Press Conference by the Deputy Press Secretary, 14 April 2011

  1. Present situation after the Great East Japan Earthquake
  2. Japan-China summit telephone talks
  3. VIP visits
  4. Question concerning the visit to Japan by the Prime Minister of Australia
  5. Questions concerning US-Japan cooperation
  6. Question concerning the visit to Japan by the Minister of External Relations of Brazil
  7. Question concerning Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station

  1. Present situation after the Great East Japan Earthquake
  2. Deputy Press Secretary Hidenobu Sobashima: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

    Mr. Sobashima: First, on the situation after the Great East Japan Earthquake. We have distributed the message from Prime Minister Naoto Kan, entitled "Kizuna - The Bonds of Friendship". You may have already noticed, in some newspapers, in fact in the form of an advertisement in many newspapers, Prime Minister Kan's message was carried. And this message we have distributed is uploaded on the website of the Prime Minister's Office, linked to our Ministry's website, and also we are having this message available throughout our Embassies abroad. Last Monday was one month from the Great East Japan Earthquake which occurred on 11 March, and on the occasion of one month after the earthquake the Prime Minister issued his message to the world, thanking all the countries, territories, and international organizations, indeed all the people around the world, to thank them for the sympathy, condolences, and assistance offered. He thanked on behalf of the people of Japan, and extended heartfelt appreciation to the world. He said that Japan will recover, and that Japan will certainly repay through its contribution to the international community. And to that end, he said that he will work to the best of his ability to realize reconstruction of Japan.

    Last Tuesday, the Prime Minister had a press conference – in fact his press conference was scheduled on last Monday, however because of the earthquake occurring on that day he decided to postpone his press conference to the next day. And on 12 April he once again extended his appreciation to the people of the world for their sympathy and assistance. He explained his vision for reconstruction of Japan. He said three things as to the picture he envisioned as a result of the reconstruction that the Government is going to undertake. The first is to build regional society resistant against natural disasters. The second is to build a society and system in harmony with the global environment. And thirdly, to build a society friendly to people, especially vulnerable people.

    In order to achieve this, as a sort of a procedure, he said that he will respect the views of residents of the affected areas. And secondly he said that he will collect wisdom from everybody, not only from politicians and officials, but also from academia, private companies, NGOs, and indeed all Japanese people. And thirdly he said that he will consider a future-oriented reconstruction, and try to realize the dreams of the future already in the reconstruction of the affected areas.

    He concluded his remarks by saying that he will make every possible effort to overcome the challenges after the Great East Japan Earthquake, including the problems of the nuclear power station, and reconstruct Japan into a better society.

    Now I would like to explain about the temporary assessment of the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale that was announced last Tuesday, 12 April. This rating of the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale is based on the guidelines of the IAEA, and the Government has decided to make the temporary assessment level of the INES on Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station to Level 7, considering information obtained after 18 March, when we assessed the level temporarily as Level 5. This temporary assessment as Level 7 was made as a result of calculation made by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) and also the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC). The estimation by NISA is 370,000 terabecquerels, and to put it very simply, if the estimation by NISA is 37, that by the NSC is 63, compared to the discharge level from the Chernobyl accident that was 520. There are differences in the figures estimated by NISA and those estimated by the NSC, which resulted in the totals of 37 and 63. But roughly speaking, the Japanese radiation is only one tenth of the figure of the Chernobyl accident. Certainly the Government will continue monitoring and providing information to the Japanese people as well as to the international community. We understand that after the decision of the government to change the temporary level of assessment, in Vienna, on the same day, on 12 April, Mr. Dennis Flory, Deputy Director General of the IAEA held a briefing for journalists and explained that although the case of Japan, as a result of the accidents of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, is on the same level as the accident of the Chernobyl nuclear power station, he said there is a big difference between the two cases. He also appreciated the measures taken by the Japanese side. That is our understanding.

    Another point that I would like to make, is the following. In my earlier press conference I explained that we are concerned by excessive measures taken by foreign countries, such as import restrictions and other measures on Japanese food, and others. We feel that these measures taken are excessive. I would like to explain an episode. Friday last week, on 8 April, the Japanese Government had meetings with the visiting Foreign Secretary from India, Ms. Nirupama Rao. She said to our Minister that the recommendation for restrictions of importation of food from Japan made in India is still at a recommendation stage, and that it is the intention of the Indian Government, that before making a decision, the Indian side will consult the Japanese side. We appreciate this.

  3. Japan-China summit telephone talks
  4. Mr. Sobashima: Next, we have distributed the paper entitled "Japan-China Summit Telephone Talks." Last Tuesday Prime Minister Naoto Kan held telephone talks with Mr. Wen Jiabao, Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China.

    Prime Minister Kan expressed his heartfelt gratitude for the many warm messages of sympathy and encouragement extended by Chinese leaders, including the signing of a book of condolences by President Hu Jintao, as well as for the assistance and donations provided in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, such as in the form of an emergency rescue team and emergency relief supplies. He also expressed his condolences for the Chinese victims of the earthquake. In response, Premier Wen expressed his sincere sympathy for those who had suffered from the earthquake on behalf of the Government and the people of China, and stated that as a neighbor, China felt as if the earthquake had occurred in China, and that he was confident that the Government and the people of Japan would overcome this difficult situation and succeed in its reconstruction.

