Press Conference by Prime Minister Abe
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now begin the press conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Prime Minister Abe will first deliver an opening statement, after which we will open the floor to questions from the press. Mr. Prime Minister, your opening statement, please.
Opening statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
PRIME MINISTER ABE: Resolutely securing the lives and peaceful livelihood of the Japanese people under any circumstances—that is the tremendous responsibility conferred upon me as Prime Minister. It was with that determination that today the Government of Japan made a Cabinet Decision on the basic policies for developing new security legislation. This Cabinet Decision is the result of extensive consultations held repeatedly in the ruling coalition of the LDP and New Komeito. I would like to express my sincere respect for the great sense of mission and responsibility held by all those who were involved in these consultations.
This is not some kind of abstract or ideological discussion such as whether or not the right of collective self-defense is permitted under the Constitution. It is a discussion on what should be done under the Constitution to secure the lives and peaceful livelihood of the Japanese people in any situations that could happen in reality.
For example, suppose a conflict suddenly arose overseas. And suppose that in the conflict, the United States, which is our ally and has capability, came under attack in the sea near Japan when rescuing and transporting Japanese nationals trying to escape from where the conflict had occurred. Although this would not be an attack on Japan itself, the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) would protect the U.S. vessel in order to protect the lives of the Japanese nationals. What makes this possible is the Cabinet Decision made today.
I cannot possibly believe that the Constitution of Japan, which was created in the hopes of bringing happiness to the people, requires me to renounce my responsibility to protect the lives of the Japanese people in such situations. The Government of Japan made this decision today, sharing such a feeling with the colleagues members in the ruling coalition.
However, even if Japan were hypothetically to take such action, it would be limited to when there is no other appropriate means available and it must be limited to the minimum extent necessary.
There are no changes in today’s Cabinet Decision from the basic way of thinking on the constitutional interpretation to date. Neither has the existing principle of not, as a general rule, permitting overseas deployment of the SDF changed in the slightest. It still remains the case that the SDF will never participate in such warfare as the Gulf War or the Iraq War in the past.
There is a misunderstanding that Japan will become caught up in wars in order to defend foreign countries. In fact such a case is also entirely out of the question.
The measures that the Constitution of Japan permits are only self-defense measures for the purpose of ensuring Japan’s survival and protecting its people. Japan will continue not to engage in the use of force for the purpose of defending foreign countries. Rather, taking all possible preparations will serve as a great deal of power that will thwart schemes to wage war on Japan. This is what we call deterrence.
I believe that today’s Cabinet Decision will result in an even smaller possibility of Japan becoming caught up in a war. Japan will never become a country that would wage war again. I state that fact clearly once again.
The horrors of war must never be repeated. Bearing in mind feelings of deep remorse, Japan has consistently followed the path of a peace-loving nation for over nearly 70 years since the end of World War II.
However, this is not something that was brought into being only by chanting the term “a peace-loving nation”. The establishment of the SDF, the revision of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty, and our participation in the United Nations peacekeeping operations are all the results of the efforts of our predecessors who acted resolutely in facing the changes in the international community. This is what I believe.
In the years immediately after the Constitution was enacted, there was an argument that Japan had gone so far as to also renounce war as an exercise of the right of self-defense. However, then-Prime Minister Yoshida himself established the SDF as the Cold War intensified. There is no need to explain what a large role the SDF has played ever since in securing the lives and the livelihood of the people.
In 1960 the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty was revised. At the time, there was extensive criticism that Japan would be drawn into wars. In fact it is fair to say that the crux of the criticisms was that issue. The reinforced Japan-U.S. alliance has contributed significantly to the peace of Japan and this region over many years, by serving as a deterrent.
As regional disputes came to erupt frequently since the end of the Cold War, we cleared the path for the SDF to participate in United Nations peacekeeping operations. Criticisms arose at that time as well that this path would lead to war. However, in Cambodia, in Mozambique, and in South Sudan, the activities of the SDF have contributed greatly to world peace and have been appreciated and highly valued.
Even as it responded to the changes in the times, Japan has until now under the principles of a peace-loving nation set forth in the Constitution of Japan done its utmost and reviewed its diplomatic and security policies. Firm determination brings criticism with it. However, the peace-loving nation Japan has been established by transitioning our hope for peace in a form of responsible actions without fear of such criticism. This is for sure.
The course Japan has taken as a peace-loving nation will remain unchanged. Rather, Japan will continue these steps to further consolidate that position. It is precisely our determination towards that end that permeates today’s Cabinet Decision.
The international environment surrounding Japan has become increasingly severe. It is necessary to develop security legislation that enables seamless responses to any situation to secure the lives and peaceful livelihood of the Japanese people. Needless to say, the best case is that such situations would never arise in the first place. This is exactly why Japan will contribute even more proactively to the peace and stability of the international community.
