Policy Speech by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the 189th Session of the Diet
Thursday, February 12, 2015
I would like to begin my address with a few words concerning the terrorist incident in Syria in which Japanese nationals were murdered.
Following the onset of this incident, the Government pursued every possible means and we feel profound grief that Japanese nationals have become the victims of terrorism. I express my deepest sympathies and sincere condolences to the families of the victims.
The Government resolutely condemns these inhumane and despicable acts of terrorism.
Japan will never give in to terrorism. The Government will continue to take all possible measures to secure the safety of Japanese nationals at home and abroad, including the enhancement of measures at our borders. Through humanitarian assistance, including food and medical assistance, Japan will steadfastly fulfil its responsibilities to the international community combatting terrorism.
1. Most drastic reforms since the end of World War II
“To take Japan back - this is the only path forward.”
These are the words that I have lived by and expended every effort towards achieving over the past two years.
Following the results of the recent general election, and having been nominated by both houses of the Diet, I continue to bear the heavy responsibilities of the Prime Minister of Japan.
“Press forward ever more dynamically along this path, under stable political conditions.”
This is the message the people of Japan sent me in the recent general election. Together with the members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito in this chamber, I pledge to the people that we will fully apply ourselves in both mind and body in responding to the mandate we have been granted.
Economic revitalization, restoration from disaster, social security reforms, the rebuilding of education, revitalization of local economies in Japan, women’s empowerment, as well as diplomacy and security.
None of the paths for these reforms will be easy, as they will be the “most drastic reforms since the end of World War II.” We must, however, press forward with these reforms undaunted, clearly discerning a vision for the future of Japan.
After witnessing for himself the world powers of Europe and the United States, where modernization had progressed, Tomomi Iwakura, one of the builders of the foundations of the Meiji State, stated the following:
“Japan may be a small country, but if the people can work together with a single mind to build up our national strength, it will be by no means impossible to become a nation that participates actively in world affairs.”
There is no reason why the Japanese people of today cannot achieve what their predecessors achieved in the Meiji era. Now is exactly the time for us to press forward together as one, setting out along the path before us. Let us together dynamically embark on the “most drastic reforms since the end of World War II”.
2. Carrying out reforms
(Agricultural reforms from the vantage point of farmers)
At the end of the war, more than 16 million Japanese were engaged in agriculture. Today, that figure stands at two million. Over the past 70 years, the agricultural population has decreased to one-eighth of its immediate post-war level. The average age of persons engaged in agriculture has exceeded 66 years of age. Sweeping reforms of agricultural policy can wait no longer.
What is the purpose of such reforms? The Government will advance reforms to create a strong agricultural sector and to increase the incomes of those engaged in agricultural businesses.
We will carry out the first reforms of the Agricultural Cooperatives for 60 years. The current structure of centralized cooperatives as provided for under the Agricultural Cooperatives Act will be abolished, and the Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives (JA-ZENCHU) will become a general incorporated association. Agricultural cooperatives will also be obliged to undergo an audit implemented by a certified public accountant. Agricultural businesses with ambition and drive will work together to combine their strengths with those of regional cooperatives to open up a new future for agriculture in Japan, including the development of branding for local produce and overseas business. It will certainly be the case that farmers and members of regional cooperatives will be at the forefront of future initiatives.
For the first time, we will also engage in fundamental reforms of agricultural committees. We will devise a system by which hard-working local people can take the lead, and in so doing eliminate uncultivated land and further accelerate the consolidation of farmland.
We will relax requirements for agricultural production corporations, which will serve to promote diverse participants’ entry into the agricultural sector. Further steps will be taken to eliminate the so-called “gentan” practice of reducing cultivated acreage, and we will promote produce for which there is high demand and ensure that agricultural land is fully utilized. We will advance structural reforms to ensure the agricultural sector is competitive and market responsive.
Change is the only eternal.
These words were spoken by Tenshin Okakura, who breathed new life into the traditions of Japanese-style painting and engaged in the challenge of reform during the Meiji era.
We should not be afraid of change in the face of tradition.