    Prime Minister Kan explained the situation of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, and stated that Japan would continue to provide information and explanation with maximum transparency to the international community, including China. In response, Premier Wen stated that they also paid attention to the situation, and that he hoped the Government of Japan would effectively control the situation and provide necessary information regarding this issue. Both leaders agreed that, in view of the fact that this year is the 100th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution and next year is the 40th anniversary of the normalization of relations between Japan and China, the two countries would make efforts to steadily and concretely build on achievements in the following three areas with a view to strengthening the "Mutually Beneficial Relationship Based on Common Strategic Interests" and improving public sentiment toward each other: (i) cooperation in disaster prevention, nuclear safety and the environment, (ii) joint efforts to make the East China Sea a "Sea of Peace, Cooperation and Friendship," and (iii) further enhancement of cultural and human exchanges.

    Both leaders also agreed to enhance high-level exchanges between the two countries. Prime Minister Kan then extended a warm welcome to Premier Wen for his scheduled visit to Japan on the occasion of the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting that would be held in Japan this year.

  5. VIP visits
  6. Mr. Sobashima: We have distributed press releases of visits to Japan. The first is the visit by the Minister of External Relations of the Federative Republic of Brazil on the coming Saturday. The second is the visit of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on this coming Sunday. Finally, the visit to by the Hon. Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia and Mr. Tim Mathieson, who will be the guests of an Official Working Visit, scheduled between 20 and 23 April.

    These are the topics I would like to explain. Now I invite your questions.

  7. Question concerning the visit to Japan by the Prime Minister of Australia
  8. Q: Regarding the Australian Prime Minister's visit, could you explain briefly what kind of person Mr. Tim Mathieson is?

    Mr. Sobashima: I understand that he is the partner of the Prime Minister. They are not legally married I gather.

  9. Questions concerning US-Japan cooperation
  10. Q: With regard to Japan's cooperation with the United States in respect of the nuclear power situation and reconstruction, what kinds of issues are being discussed between the two countries, whether it may be relevant to Secretary Clinton's visit?

    Mr. Sobashima: Excuse me, on the occasion of Secretary Clinton's visit?

    Q: Just in general.

    Mr. Sobashima: We are very grateful for the massive support extended by the United States, such as, of course, rescue activities by the US military forces, and as you mentioned, the advice and discussion on the problems of the nuclear power station, among others. The cooperation offered from the U.S. side is very extensive in various fields. The discussions are continuous between the Japanese and the U.S. side.

    I should have also mentioned the provision of relief goods and equipment for the purpose of rescue activities and also addressing the problems of the nuclear power station, among others. We are benefitting from the United States in many ways, and we are really grateful for the continued cooperation. Thank you.

    Q: There are newspaper reports that – to follow up on that question – that Japan and the United States may establish a joint reconstruction fund among the governments and possibly with the public sector. Will there be such a fund?

    Mr. Sobashima: Thank you. Yes, I also read that report. However, we will be able to make an announcement only after a decision is made. Various possibilities are of course being discussed between Japan and the United States – indeed, between Japan and other countries as well – but there has been no decision yet as to what you have referred to.

  11. Question concerning the visit to Japan by the Minister of External Relations of Brazil
  12. Q: I would like to ask about what sort of discussion will be made between Foreign Minister Matsumoto and his Brazilian counterpart on Saturday, in addition to Brazil's intention for the visit.

    Mr. Sobashima: Thank you. The primary purpose of the visit of the Brazilian Foreign Minister is to express condolences and sympathy and solidarity of Brazil to Japan in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake. It is only the coming Saturday, so I shouldn't predict what will be the result of the discussion taking place two days later. After the meeting of the Foreign Ministers we are planning to have a joint press conference by both Ministers.

    There are various issues that both Japan and Brazil are interested in, and certainly both issues of common interest may be discussed in addition to the issue related to the Japanese earthquake. But I would like to refrain from predicting what will be the actual topics and what will be the results of the discussions between the two Foreign Ministers of Japan and Brazil.

    No other questions?

  13. Question concerning Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station
  14. Q: About the Fukushima nuclear plant, I have heard that the sort of damage done to the power plant because it was an earthquake and tsunami of this level which came in Miyagi Prefecture (sic). Before, during construction, it was not expected that such a level of earthquake and tsunami would come. What measures will be taken after this if a tsunami or earthquake occurs which is an even higher level than what happened in those areas? So the next reactor, this kind of installation, will be made, and the standard of safety and security of such installations will be raised from that which was previously built in those areas? Is the Government considering instructing on safety to constructors like TEPCO to build with such measures in advance before building such reactors in other parts, new reactors?

    Mr. Sobashima: Yes. The answer is yes. The Government has already instructed the operators of all nuclear power stations throughout Japan to ensure the safety of nuclear power stations. We are saying that the Great East Japan Earthquake is the strongest in the Japanese history in view of the available data. So this was the biggest earthquake that we have recorded. After the earthquake the nuclear power plants, all units of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station stopped their operation in accordance with the mechanism. However, because of the tsunami that was very high and powerful, we have had problems.

    The Government officials have been repeatedly saying, including the Prime Minister and the Chief Cabinet Secretary, that at this moment we are concentrating our efforts to contain, control and finally resolve the problems of the troubled power station. However, once it is done, we will do the verification exercises. We will verify what happened, what the problems are, and what should be done, and then we will make our efforts to ensure the safety of nuclear power stations. But that will be done only after the solution of the problems of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. Certainly, the Government is going to make all possible efforts to ensure the safety of nuclear power stations. We also intend to share the information with the international community so that the international community will be able to consider ensuring the safety of nuclear power stations. I explained already that for the reconstruction of the affected areas Prime Minister Kan said that he intends to make the regional society resistant against natural disasters. So, in rebuilding, in reconstruction efforts, we will consider safer standards – I should refrain from discussing what will happen on the nuclear power stations, but in any event, we will have reconstruction which is more resistant against the natural disasters. So my short answer is yes.

    If you don't have further questions, thank you very much for coming.

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