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JapanGov Weekly

Monday, March 19, 2018

Memorial Ceremony Marking the Seventh Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake

Cabinet Secretariat, Sunday, March 11, 2018

[Provisional Translation]

On March 11, 2018, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended the Memorial Ceremony Marking the Seventh Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake held in Tokyo in the presence of Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino.

Following the moment of silence, the Prime Minister delivered an address.

This was followed by the address of His Imperial Highness Prince Akishino. Afterwards, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President of the House of Councillors, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court gave their memorial addresses. The representatives of the bereaved family members delivered addresses, and then the participants offered flowers.


Visit to Fukushima Prefecture

Cabinet Secretariat, Saturday, March 10, 2018

[Provisional Translation]

On March 10, 2018, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Fukushima Prefecture.

The Prime Minister attended the Soma-Fukushima Road opening ceremony in Date City. Afterwards, the Prime Minister visited the Matsukawaura fishing port in the Haragama area of Soma City, and then a small- and medium sized enterprise (SME) engaged in research and development (R&D) on robots and other devices in Minamisoma City. Lastly, the Prime Minister visited Katsurao Elementary and Junior High Schools, which will reopen next fiscal year in Katsurao Village, Futaba District.

After his visit, the Prime Minister said,

“In Fukushima, which suffered tremendous damage from the nuclear accident, evacuation orders were lifted in almost all of the regions last year, except for zones that have been specified as difficult to return. Elementary and junior high schools will at long last reopen in five towns and villages, including Katsurao Village. I believe that the smiling faces of children is a major force towards reconstruction. However, we are only still at the starting point. Many people continue to be forced to lead difficult lives as evacuees. We will restore ‘nariwai,’ or occupations and livelihoods that sustain people’s daily lives, and offer customized supports so that as many families as possible can return to their homes with peace of mind. We will accelerate our reconstruction efforts even further.

Tomorrow marks seven years since the Great East Japan Earthquake. In this light, we have just visited Matsukawaura fishing port. At Matsukawaura fishing port, traditional green laver has been shipped for the first time since the disaster. Flounder has also been exported to Thailand. Furthermore, there has been a great expansion in the open segments of the Fukushima-Soma Road. There is no doubt that reconstruction is proceeding steadily, one step at a time.

Having said that, reconstruction must not merely be restoration. We must promote the creation of new industries. The Fukushima Innovation Coast Scheme is precisely the trump card for reconstruction. I also believe that the efforts of SMEs, which have supported this region since the disaster, are indispensable for the materialization of the scheme. From April of next year, we will support SMEs embarking on innovations in this Hamadori region by lowering their patent fees further from 50% of the current scheduleto 25%.

In addition, some games of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games will be held here in Fukushima. Many athletes from all over the world will visit Fukushima, as will many tourists from around the world. I hope to clearly show the state of Fukushima after its reconstruction.

There will be no revitalization of Japan without the reconstruction of Fukushima. With that conviction, even as we enter the eighth year since the disaster, the Government will continue to stand on the front lines and exert every effort for reconstruction in Fukushima, just as we have done until now.”

In response to a question about the resignation of Mr. Nobuhisa Sagawa, Commissioner of the National Tax Agency, and the suspicion that documents related to the sale of land were altered, the Prime Minister said,

“It is as was stated by the Minister of Finance in his press conference yesterday. The Ministry of Finance, including former Commissioner Sagawa, will fully cooperate with the investigation into the documents. We must exert every effort in order to clarify whether such documents exist or not. I would like everyone involved to make utmost efforts to be able to show the results of that investigation by early next week. I ask the entire Ministry of Finance, including Minister of Finance Aso, to engage in efforts towards this end.”


Congratulatory Telephone Call to Para Alpine Skier Momoka Muraoka

Cabinet Secretariat, Wednesday, March 14, 2018

[Provisional Translation]

On March 14, 2018, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a congratulatory telephone call to Para alpine skier Ms. Momoka Muraoka, who won a gold medal at the PyeongChang Paralympic Games.