Agriculture is the very backbone of the nation. It has protected our beautiful Japanese homes and communities. It is precisely because of this that we must implement change at this very moment. We will accomplish agricultural reforms without fail and create new forms of Japanese agriculture – forms in which the younger generations will be able to open up new horizons with the power of their own enthusiasm and passion.
We are aiming for global markets. There is also tremendous potential in the forestry and fisheries industries. Last year, total exports of agricultural, forestry and fisheries products set a new record, exceeding 600 billion yen. However, this figure is still very small. The global food market extends to around 340 trillion yen in overall scale. We will advance integrated reforms in Japan and overseas and work to bring safe and delicious Japanese produce to the world.
(Reforms fixed firmly on an open world)
We will step forward boldly into an open world. Guaranteeing Japan’s national interests, we will work to ensure certain growth.
We have finally come to see the way forward in the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, with the end coming into focus. Taking the lead with the United States in negotiations, the Government will aim to bring them to an early conclusion. On the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), we will also accelerate the negotiations, aiming to reach agreement in principle during 2015.
In the face of an ever-more globalized economy, any company that cannot be internationally competitive cannot hope to survive. This is again something that the Government recognizes well. We cannot shirk from reforms that are fixed firmly on an open world.
We will make it mandatory for all listed companies to comply with a new “Corporate Governance Code” in line with international standards, or provide a reason if they are not in compliance with the code.
We will also reduce the effective corporate tax rate by 2.5 percent. We will reduce the current rate of nearly 35 percent to the 20-29 percent range over the next few years, advancing corporate tax reforms that will bring taxation to levels that compare favorably in international terms.
(Patient-oriented medical care reforms)
The Government will establish a new patient-oriented medical care system to ensure that global top-level care can be received in Japan. Responding to the wishes of patients who are fighting difficult-to-treat illnesses and based on their requests, we will make it possible for patients to receive cutting-edge medical care in combination with medical treatment that is covered by insurance. Furthermore, if safety and effectiveness can be established, we will ensure that cutting-edge medical care is covered under the national health insurance system.
We will also implement reform of the medical corporation system. We will work to enhance management transparency, through such measures as the introduction of external auditors. Furthermore, we will establish a new mechanism to promote cooperation among multiple medical corporations that possess different functions, working to enhance regional medical services.
(Energy market reforms)
Electric power system reforms will soon be entering their final stages. The distribution and transmission networks that are a fundamental part of the energy market infrastructure will be separated from power generation and retail power, allowing fair access for all. The retail gas business will similarly be fully liberalized, thus eliminating all barriers to market entry. I will work to create a competitive and dynamic energy market.
An inexpensive and stable power supply is the lifeline of the Japanese economy. I will advance responsible energy policies.
The increase in electricity tariffs caused by the dramatic surge in fuel imports is placing a heavy burden on the daily lives of Japanese citizens, as well as small- and medium-enterprises. Nuclear power stations that have been approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority as conforming to the new regulatory standards will be restarted, paying the greatest attention to scientific and technological determinants. With the support of the national government, we will advance work to develop thorough evacuation plans. In areas where nuclear power stations are located, we will provide careful explanations to gain the understanding of local governments and others concerned.
There will be no change to the Government’s long-term policy of reducing our degree of dependency on nuclear power. We will mobilize all measures to promote thorough energy conservation and introduce renewable energies to the greatest possible extent.
Through the regulatory reforms of the Abe Cabinet, the first steps were made towards the dream of a hydrogen-based society last year. We will accelerate the installation of hydrogen stations around the nation, as well as the dissemination of fuel-cell vehicles. We will fundamentally strengthen energy conservation measures, including the introduction of obligatory energy conservation conformance standards for large buildings.
Safety, stable supply, efficiency and conformance with the environment. These are the factors we will examine thoroughly as we create the best energy mix for Japan. We will also take the lead in measures to counter global warming. Heading towards the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21), the Government will formulate new reduction targets and a specific action plan for greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible.
(Promoting the overall reform agenda through administrative reform)
To move forward with all of the reforms I am pursuing, I will also carry out administrative reform.