Moreover, all disputes should be resolved diplomatically on the basis of international law and not by force or coercion. I have repeatedly called for the importance of the rule of law to the international community. This is for being fully prepared for contingencies in addition to such efforts. And, I believe that these preparations will themselves serve as a great deal of power that deters such contingencies from occurring.
In accordance with today’s Cabinet Decision, I will establish a team for drafting legislation and commence the tasks to secure the lives and peaceful livelihood of the people of Japan. The Government of Japan will give adequate considerations and as soon as it completes its preparations, it will submit the draft legislation to the Diet for its deliberation.
The peace we enjoy today is not bestowed upon us by someone else. The only way to achieve it is to establish it with our own hands. I will continue my efforts to provide thorough explanations of the matter and thereby gain the understanding of the Japanese people. I would like to proceed together with the people of Japan.
I will end my opening statement here.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now open the floor to questions from the press. Please raise your hand if you would like to ask a question. When you are called on, please first state your name and affiliation before asking your question.
I will begin with a representative of a company coordinating the press club.
REPORTER (UNO, HOKKAIDO SHIMBUN): I am Uno, with the Hokkaido Shimbun.
Regarding today’s Cabinet Decision, while the content can be viewed as enhancing deterrence against an attack on Japan, the expression seems abstract, for instance, stating that “when it poses a clear danger to fundamentally overturn people’s right to life, etc.” as a necessary condition for the use of force. Some have pointed out that it is possible to expand the interpretation of these expressions to various extents depending on the judgment of the administration, and therefore do not constitute clear limits. What are your views on this matter?
Also, as for the activities of the SDF, there are expectations to urge the United States, which is not carrying out the role of the world’s police force, to more appropriately execute the role being called for in the East Asia region, notably the Senkaku Islands. It has been pointed out that at the same time, it increases the risk of the SDF members to be caught up in combat and to shed blood. What are your thoughts on this?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: I believe that it is fair to say that the fundamental concept of today’s “new three criteria” is more or less the same as that of the three criteria that have been in place until now. These were conditions for the use of force. I would like to repeat that there have been almost no changes in the basic concept of the “new three criteria” in today’s Decision, and I think we can reasonably say that even the expressions have had almost no changes.
Today’s Cabinet Decision aims at securing the lives and peaceful livelihood of the people in situations that could happen in reality. The use of force must be limited to the minimum extent necessary for self-defense. This kind of basic concept about the constitutional interpretation to date has not changed in any way. Accordingly, this is not something that will exert any changes whatsoever on the normative nature of the Constitution, and the “new three criteria” serve as clear constitutional limits.
In addition, it is not the case that this Cabinet Decision by itself enables the exercise of the right of collective self-defense. It is necessary to develop the domestic legislation and to have the Diet deliberate it. In addition to this, it is intended for the approval of the Diet to be sought when actually exercising the right, the same as in the case of individual self-defense. I consider it natural that in Japan, a democratic nation, a decision would be made only through extremely cautious and careful consideration.
In view of this Cabinet Decision, developing legislation that would enable us to deal with any situation will allow seamless responses to enhance our deterrence. I believe that this enhanced deterrence will enable us to make Japan’s peace and security even more certain.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next I would like to take a question from another company coordinating the press club. Yes, go ahead.
REPORTER (NISHIGAKI, FUJI TELEVISION NETWORK): I am Nishigaki, with Fuji Television Network. Thank you for taking my question.
I would like to ask about the North Korea issue. Today, consultations between Japan and North Korea were held in Beijing at the Director-General level. What sort of assurances have there been regarding the viability of North Korea’s Special Investigation Committee that is to conduct a comprehensive and full-scale investigation, including into abductees? And, is it really proportionate to lift the autonomous sanctions that Japan has put in place? I would like to ask about your understanding regarding those points.
In addition, in his answer to a question posed at the Republic of Korea’s National Assembly on the 30th, ROK Foreign Minister Mr. Yun Byung-se indicated his recognition that negotiations to resolve the abductions issue, including the lifting of sanctions by Japan, might be impacting cooperation among Japan, the U.S., and the ROK regarding the nuclear issue. What are your views on that?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: Japan-North Korea government-level consultations are ongoing at this very moment in Beijing. Upon properly receiving the report by the Japanese delegation after its return regarding the explanation by North Korea on its Special Investigation Committee, I intend to make an appropriate decision after thoroughly assessing the situation. I do not feel it is appropriate to respond at the present time about how we will handle the matter in the future.
Japan has long acted in close cooperation with the United States and the ROK regarding issues with North Korea, including the matter of Japan-North Korea relations. Japan intends to continue to work in such cooperation going forward and I do not believe that Japan and North Korea holding government-level consultations will negatively impact cooperation among Japan, the United States, and the Republic of Korea.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next, I would like to take a question from someone other than the companies coordinating the press club. Please raise your hand if you would like to ask a question. The woman sitting in the middle, please go ahead.
REPORTER (YAMAGUCHI, ASSOCIATED PRESS): I am Yamaguchi, with Associated Press. Thank you for taking my question.