In his congratulatory telephone call, the Prime Minister said,

“Congratulations, Ms. Muraoka. This is a long-awaited gold medal. It was a splendid achievement. Although you ranked fifth during the previous Sochi Paralympic Games, you won all the medals this time—bronze, silver, and gold. You received medals in all your events. You have truly inspired and given courage to many Japanese people.

I have heard that you are constantly saying that you are striving to do even better. I believe that your attitude of continuously challenging your own limits has truly moved everyone.

I hope that you will continue to work hard and aim even higher.



Courtesy Call from the Director of the National Intelligence Service of the Republic of Korea

Cabinet Secretariat, Tuesday, March 13, 2018

[Provisional Translation]

On March 13, 2018, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe received a courtesy call from Mr. Suh Hoon, Director of the National Intelligence Service of the Republic of Korea, at the Prime Minister’s Office.


Extraordinary Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Foreign Affairs, Monday, March 12, 2018

Opening Remarks
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: Today, from 6:00 pm for approximately two hours and fifty minutes, I held a meeting and working dinner with Mr. Suh Hoon, Director of the National Intelligence Service of the Republic of Korea (ROK). I received a considerably detailed explanation of the recent interaction between the ROK’s special envoy delegation and North Korea. In addition, we closely coordinated our policy regarding future responses. I expressed my appreciation for the detailed explanation as part of Japan-ROK cooperation, as well as my respect for the efforts by the Government of the ROK, including Director Hoon, thus far. Director Hoon and I agreed that recent changes in North Korea are occurring as the result of maximum pressure implemented through Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation, that it is necessary to elicit concrete actions from North Korea and have meaningful dialogue through the ROK-North Korea summit meeting and U.S.-North Korea summit meeting, and that maximum pressure should be continued in order to realize abandonment of nuclear and missile programs by North Korea and not repeat past mistakes. We also confirmed cooperation between Japan and the ROK to resolve the abductions issue. Director Hoon gave a detailed description of the six items announced after the recent visit to North Korea. Given the nature of this topic, I would like to refrain from discussing details today because we are currently at a stage of needing to prepare details ahead of the ROK-North Korea summit meeting and U.S.-North Korea summit meeting through Japan-ROK and Japan-ROK-U.S. cooperation. The Government of Japan intends to work closely among the three countries, including the United States, using the visit by Mr. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, to the United States in early April and all other opportunities in order to obtain meaningful results from North Korea in the ROK-North Korea summit meeting and U.S.-North Korea Summit meeting. That ends my opening remarks.

Question-and-Answer Session
Reporter: You mentioned cooperation between Japan and the ROK to resolve the abductions issue. Specifically what does that involve? Did Chairman Kim Jong-un refer to anything about abductions?

Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from talking about details. Nevertheless, the Government of Japan’s stance remains that it is seeking resolution of the missile and nuclear issues and also resolution of the abductions issue prior to normalization of relations with North Korea. Prime Minister Abe clearly communicated this policy to North Korea in Pyeongchang. Japan intends to cooperate closely with the ROK toward resolving the abductions issue based on this stance.

Reporter: Did Chairman Kim Jong-un say anything about abductions?

Minister Kono: As to what might have been said by the North Korean side beyond what was just announced and other detailed content, I would like to refrain from discussing topics not covered in the announcement because it is necessary to make preparations ahead of the ROK-North Korea and U.S.-North Korea summit meetings.

Reporter: Regarding the abductions issue, the victims’ families are getting older and the Government is saying on a regular basis that there is no time to spare. Isn’t Japan thinking about arrangement of a Japan-North Korea meeting in light of the ROK-North Korea and U.S.-North Korea summit meeting plans?

Minister Kono: It has already been decided to have the ROK-North Korea summit meeting in April and then hold the U.S.-North Korea summit meeting. The Government of Japan plans to closely engage in Japan-U.S.-ROK and Japan-ROK coordination of details aimed at getting North Korea to take action toward denuclearization. After the meetings, it will take steps based on the outcomes while cooperating with the other parties.