I will transfer parts of the responsibilities of the Cabinet Secretariat and the Cabinet Office, which have continued to burgeon over the course of past administrations, to other ministries and agencies, and put in place a structure that allows the Government to fully and flexibly leverage the overall coordination capabilities of the Cabinet for carrying out important policy measures.
I will consolidate seventeen existing independent administrative agencies into seven agencies. However, my administration’s reforms are not merely about numbers. The purpose of this consolidation is to allow us to push forward strongly with our different reforms, such as the promotion of agricultural policy on the offensive. By introducing inspections by the Financial Services Agency and other such measures, I will establish a governance system suited to the characteristics of the work conducted by each of these corporations, thus enhancing the ability of independent administrative agencies to implement policies.
In April we will see the launch of the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (A-MED). A-MED will foster innovation in the medical field from right here in Japan, by engaging in ground-breaking research such as the development of revolutionary cancer drugs, or adapting iPS cells for clinical treatment.
I will make Japan the country that is best suited for innovation in the world. To attract the most prominent and talented researchers from around the world I will create a new system for national research and development entities that offers world-leading research environments. I will boldly support the kind of ambitious research that could completely transform Japan’s society and economy, such as IT and robotics, marine and space research, and biotechnology.
(A Diet to carry out reforms)
“Knowledge and action as one”
These were the words of the scholar Shoin Yoshida, who prized actual practice over all else, and who mentored the young patriots who would later act as the driving force behind the Meiji Restoration.
I will follow through on my growth strategy. By carrying out bold regulatory reform, I will boost productivity and raise Japan’s global competitiveness. We will step out into the open world and harness global growth. It is clear what we must do. The fundamental question is, will we take action or will we stay put?
What we need here in the Diet is not merely back and forth criticism. No, what we need is action. What we need is to carry out reform. I ask you all to join me in implementing bold reforms, with an eye on Japan’s future.
3. Economic revitalization and social security reform
(Positive cycle of the economy)
The “three arrows” of economic policies that we have pursued committedly over the past two years are steadily generating results.
The number of bankruptcies of small-and-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) reached its lowest level in 24 years last year. Over 80% of prospective graduates have begun the New Year with unofficial job offers in hand. The percentage of university graduates with unofficial job offers is the highest in six years, and is the highest in 21 years for high-school graduates. The ratio of job offers to job seekers has been above 1.0 for over a year, meaning there are more companies seeking employees than there are people seeking work. Permanent employment is also at its highest level since surveys began 10 years ago.
We will capitalize on this opportunity to broaden the potential for permanent employment to temporary workers who desire it. Entities that dispatch personnel will be obligated to engage in moving people to permanent employment, including asking the companies they supply with personnel to employ the personnel directly. We are also working on ensuring that temporary workers receive equal treatment to the workers at companies they are dispatched to, and are preparing an environment in which everyone’s choices can be realized.
Last year the highest wage increases in the past 15 years were achieved. This spring also, expanding corporate earnings will lead to wage increases. Furthermore, it is becoming easier for SMEs to pass on their raw material costs to prices, and the positive cycle of the economy will be sustained. That recognition is shared by the Government, labor and management.
To ensure breaking free from deflation, I postponed increasing the consumption tax rate to 10% for 18 months, and will implement it from April 2017. The wage increase trend will continue in spring next year and spring of the following year, and we will spread the warm winds of economic recovery to everyone throughout the country. And as a result, the three targets of economic revitalization, fiscal rehabilitation and social security reform will be attained simultaneously.
In next fiscal year’s budget the amount of new Japanese government bonds issued will be below 40 trillion yen for the first time in six years, and the budget will achieve the goal of reducing the deficit in the primary balance by half. We are also sticking to the goal of reaching fiscal soundness by fiscal 2020, and concrete plans towards achieving that will be drawn up by the summer.
(Enhancing social security)
Although the consumption tax increase was postponed, the fruits of Abenomics as well are being tasted to enhance social security.
Assistance for medical expenses for people suffering from incurable diseases will be substantially broadened. From last month, 107 illnesses were made newly eligible for assistance as specific childhood chronic diseases. Assistance for incurable diseases will also be widened to 300 illnesses, with this July as the target. The high medical expenses system was revised from last month. Low income earners’ medical expense burdens will be alleviated.
