"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Press Conference by Prime Minister Kishida on His Visit to Fukushima Prefecture and Other Matters

[Date] March 11, 2024
[Source] Cabinet Public Affairs Office, Cabinet Secretariat
[Notes] Provisional translation
[Full text]

(On how the Prime Minister assesses the status of reconstruction in the Tohoku region and the most important challenge; the Government's efforts to alleviate the concerns of local residents regarding the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station; and the upcoming efforts to urge China to lift its suspension of imports of Japanese marine products)

Regarding how I assess the status of reconstruction and the most important challenge, I am convinced that the constant efforts by those in the affected areas have enabled the steady progress of reconstruction as we mark the 13th anniversary of the onset of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011.

While the hardware reconstruction in areas that were hit by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami has almost been completed, I have to admit that there still remain software challenges such as provision of mental care.

I recognize the need for continued efforts to ensure that necessary support is delivered to those in the affected areas.

I also recognize that the status of reconstruction differs depending on the timing of the lifting of evacuation orders and other factors in each of the areas that were hit by the nuclear disaster.

I believe that it is necessary to make efforts for reconstruction and revitalization of the affected areas, including through the lifting of the evacuation orders and improvement of the living environment, depending on local circumstances.

Regarding your question about how the Government will work to alleviate concerns of local residents following the incident, I would note that decommissioning the reactors is a long process that is unprecedented in the world. In order to accomplish this goal, TEPCO needs to ensure the measures to prevent recurrence of an incident and work with a sense of urgency on measures to further improve safety.

In this regard, on February 21, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Saito once again instructed President Kobayakawa of TEPCO to ensure necessary responses, of which I was also informed.

For its part, the entire Government needs to take the lead in ensuring that such measures to prevent the recurrence of the disaster and to improve safely are carried out in a safe and steady manner.

In order to dispel the concerns of local residents, we will continue to provide information both domestically and internationally regarding the preparations and status of decommissioning work, safety measures to reduce risks and radiation data, among other things. We believe that it is important to enhance two-way communication with people in various circumstance, including local residents.

Regarding the third question on the lifting of import restrictions introduced in response to the discharge of ALPS (Advanced Liquid Processing System) treated water into the sea, while 48 countries and regions have already lifted them, remaining seven have maintained them.

Among them are countries like China and Russia that have taken a further step of suspending imports of Japanese marine products in response to the discharge of ALPS treated water into the sea. Such restrictions are not based on scientific foundations and should never be accepted, and the entire Government will work to urge them to immediately abolish these restrictions that have no scientific foundations.

At the same time, it is also important to steadily implement the policy package to "protect the fisheries industry" that we compiled last fall.

I believe that we must take all possible measures to support the fisheries industry across the country by diversifying export destinations and further expanding domestic consumption.

(On how the Government responds to the calls for decontamination work to be conducted in areas including mountains and forests as it seeks to allow all evacuees from the nuclear power plant accident wishing to return to their homes to do so by the end of the 2020s as well as on financial resources after the second phase of reconstruction and revitalization; and on how the Government intends to utilize the experience in responding to the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake for the recovery and reconstruction from the 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake)

Regarding the issue of decontamination work that you first pointed out, the Government will proceed with efforts so that residents wishing to return to their homes will able to do so over the course of the 2020s and live their lives in a safe and secure manner.

In order to reduce the radiation level in the living environment in the Specified Living Areas for Returnees, we will ensure that decontamination work is conducted in areas where such work is necessary, including mountains and forests near residences, and develop infrastructure, as part of our efforts toward the lifting of evacuation orders.

There is no wavering in our determination to lift all evacuation orders in the Difficult-to-Return zones in the future and to continue to work on reconstruction and revitalization in a responsible manner. We are committed to continuing our efforts towards reconstruction and revitalization.

There was also a question regarding financial resources, and let me point out that the basic policy for reconstruction states that efforts will be made for full-scale reconstruction and revitalization in areas affected by the nuclear disaster for the 10 years starting in FY2021. Based on the progress of the measures for reconstruction and assessment of their effectiveness, the overall approach to reconstruction projects will be reviewed in FY2025, the fifth year of the second phase of reconstruction and revitalization.

Therefore, we will explore the introduction of necessary projects based on the status of reconstruction and will announce the scale of the projects by the end of FY2025.

We will also ensure to secure financial resources that are sufficient to carry out necessary projects for reconstruction.

Regarding the use of lessons from the past, I note that the experience from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake is very important in responding to the 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake that occurred on January 1. I also appreciate the warm and reassuring support from the Tohoku region.

For example, in providing supplies through push-type support to the Noto Peninsula, we have adopted the so-called Iwate method, which facilitates coordination among related parties by accumulating supplies and personnel at a large-scale supply depot and managing them in a centralized manner.

Furthermore, in order to offer detailed responses to such needs, members of the Self-Defense Forces have met people at evacuation centers to identify what is required, thereby backing the efforts to offer push-type support. I believe that this is another example of what was done in responding to the Great East Japan Earthquake, which was then modeled in response to the Noto Peninsula Earthquake.

The Reconstruction Agency has accumulated lessons and knowledge learned from our long experience of responding to the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent damage. I believe that we must continue to utilize this knowledge as we work on reconstruction and recovery.

For example, we will explore initiatives to provide reference examples regarding challenges that have also been seen in the areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, such as those associated with declining population, which can also be utilized for the reconstruction and recovery from the Noto Peninsula Earthquake.

(Regarding whether a government-labor-management meeting will be held to coincide with the date when major companies make wage proposals in the spring labour offensive and what he expects if such a meeting is held)

First of all, in order to create a virtuous cycle of wage increases and growth, we recognize that this year's spring labour offensive is extremely important. I believe that this will determine the future course of the Japanese economy.

From this perspective, we will hold a session for exchanging opinions among the Government, labor and management on March 13, the day after tomorrow, following such meetings in November and January.

We hope to increase momentum and cooperation between the public and private sectors in another attempt to achieve wage increases. In doing so, what will be important down the road is to ensure wage increases for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Therefore, we have also prepared new laws for objectives such as the formulation of strong guidelines at the Japan Fair Trade Commission to ensure that labor costs are properly passed on, and the revision of medical treatment fees to ensure wage increases for workers in the sectors of healthcare, nursing care, construction and distribution.

If our prepared tax legislation is enacted, we will also provide support through reductions in income and resident taxes totaling 40,000 yen per person. Through such initiatives, we will ensure to create an environment where the public and private sectors will further cooperate so that disposable income will exceed commodity price increases.

As we work on such initiatives, I believe the session for exchanging opinions among the Government, labour and management should be utilized as an opportunity to increase the momentum to achieve our goal.