Reporter: You have spoken against “dialogue for the sake of dialogue” and a “charm offensive.” Was there something in the discussions that convinced you that the dialogue this time is different? While I realize you cannot discuss details, could you confirm whether this type of information was obtained?

Minister Kono: Since Japan, the United States, and the ROK have agreed that maximum pressure must continue until North Korea switches to taking action beyond just words, our view is that the international community has nothing to lose from proceeding with the ROK-North Korea summit meeting and U.S.-North Korea summit meeting.
Reporter: Did you hear the message for Japan today from Chairman Kim Jong-un?

Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from saying anything about the meeting’s content beyond what was announced.

Reporter: After hearing the explanation today, and given that you have always up until now stated that concrete action must be elicited from North Korea, how will you judge the strength of North Korea’s intention for denuclearization?

Minister Kono: North Korea offered a commitment to work toward denuclearization as noted in the announcement. However, the international community has a shared view that actions are necessary, not just words. There is no change to the existing policy of continuation of maximum pressure until North Korea takes real steps toward denuclearization.

Reporter: The previous Six Party Talks applied an incremental approach to denuclearization by North Korea of halting and then disabling facilities. While North Korea ultimately broke its promises, it received concessions at each stage. Does the Government of Japan intend to continue pressure until complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID) is achieved this time?

Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from disclosing our strategy.

Reporter: Was there any discussion today of acceptance of IAEA inspectors or other specific methods of confirming denuclearization? Also, you stated during your visit to Vienna in February that the Government of Japan is ready to provide financial cooperation. Please review Japan’s stance at this point.

Minister Kono: During my visit to the IAEA, I explained that Japan is ready to give financial and other support to allow for an immediate start to inspections if North Korea indicates that it will accept inspections. This remains Japan’s policy and I communicated it to the ROK as well.

Reporter: Was this discussed today?

Minister Kino: I explained today what was discussed on my IAEA visit.

Reporter: Did you explain Japan’s willingness to assist with initial costs to the ROK side?

Minister Kono: This has already been communicated to the ROK.

Reporter: Once again, was it mentioned at today’s meeting that Chairman Kim Jong-un expressed interest in a meeting with Prime Minister Abe?

Minister Kono: I would like to refrain from discussing topics beyond what was covered in the announcement.

Reporter: The North Korean side appears to have said that it will halt provocative actions. Was there any mention of nuclear and missile development activities?

Minister Kono: I am sorry but I need to refrain from discussing topics beyond what was covered in the announcement.


Courtesy Call from the Speaker of the National Assembly of Kuwait

Cabinet Secretariat, Tuesday, March 13, 2018

[Provisional Translation]

On March 13, 2018, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe received a courtesy call from H.E. Mr. Marzouq Ali Mohammed Thunayan Al-Ghanim, Speaker of the National Assembly of the State of Kuwait, at the Prime Minister’s Office.


Signing and Exchange of Notes Concerning Yen Loan to Sri Lanka

Foreign Affairs, Wednesday, March 14, 2018

1. On March 14, following the Japan-Sri Lanka summit meeting in Tokyo, Mr. Kenichi Suganuma, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, and Prof. Dammika Ganganath Disanayake, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka to Japan signed and exchanged notes concerning the provision of a yen loan up to 10.639 billion yen for the Health and Medical Service Improvement Project, in the presence of Mr. Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, and H.E. Mr. Maithripala Sirisena, President of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka.

2. Overview of the Project
The project is being financed to improve the medical facilities and equipment in tertiary healthcare institutions (1) and training centers for medical staff, as well as strengthening the maintenance of medical equipment in the Western, Northwestern, Central, North Central, Eastern and Uva Provinces in Sri Lanka. It is expected that the project will enhance medical services relating to the diagnosis and treatment of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), especially cardiovascular diseases.