We will promote measures to counter dementia. In addition to prompt diagnosis and responses, we will prepare an environment that will allow people with dementia to live in regions they are familiar with, wherever possible. Alongside enhancing fiscal support for the national health insurance system, its fiscal management will be shifted from cities, towns and villages to prefectures in order to strengthen the foundation of universal healthcare.
We will reduce nursing-care insurance premiums for households with low-income senior citizens. Remuneration of caregivers will be improved by the equivalent of 12,000 yen per month, and we will also strive to enhance services. At the same time, nursing-care costs overall, which continue to grow, will be held down in order to alleviate the burden shouldered by users and rein in premium increases. Where social welfare corporations are concerned, we will move ahead with reviewing their management structures and clarifying the definition of their retained earnings, and reform them into providers of welfare services that contribute to the regions.
We will assist households that are raising families. The new system for supporting children and childrearing will be implemented on schedule from April. We remain resolutely committed to eliminating childcare waiting lists. Remuneration of people involved in early childhood education and childcare will be improved by the equivalent of 3%, and we will respond solidly to various childcare needs, including expanding the after-school kids’ clubs that utilize elementary schools’ classrooms, and enhancing weekend and evening childcare and childcare for sick children.
4. A Japan filled with opportunities for everyone
(A society in which all women shine)
I have high hopes that women who have focused on childcare will also lend their help in this effort. We will launch the professional qualification of “childcare supporter.” Child-rearing is also one kind of career. I hope to see women with splendid, invaluable experience in child-rearing take advantage of their strengths as childcare supporters.
I have firm faith in the power of women. I intend to create a society where all women who play active roles at home, in their communities, and at their workplaces can shine with confidence and pride in the lives they are leading.
We will re-submit the bill to promote women’s empowerment and act to pass this bill at an early date. Through the country, the local regions, companies, and other social actors working in unison, we will create an environment in which it is easy for women to be dynamically engaged. We will press ahead with reforming the consciousness of our entire society.
Starting this year, the percentage of women among all newly hired national public servants will exceed 30%. Our goal is to achieve a society in which the share of women occupying leadership positions in a multitude of sectors is at least 30% by 2020. To this end, we will support companies that make proactive efforts to recruit women, such as releasing information about female executives and offering assistance for vocational training to female employees on childcare leave.
(Flexible and diverse work arrangements)
We will provide diverse employment opportunities for senior citizens. Silver Human Resources Centers will be asked to enhance their functions as providers of employment. Meticulous support will also be offered to expand employment opportunities for those with disabilities, intractable diseases, and serious illnesses.
If all people are able to act with purpose and assume active roles in our society, then Japan will no doubt enjoy robust growth, even in the society which faces adeclining birthrate and aging population.
To realize this goal, we must dramatically reform the existing work system with its uniform working hours, along with our social mindset. The options available for employees will be expanded to allow for flexible and diverse work arrangements tailored to each person’s individual circumstances, including childcare and nursing care needs.
A new national campaign will be launched to transform summer lifestyles. During the summer when the days are long, people will be able to go to work earlier in the morning and enjoy time with family and friends in the evening.
Expanded flextime arrangements will allow employees to opt to work longer hours before their summer vacations to take longer breaks at the same time as their children. For highly specialized jobs, I will see that a new work arrangement becomes an option, allowing employees to be evaluated based on performance rather than work hours.
Long work hours will be kept under control by raising the increased rate paid for overtime work, among other measures. Furthermore, we will move forward to prevent overworking and create a society that promotes work-life balance through the creation of schemes that ensure that employees fully take annual paid vacations.
(Active roles for young people)
Young people will shape the future of Japan. I hope that young people live up to their fullest potential and play active roles in society.
We will fundamentally strengthen measures for the employment of young people. Over 30% of young people quit their jobs quickly. Bearing this reality in mind, we will request that companies recruiting new graduates provide their potential employees with information on overtime work, training, turnover, and other details. We will also have “Hello Work” (the public employment bureau) not accept job advertisements for new graduates from companies suspected of maintaining a high turnover of young people.
