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Gist of interpellations at Lower House Budget Committee meeting, Feb. 20, 2019

The following is the gist of the interpellations at the House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting on Feb. 20:


U.S.-DPRK summit


Kosaburo Nishime (Liberal Democratic Party): The U.S. and North Korea will hold a second summit in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi (on Feb. 27 and 28). Will they discuss North Korea’s verifiable nuclear abolition? Is the abduction issue on the agenda?


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: I’m going to talk with U.S. President Donald Trump by phone today (Feb. 20). I would like us to closely coordinate our policies in order to resolve the North Korean nuclear, missile and — most importantly — abduction issues. I met with the abductees’ families on Feb. 19. I will express my determination to settle the abduction issue to President Trump by keeping the families’ feelings in mind and ask him to convey the message to (Workers’ Party of Korea) Chairman Kim Jong Un. The Abe cabinet is determined to settle the abduction issue at all costs. We will take action decisively so as not to miss any opportunity.


Shigeki Sato (Komeito): I want the government to closely coordinate policies with President Trump on the nuclear, missile, and abduction issues.


Abe: Complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization is Japan’s basic stance. We are also calling for the elimination of ballistic missiles of all ranges. Japan has conveyed its stance to the U.S. I trust President Trump’s judgment with regard to how the negotiations will be conducted.  I want to solidly back him up.


Japan-Russia relations


Kenji Eda (Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan): The prime minister has met with Russian President Putin a total of 25 times. But only one of those meetings took place in Japan. This means Japan has already been defeated before even sitting down at the negotiating table.


Abe: Taking a bureaucratic approach or focusing on diplomatic protocol will not produce a final conclusion of this issue that has been left unresolved for over 70 years (since the end of World War II). I am aware of the criticism that we have been visiting (Russia) repeatedly, but we have to settle the issue regardless of such criticism.


Eda: I know the prime minister wants to settle the issue while he is in office. But if [Russian] Foreign Minister Lavrov says we have to accept the “outcome of World War II (the assertion that four Northern islands have become Russian territory), you should have the courage to walk away from the negotiations.


Abe: More than 70 years have passed. There is a possibility that [Russia] will achieve one fait accompli after another and the issue will be consigned to the dustheap of history 100 years from now. I do not have the slightest intention to try to make the resolution of this issue my claim to fame.


Seiji Maehara (Democratic Party for the People): Japan’s position is that the Northern Islands are inherent territories of Japan. I’m worried that the government might overturn this position and say that “they have been part of Russia, but we want the two islands to be returned based on the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration.”


Abe: The Northern Territories are islands over which we have sovereignty and this position remains unchanged. We, the government, have to place priority on advancing negotiations.


Japan-ROK relations


Hidetaka Inoue (Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party]): (Regarding the issue of lawsuits filed by former South Korean requisitioned workers,) South Korea is proceeding with the formalities for selling the seized assets of a Japanese companies to liquidate them.


Foreign Minister Taro Kono: I take this issue very seriously. I think the South Korean government will agree to talks based on the Japan-ROK Claims Agreement. But we are already considering various options, including taking the issue to an international court based on international law, just in case. We are ready to implement various countermeasures.


Inoue: There is an opinion poll result that shows the remarks by South Korea’s National Assembly Speaker (that the Emperor should apologize to former comfort women) are offending.


Kono: The remarks are extremely rude. It is very serious that a person who has moved up to the post of chairman of the Korea-Japan parliamentarians’ association would say such a thing. I was really surprised at the foreign ministers’ meeting (between Japan and South Korea on Feb. 15) and told my counterpart that the remarks are disappointing.


Henoko relocation


Hiranao Honda (Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan): Does the government acknowledge that there are some areas with soft foundation at the planned reclamation site (in the Henoko district of Nago City, where the replacement facility for the U.S. military’s Futenma airfield in Ginowan City, Okinawa, is being constructed)?


Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya: As a result of boring tests, we have confirmed that foundation improvement work is necessary in some parts of the northern waters (in the waters where reclamation work is planned). The cost for the foundation improvement work may rise.


Honda: The Okinawa Prefectural Government estimates (the relocation cost) will reach 2.55 trillion yen.


Iwaya: I understand the estimate was made by mechanically multiplying the initial estimate of roughly 240 billion yen by ten. I don’t think it will cost that much.


Honda: It is widely said that the quality of the soil being poured there is different from that which was agreed on with to the Okinawa Prefectural Government. It seems to be red soil.


Iwaya: In the reclamation work, the outer sea wall will create an enclosure to prevent muddy water caused by sand from spreading to the open sea. Staff from the Okinawa Prefectural Government visited the site and checked the situation on Jan. 30, but they did not say anything about this in particular.


Eda: During a press conference on Feb. 14, Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga expressed his intention to go ahead with the relocation regardless of results of the prefectural referendum (to be held on Feb. 24). Does the prime minister share his view?


Abe: I would like to refrain from expressing the government’s views on the matter. The chief cabinet secretary presented the government’s policy.


Japan-U.S. TAG


Maehara: Last October, U.S. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin indicated his intention to call for including a “currency provision” that would deter currency manipulation in the trade agreement on goods.


Economy Revitalization Minister Toshimitsu Motegi: The joint statement issued before the launch of negotiations does not mention currency.


Finance Minister Taro Aso:  Mnuchin has never said anything directly to me about currency. (Abridged)


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