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- Press Conference by Minister Nishimura (Excerpt)
Press Conference by Minister Nishimura (Excerpt)
*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.
Friday, January 13, 2023
Press Conference Room, METI Main Building
Visit to the UAE, Jordan, and Switzerland
I would like to start with two things.
First, I will visit the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Switzerland from Sunday, January 15, to 21.
The UAE will host and chair COP28 this year. I will participate in the World Future Energy Summit in the UEA, where I will meet key ministers, including Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, and exchange views on cooperation in the field of decarbonization toward realistic energy transitions. Some Japanese startups will also accompany me to explore opportunities for cooperation between Japan and the UAE.
Jordan is an important country that contributes to peace and security in the Middle East. I will hold a meeting there with His Majesty King Abdullah II. I intend to strengthen the relationship of trust between Japan and Jordan.
In Switzerland, I will attend the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, also known as the Davos meeting. Japan is the G7 chair this year. I plan to communicate Japan's efforts to address various challenges facing the world. I will also attend a WTO informal Ministerial Meeting hosted by Switzerland.
ALPS Treated Water
Second, there was a ministerial meeting today for the steady implementation of the basic policy on the disposal of ALPS treated water. We have compiled the progress of measures taken to date and future efforts.
We have made efforts to foster understanding through holding roundtable discussions with fisheries and improving the spread of information through TV commercials, online ads, and newspaper ads. The fisheries appreciate our stance toward fostering a relationship of trust, our measures to secure funds to ensure business continuity and other measures. We will make every effort to prepare for the issuance of a comprehensive report by the IAEA, strengthen our monitoring, increase the consumption of aquatic products from disaster-stricken areas, and improve the environment to ensure the maintenance of the distribution of aquatic products.
I will continue to take the lead in advancing these initiatives. A sales promotion event named Tokyo Furusato Matsuri will be held tomorrow at Tokyo Dome. I will attend this event and communicate the appeal of products from Sanriku and Joban.
The exact timing of the release of ALPS-treated water into the ocean is expected to be this spring or summer, after the construction work is completed and inspections by the Nuclear Regulation Authority are carried out, and the IAEA's comprehensive report is published. We will make every effort to ensure safety and thoroughly guard against reputational damage in preparing for the release.
ALPS Treated Water
Q: Regarding the release of the ALPS treated water into the ocean, which you explained, the government has shared its policy that it will not release the ALPS treated water without the understanding of the parties concerned. As you mentioned earlier, the National Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations appreciates to some extent the 50 billion yen in funds that was included in the supplementary budget approved last year. However, the fisheries have maintained their position to oppose the release into the ocean. Please give us your thoughts on how you will take the lead in obtaining understanding from the parties concerned.
A: I have repeatedly provided explanations to fisheries and the local people since the basic policy was decided in April 2021. We are also making efforts to communicate information across the nation through TV commercials, online videos, and other channels.
I have also held roundtable discussions with fisheries to increase the consumption of aquatic products from the Sanriku and Joban regions, taking their opinions into account. To that end, I launched the "Discover the charms! Sanriku Joban Network" and asked people in the Japanese business community for their cooperation every time I met them. There are currently 180 companies participating in this network. I also made these requests to members of the steel industry when I exchanged views with them this morning.
As you pointed out, fisheries appreciate our stance toward building a relationship of trust and our measures, including the business continuity funds as a response to requests from the National Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations. We have also been asked to take measures such as providing explanations to fisheries and the public, guarding against reputational damage, and ensuring the safety of the ALPS treated water, and we will respond earnestly.
We will make all efforts to respond to IAEA’s requirements. We will improve the environment by measures such as stringent monitoring of the situation immediately after the release and promoting the consumption of aquatic products from disaster-stricken areas. We will also continue to explain these efforts to the local people. While observing the situation in the Diet, I will consider visiting Fukushima and attending a roundtable again.
Q: The second question concerns the Economic 2+2 vice-minister-level meeting. The U.S. announced that it will be held in Washington on the 13th. Please tell us the facts, and what kinds of discussions you expect to take place at this meeting. Furthermore, immediately after this vice-minister level meeting, a Japan-US summit meeting will be held on the 13th. Will you please explain how these meetings will be connected to future ministerial meetings, and when you expect those ministerial meetings to be held.
