Earthquake Centered in Northern Coastal Iwate

 I would like to express my heartfelt sympathy to the victims of the earthquake which occurred in and around the northern coastal area of Iwate Prefecture today.

A Meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Six-Parties

 Yesterday the six-way foreign ministers’ meeting was held on the sidelines of the ASEAN gathering, whose development is drawing international attention. Tottori Prefecture expects positive progress towards the resolution of the adduction issue (by North Korea).

The National Governors’ Association

 Some days ago I attended a meeting of the National Governors’ Association held in Yokohama. The “Fighting Governors Association” used to be its slogan, but the good fights were fought only within the association and the ones against the national government ended up in the drastic reduction of the tax allocation as a measure of the Trinity Reform (regarding fiscal relationships between national and local governments). They may have fought their hardest, but the internal battles were fierce and the results were more losses than gains for local governments.  In the meeting of the National Governors’ Association this time, I insisted on behalf of Tottori Prefecture that the governors’ association as a whole should request that Tokyo take a resolute attitude regarding the issue involving the victims of abduction (by North Korea), which was specially adopted as an urgent resolution on very short notice.  With regard to livelihood concerns such as the soaring price of oil fuel, we have reached an urgent decision finally that the governors’ association should clarify our intention. In this regard, I think that the operation of the association is somewhat commendable partially.  However, what’s a bit worrisome is the different degree of interest in minority opinions. I strongly urged the association to lend an ear to the regions where road construction projects are delayed.  From now on, I hope the association will have open debates within the organization, which will cover the situation in each respective region. I think that the association should function as an advisory panel to make policy proposals.

Schedules, etc

The campaign of "Tottori Prefecture, the Capital of Foods" (as tentatively translated) will be opened tomorrow in the main store of Iwataya, a leading department store in Kyushu Region, which I will visit.  In addition, I will get together in Fukuoka City with Governor Furukawa of Saga Prefecture and the Fukuoka City mayor, both of whom are young chiefs of local governments like me, and we will participate in the symposium of the Fukuoka Association of Corporate Executives.
 Furthermore, I will go to Osaka in order to attend the first executive meeting of Organization of Kasai Unity in 2008, in which Tottori Prefecture will be granted membership if approved.  The soaring prices of grain and other feedstuffs and oil fuel are having a detrimental effect on the agriculture industry at present. I had discussions with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery and decided to establish a conference for the start-up of urgent agricultural projects tomorrow, which will respond to the skyrocketing prices of grain, feed, materials and oil fuel in consultation with JA (Japan Agricultural Cooperatives) and other relevant organizations. We are thinking of taking this chance to actualize drastic measures such as utilizing rice as roughage or formula feed.

Q. On July 22, the governor of Gangwon-do told Vice Governor Fujii (of Tottori) in EATOF (East Asia Inter-regional Tourism Forum) that interchanges between the two regions should be partially suspended. Would you be specific about what this means?

 I haven’t got the details of it. Aside from the country-level development, I instructed the vice governor to convey the importance of exchanges on a regional level to the Korean side. I also advised him to bring up the topic of DBS Cruise Ferry.   With regard to international exchanges, the Korean side is deeply troubled with the current situation. Neither they nor we want to ruin the results that we have achieved by resuming the exchanges in an impassioned state. With public opinion on the Korean side reacting sensitively, it stands to reason that Gangwon-do cannot help considering the suspension of exchange programs. They haven’t yet mentioned the specific programs to be suspended. At present we would like to watch calmly how the situation develops.  Concerning the service of DBS Cruise Ferry, there seems to be confirmation that Governor Kim Jinsun (of Gangwon-do) would like to be proactive in implementing the service. The consensus has been reached that we need to cooperate in order not to let this issue unduly undermine the promotion of this kind of joint project.

Q. Do you think this issue will affect the seat occupancy rate of Asiana Airlines etc?

 The Yonago-Seoul flight services (of Asiana Airlines) were launched because Tottori and Shimane Prefectures are thought to be actively involved in international exchanges with the Korean side. I’m concerned that the seat occupancy rate of the said services might be affected to a certain degree if the mood to suspend interchanges spreads.

Q. What about the impacts on the service of DBS Cruise Ferry?

 The service route includes South Korea, so we need to monitor the impacts carefully. It hasn’t reached a point where DBS Cruise Ferry will immediately cancel the launching of services.

Q. The pediatric department of Tottori Municipal Hospital will inevitably suspend its operation this fall at the earliest. Do you have any intention to involve the prefectural administration in this issue?

 With regard to this issue, I cannot help saying it’s regrettable for the region. The root of the issue is a declining number of doctors. We requested Tottori University to increase the enrollment limit of the Faculty of Medicine by 5 persons, but even implementing this measure will mean a wait of more than 6 years to see concrete results. So the lack of doctors will, unfortunately, continue for the time being. We will need to deliberate on what measures we must take to get through this period.  We will dispatch the pediatricians of Tottori Prefectural Central Hospital to Tottori Municipal Hospital as an emergency measure in order not to let the situation lead to collapse of obstetrics and gynecology in the said hospital.  In addition, there are several large hospitals in the eastern region of Tottori Prefecture. We need to confer on how to establish collaboration among the hospitals, how to manage the hospitals themselves, and so on.

Q. It was decided this month that the Takeshima issue will be incorporated in the manual accompanying government curriculum guidelines. How do you evaluate the decision itself?

 This issue should be resolved bilaterally in the future. I don't think the right of a nation to establish an education policy can be denied. However, Tokyo’s attitude itself is betwixt and between and doesn’t correspond to either side in that it doesn’t explicitly teach the ownership of Takeshima and is a bit lacking in consideration for the Korean side. At any rate, the territorial issue should be resolved between the national governments.

Q. Regarding the issue of soil containing residual uranium, I hear that Misasa Town (in central Tottori) decided to accept a quantity of bricks made of such soil for use in road pavement and the like. What are your thoughts on this?

 (After the reporter mentioned that there is a precondition that the said soil should be removed from Tottori Prefecture in principal, and asked Governor Hirai about the fact that some of these bricks may be used within the prefecture,) I haven’t got the details of it, but I would like to know what the administration of Misasa Town thinks. I don’t think that they will accept all of them unconditionally. The principal is that the soil should actually be carried out of Tottori Prefecture as promised by the national government. However, this decision may be acceptable if the removal of the soil from Tottori Prefecture proceeds with the town’s intention taken into account, provided only that the local consensus is obtained.

Q. With regard to the disclosure of the results of the national academic achievement test, what are your thoughts on the handling of it by the prefectural board of education?

 The board seems to have had a heated discussion about it. I don’t have the final say on this matter, so I will watch for the meeting of the board in August.  Disclosure of each student’s academic achievement must not be permitted. However, it’s necessary to provide taxpayers and parents with the opportunities to see how schools and municipal administrations are conducting education. I expect them to have debates from a civic point of view and with a broad perspective.

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