(Tokyo Shimbun: February 5, 2016 – p. 6)
Following is the gist of interpellations at the House of Representatives Budget Committee on Feb. 4:
Yorihisa Matsuno (Japan Innovation Party [JIP])
Reports on Olympics minister’s scandal
Matsuno: In relation to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s assistant language teacher (ATL) dispatching project, did you lobby MEXT on behalf of a temporary employment agency?
Olympics Minister Toshiaki Endo: I have never lobbied for the benefit (of that agency). It is truly regrettable that this allegation is based on factual error. I checked with MEXT and learned that the company was not even eligible for the project. No benefit was involved. I have also handled and reported political donations properly.
Takashi Ishizeki (JIP)
Reports on Olympics minister’s scandal
Ishizeki: Are policies not affected by political donations?
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: The Abe administration’s policies will absolutely not be distorted by money.
Hiroshi Ogushi (Democratic Party of Japan [DPJ])
Ogushi: Will you appeal for the revision of Article 9 in the House of Councillors election?
Abe: The Liberal Democratic Party has consistently stood for constitutional revision. However, the debate among the people on Article 9 has not deepened and there is still insufficient support.
Ogushi: Do you think the Constitution was forced upon Japan by the U.S.?
Abe: This is our constitution, so we must not lose the spirit of thinking about it on our own. We must not be possessed by a mental block and regard it as untouchable.
Takeshi Shina (DPJ)
Shina: TV newscasters seen to be critical of the Abe administration are being removed one after the other. It is necessary to guarantee the freedom of expression of media outlets.
Abe: It goes without saying that freedom of expression must be respected. I do not think the media organizations are daunted at all. This should be evident if you look at the reporting they are doing. What you said is an affront to them.
Rintaro Ogata (DPJ)
Ogata: The government’s estimates show that GDP will increase by 14 trillion yen. When will the effects be felt?
Economic Revitalization Minister Nobuteru Ishihara: This is the sum total of the data. These figures are estimates of what will happen. There is no indication of dates.
Mikio Shimoji (Initiatives from Osaka [Osaka Ishin no Kai])
Shimoji: You should advocate this openly among the people.
Abe: A two-thirds majority (in both houses of the Diet required for submitting motions for revision) will be necessary for any amendment. The Commission on the Constitution (of both houses) should conduct meaningful discussions to arrive at a decision on which provisions need to be revised.
Shimoji: The Deliberative Council for Political Ethics should be convened for former Economic Revitalization Minister Akira Amari to fulfill his responsibility for accountability.
Abe: (The council is convened) if a politician wants to offer a full explanation. The Lower House should discuss this issue and make a decision.
Kenta Matsunami (Osaka Ishin)
Matsunami: What do you think of the vision, promoted by Osaka-fu and Osaka City, to make Osaka a sub-capital?
Abe: The objectives of this vision with regard to overconcentration of the capital’s functions in Tokyo and backup for administration functions are noteworthy.
Matsunami: The Lower House should not be dissolved in the near future.
Abe: I have no plans at all to dissolve the Lower House.
Kazuo Shii (Japanese Communist Party)
Shii: With the implementation of the security laws, are you considering expanding the mission of the Self-Defense Forces dispatched for UN peacekeeping operations (PKO) in South Sudan, such as by adding “rushing to the rescue” duties?
Abe: Since the laws have been enacted, I am considering assigning new duties. However, it is necessary to consider carefully what duties to assign. For now, no decision has been made, including whether or not to add new duties.
Shii: This will entail use of force overseas, which is prohibited by the Constitution.
Abe: We will uphold the five principles of PKO and will participate only in operations satisfying these principles.
Shii: Will you reject a request to provide logistical support to military operations against the extremist group Islamic State (IS)?
Abe: We have made a policy decision not to participate. Such a request will be rejected.
Shii: Do you think former Minister Amari has dispelled the bribery allegations with his explanation?
Abe: Mr. Amari gave a detailed explanation on matters involving him personally. He was not involved in any influence peddling. (Abridged)