Japan: Press Conference by Prime Minister Naoto Kan, April 1, 2011

News and Press Release
Originally published


CABINET PUBLIC RELATIONS SECRETARY: We will now begin the press conference with Prime Minister Naoto Kan. Prime Minister, your opening statement please.

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Naoto Kan

PRIME MINISTER KAN: Three weeks have now passed since the earthquake. A moment ago in a round robin Cabinet meeting we decided to officially name the disaster the Great East Japan Earthquake. I want to once again offer my heartfelt condolences to the families of those who perished in the earthquake, as well as my deepest sympathy for everyone affected by this disaster. To those in local governments, the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), fire departments, police bureaus, and to everyone else risking their lives to assist with the relief effort: you have my sincere respect. I am proud to command such incredible public servants.

I would also like to use this opportunity to once again express my gratitude for many offers of support Japan has received from all over the world.

Today is April 1. It is the start of a new fiscal year, and we have already successfully passed the budget as well as a portion of related legislation through the Diet. The Great East Japan Earthquake occurred after the budget had been submitted. We must now prioritize support for those affected by this disaster as well as policy toward reconstruction. To this end, although we already have a set budget, we will rescind a portion of it while beginning preparations of a supplementary budget. We will use some of the funds in the current budget to support those affected by the earthquake. We have been considering the necessity of implementing the budget for reconstruction in several stages in line with the requirements of this process. With the first round of funding, we will clear out rubble, build temporary housing, support reemployment and help businesses start to rebuild. We are currently preparing funding for this. I hope to finalize the first supplementary budget and submit it to the Diet within April.

We must then begin preparations toward reconstruction. In fact, we will go beyond mere reconstruction, creating an even better Tohoku and even better Japan. We are moving forward with the creation of a reconstruction plan that has this big dream at its core. I have received many opinions over the telephone from the mayors of each city, town and village in the disaster-stricken area. These opinions will be incorporated into the plan for instance, in some areas we will level parts of mountains in order to create plateaus for people to live on. Those residing in the area will then commute to the shoreline if they work in ports or the fisheries industry. We will create eco-towns, places which use biomass and plant-based fuel to provide natural heating. We will outfit cities with infrastructure to support the elderly. We aim to create new kinds of towns that will become models for the rest of the world.

In the course of reconstruction, reemployment will be a major issue. The disaster-stricken region is home to many parts manufacturers, farmers and fishermen. The areafs fisheries industry in particular has always thrived. We must revitalize these primary industries without fail.

In drafting a plan for reconstruction we must call upon the opinions of experts and those with a stake in the future of the region. I hope to bring a group of such people together to form a Reconstruction Design Council by April 11, exactly one month after the disaster occurred. At the same time, we will create a system in the Government to actualize the proposals and plans created by this Council. I want to create this system within this month as well.

We have received many positive offers of cooperation for reconstruction activities from those in opposition parties. We will establish a system by which to promote cross-party cooperation. It is my absolute hope that we will be successful with this.

Next, I would like to discuss the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plants. We have carried out work thus far based on three principles, and we will continue to do so.

Our first principle is that we must prioritize the health and safety of the people of Japan.

Our second principle is that we must implement risk management initiatives to such an extent that some in the public feel we are being too cautious.

Our third principle is that we must conceive of every possible scenario and prepare response systems that can deal with each scenario should it occur.

We are currently proceeding with work under these three principles.

We are organizing our efforts around two cooperation initiatives in order to return the power plants to a stable condition.

The first hardly needs to be mentioned. The Government, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and related enterprises, the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) and other expert groups are exerting every effort for cooperation to address this problem. We have been doing so for some time and will continue to do so.

The second is international cooperation. Experts from other countries, in particular the United States, are already fully involved in the response effort, participating in joint operations with us. I spoke with US President Obama a few days ago and he again promised the full cooperation of the United States. Yesterday, French President Sarkozy visited Japan and told me that as the leader of a country possessing advanced nuclear technology and as chair of the G8 and G20, he would offer Francefs full cooperation and would send experts to help us.

In addition, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has dispatched experts, and is currently assisting us with a variety of operations. We are prepared for a long struggle at the power plants, and we will not give up until we have succeeded. We will continue to work with this resolve. Although we have caused much inconvenience to the people of Japan, I promise everyone that we will overcome this issue and restore the country to a state of complete safety.

The earthquake three weeks ago was truly horrific. However, in the time since then, I have seen some truly heart-warming scenes. People in and outside of Japan have come together to help our country overcome this disaster. Our efforts are now gathering momentum.

It has been sometimes said in Japan that the bonds between us Japanese are weakening. Since the earthquake, those in local governments, in industry, in NPOs, as well as many individuals across the country have voluntarily offered their support and cooperation to help us overcome this disaster. I believe that our renewed bonds will reach across the nation and lead us to a wonderful tomorrow. I am confident that we have a bright future ahead of us.

The late physicist Dr. Torahiko Terada wrote numerous essays about disaster. Among them, he noted that the practice of offering aid in times of trouble is deeply rooted in the nature of the Japanese as a custom passed down from generation to generation since ancient times.

I am certain that we will overcome the Great East Japan Earthquake, strengthen our mutual bonds and rebuild our great nation. With these opening remarks I pledge that I, my Cabinet, and everyone in the Government will make this happen. With this I conclude my opening remarks. Thank you for your attention.