We will support young people with irregular employment in their efforts to secure regular employment by making use of the career development promotion subsidy. There are many attractive small and medium enterprises. We will bolster our initiatives so that young people are more aware of the opportunities presented by these enterprises.
(Reviving education that serves children)
“My daughter is currently working hard to find a job with a positive frame of mind.”
I received a letter from a mother who has a 20-year old daughter. The mother wrote that her daughter has had a learning disability from a young age and struggled with the fact that she was different from her friends.
“My daughter’s self-loathing gradually worsened. Sometimes she cried, wishing that she could die… Her radiance faded each time she went to school... Nevertheless, she continued to attend school, determined not to be left out of society.”
The daughter stopped attending school when she was a first-year student in junior high school. However, she then discovered free school (alternative school) and was able to rebuild her confidence and resume her studies. The mother wrote that her daughter gained back her courage and is now challenging herself to search for a job, even while struggling with social prejudice. The letter concludes as follows:
“Children are a mirror of adults. Unless the values of adults change, bullying will never end... I sincerely hope that Japan strives to be a society that accepts diverse people, diverse learning styles, and diverse ways of life – a society where people accept and respect each other. This is my small wish as a mother.”
It is only natural that this is her wish. We adults have a responsibility to create an environment where all children can learn and grow with confidence.
The Government will support diverse learning styles, including free school. We will reform the uniform system of compulsory education comprised of six years of elementary school and three years of junior high school. We will make alternative forms of education available during those nine years, which will not bind students to their class years. This includes the establishment of schools that merge elementary and junior high schools.
We must not let students give up if they believe they cannot do something. We will instill in students the joys of success in what they can do. With the collaboration of local people, we will expand no-cost learning support, such as the use of after school hours at junior high schools, to 2,000 locations nationwide.
The futures of our children should not be affected by the economic circumstances of their families. Childhood poverty is a grave issue that undermines the fundamental principle of a sound society; that is, if you work hard, you should be rewarded for it.
We will take methodical steps to alleviate the financial burden that education for children places on low-income households and achieve tuition-free education. We will establish an environment that empowers students to advance to high school, specialized training college, and university if they wish it. Student loans for high school students will be expanded. With respect to financial aid for university students, we will accelerate the trend that has seen a move away from interest-bearing student loans to interest-free student loans. I will ensure that in the future, all students in need of financial aid will be able to receive interest-free student loans.
Together, we can create a society with opportunities for all where everyone can work to achieve his or her dreams.
5. Overcoming population decline and vitalizing local economy in Japan
(Local regions contain opportunities)
A new program will be created that will waive the repayment of student loans for students who take up careers in local regions. Nearly half of the young people in their teens and 20s living in Tokyo responded that they wish to move to these regions. This is a very encouraging number.
Local regions contain opportunities.
We will strongly support young people as they challenge themselves. We will eliminate the practice of placing undue emphasis on “personal guarantees,” which dictate that if you fail once, you lose everything. We will see to it that financial institutions and small, medium, and micro enterprises across the nation eliminate this practice. In government procurement, we will create a framework for giving precedence to companies that have been in business for less than ten years and increase opportunities for those small, medium, and micro enterprises pursuing new businesses.
Furthermore, we will support companies that find opportunities in local regions. Tax support will be provided to companies that relocate their headquarters or other offices to these regions and expand investment and employment. We will provide support for the commercialization of new “hometown specialty goods” that make use of resources specific to local areas and for cultivating markets. Additionally, we will promote employment creation in the local regions.
Regional areas will play the leading role in growth.
In two years, the number of non-Japanese tourists increased by five million and surpassed thirteen million, a new record. We will aim for further increases by relaxing visa requirements and undertaking other strategic measures.