Through the implementation of this project it is expected that by 2025 (two years after the completion of the project) the number of annual catheter examinations (2) per annum at medical institutions included in the project will rise from approx. 2,800 currently to approx. 11,100, and that catheter treatments will increase from approx. 800 to approx. 5,000 per annum. It is expected that improved access to medical care will contribute to improving the health conditions of residents.

(1) Tertiary healthcare institutions:Medical institutions capable of providing the highest level of medical care, including national hospitals, provincial general hospitals and teaching hospitals, etc.
(2) Catheter examination/treatment:For cardiovascular conditions, examination or treatment of blood vessels, etc., using a catheter (a very fine tubular instrument).
3. Loan terms

(1) Rate of interest:0.1% per annum (0.01% per annum for consulting services)
(2) Repayment period:40 years (after a grace period of 12 years)
(3) Procurement terms:Japan tied
(Reference)Japan-Sri Lanka Relations (Basic Data)
Sri Lanka is a country located in the Indian Ocean that has a land area of approximately 66,000 square kilometers (approximately 0.2 times Japan’s), and a population of 21.2 million people (World Bank, 2016). It has a gross national income (GNI) per capita of approximately 3,780 U.S. dollars (World Bank, 2016).


Japan-Sri Lanka Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

Foreign Affairs, Wednesday, March 14, 2018

On Wednesday, March 14, commencing at 12:20 p.m. for approximately 70 minutes, Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs, held a meeting over lunch with the Hon. Tilak Marapana, Foreign Minister for the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka. The overview is as follows.

1. Bilateral Relations
Minister Marapana expressed his appreciation for the recent visit to Sri Lanka by Minister Kono, which was the first visit by a Japanese foreign minister in 15 years, and also for the assistance extended to Sri Lanka by Japan over the years.

In response, Minister Kono stated that Japan places utmost importance on its relationship with Sri Lanka which is located in a strategic point on the Indian Ocean Sea Lanes and seeks to advance specific cooperation relating to maritime security, maritime safety and connectivity. Both ministers engaged in discussions on specific areas for cooperation.

In addition, both ministers exchanged opinions concerning cooperation in other areas, including agriculture, science and technology and education.

2. Regional Affairs
Both ministers exchanged opinions concerning the regional situation in South Asia. In addition, with regard to North Korea, both ministers noted that based on past experience, it is of vital importance to continue the maximum pressure until North Korea abandons all nuclear and ballistic missile programs in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner, and confirmed that Japan and Sri Lanka will strengthen their responses in this regard.


TPP11 Agreement Concluded

METI, Friday, March 9, 2018

On March 9 (local time: March 8), 2018, representatives from 11 participating countries, including Japan, signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Transpacific Partnership (TPP11) in Santiago, Chile.

The agreement aims to achieve free and fair high-level trade rules across the Asia-Pacific region as well as establish a new economic order appropriate for the 21st century. Japan will lead the partnership as a frontrunner of free trade and demonstrate its commitment to sound economic rulemaking in the international system.

The agreement stipulates not only measures toward reducing or eliminating tariffs but also covers a broad range of fields, including investment, services, intellectual property, state-run enterprises and e-commerce. The agreement is expected to contribute to serving as a foundation to creating sophisticated value chains of Japanese companies, and to significantly contribute to the growth of Japanese industries.


Minutes of the Monetary Policy Meeting

Bank of Japan, Wednesday, March 14, 2018

A Monetary Policy Meeting of the Bank of Japan Policy Board was held in the Head Office of the Bank of Japan in Tokyo on Monday, January 22, 2018, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:28 p.m., and on Tuesday, January 23, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:07 p.m.


