Press Conference by Taro Aso, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, and Minister of State for Financial Services

(Excerpt)

(Friday, February 28, 2014, 8:13 am to 8:18 am)

[Questions and answers]

Q.

My question concerns Bitcoin, the virtual currency, which in Japan and other countries is not subject to clear laws and regulations and government supervision, and occupies a legal vacuum. Minister, what do you think about the need for regulation for Bitcoin, how it should be handled in the future, and so on.

A.

This is a little difficult. Is it a currency?

Q.

I understand that it’s regarded as a virtual currency.

A.

The media may regard it as such, but it is not a currency that everyone recognizes as currency. So I don’t really know whether the Ministry of Finance or the Financial Services Agency should have jurisdiction over something that is not a currency, whether the Consumer Affairs Agency should have jurisdiction because it is used by consumers, or whether the National Police Agency should have jurisdiction because a crime may have been committed. In Japan, the issue is quite advanced, so for quite some time I have thought that some actions might have to be taken in Japan, though I think that this time has come much earlier than expected. The Liberal Democratic Party had a group studying this issue, but because it has happened much earlier than expected, we need to consider urgently.

Q.

Is it OK to assume that the Cabinet Secretariat, rather than the Ministry of Finance, will be dealing with the whole thing? Minister, please tell me your thoughts on who should deal with this issue.

A.

Ultimately, the relevant government departments will have get together and work quite closely, but I still don’t really know what information they have on the situation at present. So if Bitcoins have been taken, been stolen, been made off with, it might become a case for the police, but I don’t really know what the actual situation is. Things like this begin with an investigation, so the direction things will take is not determined at the present stage.

Q.

You said that it has happened earlier than expected, but what has happened earlier than expected?

A.

I thought that something like this would not last long. I had thought that somewhere would go under, but it has happened earlier than I expected.

(End)