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Press Conference by Minister Nishimura (Excerpt)

*Note: This is a provisional translation for reference purposes only.

10:53-11:09 a.m.
Friday, March 31, 2023
Press Conference Room, METI Main Building

Opening Remarks

Today, I have five points to mention.

Sanriku-Joban Weeks

The first point is that as the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and the reconstruction of Fukushima are our greatest priorities, we have launched an initiative titled “Find the Charm! Sanriku-Joban Mono Network” in order to contain reputational damage associated with the release of ALPS-treated water, which is expected to start around spring or summer this year. Around 1,000 companies and other organizations are now participating in it.

As part of the network’s efforts, we have designated the period from March 23 to April 24 as the “Sanriku-Joban Weeks,” during which the expansion of consumption is promoted through the holding of events, consumption at employee canteens of business organizations and government ministries and agencies, and purchase of lunch boxes and other local food products. Around 150,000 meals’ worth of food from the Sanriku and Joban regions were consumed over the first one month. At the Ministry of Economy, I and other personnel enjoyed eating those foods, consuming more than 1,000 meals’ worth.

We will continue efforts to expand the consumption of food products from the Sanriku and Joban regions in the future.

Power Supply and Demand

The second point is the appeal that we have made to save electricity and conserve energy as far as is possible amid very difficult prospects for the energy supply-demand balance this winter. As a result of the appeal, thanks to the people’s cooperation, we have managed to overcome the situation this winter. Once again, we would like to express our appreciation for the cooperation in electricity saving and energy conservation efforts.

As to the summer of this year, prospects continue to be very difficult, with the reserve ratio in the Tokyo area in July projected at 3.0%. Therefore, we will do our utmost to secure sufficient supply capacity, for example by operating thermal power plants that are now offline. As a demand-side measure, we have created a demand response system through an electricity saving program implemented this winter. We would like to request the people concerned to continue those efforts and people who have not yet participated in such efforts to join in as well.

As there are various point-award programs, we are hoping for cooperation in electricity saving and energy conservation efforts. We will do our utmost to secure a stable electricity supply.

FIT System

Third, regarding the FIT system, certification will expire from today in some cases under the certification expiration system. Under the FIT system, the accumulation of so-called “non-operational projects,” which refer to cases in which operation has not started for a long period after certification was granted, has emerged as a problem. As a result of the amendment to the Act on Special Measures Concerning Procurement of Electricity from Renewable Energy Sources by Electricity Utilities, the certification expiration system started in April 2022. Under the certification expiration system, in order to ensure predictability for renewable energy business operators, a grace period until the start of operation has been set for each type of power source, such as photovoltaic power, and if operation has not started after the passage of that period, the certification expires.

Certification should expire at a certain point in time after one year of non-operation, depending upon the type of power source. In cases where application for the start of construction for grid connection has not been submitted, certification expires as soon as the one-year period ends. The system applies to those cases from today.

In addition, the system also applies to cases in which the necessary permission for so-called conversion from farmland or permission for forest development has not been obtained.

Today, around 50,000 cases with an estimated combined capacity of approximately 4 gigawatts are expected to lose certification at the first deadline for expiration since the start of the system. We will continue to encourage efficient use of grids by appropriately managing the expiration system. We have been managing the system on the assumption of participation by some businesses that will not start operation. As certification expires in those cases, it will become possible to use the grid more efficiently. In addition to encouraging efficient use of grids in this way, we will make efforts to introduce renewable energy to the maximum extent possible in a manner harmonious with local communities.

Deliberations have started on the bill concerning GX (green transformation)-related power sources. This bill contains provisions to strengthen discipline over the introduction of renewable energy, so we will also make relevant efforts.

Ban on Russia-Bound Exports

The fourth point is the ban on Russia-bound exports of goods that contribute to the strengthening of industrial infrastructure. Regarding this measure, based on cabinet approval granted on February 28, a cabinet decision was made with respect to the amendment to the Export Trade Control Order. The amended order has been promulgated today and will be put into force on April 7. We will continue to implement strict sanctions in cooperation with our G7 partners.

Export Control on Semiconductor-Manufacturing Equipment

The fifth point is the strengthening of export control on semiconductor-manufacturing equipment. If high-performance, advanced semiconductors are converted to military applications, that could prevent the maintenance of international peace and security. In light of the increasingly severe international security environment and also in comprehensive consideration of the need to complement the Wassenaar Arrangement for the purpose of preventing conversion to military applications, as well as the most recent trends in export controls on semiconductor-manufacturing equipment by relevant countries, we have decided to add to the scope of export control high-performance semiconductor-manufacturing equipment, which has until now been not covered.

More specifically, by amending the Goods, etc. Ministry Order based on the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act, we plan to add 23 items of semiconductor-manufacturing equipment to the scope of export control covering all regions. Starting today, we will submit the draft amendment to the public comment procedure, and we would like to finalize it after collecting comments from far and wide.

On the exercise of export control, we have already been exchanging opinions with our allies and partner countries through various opportunities. During the course of those exchanges, I believe that a certain degree of understanding has been obtained on the concept and contents of the latest Japanese measure. In cooperation with those countries, we would also like to make efforts to reflect the latest measures in the Wassenaar Arrangement at the same time.

In the field of semiconductor-manufacturing equipment, Japan has very superior competitiveness. Through the latest measure, which is intended to prevent conversion to military applications, we would like to fulfill Japan’s responsibilities to the international community as a technology owner country and contribute to maintaining international peace and security.

The administrative staff will give you a briefing containing more detailed information.

Question-and-Answer Session

Export Control of Semiconductor-Manufacturing Equipment

Q: I have a question related to export restrictions. The United States has tightened export restrictions, citing China by name. Regarding this measure, do you have China in mind?

A: On the latest measure, I myself have been exchanging opinions with our allies and partner countries, including the United States and the Netherlands. We are introducing a measure that Japan considers to be necessary in light of the opinions exchanged.
As to the content of export control, I assume that judgments may differ from country to country. Our measure is not intended to keep step with, or follow suit with, the U.S. measure introduced in October last year, as it is different in content. The latest Japanese measure adds exports to all regions to the scope of export control, so we do not have any particular country in mind. This is intended to strengthen checks on whether or not there is the risk of use for military purposes, that is, to enforce strict export control.

Q: I also have a question related to export control on semiconductor-manufacturing equipment. Earlier, you denied that you have any particular country in mind. However, in reality, regarding these 23 items, individual licenses will become necessary for exports to China after this ministry order has been put into force. China is developing semiconductors on its own, but when granting individual licenses in the future, on what points will you focus your attention on in the examination of exports to China?
China accounts for around 30% of overall Japanese exports of semiconductor-manufacturing equipment. What impact do you expect on exports to China in the future?

A: First, regarding the items covered by the latest measure, exports to around 160 countries, or most countries around the world, are not eligible for general licenses, and China is included among those 160 or so countries. We do not have any particular country in mind regarding this measure, and on that premise, we check whether or not there is the risk of conversion to military applications. As application of this measure is limited to very advanced semiconductor-manufacturing equipment, it is not an export ban but a control, which means that if the risk of conversion to military applications is not recognized, exports will be permitted as usual. Therefore, we will strictly check whether or not there is the risk of conversion to military applications. As to the overall impact that you mentioned, we are communicating with various companies, and while we understand that the overall impact on domestic companies is limited, we would like to maintain close communications with the companies concerned.

Last updated:2023-03-31