Lunch meeting between Foreign Minister Kono and participants of “Dialogue on Countering Violent Extremism in the Middle East”

Foreign Affairs, Thursday, March 15, 2018

On March 15, from 12:30 for approximately 60 minutes, Mr. Taro KONO, Minister for Foreign Affairs, hosted a lunch meeting with participants of “Dialogue on Countering Violent Extremism in the Middle East”, where they discussed ways to prevent and counter terrorism and violent extremism. The overview of the meeting is as follows.

1. At the beginning, Minister Kono welcomed the participants to Japan, and expressed the view that the threats of terrorism and violent extremism are not diminished despite that the fight against Daesh (ISIL) is coming to an end. He added that it is necessary to prevent its resurgence by healing the scars left by violent extremism, and by building society marked by tolerance and respect to diversity in the Middle East.

2. Noting that he attended the Manama Dialogue (PDF)Open a New Window last December , Minister Kono emphasized that Japan would take measures to promote efforts to build such societies, and that this program is a part of the specific measures of such policy.

3. In response, the participants expressed their gratitude for the invitation, and stated that they expected Japan would play an ever more active role to counter violent extremism.

(Reference) Participants of “Dialogue on Countering Violent Extremism in the Middle East”

(1) Dr. Mohammad Abdulkarim A. Alissa, Secretary General of the Muslim World League (Saudi Arabia)
(2) Dr. Abbas SHOMAN, Deputy sheikh of Al-Azhar (Egypt)
(3) Dr. Ali Rashid Al Noaimi, Chairman of the Hedayah Center (UAE)
(4) Mr. Ahmad Ibrahim al-Hasnaat, Deputy Minister of the Fatwa Department of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (Jordan)
(5) Mr. Abdul Kareem Khalaf Na'eem, Former Spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior (Iraq)
(6) Mr. Younes JABRANE, Secretary General of the General Delegation for Prison Administration and Reintegration (Morocco)


METI Minister Seko Visits the Kingdom of Belgium

METI, Sunday, March 11, 2018

METI Minister Seko Visits the Kingdom of Belgium
From March 9 (Fri.) to 11 (Sun.), 2018, Mr. Hiroshige Seko, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, visited Brussels, the Kingdom of Belgium.

On March 10 (Sat), he held bilateral meetings each with H.E. Dr. Robert Emmet Lighthizer, United States Trade Representative (USTR), and H.E. Dr. Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Trade, the EU. Following this, he attended the Second Japan, US and EU Trade Ministers Meeting.

1. Meeting with US Trade Representative Lighthizer
At the meeting with Ambassador Lighthizer, Minister Seko expressed Japan’s regret over the US government’s decision on imposing tariffs based on Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. He explained that steel and aluminum imports from Japan, which is a U.S. ally, do not negatively affect American national security and these products have always contributed to the growth of U.S. industries and the creation of jobs, and requested the United States to exclude Japan from the targets of such actions. Following this, both countries exchanged views in advance of the Second Japan, US and EU Trade Ministers Meeting.

2. Meeting with EU Commissioner for Trade Malmström
At the meeting with Commissioner Malmström, Minister Seko mentioned the US actions involving Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act and explained that global society should strive to overcome the crux of the issue, i.e., solving the problem of global overcapacity of products in the iron and steel industry and correcting market distortion by third countries and retaliating with unilateral, non-WTO compliant measures would not benefit any country. Following this, both sides exchanged views in advance of the Second Japan, US and EU Trade Ministers Meeting.

3. Second Japan, US and EU Trade Ministers Meeting
The Second Japan, US and EU Trade Ministers Meeting was held bringing together Minister Seko, US Trade Representative Lighthizer and EU Commissioner for Trade Malmström. The trilateral talks produced quality discussions concerning future efforts to address market distortion by third countries. As an outcome of the meeting, they issued a joint readout of discussion, which is shown as the Appendix below.


