New Year's Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Opening Statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
PRIME MINISTER ABE: Happy New Year to everyone.
In 2016, Japan was struck by one disaster after another, including the Kumamoto earthquakes, the heavy rains of typhoon Number 10, and the massive fire in Itoigawa at the end of the year. I believe that there were many people who welcomed the new year while leading harsh lives as evacuees. I extend my heartfelt sympathies to everyone affected by these disasters.
I just paid a visit to Ise Jingu in the hope that 2017 will be a year of peace and abundance.
On African soil so far away, members of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) are working vigorously as they undertake United Nations PKO activities and anti-piracy measures, giving up their New Year’s holidays for international peace. Here as we welcome a new year, I wish to express once again my respect for their strong sense of mission and responsibility.
In the Oriental zodiac, this is the year of the rooster. During the previous year of the rooster 12 years ago, there was that dramatic snap election on the issue of privatizing Japan Post. Then the previous year of the rooster 12 years before that, the year in which I was first elected to the Diet, was a historic year in which the LDP became an opposition party for the first time since the end of the war, and the “1955 system” collapsed. The year 1969, when Prime Minister Eisaku Sato reached agreement with the United States for the reversion of Okinawa to Japan and a snap election was held, was also the year of the rooster. The year of the rooster has often been a major turning point politically. And this year, the leaders of various nations around the world will also change. We can anticipate that this will be a year of change. In that kind of era in which we cannot foresee the future, what is important is not to waver and to stick firmly to the course pursued until now. This year I will again place the utmost priority on the economy, and continue to shoot the “three arrows” of monetary policy, fiscal policy, and a strategy for growth as we work toward pulling out of deflation, like birds soaring through the sky.
Moreover, I have visited more than 100 countries and regions so far. I will conduct active diplomacy taking a panoramic perspective of the entire world map, like the eyes of a bird in flight looking down over the ground.
The year 1945 was also the year of the rooster. It was the year Japan’s post-war era began. Everything had been lost on account of the war, with burnt-out ruins stretching as far as the eye could see. But our predecessors never gave up. Amidst the ruins and the extreme poverty, they resolutely rose to their feet and after the war created for those of us living today a nation of peace and abundance under a new Constitution.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Constitution of Japan coming into force. Over these 70 years, Japan’s economy and society have changed dramatically. We now face a rapidly shrinking birthrate and a swiftly graying society. Deflation, which can be traced back to the bursting of the economic “bubble,” weighed heavily on the Japanese economy for almost two decades, and our confidence toward our sustained growth was shaken. On the world stage, the Cold War, which was the post-war international order, ended, and the security environment surrounding Japan has become increasingly severe. We can no longer avert our eyes from such difficult issues. Emulating our predecessors 70 years ago who created post-war Japan, we who are alive today must also take on these issues directly. We must carry out our responsibilities toward the future. Now is the time for us to press forward in creating a new nation as we head toward the future, keeping steadily in our gaze the next 70 years, which will carve out the era beyond the post-war era.
We will create a society in which all citizens are dynamically engaged, where each person is able to demonstrate his or her abilities, whether female or male, old or young, a person with a disability or an intractable illness, or someone who has failed before. We will break free of deflation and make firm the Japanese economy’s new trajectory for growth. We will hoist the flag of Proactive Contribution to Peace high and make Japan shine in the center of a worldwide stage. Moreover, it is children that are the very future of Japan. I am determined to create a Japan in which all children can pursue their dreams full of hope for the future, regardless of their family circumstances.
There is a bird called the arctic tern that each winter migrates to Antarctica to feed, and then in summer returns to the arctic to breed. It is said that some travel tremendous distances of more than 2 million kilometers over their lifetimes -- enough for roughly three round trips between the earth and the moon. Migratory birds fly off on their own and cross the seas under their own power, doing everything to create a future for their next generation and the generation after that. There is no one to help them. Our future is also not something that is given to us by others. We Japanese are now called upon to have the mettle to carve out our own future with our own hands. This year, the Abe Cabinet will together with the Japanese people launch in earnest its efforts to build a new nation, keeping our eyes firmly fixed on our children and grandchildren and on future years that lie beyond them.
The ordinary Diet session that starts on January 20th will be “the Diet to carve out the future,” so to speak. And, we will make 2017 a year in which we carve out the future of this country. I am resolutely determined to do so as we begin this year, which will be a major turning point for our nation.
As I end my opening statement, I would like to convey here at the beginning of the new year my sincere wish for 2017 to be a splendid year for all of the Japanese people.
With that, I will end my opening remarks.
REPORTER (KAWAKAMI, NIPPON TELEVISION NETWORK): I am Kawakami with the Nippon Television Network.
I would like to ask about the timing of a snap election for the House of Representatives. Mr. Prime Minister, at the end of 2016 you indicated your intention to place the highest priority on the passage of the draft fiscal 2017 budget bill. Does that mean that you will not dissolve the Lower House in the first half of the ordinary Diet session, as that would impact budget deliberations? If that is the case, then would the Lower House be dissolved in the autumn or later, given the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly elections this summer and the reapportionment of seats in the House of Representatives? I would like to hear your thoughts on these matters.
