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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Following His Visit to Russia and the UK

Saturday, April 29, 2017

[Provisional translation]

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

It has been a year since I last came to London. I wish to extend once again my sincere thanks to the British people for the hospitality they never fail to show me.

As I begin my remarks, I express my heartfelt condolences once more towards the victims of the terrorist incident that recently occurred here in London.

Inhuman and despicable acts of terrorism that cruelly deprive innocent people of their lives cannot be justified. I resolutely condemn them. Japan will continue the fight against terrorism working hand in hand with the UK and other members of the international community.

Freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. As I stand here in London, which has carved out a history from time immemorial, I express my profound respect for the several centuries of efforts by the British people to create and then continue to faithfully observe such universal values.

Moreover, it has been these universal values that formed the cornerstone of peace and prosperity for not only the UK but also the world. Holding these values in common, we the G7 have been, are, and will continue to be the drivers of the international order, bearing great responsibility for world peace and prosperity.

However, these values and the international order are now being threatened. World peace and prosperity are facing a grave crisis.

Despite strong warnings from the international community, today North Korea once again launched a ballistic missile.

This constitutes a grave threat to Japan and cannot be tolerated. Japan strongly condemns it. In light of the possibility of further provocations, we will maintain a high level of alertness as we engage in all possible means to ensure the safety of the Japanese people, while continuing to act in close cooperation with our ally the United States. Japan will respond to this in a resolute manner.

North Korea has launched more than 20 ballistic missiles over the past year and is continuing to develop nuclear weapons, ignoring calls from the international community to stop. North Korea's actions flagrantly violate UN Security Council resolutions and are in clear defiance of the international community.

Now is the time for countries that share fundamental values to unite. The international community must act fully in concert.

Prime Minister May and I held that strong determination in common at yesterday's Japan-UK summit meeting.

Japan supports a strong UK and a strong Europe. It is necessary for the UK's exit from the EU to come about smoothly and successfully as the unity of Europe as a whole is firmly maintained. In addition, we strongly expect a "global UK" to play an active role in addressing the various problems faced by the international community.

I strongly urge North Korea to observe UN Security Council resolutions, stop its dangerous provocative actions, and exercise self-restraint.

President Putin of Russia and I also concurred on this point the day before yesterday.

We also shared the recognition that Russia and China, which share national borders with North Korea, and also Japan, the US, and the Republic of Korea must deal with this situation by acting in close cooperation.

In Moscow we held frank discussions regarding not only the situation in North Korea but also various global issues, including the situation in Syria. Russia's constructive engagement is indispensable for the resolution of international issues. I intend to continue to hold dialogues with President Putin, moving forward in cooperation with him on these kinds of issues.

Within this context, even today, more than 70 years since the end of World War II, a peace treaty has not been concluded between Japan and Russia. This is an extremely unnatural state of affairs.

The latent potential for cooperation between Japan and Russia is limitless. However, the lack of a peace treaty has over many years become a significant obstacle in the deepening of our cooperation.

I, together with President Putin, will resolve this peace treaty issue. I believe that at this Japan-Russia summit meeting we succeeded in advancing our peace treaty negotiations steadily, based on the sincere determination we agreed upon at our Nagato summit at the end of 2016.

As part of the peace treaty negotiations, we also succeeded in taking a major step forward during this summit towards joint economic activities on the four Northern Islands as well as the realization of former island residents visiting graves there freely.

In order to bring concrete shape to our joint economic activities, in May Japan will dispatch an onsite survey team with members from both the public and private sectors. In June, former residents of the Northern Islands will be able to visit graves on Etorofu and Kunashiri islands by airplane, which will be less taxing on them physically. We will also eliminate for former residents the inconvenience of first having to complete all entry and exit procedures off the coast of Kunashiri regardless of the island they intend to visit.

The average age of former island residents is already more than 81 years old. I am determined to continue to build up concrete outcomes going forward, taking deeply to heart the earnest feelings of the former residents, who say, "We are out of time."

The most important thing in concluding a peace treaty is a relationship of trust between the Japanese and Russian peoples. Without mutual trust, we will be unable to find solutions that are acceptable to both sides or reach the goal of concluding a peace treaty.

For that reason as well, I wish also to broaden people-to-people exchanges between the four Northern Islands, Hokkaido, Sakhalin, and so on, expanding the exchanges into the broad Far East region. I also intend to move forward in bringing further concrete shape to the eight-point economic cooperation plan. In Japan, the Golden Week holiday began today. While some may have to work despite the holiday, this year there are five days off in a row, from the 3rd to the 7th.

The Abe Cabinet is now pressing forward in reforming ways of working. In order to increase productivity among other reasons, it is critically important to enjoy a change of pace while ensuring a work-life balance. I hope that people can make use of these opportunities to forget about work on occasion and enjoy the holidays.

The government also faces numerous issues to tackle. In order to deal with those issues properly going forward, I myself also aim to recharge thoroughly during this Golden Week holiday.

I will end my opening statement here.

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