The following is the gist of representative interpellations at the House of Councillors and House of Representatives plenary sessions on Jan. 24:
House of Councillors
Renho (Democratic Party): President Donald Trump has talked about increasing Japan’s share of the cost of stationing the U.S. Forces Japan (USFJ). We cannot help being anxious about the new U.S. administration’s perception.
Hiromi Yoshida (Liberal Democratic Party): There is great uncertainty in the Japan-ROK relationship with the suspension of President Park Geun-hye’s duties and the erection of the “comfort women” statue in front of the Japanese consulate general in Busan. How will you work toward the steady implementation of the Japan-ROK agreement? Chinese military activities are increasing in Japan’s vicinity and in the South China Sea. It is necessary to deter such actions through cooperation with the U.S. and other neighboring countries.
House of Representatives
Yoshihisa Inoue (Komeito): We ask for the acceleration of work-style reforms, such as reducing long working hours and equal pay for equal work. The introduction of minimum intervals between two work days should also be considered.
Kazuo Shii (Japanese Communist Party): You should be specific about what’s wrong with the present constitution and how it should be changed. The U.S. forces’ Ospreys resumed aerial refueling exercises only three weeks after an accident occurred. It is shameful that you give priority to the Japan-U.S. alliance over the Okinawan people’s safety.
Nobuyuki Baba (Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party]): Our party proposes constitutional revisions on free education and so forth. All parties should come up with their proposals for the people to make a clear decision. What do you think of dissolution of the Lower House on the issue of constitutional revision?
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s responses
It goes without saying that the basic principles of the present constitution – sovereignty of the people, respect for basic human rights, and pacifism – should be upheld. I ask all parties to come up with ideas on a constitution appropriate for the new era. I pay tribute to Nippon Ishin’s earnest approach to constitutional revision, including its proposals on education. I have no plans at all to dissolve the Lower House at this point.
The Japan-ROK agreement confirms a final and irreversible solution to the comfort women issue. We will persevere in demanding that the ROK implement the agreement in good faith. We would like to deepen a future-oriented cooperative relationship with the ROK for the new era based on international commitments and trust-building between the two countries.
The Japan-U.S. alliance is not a framework that benefits only one side. It is necessary to strive for appropriate division of labor between the two countries.
Japan will respond calmly but firmly. It will also promote cooperation with the neighboring countries for regional peace and stability.
Reducing long working hours
Minimum intervals between work days are important for leading a healthy life. What is important is to implement reforms speedily and effectively. Procrastination is unacceptable.
An analysis was made based on experts’ opinions in the Defense Ministry and the Self-Defense Forces before the resumption of the Ospreys’ aerial refueling exercises. The Japanese government believes that effective safety measures to prevent the recurrence of accidents have been taken. (Slightly abridged)