Press Conference by Foreign Minister Taro Kono

Foreign Affairs, Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Opening Remarks
TOFU program (visit to the United States by high school students and university students from Okinawa)
Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs: We plan to send 20 high school students and university school students, etc. from Okinawa Prefecture to the United States from tomorrow, March 14, until March 21 to participate in the “Think of Okinawa’s Future in the United States” program (TOFU program). This is the program I introduced when I visited Okinawa Prefecture in December last year.
The participants plan to visit Washington DC and New York to hold exchanges with local young people, visit federal government agencies and the United Nations Headquarters, exchange views with Japanese staff of the United Nations, and pay a courtesy call on H.E. Caroline Kennedy, former U.S. Ambassador to Japan, etc. Before their departure tomorrow on March 14, we plan to have the young people meet U.S. Ambassador Mr. William Hagerty as well.
I hope that this visit will enable the participants to grow into human resources able to think about Okinawa’s future from a wider range of perspectives, by having them see directly the reality of the United States, an ally of Japan, as it is today and broadening their perspective regarding the role of Japan in the international community.

Meeting of Foreign Minister Kono and Mr. Suh Hoon, Director of the National Intelligence Service of the Republic of Korea (ROK)
Reporter: I would like to ask about the North Korea issue. Last night you received an explanation from Director Suh Hoon of the ROK regarding the meeting between the ROK and North Korea. Meanwhile China also had an explanation from the ROK. China stated that it was hopeful regarding the ROK-led easing of tensions between the two Koreas. Please tell us again about the role of China toward the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula going forward and also how you would like to cooperate with China going forward.

Minister Kono: China is the member of the Six-Party Talks and at one time they had an extremely large amount of trade with North Korea, so I think that until North Korea starts concrete steps toward denuclearization in a firm manner, the continued cooperation of China as a member of the international community to increase pressure on North Korea is very important.
Furthermore, after North Korea has started steps toward denuclearization, I would like to collaborate and cooperate with China in a firm manner, on the issue of how the international community will respond.

Reporter: Regarding the specific actions, yesterday you mentioned that you would not reveal your strategy, so does this mean that your perception is that going forward you will coordinate on this matter with all the countries involved?

Minister Kono: That is correct.

Reporter: You said that on that occasion we must not go back to the past. What kind of perspectives do you think are necessary on that occasion?

Minister Kono: What necessary is how North Korea takes complete, irreversible, and verifiable actions toward denuclearization and toward abandoning the development of missiles, and, because we are constantly saying “verifiable,” how those actions can be verified.
Regarding the abandonment of the nuclear program, Japan is ready to provide full support to ensure that thorough IAEA inspections can begin in North Korea quickly.

Reporter: I think you have gone to a lot of trouble to pursue CVID to date, but except for past history it has not been achieved. Do you think that you will be able to progress in this area going forward?

Minister Kono: If specific actions are not properly taken, we will continue to maximize pressure, so I would like North Korea to firmly take concrete actions toward denuclearization and abandoning the development of missiles.

Reporter: In relation to your meeting with Director of the National Intelligence Service Suh Hoon yesterday, remarks and media reports have appeared from the ROK saying that in the meeting with Chairman Kim Jong-un there were no exchanges regarding the abductions issue of Japan. In your doorstep press conference after the meeting, you said you would newly establish collaboration with the ROK over the abductions issue. May I ask about your perceptions regarding this once again?

Minister Kono: In addition to the abductions issue of Japan, the ROK also faces a similar issue, and for the United States, there are still American citizens being held captive by the North, so Japan, the United States, and the ROK agree that they will firmly collaborate regarding this issue.

The Moritomo Gakuen issue
Reporter: Regarding the issue of Moritomo Gakuen, yesterday the Ministry of Finance admitted that it altered the approval documents. What do you think about the fact that official documents of the government were altered?

Minister Kono: As a former minister responsible for official documents, I believe that the altering of official documents is unacceptable, so all necessary means must be implemented under the leadership of Minister of Finance Taro Aso, to thoroughly investigate the background and other matters related to this issue, to ensure that we are a government that is trusted by the people.

Reporter: Do you think that it is not necessary for Minister Aso to resign?

Minister Kono: That is not something that I think about.