These responsibilities are heavy indeed -- all the more so in that I see this Cabinet not simply as navigating a single historical passage but rather as marking a new starting point in our history. Thus I have characterized this Cabinet as a Cabinet that will initiate changes for the new era, and I am determined to devote myself heart and soul to meeting these responsibilities under the banner of responsible change.
The long era of East-West conflict with the two superpowers of the United States and the Soviet Union at its poles is now over, and a wide range of possibilities are being studied and earnest efforts are being made in the search for a new international order to replace the old system. There is no way that Japan alone could run counter to this historical current, and the bipolar era in Japanese politics grounded upon the Cold War structure has come to a close with the end of the Cold War. I see the results of the last general election as indicating that many people have rejected the politics of conservative-progressive confrontation and hope to achieve a new political structure of realistic policy options. Joining the people in affirming the end of the old era, I would like to say clearly that the curtain is going up on the start of a new era looking ahead to the 21st century.
Unfortunately, there has recently been a spate of natural disasters, including the torrential rains in Kagoshima and elsewhere, the earthquake off Southwest Hokkaido, and the eruptions of Mt Fugen in Unzen. Thus even before I go into my policies for this government, I would like to pay my sincere respects to those who have lost their lives in these disasters and my condolences to their bereaved families, as well as to extend my heartfelt sympathies to everyone who has been injured or displaced by these disasters.
I recently visited the afflicted area of Kagoshima and saw with my own eyes the awesome fearfulness of nature on the rampage. While it goes without saying that we will make every effort to facilitate recovery and to ensure the people's safety, I also expect that the national and local governments will work as one and, knowing that every day is a day of anxiety for those people who have been displaced, will act promptly to improve their living conditions as with the provision of housing and disaster-relief facilities so that their lives can return to normal as soon as possible. We will also move vigorously on the necessary measures to revitalize these areas after they have recovered from these disasters.
Japan is now at a major postwar turning point. Never before has the need for political leadership been so critical, and it is imperative that we restore the popular trust in government as soon as humanly possible. While successive Cabinets have declared that fundamental political reform was their highest priority, we have yet to see this reform. These delays in attaining political reform have then fed political distrust and created a political vacuum, and this has in turn hindered efforts to restore the economy to health and to deal with other important policy issues. I have been very concerned about the grave impact that all of this could have upon Japan's course. This is why I have made implementing political reform within the year my Cabinet's first and foremost priority, and this is why I am determined not to miss this once-in-a-millenium chance that the voters provided in the last election.
Given the many shortcomings induced by systemic fatigue in the present multiple-representative constituencies for the House of Representatives, I will urge replacing this election system with a combination of single-representative constituencies and proportional representation. At the same time, I will also seek to prevent the recurrence of political corruption as by broadening the definition of and strengthening the penalties for campaign co-culpability and, since corporate and other organizational contributions become an issue every time there is political corruption, will move to outlaw all such contributions and to replace them with neutral, untainted public funding and other provisions. The coalition parties are now energetically working out the details of these reform provisions, and, awaiting their conclusions, I hope to submit legislation to this Diet for deliberation as soon as possible and am determined to have this omnibus package enacted by the end of the year.
Political reform is not something affecting only politicians and political parties. Just as we must change our laws and our systems, so do I believe it will be impossible for political reform to have any real impact unless each and every voter and citizen is also determined to root out money-dominated elections and the politics of greed, and I am therefore appealing to all of the people for their understanding and cooperation in this effort.
Likewise, I intend to make every effort to break up the so-called collusion among politicians, bureaucrats, and industrialists, the politics of special-interest legislators, and other practices that have been hotbeds of political corruption. Believing that the deleterious effects of the bureaucracy's providing voter or financial support for politicians, directly or indirectly, would corrupt the very heart of politics and government, I intend to rectify the relationship between politics and administration and to act with upright morality in enforcing official discipline.
