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Gist of interpellations at Lower House Budget Committee, Oct. 10, 2019

The following is the gist of interpellations at the House of Representatives Budget Committee on Oct. 10, 2019:

 

Middle East

 

Fumio Kishida (Liberal Democratic Party): How do you plan to stabilize the Middle East and protect our national interest?

 

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe: Securing the safety of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz, through which about 80% of Japan’s import of crude oil passes, is especially vital. The peace and stability of the region is directly linked to our national interest. I’d like to undertake tenacious diplomacy for the easing of tensions and stabilization of the region.

 

North Korea

 

Kishida: It’s important to convey to the public the strong message that [the government] will protect the lives of the people and their livelihoods. 

 

Abe: It’s obvious that ballistic missile launches violate U.N. Security Council resolutions. We’ll continue diplomatic efforts with a determination to protect the lives and peaceful way of life of the people. We’ll make an all-out effort to collect and analyze necessary information and engage in observation and surveillance activities by closely cooperating with the U.S. We’d also like to steadily upgrade our missile defense capability.

 

Japan-U.S. trade pact

 

Yuichiro Tamaki (Democratic Party for the People): [The Japan-U.S. trade agreement] requires only Japan make concessions and abolish tariffs on agricultural products.

 

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi: The number of agricultural products [for which Japan abolished tariffs] is fewer than the number of concessions in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

 

Tamaki: Where is the avoidance of additional tariffs (on Japanese cars) stipulated?

 

Abe: I’ve confirmed with U.S. President Donald Trump that [the U.S.] would not impose additional tariffs. It’s a promise made between two leaders, so it’s very important and not just a verbal promise.

 

Tamaki: Are there any minutes?

 

Abe: Japan does have minutes, though they are not shared minutes with the U.S.

 

Swine fever

 

Yasuhiro Hanashi (Liberal Democratic Party): We want the government to take every possible measure to reassure consumers and producers.

 

Agriculture Minister Taku Eto: It’s only natural for the government to compensate for slaughtered pigs. We’re also considering providing financial support for restarting businesses. Japan had vaccinated farm pigs for 37 years from 1969 to 2006. No cases of sanitary or health problems were reported during the period. I want consumers to purchase [pork] with no worries.

 

Constitution

 

Toshiro Ino (Liberal Democratic Party): Constitutional amendment should be seriously discussed.

 

Abe: Seventy years have passed since the Constitution was established. So things that don’t fit the times should be revised. The Constitution reflects a nation’s ideals and is a guide to the next era. I do hope that the Commission on the Constitution will carefully discuss the future concept of a Constitution suitable to the Reiwa Era and encourage public debate.

 

Tamaki: I think deliberations would be promoted by the LDP’s dropping its draft provisions for amendments, particularly the draft revision to Article 9 of the Constitution. Do you still stick to your goal of putting a revised constitution into force in 2020?

 

Abe: The goal is only my hope. As a constitutional amendment must be proposed by the Diet, I don’t think at all that a revision will be realized in line with my wish. Do you mean that you would accept discussions if the LDP removes the provision of the Article 9 from its four draft provisions?

 

Tamaki: No, I didn’t say that.

 

Abe: As LDP president, I believe it’s very important to clarify the legal status of the Self-Defense Forces in Article 9. But I want the Commission on the Constitution to discuss details of the clarification.

 

Tamaki: It’s indispensable to add restrictions on donations by foreign nationals to the national referendum law (which lays down procedures for constitutional amendment).

 

Abe: The concept of referendum campaigns, including regulations on donations, affects the basis of the national referendum system. I want the issue to be discussed at the Commission on the Constitution and other organizations. I do want to lead constitutional discussions as LDP president, but I’m also prime minister. LDP members tell me: “The prime minister should not step into constitutional discussions. Just leave it to us.”

 

Collision between Japanese patrol ship and fishing boat

 

Tamaki: A Fisheries Agency patrol boat collided with what appears to be a North Korean fishing boat. The boat might have been engaged in illegal operations. Why didn’t the authorities interview the crew [of the North Korean boat]?

 

Abe: The collision occurred within (Japan’s) exclusive economic zone. But it was also the open sea. We need to confirm illegal operations in order to take any enforcement measures, such as physical restraint. But according to the testimony of a person aboard the Fisheries Agency’s ship, no fishing operations were confirmed. The person was also unable to visually confirm there was a catch. The agency’s ship responded to the fishing boat in a resolute manner, telling it that it was in Japan’s EEZ and using water cannons to get it to leave the area. I think we properly responded according to international rules. (Abridged)

 

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