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Gist of interpellations at Upper House Budget Committee, March 6

The following is the gist of interpellations at the House of Councillors Budget Committee on March 6:


North Korea’s missile launch


Shoji Nishida (Liberal Democratic Party): Please tell us the facts.


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: North Korea launched four ballistic missiles simultaneously today, and three of them fell into an area that is clearly within Japan’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), with the other one landing near the EEZ.


Nishida: Were these a new type of missile?


Abe: North Korea has been saying some missiles of a new type were fired. Japan is gravely concerned and we are cooperating closely with the U.S. to collect and analyze information.


Tetsuro Fukuyama (Democratic Party [DP]): Shouldn’t the National Security Council (NSC) be convened as soon as possible?


Abe: We would like to do so quickly with the permission of the committee.


(Committee reconvenes after recess to accommodate the NSC meeting)


Abe: As well as engaging in information collection, monitoring, and surveillance, we will take all possible measures for the people’s safety and peace of mind in preparation for further provocations.


Hideki Niizuma (Komeito): How will the government deal with this development?


Abe: National Security Secretariat chief Shotaro Yachi spoke with National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster on the phone after the missile launch. Mr. McMaster conveyed President Donald Trump’s message that the U.S. “fully supports Japan’s position.”


Moritomo Gakuen issue


Nishida: There are doubts as to whether a discount of 800 million yen for the purchase of government-owned land could have been possible without political influence at work.


Abe: It is true that no fully convincing explanation has been provided. My wife and I were not involved at all in improper influence peddling or the sale of the land.


Fukuyama: With Mrs. Akie Abe serving as the honorary principal, the Finance Ministry would have given consideration so she wouldn’t lose face.


Abe: It is very wrong to speak as though my wife and I were involved. The mere existence of my wife could not possibly be the “open-sesame.” You are manipulating the impression.


Renho (DP): Would you buy back the land with 800 million yen of garbage buried?


Finance Ministry Financial Bureau Director General Nobuhisa Sagawa: The buy-back price would be 130 million yen. The contract says that even if land value rises as a result of Moritomo Gakuen’s garbage disposal, there is no need for us to pay extra.


Abe: Since Moritomo Gakuen was given the responsibility of removing the buried garbage, a corresponding discount is appropriate.


Kotaro Tatsumi (Japanese Communist Party): Did you compare several estimates of the value of the land sold to Moritomo Gakuen (in order to sell the land at a higher price)?


Sagawa: We thought it would be difficult for Moritomo Gakuen to estimate the cost of removing newly found buried materials in a short period of time, so we offered the market price minus the removal cost.


Tatsumi: Did Moritomo Gakuen make payments on time when it was leasing the government-owned land?


Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism Civil Aviation Bureau Director General Yoshinobu Sato: There were months when it was late in making payments, but full payment of the lease, including arrears, was made subsequently.


Yuko Mori (Liberal Party): How is the investigation into the education program of Tsukamoto Kindergarten (operated by Moritomo Gakuen) going?


Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Hirokazu Matsuno: The Osaka prefectural government is looking into this matter.


Reactivation of nuclear plants


Renho: Do you think the reactivation of nuclear plants after the change of administration is supported by the people?


Abe: The government has a responsibility to ensure a stable supply of inexpensive energy. However, I believe this does not have the full support of the people. (Slightly abridged)

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