The following is the gist of an interview by Nakamura Masashi with Chief Cabinet Secretary Matsuno Hirokazu.
The accomplishments of any cabinet are the culmination of the efforts of all cabinet members, and the chief cabinet secretary’s job is to coordinate these efforts. There are more and more cross-agency projects, and my goal this year is to enable Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, every minister in his cabinet, and all ministries and agencies to work smoothly together.
Kishida has strong conviction
Conveying the cabinet’s policies and goals to the Japanese people in clear language is another important task for a chief cabinet secretary, who also serves as the administration’s spokesperson. People ask me who is my model as chief cabinet secretary in whose steps I aspire to follow. Historically, very experienced and well-known politicians have held the position, and I have no ambition to be likened to them.
Last year, we were busy dealing with COVID-19, including implementing measures at ports of entry to prevent the spread of Omicron and preparing for the distribution of 100,000-yen cash handouts to those who are 18 years of age and under. We formulated policies based not only on their merits but also on how Japanese people would respond to them.
The Prime Minister is mild-mannered. But he has strong opinions about his policies and political beliefs. I think he has firm conviction.
We need to create an international environment conducive to resolving the abductions issue
Although we have been doing our utmost to resolve the abductions issue, no abductee has been returned to Japan since the five came back in 2002. We sincerely apologize for not producing concrete results, as results are everything here. The other day, Iizuka Shigeo, the long-time leader of the Association of the Families of Victims Kidnapped by North Korea, passed away. As Minister in charge of the Abductions Issue, I am greatly and deeply saddened by his passing.
Time is of the essence, especially because the abductees and their families are getting older. We cannot reveal the details of the negotiations because doing so would affect the outcome. It is of vital importance that Japan play the leading role in resolving the issue. The Prime Minister is ready to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. We must use every available means and prepare the ground for reaching a solution through a dialogue between the two leaders.
I use every diplomatic opportunity I have to request partner nations’ cooperation in the abductions issue. We must create an international environment conducive to resolving the issue. At home, we are taking an initiative to inform younger generations about the abductions, because so many years have passed since the abductions happened.
Work steadily to the best of my ability
I have served in the Diet for the past 22 years. I have been working consistently to improve Japan’s labor, employment, and education policies. I consider this my lifework. Japan’s people are its biggest resource, and it is worthwhile to endeavor to help them shine.
The Matsushita Institute of Government and Management, which I attended, was established by Matsushita Konosuke, whose motto was “Great perseverance.” I am optimistic and I don’t work while “persevering and feeling conflicted.” I do what I must do every day, go home, drink beer, and go to bed. Because of COVID-19, I have been spending more time at home with my wife. We recently celebrated our silver wedding anniversary. With the pandemic, my wife and I have shared many more dinners together last year and the year before compared to previous years. I will turn 60 this year. The next 12 years will be the time for me to bring to bear all my experience as a politician.
Are you asking if I am eyeing to become premier next?
I can objectively see my capabilities. I intend to work steadily in a manner suited to my abilities.