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Press Conference by Minister Nishimura (Excerpt)

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

9:19-9:35 a.m.
Tuesday, April 11, 2023
Press Conference Room, METI Main Building

Opening Remarks

Visit to Osaka

I would like to mention one matter. I will visit Osaka tomorrow, April 13. First, I will participate in the ground-breaking ceremony for Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai. Praying for the successful, safe construction of pavilions and other expo facilities, I will take part in the ground-breaking ceremony together with the people concerned.

Afterward, I will visit Panasonic Holdings Corporation and conduct an onsite inspection of their automated delivery robot, expected to be used for the last one-mile delivery, on which the company is conducting a demonstration test.

Question-and-Answer Session

G7 Ministers' Meeting on Climate, Energy and Environment

Q: This weekend, the G7 Ministers' Meeting on Climate, Energy and Environment will be held in Sapporo. At the meeting, reconciling energy security with climate change mitigation is expected to be a major theme, as was the case last year. What kind of argument does the Government of Japan intend to make with regard to the specification of the duration of using coal-fired thermal power generation and the regulation on gasoline engine vehicles?
In addition, what kind of discussions would you like to be held at the G7 meeting regarding the use of nuclear power and the release of treated water from Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station?
Please tell me about those two points.

A: As you know, as a result of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the energy situation has changed dramatically. In the first place, amid the demand recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, various constraints are arising on the supply side. We are at a very difficult phase in addressing the question of how to reconcile a stable supply of energy and energy security with decarbonization.
Under these circumstances, various discussions have already been held at the working level. I have also discussed this matter with other countries’ cabinet members on various occasions. Different countries face different economic conditions and different energy situations, so there are diverse paths to pursuing a stable supply of energy and decarbonization. While recognizing that, we would like to affirm that we should aim for the common goal of pursuing carbon neutrality.
As you pointed out, regarding the phase-out of fossil fuels without emission reduction measures, various discussions have been repeatedly held to date. We would like to affirm anew the importance of hydrogen and, above all, the importance of energy efficiency improvement and conservation.
Regarding nuclear power as well, I have so far held meetings with U.S. Energy Secretary Granholm and U.K. Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero Shapps and the French Energy Minister (Pannier-) Runacher, respectively. We have affirmed that we should cooperate in addressing matters such as the development of next-generation innovative reactors and the strengthening of supply chains.
With regard to nuclear power, there are various ideas. When promoting the nuclear strategy toward realizing GX, we would like to deepen our relationships with various user countries and other relevant countries.
At the forthcoming G7 meeting, we would like to discuss the role that nuclear power should play and the importance of nuclear power. I hope that those discussions will lead to strengthening international cooperation.
As for the release of ALPS-treated water into the sea, IAEA experts have visited Japan multiple times and conducted reviews from a technical and objective standpoint. Recently, a report was published by the IAEA stating that there is no need for a further safety review. I have heard that in the first half of this year, a comprehensive report will be issued. We will continue efforts to disseminate information with a high degree of transparency and to foster understanding in the international community.

Rare Earths

Q: The Government of China has started considering banning exports of manufacturing technology for high-performance magnets using rare earths. Rare earths are used for a broad range of products, including EVs. What are your thoughts on the impact on Japanese industry? Also, please tell me about responses that the Government of Japan is considering.

A: I understand that the Government of China is working to revise the list that was published in 2008 of technologies for which exports from China should be banned or restricted. According to this list, the exporting of rare earth processing and alloy technologies has already been banned. According to a draft revision of the list that was announced by the Government of China at the end of last year, China is considering introducing an approval system for silicon manufacturing technology related to solar panels, and regarding rare earth-related products, China is also considering newly adding magnet processing technology to the scope of the export ban. That is my understanding.
I understand that as this revision is still under consideration within the Government of China, it has not yet been promulgated or put into force. We will continue to keep a close watch on its potential impact on the Japanese economy and Japanese companies. In any case, Japan will strive to increase the resilience of the supply chains of specified critical goods, including critical minerals and permanent magnets, based on our legislation and using funding that has been secured.

Energy Security

Q: Around one month ago, on March 10, Iran and Saudi Arabia, whose diplomatic relationship with each other had remained cut off since 2016, agreed to normalize the relationship through China’s mediation. As a result, it appears certain that the U.S. influence in the Middle East will weaken and China’s presence will grow.
Japan depends on the Middle East for more than 90% of its oil supply. Going forward, the possibility cannot be denied that China’s relationship with Middle Eastern oil-producing countries will become so intimate as to lead to the formation of alliances. If Japan, which depends entirely on the United States, is drawn into a state of war with China due to a Taiwan crisis, for example, there may be a possibility of being unable to acquire Middle Eastern oil. Should that happen, it would not only become impossible to fight a war, but industrial activity and the people’s everyday lives would also all come to a halt. Will there be no problem if Japan maintains its existing stance of remaining entirely dependent on the United States? Is a different foreign policy not necessary for acquiring oil? Please tell me about your thoughts on those points.

A: We welcome the move toward normalizing the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran as a positive step toward peace and stability in the Middle East region. We will keep a close watch on specific future developments.
Middle Eastern oil-producing countries and Japan have historically maintained friendly relationships for many years. When I joined the ministry in 1985, my first post was at the Petroleum Department of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, and since then, I have had various relationships with oil-producing countries.
With that experience in mind, I visited Saudi Arabia and Oman at the end of last year and the UAE in January. During those visits, I called for production increases and a stable supply of crude oil and concluded a basic agreement with Oman on a long-term contract of LNG, which is essential to energy transition. Moreover, with an eye toward a decarbonized society, we held discussions on clean energy, such as hydrogen and ammonium, and industrial diversification, and wide-ranging cooperation is underway.
Regarding Iran, in autumn last year, Petroleum Minister Owji came to Japan and exchanged opinions with us. We hope that nuclear debate under the JCPOA will be resumed, and that Iran will return to the international community. Japan will also do what it can.
I myself serve as secretary-general of the Japan-Iran parliamentarians’ association and as chairman of the Japan-Saudi parliamentarians association, and therefore, in my present capacity of Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry as well, I will do my best to promote what METI can do toward stability, peace and prosperity in the Middle East.
Yesterday, in a meeting with the King Abdullah II of Jordan, we affirmed that our two countries will cooperate toward peace and prosperity in the Middle East. In today’s summit meeting as well, I expect that the two leaders, Prime Minister Kishida and King Abdullah, will hold discussions toward peace and prosperity in the Middle East. I will also attend that meeting and METI will do whatever it can in the future.

Last updated:2023-04-11