Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Friday, January 4, 2013
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now begin the New Year's press conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
We will begin with a statement from the Prime Minister.
Mr. Prime Minister, your opening statement, please.
Opening Statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
A Happy New Year to all of you.
Here at this place where we can feel the tremendous length of Japanese history as well as traditions and culture in which we feel great pride, I am participating in this press conference feeling greatly refreshed. To all the reporters and camera operators, I look forward to your cooperation in the year to come.
As we begin a new year, I look forward to embarking together with the Japanese people on the start of 2013, a year in which we will take the first step towards building a new Japan.
Today marks exactly the tenth day since I was designated as the nation's 96th Prime Minister. As I begin the new year, I have a sobering feeling once more at my weighty mission of breaking through the nation's crisis. I have renewed my determination to restore trust in politics and push forward vigorously towards the building of a new nation, working towards the future. I intend to place greater emphasis on a single meaningful outcome than on one hundred empty words. The Abe Cabinet will attach the highest value to a sense of speed in bringing policies into realization and the ability to get things done.
In working towards breaking through the nation's crisis, we will dedicate our greatest possible efforts from the very beginning of this new year to the challenges of economic revival, reconstruction, and crisis management. In the near future we will inaugurate the Headquarters for Japan's Economic Revitalization and reinstate the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy. In addition, we will compile urgent economic countermeasures very early in this new year and on that basis swiftly submit to the Diet a proposal for a supplementary budget.
Within the budget for the next fiscal year we will cut the waste from the swollen expenditures that arose under the DPJ administration and boldly prioritize projects in accordance with their content. We are continuing our efforts even now, having given up our holidays before and during the New Year season, and we will continue to work out details of items with great urgency, aiming to finalize the government's initial draft within January.
Last year, I selected Fukushima Prefecture without hesitation as the very first place for me to visit upon assuming the post of prime minister. Through my recent visit there, I observed the current situation at the nuclear power plant where the accident occurred and listened directly to the voices of the people affected by the disaster who still have to endure inconvenience in their daily lives. My feeling that we must accelerate reconstruction has intensified. Until now, there had been deficiencies in the government's vertically-segmented administrative structure and a failure to grasp what is going on there on the ground. Under Minister [in charge of Comprehensive Policy Coordination for Revival from the Nuclear Accident at Fukushima Takumi] Nemoto, we have prepared a framework enabling speedy decision-making and execution, under which decontamination, livelihood rehabilitation and other such issues will be addressed in an integrated manner. Within our economic countermeasures as well, we will intrepidly set aside a budget for recovery and reconstruction and accelerate the revival of Fukushima and the reconstruction of the disaster area.
In order to reinforce still further Japan-U.S. relations and rebuild our relations with neighboring countries, I myself will stand at the forefront and boldly develop our strategic diplomacy. I am determined fully to defend the lives and assets of our nationals as well as our territory, territorial waters, and territorial airspace in a resolute manner. We will take all possible crisis management measures against large-scale disasters, terrorism, major accidents, and other such occurrences under a system operating 24 hours a day 365 days a year.
In order to break through our nation's crisis, first and foremost, we will generate results one by one in the area of economic revival. At the same time we will engage in a revival of education, the creation of a society having peace of mind, and other such endeavors. This is the Year of the Snake in the Chinese zodiac. The Year of the Snake is also a year signifying new birth. I wish to put forth my best efforts together with the Japanese people in order to create a year in which something, no matter how small, is created anew within our daily lives.
In addition, snakes are a symbol of business prosperity. Over the course of this year, the Abe administration is determined to come together and work devotedly to enable to show that a significant first step is taken in reviving the economy so as to improve the economic environment.
With that I will end my opening statement.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Now I would like to move to questions. I would like to begin by taking a question from a correspondent representing the local Correspondents' Club for the Mie Prefectural Government.
REPORTER: I am asking these questions as a representative of the Correspondents' Club for the Mie Prefectural Government.