Making the administration even more flexible and more dynamic is prerequisite to responding to the diverse demands of the post-Cold War international community and of the people. While I will first make every effort to meet the urgent need for political reform, I know we must also start to work in earnest on administrative reform. Frankly speaking, there has not been that much real progress made yet on promoting deregulation and decentralization, on redressing the harmful effects of our over-compartmentalized bureaucracy, or on addressing other problems, this in part because of the interlinking interests and many obstacles placed in the way. However, these are issues that must be advanced both to achieve administration that the people perceive as transparent and fair and to rectify the over-concentration on Tokyo and develop vital local policies reflecting each specific area's character and initiative. I intend to deal with these issues forthrightly and am determined to achieve tangible progress.
Likewise, I believe the need to enhance the Japanese economy's potential demands that we work for changes in the economic structure from the long-term perspective and that we seek to create a climate conducive to the freer exercise of private-sector initiative.
The nation's fiscal situation is serious indeed with the combination of the continuing structural difficulties and the aftermath of the bubble economy's collapse. In drawing up the draft budget for the next fiscal year, I intend to work to see that fiscal resources are allocated even more effectively on a priority basis, all the while seeking to forcefully promote fiscal reform in line with the basic policy of not issuing deficit-financing government bonds. I especially intend to work for dramatic reform in the allocation of funding to different public works sectors, to invest with a strong priority on those areas that contribute to enhancing the quality of Japanese life, and otherwise to steadfastly promote social overhead capital enhancement in preparation for the advent of a truly aged society in the 21st century.
With respect to taxes, it is now about five years since the radical revision of the tax system in FY1989, and this period has seen the rise and collapse of the bubble economy, the acceleration of demographic aging, and other changes. Seeking out the views of the people, I intend to undertake a comprehensive review to see whether or not the current tax system has been able to keep up with these socio-economic changes and to consider how, taking pension premiums and the whole range of forced savings into account, we can create a balanced tax structure of income, property, and consumption taxes so as to attain a just and vigorous aged society. The Tax Commission is currently studying this very issue, and I intend to respect the results of their deliberations.
Japan is rapidly becoming a society of many old people and few young. Given the little time that is left us before the 21st century, it is imperative that we take advantage of this lull to set out bold new policies such as those to enhance welfare services and that we move now to achieve a society in which urban workers and rural residents alike can live full lives true to their diverse values in a beautiful and comfortable environment.
Forty-eight years later, Japan has now become one of the prime beneficiaries of world prosperity and peace. Yet we should never forget that this achievement rests upon the supreme sacrifices made during the war and is the result of the great efforts made by previous generations. I believe it is important at this juncture that we state clearly before all the world our remorse at our past history and our renewed determination to do better. I would thus like to take this opportunity to express anew our profound remorse and apologies for the fact that past Japanese actions, including aggression and colonial rule, caused unbearable suffering and sorrow for so many people and to state that we will demonstrate our new determination by contributing more than ever before to world peace.
The world is now confronted with a host of global issues. Respecting the Constitutional spirit of peace and international concert, I am determined to play an even greater part than ever before for the resolution of these global issues in full awareness of Japan's position and responsibilities as an international state.
Earnest efforts are now being made in the United Nations and elsewhere to structure a new international order for peace. Seeking a world of greater peace and respect for human rights, I fully intend, with the support of the Japanese people, to contribute steadfastly in personnel terms to these international efforts by the United Nations and to take an active part in reforming and strengthening the United Nations so that it can respond to the demands of the post-Cold War world.
The non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is an urgent security imperative for Japan and the whole of the global community, and I intend to support the indefinite extension of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Going beyond that, I believe world peace depends upon the ultimate elimination of all nuclear weapons from the earth and global disarmament, and I intend to engage in more active foreign policy efforts to that end.
Close cooperation between Japan and the United States centered on the Security Treaty is indispensable to world peace and prosperity. I welcome the fact that the United States has indicated its determination to maintain a presence and to remain engaged in the Asia-Pacific region, and I intend to make every effort to continue to forge good, constructive relations with the United States as the cornerstone of Japanese foreign policy.
