, I believe it is natural that we approach members for the consultations where there is understanding. This is what DPJ Secretary General Azuma Koshiishi has in mind.
You used the term, "all opposition parties." I believe the substance of the consultations comes down to what I mentioned a moment ago. If there are other parties which may give their consent or there are parties which have significant interest in the consultations, then I believe it is disrespectful to eliminate them - after all, we are saying that these are open-door ruling-opposition party consultations. There seems to be a bit of confusion on the substance and format. If all opposition parties gather and hold consultations together, no consensus will be reached. I believe such an approach is not in the least being considered, and so I would like to make this clear.
Now, the latter part of your question was on coalition, was it? Whether or not an agreement can be reached on a theme which concerns a critical national interest, a theme which concerns the future generation, and a major theme, respectively, by forming a policy "scrum" - I believe this is now being questioned due to the "twisted" Diet (with the DPJ having a majority in the House of Representatives and opposition parties having a majority in the House of Councillors). On each theme, a conclusion will be reached by holding a series of discussions. I do not have any political vision in mind.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: With that, I will bring the press conference to a close. Thank you for your cooperation.
PRIME MINISTER NODA: Thank you.