My first question is this. You waged last year's House of Representatives election campaign as the President of the LDP. If we include proportional representation seats, this is the first time that [all of the LDP candidates who ran in Mie Prefecture's single-seat constituencies succeeded in being elected to office]. Please share with us your reaction concerning these results. Also, as for the House of Councillors election that will be held this summer, in the case of Mie Prefecture, the DPJ currently holds the seats for both the Councillor up for reelection and the Councillor not up for reelection. As President of the LDP, how do you intend to approach this situation?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: As for the general election held last year, misguided political leadership by the DPJ has resulted in political disarray and stagnation. I believe that the election results were a judgment by the Japanese people that we must put a stop to this political confusion and stagnation. I feel that unfortunately, the scrutiny directed at the LDP still exists here in Mie Prefecture as well. I intend to win people's trust by delivering solid results.
In this year's House of Councillors election, we, the LDP, are truly in the role of the challenger here in Mie Prefecture. By reviving the economy and having everyone here in Mie feel keenly that the local regions have also gradually become better off, I am determined that we will enable people to place their trust once more in the LDP and manage to recapture those seats.
REPORTER: A slump in manufacturing has been continuing, and the downturn in business suffered by Sharp has impacted the economic situation of the residents here in Mie Prefecture enormously. What sort of countermeasures do you plan for the new administration to take in order to address regional economies in this regard?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: The extremely difficult situation of prolonged deflation coupled with appreciation of the yen has been an ongoing challenge for the manufacturing industry. I believe that within that context, manufacturing businesses in Mie Prefecture and many other local areas have suffered. What our party appealed for through the general election was that we will change those circumstances going forward. We will break away from deflation, correct the appreciation of the yen, and beyond that engender growth in the economy. In order to do that, we will restore the regional manufacturing industry by making use of the three prongs of first of all bold monetary policy, then flexible fiscal policy, and also a growth strategy.
Restoring a strong economy is a truly urgent issue. We will harness the collective efforts of the Cabinet, mobilize the wisdom of the public, and move forward forcefully on economic policies using the three prongs I just mentioned. As a first step we will formulate large-scale urgent economic countermeasures as rapidly as possible. We will swiftly bring the necessary budget measures to realization and quickly establish under the auspices of the Headquarters for Japan's Economic Revitalization a Council on Industrial Competitiveness and encourage private sector investment to bring about the resurgence of manufacturing. We will embark in concrete terms on bringing this powerful growth strategy into reality.
REPORTER: Thank you very much.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next I would like to field questions from representatives of the Cabinet Press Club.
REPORTER: As a representative of the Cabinet Press Club, on behalf of the Asahi Shimbun, which is serving as the coordinator of the press club, I, Nogami would like to ask the following question.
It is a question about the economy. This is something that connects with what you spoke about in your opening statement, Mr. Prime Minister, but as a first point, I would like to know your thoughts concerning whether or not you can bring about economic growth put forward by the Abe Cabinet through the 15-month budget to be released in the beginning of the year, through monetary policy undertaken in coordination with the Bank of Japan, and so on.
Also, regarding the concrete information to be used when making a decision on the raising of the consumption tax, are you of the opinion that a nominal rate of 3% economic growth between April and June of this year, as stated within your public pledge, is a conditional requirement? I would like to hear your view on this point.
PRIME MINISTER ABE: This is something I mentioned in my opening statement, but as the Year of the Snake in the Chinese zodiac, this year is also one of business prosperity, and therefore I am determined to get off to a fast and powerful start towards economic revival. The mission assigned to this administration is, more than anything, to restore a robust economy. I intend to do this by pushing forward with the three prongs of bold monetary policy undertaken through close cooperation between the government and the Bank of Japan; flexible fiscal policy in which we implement a large-scale supplementary budget together with the budget for the new fiscal year, under what is called a "15-month budget approach;" and a growth strategy that encourages private sector investment.
With regard to the 2% inflation target and exchange rates in particular, the Bank of Japan's monetary policy will be absolutely crucial. We must have the Bank of Japan handle the situation responsibly. As I have stated, the Bank of Japan's monetary policy is now completely and vitally important in the areas of the inflation target and the exchange rate. Consequently I think that we must have the Bank carry out such efforts in a responsible manner. I consider it to be absolutely imperative for the Bank of Japan to have this understanding.