PRIME MINISTER ABE: You have asked an extremely specific question, but today is the fourth day of 2017 and in fact I have not given any thought whatsoever to even the word “dissolution” over these four days. Now that I have been asked this question, the word “dissolution” has come to the back of my mind for the very first time. I am not thinking at all about dissolving the Diet. We will make the economy grow reliably while thoroughly revving up Abenomics. This is the mission we have been given and I think that the greatest economic measure is the early passage of the fiscal 2017 budget. Right now I intend to focus on exactly that and devote all my energy to it.
REPORTER (WAKAO, CBC TELEVISION): I am Wakao with CBC Television.
Last year the G7 Ise-Shima Summit was held here in Mie Prefecture. There has been a series of summits held in local areas, and I would like to hear your thoughts regarding convening the next [G7] summit to be held in Japan in a local area, including from the viewpoint of government assistance concerning regional revitalization that leverages a summit.
PRIME MINISTER ABE: In the early years, we usually held summit meetings in Tokyo, placing emphasis on the functions necessary for holding these meetings, so to speak. Now the major trend has become retreat-style summits in which we hold frank talks among only the leaders themselves in a relaxed atmosphere. Consequently, I came to think that holding the summit in a local area rather than in Tokyo would suit the retreat style. In light of that, I chose Ise-Shima from my idea that I very much wanted the leaders of the G7 to come into contact with Japan’s history, culture, and traditions from time immemorial.
I feel that at the G7 Ise-Shima Summit, the G7 leaders got a taste of the dignified atmosphere of Ise Jingu and I was commended really highly for having selected a superb location in terms of atmosphere. We had lively and frank discussions with the natural beauty of Ago Bay as our backdrop. And, from the standpoint of revitalizing local areas, today the governor and local assembly members have also kindly attended, and they each made recommendations for what to serve to the G7 leaders, such as Mie Prefecture’s renowned Japanese spiny lobster, abalone, and sake. So we served various kinds of sumptuous local fare and I feel that the G7 leaders keenly enjoyed all that was served. I think that we succeeded in conveying to the world how fabulous Japan’s cuisine is, how striking its natural beauty is, and how stunning its sake is.
The next [G7] summit to be held in Japan will be six years from now, so I think the location is something for the next prime minister to decide. As a result I will refrain from predicting now where it might be held.
REPORTER (FUCHIGAMI, YOMIURI SHIMBUN): I am Fuchigami with the Yomiuri Shimbun.
In August last year, His Majesty the Emperor indicated his wish to abdicate. A government expert panel is expected to announce as early as January its organization of key points, which will call for realizing the abdication of the current Emperor only, through a special law. How is the government planning to advance discussions on this matter going forward to bring about within the upcoming Diet session the legal structure needed?
Also, the Democratic Party claims Japan should amend the Imperial House Law to permanently institutionalize abdication. What are your expectations for discussions between the ruling and opposition parties in the Diet? And what are your thoughts on the necessity of bringing the views of the ruling and opposition parties together with regard to the legal structure?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: I take very seriously the fact that His Majesty the Emperor made a statement to the public last year. In response to the wishes of the public in consideration of His Majesty’s remarks, the government is currently having an expert panel discuss the matter. This is a fundamental matter for Japan as a nation as well as an extraordinarily weighty issue extending across our long history as well as into the future, and I believe it must not be made into a political issue on any account. I truly consider this to be an issue regarding which politicians must demonstrate their sound judgment. I think discussions should be deepened in a quiet setting without me making predictions about their content or timing.
REPORTER (WAKAO, CBC TELEVISION): Again, I am Wakao with CBC Television. Regarding the Superconducting Maglev (SCMAGLEV) Chuo Shinkansen, for which the government has announced it will provide support, what are your thoughts on the prospects for the Nagoya-Osaka route or for deciding on the stations that will lie in between them?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: The SCMAGLEV is the most advanced railway technology anywhere in the world, of which Japan can be proud on the world stage. It is truly like a dream project. I think everyone in Japan is looking forward to it with great excitement. From Nagoya it will be about 40 minutes to Tokyo and roughly 25 to Osaka. This train line will also make it much easier to visit Ise Jingu, I imagine. In order to make this dream a reality, we are aiming to launch passenger operations between Tokyo and Nagoya ten years from now, and construction is now underway. We will also utilize the Fiscal Investment and Loan Program to accelerate the opening of the entirety of the line to Osaka by up to eight years ahead of schedule. JR Central, the company implementing the construction, is moving forward in its examination of the Nagoya-Osaka portion and the stations along that route, and I understand that these will be announced at the stage of the environmental assessment procedures. Around the central core of a high-speed rail network utilizing the SCMAGLEV and Shinkansen lines, I intend for us to establish the “Corridor for Vitalizing Local Economies,” which will link local regions with each other nationwide from north to south, consolidating the entire country into a single economic sphere with Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya as the major hubs. By doing so, I would like to create a Japan in which people are able to communicate to the entire world while living in local areas, enabling each local region to better display its own strengths.
PRIME MINISTER ABE: Thank you very much. I look forward to working with you again in 2017.