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Press Conference by Minister Nishimura (Excerpt)

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

Monday, November 20, 2023
Press Conference Room, METI Main Building


Question-and-Answer Session

China's suspension of imports of fisheries products from Japan

Q: Japan-China summit talks were held for the first time since the commencement of the discharge of ALPS treated water into the sea. However, a solution could not be found for the issue of China's suspension of imports of fisheries products from Japan. Protraction of the issue is a matter of concern. Could you explain future responses and support measures for affected businesses to be taken by the Government of Japan?

A: Your question is about ALPS treated water. With regard to the safety of the discharge of ALPS treated water into the sea, we have provided explanations based on scientific evidence repeatedly to China and have requested it to respond calmly. Additionally, we have taken various opportunities to urge China to immediately repeal its import suspension on Japanese food products based on scientific evidence.
On the margins of the APEC Ministerial Meeting held last week, I held a one-on-one meeting with Chinese Minister of Commerce Wang Wentao and urged the immediate repeal of its measures. On the occasion of the recent Japan-China summit talks, Prime Minister Kishida explained the aforementioned approaches of the Government of Japan to President Xi Jinping of the People's Republic of China again, and I heard that they reached an agreement to seek a means for resolving this issue through consultations and dialogue in a constructive attitude.
From October 16 to 23, the IAEA's sampling survey was conducted with the participation of third-party analytical organizations, including that of China, and samples of seawater and so forth have been taken back to the respective countries for analysis.
Furthermore, from October 24 to 27, IAEA officials and international experts, including Chinese experts, visited Japan on a review mission for the safety of ALPS treated water after discharge. We have thus provided all available data to Chinese experts in a transparent manner to request calm responses from China. We have repeatedly provided explanations, relevant information, and samples to China. We would like to continue urging the immediate repeal of import suspension based on scientific evidence.
Additionally, the Government of Japan has prepared a support package totaling 100.7 billion yen, which consists of 30 billion yen for temporary purchase and storage support, 50 billion yen for supporting the continuation of fisheries businesses, and a reserve of 20.7 billion yen for shifting export destinations and other countermeasures. We have also been making responses while carefully listening to the circumstances of the affected people.
With the 30-billion-yen budget, support has been provided for diverse efforts to expand sales channels, such as the provision of fisheries products for school lunches, and to promote online sales and retail sales. Eleven cases for temporary purchase of scallops and storage support have already been adopted. Consultations are now being accepted. We will offer support promptly and appropriately based on the circumstances of individual businesses.
The latest economic package also incorporates a request for a supplementary budget for support for temporary purchase, storage, and sales channel expansion for products, such as scallops, for which exports are decreasing significantly. It also includes financing support for the development of processing facilities, which are regional industrial bases, as well as cashflow support for fishery processing businesses. We intend to enact the supplementary budget through deliberations as soon as possible to expand support measures.
If further damage occurs despite these support measures, we intend to give guidance to TEPCO so that compensation can be provided appropriately.

Arctic-2 LNG project

Q: On November 2, the United States added the Arctic-2 LNG project in the Russian Arctic to its sanctions against Russia. You said that the Government of Japan will make a judgment comprehensively and take actions appropriately, in collaboration with the United States and other G7 members, so that Japan’s stable energy supply will not be hindered. However, in reality, Japan depends on the United States for its military security. If Japan, a country with scarce energy resources, followed the United States even in terms of energy security, Japan might fail. I think that the Government of Japan should insist that the United States ought not to use energy resources as a tool for sanctions or at least that Japan should be exempted from the sanctions. We should prioritize Japan's national interests over sanctions imposed by another country. What do you think about this?

A: With regard to the Arctic-2 LNG project that you mentioned, the final investment decision had been made before Russia’s aggression against Ukraine started. I understand that it is an important project for securing a stable energy supply for Japan under the circumstances where supply and demand are expected to remain tight in the LNG market.
The sanctions announced by the United States on November 2 target companies involved in the project, and are of a different nature from the previous sanctions. Accordingly, a certain impact will be inevitable. At present, the Government of Japan is closely examining the details of the impact together with the related parties.
If it is found necessary as a result of this close examination, the Government of Japan will talk to the United States as needed.
In any case, as you mentioned, we will make a judgment comprehensively and take actions appropriately, in collaboration with the United States and other G7 members, so that Japan’s stable energy supply will not be hindered.

Capture of a cargo ship in the Red Sea

Q: There was news coverage that a cargo ship operated by Nippon Yusen Kaisha was seized in the Red Sea near Yemen. What do you think of this? Additionally, I think that this is a typical case in which a Japanese company becomes exposed to a geopolitical risk through a complicated supply chain. In such a case, through what channels will the Government of Japan take measures for solving the problem? In addition, as you have talked about the need to strengthen supply chains before, how should the Government of Japan take measures to prevent such a case or actions upon the occurrence of such a case? How should supply chains be developed? Could you explain your view?

A: First of all, the facts are that it was a car carrier operated by Nippon Yusen Kaisha but was not loaded at the time of the attack. I also heard that there were no Japanese crew members on board. The report stated that the car carrier was seized on its way from Turkey to India. At present, METI is gathering information in collaboration with relevant ministries and agencies, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, and is urgently deliberating on responses to be made at an early stage.
In relation to energy, the sea area where the incident occurred is off Yemen. Oil tankers and LNG carriers heading for Japan rarely travel this sea area. Therefore, this incident will not immediately affect the stable energy supply for Japan, but we would like to continue keeping an eye on the situation with great concern.
In consideration of the possibility that the incident may spill over to other sea areas affecting energy supply in particular, we will pay close attention to the situation in the Middle East, global trends in energy markets, and the potential impact on the Japanese economy, including price hikes and impacts on supply chains, as you mentioned. We will work to stabilize crude oil markets, in particular.
This time, the target was a car carrier, but this area serves as a sea route that connects Europe and Japan via the Suez Canal. It is used for transporting cars and various other goods to and from Japan, and any incident on this route may affect the Japanese economy, including supply chains as you mentioned. Accordingly, we intend to monitor the effects the latest incident may have. Securing safe navigation is most important, and we will endeavor to ensure it in collaboration with relevant ministries and agencies and with G7 members. We will also closely examine the possible impact on supply chains in the event that this route becomes unavailable, including finding other alternative routes.
At any rate, stabilizing the current situation in the Middle East as soon as possible is important. I would also like to take actions in my position, while having dialogues, making approaches, and communicating with related countries as necessary.

Last updated:2023-11-20