Recognizing Japan's important role as an Asia-Pacific nation, I would like, never forgetting to be modest of demeanor and always working to foster mutual trust, to make every possible contribution to the peace and prosperity of this region. Along with promoting even closer dialogue and cooperation with the countries of this region in the economic and political fields, I intend to work for even better relations with China, the Republic of Korea, the ASEAN countries, and our other neighbors.
In our relations with Russia, I intend to work to achieve a resolution to the Northern Territories issue and the full normalization of the relationship and to provide all appropriate support for the reform efforts underway in Russia.
Likewise, I also hope to continue to build even closer cooperative relations with the countries of Europe as they move toward integration and play an increasingly important role in the international community.
It would surely have a grave impact on the world economy were the Uruguay Round negotiations to end without an agreement, and Japan is determined to continue to make every effort for the successful conclusion of the negotiations by the end of the year as reaffirmed at the recent Tokyo Summit. While agriculture is an area in which all countries face difficult problems, I intend to make the utmost efforts for a solution based upon mutual cooperation in line with our basic policy.
Honestly open to the concern that the United States, the EC countries, and some other countries have expressed over the impact that Japan's massive current account surplus could have on the world economy, I intend to work vigorously for expanded domestic demand and improved market access and for such consumer-oriented policies as rectifying the disparity between domestic and international prices and promoting deregulation, and to strive to reduce our current account surplus, not just to maintain good external economic relations but also to improve the quality of Japanese life. Accordingly, I intend to move promptly to hear what people from different perspectives have to suggest and to determine what policies Japan should implement here, including possible changes in Japan's socio-economic structure. We will enter into consultations with the United States this September on a Japan-U.S. Framework for a New Economic Partnership, and I believe it is crucial that both countries work to reduce their external imbalances and to forge stable Japan-U.S. economic relations based upon free-trade and market-economy principles.
At the same time, I also intend to have Japan contribute to the global community commensurate with its abilities and responsive to international expectations, this contribution including efforts to resolve global issues through financial, technical, and other cooperation making vigorous use of our ODA programs and support for the developing countries and the former socialist countries' efforts for reform. With the increasing prevalence of abnormal meteorological conditions and other factors in recent years, there is more interest in global environmental issues in particular. These are not issues for the distant future but are urgent issues demanding our most immediate attention, and I intend to take new initiatives drawing fully upon Japan's own experience and abilities in international efforts to resolve these global environmental issues.
Many years ago, Lafcadio Hearn spoke to the students at the Fifth Higher School in Kumamoto and characterized the Japanese spirit as one of "love of what is plain and good and simple and the hatred of useless luxury and extravagance in life" and said he thought "the future greatness of Japan will depend on the preservation of that .-.-. spirit."
I was still young when I heard about this, but I feel we are entering upon an age in which the people and the country should not seek to over-extend themselves but should approach life with an unassuming stance and should seek satisfaction not in form but in substance. Not falling prey to great-power ambitions in our relations with the rest of the world, it is essential in our relations with each other that we weave a highly cultured lifestyle of quality and substance and that we bequeath the beauty of nature and the blessings of our environment to future generations.
Thus it is that my political ideals are premised upon shunning ostentation and pursuing quality and substance, not only in government and administration but also in the economy and everyday life.
Our most important task right now is that of restoring the popular trust in government. And while it goes without saying that this means we must promptly effect political reform, I believe it is also of crucial importance that we adopt a national reconciliation stance so as to heal the domestic political scars caused by the Cold War and that the relationship between the ruling and opposition parties be transformed from one of discord to one of dialogue, from one of mutual distrust to one of mutual trust, and from one of opposition for opposition's sake to one of constructive competition in ideas. Never forgetting the need to put aside our petty differences and our animosities and to join forces in politics mindful of the people, it is essential that we move forth boldly with the kinds of policies that will contribute to the greater stability and enhancement of Japanese life.
Determined to steer the ship of state in such a way as will prove that the people of Japan made no mistake in their historic verdict, I sincerely hope all of the people and all members of the Diet will grant us their profound understanding and support in this effort.