I believe that today’s decision to allow the right of collective self-defense will be a major turning point in Japan’s national defense policy. Mr. Prime Minister, by doing this what kind of country do you envisage Japan to be in the future? Does it mean Japan being a so-called “normal” country?
As Japan enhances its deterrence and becomes a country that is able to make even greater international contributions, it is also possible that maintaining peace could be accompanied by some sacrifices. What sort of preparedness does the Japanese public need to have? Also, are there any changes to the daily lives of us, the public at large, as a result of today’s Cabinet Decision? I would appreciate your answers to these questions.
PRIME MINISTER ABE: As the security environment surrounding Japan has become increasingly severe, today’s Cabinet Decision sets forth the basic policies for developing new security legislation from the perspective of what we must do to secure the lives and peaceful livelihood of the Japanese people. I believe that through enhancing deterrence and contributing more proactively to the peace and stability of the region and the international community than before, we can make Japan’s peace and security even more certain.
We will continue to fully uphold the pacifism set forth in the Constitution. The course Japan has taken as a peace-loving nation since the end of World War II will remain entirely unchanged. I believe that today’s Cabinet Decision will make Japan further move ahead proactively along that path. In addition, I have been explaining the fundamental approach of today’s Cabinet Decision, that is, our “Proactive Contribution to Peace”, at each summit meeting I had. I believe that we have gained the understanding of many countries, as we have also handed out materials explaining such ideas in a simple manner in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and various other languages.
At this very moment, some SDF members are engaging in counter-piracy activities off the coast of Somalia. Others are also conducting activities with various missions in the skies above, as well as on the surface of, the East China Sea. Each of them is solemnly carrying out his or her mission for the sake of securing the lives of the Japanese people despite the possibility of the mission being accompanied by risks. I thank and pay respect to them for their valiant activities in this regard. I am convinced that they will continue to conduct activities in order to protect the Japanese people and secure their lives.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: I will take the next question now. Yes, go ahead.
REPORTER (TAKESHIMA, MAINICHI SHIMBUN): Mr. Prime Minister, I am Takeshima of the Mainichi Shimbun.
In your opening statement, you mentioned that you would form a team to draft legislation related to today’s Cabinet Decision. I believe that there is great interest among the public regarding how the basic policy presented today will be discussed in the Diet. What schedule are you planning for these legal revisions in the three areas of “gray zone” situations, international cooperation, and the right of collective self-defense?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: I am sure that we need to undertake legal revisions right away. As you mentioned, today’s Cabinet Decision does not by itself make it possible for the SDF to engage in activities in “gray zone” situations, or activities under the exercise of the right of collective self-defense or collective security. As I stated earlier, we will start to develop the legislation for it from now. In the process, I would like to communicate and closely cooperate with the ruling parties in developing the legislation, including the schedule.
So at present, it is not time to talk about when this will be completed, as we will start from now.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Now I will take the next question, but because of the time, this will be the last. Mr. Takeuchi, please.
REPORTER (TAKEUCHI, NIPPON TELEVISION NETWORK): I am Takeuchi with the Nippon Television Network.
Mr. Prime Minister, I would like to hear what was the trigger or the original point which made you decide to work on this issue of the right of collective self-defense intensively.
PRIME MINISTER ABE: During the Koizumi administration, the Diet enacted so-called “emergency legislation” as well as the “Civil Protection Law.” I was then Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary. That was the time when I came to face the reality that there were inadequacies in such legislation to safeguard Japan’s independence and the lives of its people, even after 60 years since the end of World War II.
During that process, there was some “homework” that was left unfinished. That would be the “gray zone” situations now being addressed and, for example, if the SDF comes under an attack within collective security, or while undertaking peacekeeping operations, they can receive aid from units of other countries working alongside them, but the opposite is not possible. Is that really acceptable? Or, if people working for an NGO come into a dangerous situation, is it acceptable that the SDF cannot protect them? In addition, I was told by a number of high-ranking U.S. government officials that the U.S. Forces or the United States is determined to carry out its duty towards Japan to defend Japan in line with Article 5 of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. However, for example, if U.S. vessels on patrol in order to defend Japan were to be attacked, and Japan’s SDF vessels that were nearby and capable of protecting the U.S. vessel did not rescue it, or take any measures in order to protect the vessel, will we continue to enjoy the sense of trust towards Japan among the people of the U.S.? Will we continue to enjoy their will to defend Japan alongside Japan? They said that I should think about such things in earnest.
Within this context in which the security environment is becoming increasingly severe, I thought that Japan and the region will become more peaceful and more stable through enhancing our deterrence by making truly seamless and robust arrangements in that regard, and through our taking watertight preparations. Today’s Cabinet Decision was made from such a perspective.
I as Prime Minister have a responsibility to engage head-on in various issues without looking away in order to secure the lives and peaceful livelihood of the people. It was in light of that responsibility that today’s Cabinet Decision was made.
CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We have now gone beyond the scheduled time, so I would like to bring Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's press conference to a close. Thank you very much.