A: As you pointed out, the US-Japan Economic 2+2 vice-minister-level meeting will be held in Washington, D.C. on the 13th, local time. Regarding the Economic 2+2, the first meeting was held last July with the aim of holding the second one this year. During my recent visit to the United States, I agreed with US Secretary of Commerce Raimondo on the importance of Japan and the US leading discussions at the G7 while making use of the Economic 2+2. I hope that the discussions at the vice-minister-level meeting will lead to the second ministerial-level meeting as soon as possible.
I will refrain from answering your question, as the exact time and theme of the meeting are still being considered. However, I would like to hold the meeting as soon as possible and bring about tangible results in a wide range of fields under this leadership.
Q: This is somewhat related to the previous question, and it was a topic of discussion during your visit to the United States. A very important theme this year is strengthening cooperation with countries that share the same values. On the other hand, there are also concerns that countries that do not share the same values will strengthen economic coercion. One example is China, which has recently suspended their issuance of visas. This unexpected situation is already making waves among companies.
You have pointed out that it is necessary to consider taking measures to prevent economic coercion such as this. Please tell us exactly what you are considering, and how companies should prepare.
A: First of all, at the G7 Trade Ministers' Meeting in Germany last September, we expressed grave concerns over the act of coercion using economic power and agreed that countries, including the G7, must cooperate in order to prepare for, prevent, and address this kind of act.
Taking these discussions into account, we will discuss how to respond to economic coercion with the rest of the G7, as Japan holds the G7 presidency of this year. We will take various opportunities to discuss concrete measures with other countries from the viewpoints of both prevention and mitigation.
In addition, there may be other similar events that are deemed to be economic coercion in a broad definition, and companies need to be vigilant and prepared for unexpected risks in general. METI will provide various support measures including diversifying and strengthening companies' supply chains.
Q: The other day, Dr. Wei, CEO of TSMC in Taiwan, announced at a press conference that the construction of a second factory in Japan is under consideration. Please tell us your views on this. If concrete proposals are put forward by TCMC, how will the Japanese government or METI respond?
A: I have heard that during a financial results briefing yesterday, Dr. C.C. Wei, the CEO of TSMC, said that the construction of a second plant in Japan is under consideration. METI welcomes the fact that the company is considering this.
The number of investment projects by Japanese companies related to semiconductors is increasing, and even though the situation surrounding the depreciation of the yen has changed slightly, there are still many investment proposals coming from overseas. The fact that Japan has technologies, including those for materials, is also highly appreciated. METI will firmly promote investments from both Japan and overseas as much as possible.
Regarding TSMC's announcement, we will consider what kind of support is possible as their investment plans become more concrete.
At the same time, TSMC's first plant is currently under construction in Kumamoto. It is important that this first factory is launched steadily, so we will firmly support its launch first.
Q: 450 billion yen has been added to the 5G fund as part of the supplementary budget. This is the third time that fund has been increased. Does this mean that preparations are complete for the support you are considering?
A: First of all, various projects have been brought to me, and we will make decisions while looking at the overall situation and continue to provide support as necessary. In addition to the 450 billion yen that can be used for investments from Japan and overseas, there are also the business restructuring subsidy and various support measures to strengthen supply chain resilience. We will steadily promote these investments from both Japan and overseas and provide necessary support.
ALPS Treated Water
Q: I have one more question regarding the treated water.
I understood that the release would begin this spring. However, it has now been indicated the schedule may be slightly delayed until summer. Please tell us your views on that and what you expect from TEPCO, which is responsible for the work on site.
A: First of all, when the basic policy was decided two years ago, it is expected to be ready in two years, so I don't think the release has fallen behind schedule. It was estimated that there would be 140 cubic meters of contaminated water generated per day and the tanks would reach the limit in fall of 2023. From April to November of last year, it changed to around 100 cubic meters per day, so I do not think it is necessary to install new tanks at this point in time.
As indicated in the basic policy, the release will be conducted after the completion of the construction work and the regulation authority's inspections, followed by publication of the IAEA's comprehensive report. In this sense, the expected timing is from this spring to summer. I recognize that the construction work is progressing overall according to the preliminary schedule by TEPCO.
We will continue to provide guidance to TEPCO so that it makes every effort to follow the construction schedule set forth in the basic policy while ensuring safety as a fundamental premise. Today I have also requested that Mr. Kobayakawa, President of TEPCO, handle the matter with appropriate caution. We will continue to provide firm guidance.