I would like visitors to Japan to fully enjoy the wealth of unique tourism resources of the northern and southern regions of the country, including their abundant natural beauty, culture, history, and food. We will enhance customs, quarantine, and immigration services in Japan. We will reinforce the functions of Haneda Airport, the gateway connecting Tokyo and the rest of the country. With the understanding of local people, flight routes will be revised, and the takeoff and landing slots for international flights will be increased by 40,000 slots annually by 2020. Similarly, at Narita Airport we will increase the sophistication of flight control functions and increase takeoff and landing slots by 40,000 slots annually. In Okinawa, a hub for flights to Asia, a second runway at Naha Airport will be constructed. We attach great importance to the promise we made with Okinawa to secure 300 billion yen for the prefecture in the budget every year until FY2021. We will do our utmost to implement this budget.
(Administrative and financial reform from the local regions’ perspective)
We will fully support the ingenuity and creativity of enthusiastic local regions. This is the main drive of the Abe Cabinet’s mission to revitalize local economies.
Administrative and financial reform that rewards the efforts of local regions will be promoted from the regions’ perspective. We will expand the system of “hometown tax.” Respective regions will increase their fan base nationwide and secure financial resources by harnessing their specialties. Through the simplification of the procedure of “hometown taxes,” I hope that many more people will become supporters of local regions.
Likewise, decentralization will fundamentally reform the current Kasumigaseki-led (Central Government-led) style of decision-making and allow the pursuit of reforms proposed by the local regions for their own improvement. We will adopt the proactive proposals of these regions and transfer authority to them, including authority for the conversion of farmland into other uses. Moreover, the National Strategic Special Zone system will be evolved for the establishment of “Regional Vitalization Special Zones” in order to carry out regulatory reforms that satisfy the ambitions of the local regions.
(Creating secure communities)
The residents of mountainous areas and remote islands have maintained the rich traditions and beauty of Japan. We will create small but convenient communities that will bring together in one location necessary daily services, such as healthcare, welfare, education, and shopping. The locations will be linked with neighboring communities through public transport.
It is first and foremost important that people lead safe and secure lives. We will step up our measures against crimes that target vulnerable people, including stalking and fraud against the elderly. To protect children from child abuse, we will establish “189,” the national toll-free number to children’s consultation offices that will allow them to take instant notice of SOS calls for help.
Drawing on the lessons learned after the eruption of Mount Ontake, we will work with local areas to strengthen our measures to mitigate the effects of volcanic disasters. The measures include improving our warning and evacuation services for tourists and climbers. To cope with water and landslide disasters caused by torrential rain which have increased in recent years, we will maintain infrastructure, prepare evacuation plans, and conduct drills. I will push ahead in making the nation’s infrastructure more resilient through the implementation of pre-disaster and disaster mitigation measures.
Last year, Japan was hit by natural disasters one after another all over the country. The Self-Defense Forces (SDF), police officers, fire department personnel, and other rescue workers performed rigorous rescue work during each disaster, working night and day in spite of the danger.
“It was snowing a lot, and we were very scared.”
Last December, many communities in Tokushima Prefecture became isolated due to heavy snowfall. Children at one local junior high school sent a letter to the SDF personnel who were dispatched in response to the disaster.
“We are overwhelmed with appreciation for when the SDF arrived and helped us. … We wanted to do something in return, so we are writing this letter.”
I too would like to take the opportunity to once again express appreciation to the rescue workers for their high sense of mission and responsibility.
6. Putting our diplomacy and security back on the right footing
(The path Japan has taken as a peace-loving nation)
Last October, the Training Squadron of the Maritime Self-Defense Force returned to Japan after a five month-long intercontinental tour.
“We must pay our respects to all those who fought for the country, regardless of their nationality.”
In this intercontinental tour, the Training Squadron was tasked with the mission of bringing home to Japan the remains of 137 Japanese soldiers that had been kept in Guadalcanal, the site of a fierce battle during WWII. This was made possible thanks to the generous cooperation of Prime Minister Gordon Darcy Lilo of the Solomon Islands.
I will work to ensure that the remains of Japanese soldiers, many of whom still remain resting in other countries, are repatriated as quickly as possible. This responsibility lies with those of us who are alive today. In Iwo To, we will complete excavation work at 100 sites under the runway by the end of next fiscal year in order to accelerate the repatriation work, aiming at quick repatriation of the remains of 12,000 Japanese soldiers.
