The following is the gist of interpellations at the House of Councillors Budget Committee on March 13:
Eriko Yamatani (Liberal Democratic Party): Tell us how you reached the decision to withdraw the Ground Self-Defense Force units engaged in the UN Peace Keeping Operation (PKO).
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: We began to formulate a plan last September under the initiative of the National Security Council. Making a decision to end the operation has been more difficult than making a decision to send troops. We didn’t make the decision casually. The basic tenet is to protect Japanese nationals overseas using every possible means, including the additional “rush to the rescue” mission. We are currently finalizing a plan to send assistance to South Sudan totaling 6 million dollars.
Toshio Ogawa (Democratic Party): Weren’t safety concerns for the GSDF members the real reason for the withdrawal?
Minister of Defense Tomomi Inada: The five principles of the PKO participation are still intact, and the GSDF units are engaging in activities without safety issues.
Abe: President Kiir has acknowledged (the withdrawal policy) and promised to cooperate.
Yoshiki Yamashita (Japanese Communist Party): Was the deteriorating local security situation the reason for the withdrawal?
Abe: The local security situation is better now than it was last October (when Special Advisor to the Prime Minister Masahiko Shibayama visited South Sudan). Deterioration of the security situation was not the reason. We made a policy decision that this phase can be ended now.
Inada: We have been able to keep the SDF members at the UN mission headquarters in South Sudan because the five principles of the PKO participation are still being upheld.
Moritomo Gakuen issue
Hiroyuki Konishi (Democratic Party): We heard a report that the LDP members group of the Osaka prefectural assembly has decided to summon Mr. Yasunori Kagoike. The Upper House Budget Committee should summon Mr. Kagoike as well.
Abe: It was the Osaka assembly’s decision to summon him to the Osaka assembly . The Budget Committee should make its own decision on the matter.
Mizuho Fukushima (Social Democratic Party): Were you scheduled to give a speech at the school?
Abe: My wife (Mrs. Akie Abe) was asked to do so and was willing to do so if possible.
Ogawa: Have Minister Inada and her husband been legal advisors to Moritomo Gakuen?
Inada: My husband is a private citizen and not in a position to answer that question. I have not been consulted in legal matters [by the school]. I have not been its legal advisor.
Ogawa: We have seen Minister Inada’s name written as a legal counsel on a brief for a lawsuit involving Moritomo Gakuen.
Inada: Being in joint practice means we sometimes jointly submit a case document even when the case belongs to the partner. I am not surprised to see my name in the power of attorney. However, it is absolutely false for Mr. and Mrs. Kagoike to claim that I have “given them legal advice.”
Ogawa: We request that Mr. Kagoike be summoned as a witness.
Budget Committee Chairman Ichita Yamamoto: We will discuss the matter at the directors’ meeting.
Yamashita: It is imperative that we summon Mr. Kagoike.
Abe: The committee should decide that.
Yamashita: You should admit the moral responsibility for your involvement.
Abe: My wife and I had absolutely nothing to do with the land deal.
Yamashita: Some family members of former pupils said if Mrs. Abe’s name had not been on the list (of speakers) and if she were not the honorary principal, they wouldn’t have enrolled their children in the preschool.
Abe: I would like to refrain from commenting on that.
Takanori Kawai (Democratic Party): Was the Kinki Regional Council on National Property consulted when a discount was made at the time of the national land sale?
Ministry of Finance Financial Bureau Director General Nobuhisa Sagawa: No, it wasn’t consulted.
Hitoshi Asada (Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party]): Moritomo padded the cost of its elementary school construction to receive more subsides.
Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transportation and Tourism Keiichi Ishii: We have conducted a hearing with an agent who applied for the subsidy on behalf of the school, and found out there are many issues that need to be clarified. We will continue our investigation on this.
Kakei Gakuen issue
Fukushima: Okayama University of Science is planning to build a college of veterinary medicine in Imabari City in Ehime Prefecture. The operator of the college is Kakei Gakuen, whose director is a friend of the prime minister’s. Isn’t this a distortion of policy?
Abe: The director is a friend of mine, but he has not asked me for a favor. I will take responsibility if he has.
Visit of the U.S. Secretary of State
Yamatani: What should we do to maintain peace and improve the power of deterrence?
Abe: I plan to discuss with Secretary Tillerson during his visit various issues facing the Asia-Pacific region, such as the North Korean situation, and to exchange opinions on strengthening Japan-U.S. alliance. I would like to raise the level of cooperation even further through Japan-U.S. joint exercises (in the East China Sea).
Liquid baby formula
Sayaka Sasaki (Komeito Party): We request the launch of domestic production of liquid baby formula.
Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Yasuhisa Shiozaki: We will hold a meeting of the ministry council by the end of the month and start discussions on safety standards (for liquid formula).
Private-sector rocket development
Antonio Inoki (Independent): Tell us your views on private-sector rocket development initiatives.
Abe: We will support their efforts so that Japan will not lag behind global developments.