(Nikkei: February 20, 2015 – p. 4)
Ryu Shionoya (Liberal Democratic Party [LDP])
Q: Counterterrorism measures are important ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: We will strengthen security at the points of entry to prevent terrorists from entering the country by cooperating with the international community to collect and analyze information and implement thorough security measures for critical facilities.
Ken Saito (LDP)
Agricultural cooperative reform
Q: What will be the mission of regenerated agricultural cooperatives?
Abe: The local cooperatives will work with farmers as the main players in branding their products. I would like to transform agriculture into a growth industry and a basic industry that a growing number of young people will enter.
Q: You must seek an agreement that maximizes Japan’s national interest.
Minister of Economic and Fiscal Policy and Economic Revitalization Akira Amari: We are proceeding cautiously in the negotiations on the five sensitive agricultural product sectors, also taking into account what measures need to be taken to sustain reproduction.
Seishiro Eto (LDP)
Q: What is the most appropriate effective corporate tax rate?
Amari: We are gauging this by looking at past statistics and the economic growth situation. It would be better to lower the tax rate by a few percent from the present level.
Q: How determined are you to lower the effective tax rate?
Abe: If the corporate tax helps businesses to become more profitable, this will contribute to wage increases, capital investment, and a virtuous economic cycle. We will reduce the tax rate to the 20% level over a few years and move forward with reforms.
Yuriko Koike (LDP)
Foreign intelligence agency
Q: Do you have plans to set up a new agency?
Abe: It is of vital importance to strengthen the government’s intelligence functions and reflect this in its strategic decision-making. We are in the process of improving the collection, collation, and analysis of information. I would like to study this issue.
Q: Do you have a timetable?
Abe: It is important for the debate to be thorough and for the people to share a common understanding of the issues. I think a timetable will evolve as the Commissions on the Constitution [of both houses of the Diet] and the LDP carry out their discussions. I would like the party to decide.
Katsuya Okada (Democratic Party of Japan [DPJ] leader)
Q: When did you learn that Mr. Kenji Goto was abducted?
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga: On Dec. 3, we received an e-mail from Mrs. Goto informing us that he had been abducted. She consulted with private sector experts to deal with the situation. It was on Dec. 19 that the abduction of Mr. Goto was verified through his wife’s correspondence with the perpetrators. We were unable to confirm that the abductors were from ISIL until the video posting was made on Jan. 20.
Q: (Dec. 3 was in the middle of the Lower House election campaign) and both the Prime Minister and the Chief Cabinet Secretary were not here. Can you say that you made every possible effort for crisis management?
Abe: Basically, the deputy chief cabinet secretary for crisis management dealt with the matter until the involvement of the ISIL was confirmed. There are officials authorized to issue instructions under the Cabinet Act. My presence in the Prime Minister’s Official Residence was not required to deal with the situation. We were able to handle the problem properly and there had been no inadequacy.
Q: Are you sure there is no room in the interpretation of the constitution for setting up such a system?
Abe: The government’s thinking is that conscription is similar to forced labor and there is no room for such a system. It would violate the Constitution. The right to collective self-defense has absolutely nothing to do with a conscription system.
Yuichiro Tamaki (DPJ)
Q: You need to give an explanation.
Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Koya Nishikawa: It is true that I accepted donations (from a company receiving subsidies from the government). I was not aware that this was illegal. I returned the money on Jan. 9.
Q: Are you sure you can entrust Minister Nishikawa with agricultural administration reform?
Abe: There should be no suspicions about political donations. Mr. Nishikawa is fulfilling his responsibility to explain. I would like him to move forward with policies to increase the income of agriculture and rural villages. (Abridged)