The peace we enjoy today is built upon the precious sacrifices of those who lost their lives, being anxious about the fate of their homeland and wishing for the happiness of their families.
The path Japan has taken as a peace-loving nation will remain unchanged. Against the backdrop of a dramatically changing international situation, we will make this into a path which we follow even more tenaciously. We will secure fully and resolutely the lives and peaceful livelihood of the Japanese people by developing security legislation that enables seamless responses to any situations.
(“Proactive Contribution to Peace” 70 Years after the War)
This year marks 70 years since the end of WWII.
Japan has earnestly built up a free and democratic nation based on feelings of deep remorse regarding WWII and contributed to peace and prosperity in the world. Taking pride in this, we must be a nation that contributes even more to peace and stability in the world. As we head towards the next decades to come, I intend to convey to the world the message of our strong resolve in this regard.
Japan will share with the world our experiences and lessons learned from countless natural disasters. In March, the United Nations (UN) World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction will be held in Sendai. We will jointly address the challenges unique to island countries. In May, the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM) will be convened in Iwaki. We will work to ensure that the 21st century is one in which there will be no human rights violations against women. In order to realize a world in which all women shine, Japan before autumn will invite the participation of women who are playing an active role from all around the world, as we did last year,.
This year also marks 70years since the atomic bombings. As the only country to have suffered atomic bombings in war, Japan will lead the international effort on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.
This year, the 70th anniversary of the UN, Japan will bid for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. We are determined to play a major role in reforming the UN in a manner suitable for the 21st century.
This is precisely the year in which Japan will raise the banner of “Proactive Contribution to Peace” even higher and be a country trusted by the world. I intend to make this a year befitting the 70 years since the end of WWII.
(Diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map)
Japan will continue to carry out proactive diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map, working with countries such as Australia, the ASEAN member states, India, and European countries, with whom we share the fundamental values of freedom, democracy, basic human rights, and the rule of law.
The Japan-U.S. Alliance is the linchpin of our diplomacy. Over the past two years, the bonds of the Japan-U.S. Alliance have been reinvigorated, and have become unwavering. We will proceed with the revision of the Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation and further enhance its deterrence.
We will also proceed with the realignment of the US forces in Japan in accordance with the existing bilateral agreements. By the end of March, the West Futenma Housing area will be returned. I am strongly determined to realize the return of Marine Corps Air Station(MCAS) Futenma, which is located in a city center and surrounded by schools and houses. For this, we will continue to take steps to relocate MCAS Futenma onto land off the coast of Henoko in Nago City, while continuing our efforts to gain the understanding of the people in Okinawa. Grounded in the firm trust between Japan and the United States, we will continue to engage in reducing the impact of the bases in Okinawa not through unsubstantiated words but through actual actions.
Japan and China, which bear great responsibility for the peace and prosperity of the region, share an inseparable relationship. Last November, I held a summit meeting with President Xi Jinping. We affirmed our principle of a “Mutually Beneficial Relationship based on Common Strategic Interests” and took a significant step forward towards improving our relations. We will strengthen our stable friendship from a broad perspective, while deepening dialogues at various levels, and rise to the expectations of the international community.
The Republic of Korea (ROK) is our most important neighboring country. Reaching the year of the 50th anniversary of the normalization of the Japan-ROK relations, Japan will continually engage in dialogue to improve our relations. Japan’s door for dialogue is always open.
With Russia, the reality is that our two countries have yet to conclude a peace treaty even now, 70 years after the end of WWII. I have held summit meetings with President Putin on ten occasions so far. I hope to realize the President’s visit to Japan at an appropriate time this year. Building upon the series of summit meetings held thus far, we will tenaciously continue negotiations with Russia towards the conclusion of a peace treaty, while deepening our cooperation in a range of fields, including the economy and culture.
As for North Korea, we will continue to urge North Korea to comprehensively resolve the outstanding issues of concern, including the abductions, nuclear, and missile issues. With regard to the abductions issue, which is one of the most important issues for Japan, North Korea should expeditiously conduct investigations and sincerely report all of the results to Japan as early as possible. Under the principles of “dialogue and pressure” and “action for action,” Japan will continue to make its utmost efforts to achieve the resolution of the abductions issue.
