*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.
Tuesday, December 20, 2022
Press Conference Room, METI Main Building
I just came back from an online IPEF ministerial meeting. I attended an informal ministerial meeting hosted by Secretary Raimondo. Fourteen countries participated. Please forgive me for being late.
Last week, we reviewed the outcomes of the first chief negotiators meeting held in Brisbane, Australia, in which there were discussions on specific benefits that should be achieved as part of the IPEF and what interests each country has. I believe that we were able to have good discussions in preparation for next year’s negotiations. Based on today's discussions, we will speed up negotiations with the aim of building a framework that balances even higher-standard rules among the countries concerned with concrete benefits through cooperation.
I have explained the various types of cooperation that Japan is prepared to offer. I think that we were able to share with the other countries the necessity for a framework of well-balanced high-standard rules and benefits. To this end, we will continue discussions for next year.
I will refrain from going into details of the discussions, but a notice will be given about the outline later.
There has been damage caused by heavy snow. There are people who were affected by the heavy snow, mainly in Niigata Prefecture, and I received a report earlier that there are still about 300 cars that are stranded. I would like to express my sympathy to all those affected by the disaster.
METI set up a disaster contact office yesterday, on the 19th. We are striving to quickly ascertain the damage and ensure recovery. As of 11:00 today, there was a total of about 27,000 houses in a wide area, including Niigata Prefecture, Kansai, Hokuriku, and Tohoku, that experienced power outages due to fallen trees and broken power lines as a result of piled up snow. We are now working in accessible locations to ensure a quick recovery. We are sending personnel, equipment, vehicles with generators, and other resources necessary for investigation and recovery to each area. We are taking swift actions.
In addition, in response to a request from Niigata Prefecture, we have provided gasoline and diesel oil as extra fuel supplies for stranded cars. Twenty-five 20-liter portable cans and 12 10-liter portable cans have been supplied to the Hokuriku Region Development Division from service stations along National Route 8. The service stations are operating as usual, and there is a sufficient inventory of oil products.
We will continue to closely monitor the situation and make every possible effort in close cooperation with business operators, industry associations, and local governments to help those who are stranded.
According to the weather forecast, there is a likelihood that more damage will be caused by heavy snow, so we will continue to be cautious.
"Discover the Charms!" Sanriku/Joban Food Products Network
Third, please look at the screen. The decommissioning of TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and reconstruction of Fukushima are two of the most critical challenges for METI. I have visited Fukushima four times, with another visit planned for the beginning of next year, depending on the situation in the Diet. I have held dialogs with the local fisheries and in particular have been making every effort to guard against reputational damage that may be caused by the ALPS treated water. I am committed to fulfilling my responsibility for attracting more consumers of appealing aquatic products from the Sanriku and Joban regions. Therefore, I have established today the "Discover the Charms!" Sanriku/Joban Food Products Network, a framework and a cooperative partnership between the public and private sectors. This network is a collaboration with the Reconstruction Agency and MAFF and will gather a wide range of participants from industry, local governments, government agencies, and other groups. We will communicate the appeal of products from the Sanriku and Joban regions to increase their consumption by matching sellers with buyers through our newly created website.
If you look at the list of services, you can see that they provide products for company cafeterias, boxed lunches, food trucks, and so on. METI has a food truck come about twice a month. I requested them to sell boxed lunches with food from Fukushima and the rest of the Sanriku and Joban regions. Although there is a limited quantity, they are selling boxed lunches at the Ministry today, and I will have one later.
I have sought cooperation with the network at various meetings in many places, including with the Keidanren. I will continue working to attract more consumers of products from Fukushima and the rest of the Sanriku and Joban regions.
Fourth, the Bank of Japan has decided on its direction at its Policy Meeting. Government officials cannot comment on this until a press conference by the Governor of the Bank of Japan has taken place. Please wait until 4:00. If you need me to, I will make comments after 4 pm at a conference similar to this or an on-the-move interview.
Q: Regarding the official IPEF online ministerial meeting, please tell us a little more about what you stated during the ministerial meeting.
A: As I said in the beginning, Japan has been working—and is prepared to continue working—to make balanced, high-standard rules while ensuring concrete benefits for each country by, for example, increasing investment or supply chain resilience, cooperating in clean energy, and developing human resources.
The developed countries stated that they are prepared to cooperate in these areas from their respective positions, and there were discussions on emerging countries' needs. I will refrain from giving further details, but I believe we were able to do a good job preparing for next year's negotiations.
ALPS treated Water
Q: Regarding the release of the treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, the government and other organizations have decided to release it starting next spring, but China and South Korea have been protesting against this. In particular, the experts and media in South Korea have stated that it may be possible to gain the understanding of the South Korean people if a group of South Korean experts verify the treated water's safety and release a statement to that effect. That is what the media has reported. Given these circumstances, please tell us what you think about this direction and the government's response to neighboring countries regarding the release.
A: First of all, the safety of the release of the ALPS treated water into the ocean—which you have pointed out—is under review by the IAEA, and experts from South Korea are taking part in the review team. I have heard that experts from South Korea will also participate in other reviews in the future.
Also, I understand that when Mr. Grossi, Director General of the IAEA, visited South Korea and met with President Yoon last week, President Yoon called on Director General Grossi for the IAEA to examine the issue of the release of the ALPS treated water scientifically and objectively.
Meanwhile, we have been providing detailed explanations to South Korea on the safety of the ALPS treated water through director-general-level meetings, and we are also conducting constructive exchanges of views. In addition, we have been giving explanations to the international community, including our neighboring countries such as South Korea, through various channels, including briefings to diplomatic corps and foreign media in Tokyo, as well as our website, which has information in English, Chinese, Korean, and other languages.
We will continue to communicate information to the international community in a transparent manner to foster understanding of the safety of the treated water.