Also, with regard to implementing the consumption tax increase, we will be making a judgment taking into account in a comprehensive manner various economic circumstances, including economic indicators from April through June. Under the three-party agreement, it has been agreed that the consumption tax will be raised in spring of next year, and I intend to revive the economy to enable us to move towards that goal.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: All right, I will take another question from the Cabinet Press Club.
REPORTER: I am Kuranaga with TV Asahi, the coordinator of the TV station division of the press club.
I would like to inquire about two points, broadly speaking. The first is regarding policy on nuclear power plants. Mr. Prime Minister, at the end of the year you stated to certain media organizations that you expected there to be new construction of nuclear power plants while obtaining the understanding of the public. Please share with us your true intentions in saying this. Also, do you intend in the future to accept the construction of new nuclear power plants? In that case, how do you intend to earn the understanding of the public?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: We will first of all determine whether or not to restart nuclear power plants on the basis of scientific safety standards. Then over the course of roughly three years we will assess the futures of existing nuclear power plants and transition to a new stable energy mix over ten years. The new construction or replacement of nuclear power plants is not a matter that is able to be determined immediately. Naturally this is an area in which we should make our determination in accordance with the principle of gradually decreasing our degree of reliance on nuclear power to the greatest extent possible.
In addition, it is necessary for the national government to take responsibility for accelerating examination of the issue of spent nuclear fuel disposal. Beyond this, there is the matter of, first of all, whether or not a cheap and stable supply of electric power can be achieved. Judgments must be made regarding the situation of global fossil fuel supply risks. In addition, I would like for us to take a certain amount of time to examine the situation as we look ahead critically regarding the verification of the nuclear power plant accident and trends in the progress of safety technology
REPORTER: This will be the last question today.
I would like to ask regarding diplomacy. Mr. Prime Minister, you have stated that as your first trip abroad you would like to visit the United States. When would the timing of that trip be in concrete terms? What are you planning to convey to President Obama regarding the TPP in your bilateral summit meeting during that trip?
Also, please address how the Japanese government is planning to deal with the extradition of the person alleged to have committed arson at Yasukuni Shrine.
PRIME MINISTER ABE: The cornerstone of Japanese diplomacy and of its security policies is the Japan-U.S. alliance. Within Japan's diplomatic and security policies, I consider the reinforcement once more of our kizuna - our bonds of friendship - that we enjoy through the Japan-U.S. alliance to be what we must prioritize first and foremost.
In order to do so, I intend to visit the United States at an early time and create the opportunity for us to discuss at the summit level the direction in which we will reinforce the alliance.
In the telephone talks I held with President Obama the other day as well, he and I agreed that we would meet at an early time and work to reinforce the Japan-US alliance.
At the same time, the U.S. side is currently in a situation in which the President's schedule is quite crowded physically against the backdrop of the "fiscal cliff" issue, then the inauguration ceremony, and the State of the Union address, so we are now making arrangements between our two countries taking a wide degree of latitude.
In that meeting with President Obama, I intend to engage in thorough and substantial discussions towards the reinforcement of our alliance in a manner befitting us as allies. And, I intend to make our summit meeting one through which we are able to demonstrate to both the people of Japan and people around the world that the strong bonds of friendship of the Japan-U.S. alliance have returned to their original state and have been restored.
As for the TPP, after first of all coming to a firm understanding of the contents of the consultations that have been undertaken thus far, what I intend to do is simply pursue the path that best serves the national interests.
Finally, with regard to the person alleged to have committed arson, there is an extradition treaty between Japan and the Republic of Korea. It is extremely regrettable that even though this treaty exists, it was as a matter of practice completely ignored, and we intend to raise a strong objection regarding this matter.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Thank you very much. With that, I would like to bring the Prime Minister's New Year's press conference to a close. Thank you very much.
PRIME MINISTER ABE: Thank you very much. I look forward to your ongoing cooperation in the new year.