(Tokyo Shimbun: January 19, 2016 – p. 6)
Following is the gist of interpellations at the House of Councillors Budget Committee on Jan. 18:
Takashi Uto (Liberal Democratic Party [LDP])
Taiwan presidential election
Q: What do you think of Democratic Progressive Party leader Tsai Ing-wen’s election as Taiwan’s president?
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: I would like to offer my heartfelt congratulations. I hope for further strengthening of the cooperative relationship between Japan and Taiwan. Taiwan is an old friend of Japan. A leader has been elected based on free debate. This presidential election is proof of freedom and democracy in Taiwan.
Comfort women issue
Q: Has there been any change in your position on coercion involved in recruiting the comfort women and on the point that legal obligation has been settled?
Abe: There is no change in our position that documents found by the government so far show no direct evidence of forcible abduction by military or government officials. We have not admitted to what would amount to war crimes.
Q: Why is this necessary for improving Japan-ROK relations?
Abe: The recent agreement is also of great significance for Japan’s security (because the two countries will be able to cooperate on the North Korea issue). I am confident that both sides will fulfill their promises in good faith.
Q: The term “sex slave” is being used in foreign countries.
Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida: The term “sex slave” is contrary to fact, so this should not be used. We have also reconfirmed with the ROK government that the official term is the “issue of victims who served as comfort women for the Japanese army.”
Hirotaka Ishikawa (Komeito)
Q: Are you determined to carry out diplomacy for proactive pacifism?
Abe: At the G7 Ise-Shima Summit this May, countries truly sharing common values will engage in candid discussions on the increasing uncertainty in the world economy and provide a vision for the way forward.
Q: The people have certain misunderstandings of the administration’s efforts with regard to security.
Abe: Many countries, including Asian nations, support the security laws. This is proof that they are not “war laws.”
Toranosuke Katayama (Initiatives from Osaka [Osaka Ishin no Kai])
Q: It is necessary to discuss constitutional revision.
Abe: The Constitution was promulgated many, many years ago. There are provisions that are not appropriate for the present situation. Times are changing drastically. I think Osaka Ishin shares our view on the necessity to revise the constitution and our responsibility to accomplish this. I firmly believe that drafting a constitution with our own hands is precisely what is needed to evoke the pioneering spirit in keeping with this new era. As the debate and understanding deepen both in the Diet and among the people, (the provisions that need to be revised) will emerge spontaneously.
House of Representatives election reform
Q: The experts’ panel has issued a report. We hope that you will take the lead in reducing Lower House seats.
Abe: The LDP and all other parties must take the report seriously and meet the people’s expectation by coming up with a decision at an early date.
Kyoko Nakayama (Party for Japanese Kokoro)
Comfort women issue
Q: A view of the Japanese people that is contrary to fact has been spreading since the Japan-ROK agreement. Could you please clarify what is meant by “involvement of the military authorities”?
Abe: The military brothels were set up and operated at the request of the military authorities at that time. I have long said that the Japanese Imperial Army was involved with their management and the transportation of the comfort women directly or indirectly. (Abridged)