7. Japan in 2020
(Reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake)
At the end of last year, Japan launched the asteroid explorer “Hayabusa2,” thus continuing to pursue challenges in space. Hayabusa2 will dig a crater into an asteroid and collect samples. The core technology that made this mission possible was conceived in Fukushima. Although they were forced to temporarily suspend their activities in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake, driven by their passion, this group of engineers gave birth to a world-first technology, working in one of the disaster-affected areas.
Fukushima will be reborn as a region producing world-leading research and creating new industries. I will work to build up a cluster of robotics-related industries in the region along the coast that suffered as a result of the nuclear accident.
I will also proceed with the construction of interim storage facilities to accelerate decontamination work. The Government will also stand at the fore and make maximum efforts to decommission Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and implement measures for dealing with the contaminated water. I will revise the Act on Special Measures for Fukushima Reconstruction and Revitalization and make efforts to enable the seamless establishment of reconstruction hubs, in preparation for the lifting of evacuation orders. I will also enhance financial assistance so as to robustly support those returning to their homes in their efforts to rebuild their lives.
At long last, in March, we will fully reopen the Joban Expressway, which runs through the disaster-affected areas in Tohoku. I would like many tourists to visit Tohoku, and hope that the reopening of the expressway will serve as a catalyst for the reconstruction of the disaster-affected areas.
Work has already begun on 90% of the projects for transferring housing to areas of high elevation and 80% of the projects for constructing public housing for disaster victims. Alongside continued efforts to rebuild homes, we will also make utmost efforts to look after disaster victims who are at risk of becoming isolated and provide them with psychological reconstruction, as well as efforts to reconstruct the livelihoods of those working in the areas including agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries, or small- and medium-enterprises.
After collecting samples from the asteroid using technology conceived in Fukushima, Hayabusa2 will return to Japan in 2020. I have no doubt that by that time, Tohoku will have undergone a complete transformation. Or rather, the onus is on us to transform Tohoku. Won’t you join me in reinventing Tohoku as a region of new creativity and potential?
(Olympic and Paralympic Games)
In the same year, Japan will host the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
We will guarantee that they are a success. With this determination in mind and under the guidance of a dedicated minister in charge, we will proceed with full-scale preparations in many different areas, from infrastructure development to counterterrorism measures.
I will also newly establish a Sports Agency to promote the value of sports throughout the world. Furthermore, I will create an environment in which everyone, from children to the elderly, as well as people with disabilities or intractable illnesses, can enjoy sports all the more.
(Japan can change)
We, the Japanese people, have now created the common goal of 2020.
Last year, in the Sea of Japan, Japan led the world in the successful extraction of full-fledged samples of shallow methane hydrate, so-called “burning ice.” “Japan is a resource-poor country.” By 2020 this piece of “common sense” may no longer hold true.
Japan can change. It all depends on our will and our actions.
For close to 15 years, Japan has continued to suffer from deflation. I propose that the greatest issue here is the fact that the Japanese people have been robbed of their confidence. Nevertheless, nothing will change if we sit idly by feeling sorry for ourselves. If all we do is constantly criticize one another, nothing new can be achieved.
“The Japanese people, be confident!"
These words were famously spoken by former Prime Minister Shigeru Yoshida, who laid the foundations for Japan’s postwar reconstruction.
If the Japanese people of the Showa era could do it, then there is no reason that we, the Japanese people of today, cannot do the same. I would like to call once more on each and every Diet member in this chamber.
Let us work together across party and faction lines to reform the electoral system and reduce the number of seats in the Diet, all for the good of the people. Let us deepen public discussion regarding constitutional revision.
We will pave the way for Japan’s future, and to that end, won’t you join me in ensuring that this will be the Diet to achieve the most drastic reforms since the end of World War II?
Now is the time. Through our efforts, Japan can achieve growth once again. We can shine once more on the world’s center stage. We are regaining our confidence.
Now then everyone, let us make a new start, right here and now, and turn this budding confidence into full-fledged conviction.
Thank you very much for listening.