Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
September 26, 2006
[Opening remarks by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe]
I stand before you here having been appointed as Japan's 90th Prime Minister. I will now set forth my vision and policies of this Cabinet.
I am the first Japanese Prime Minister born in the postwar years and under the coalition government of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the New Komeito Party, I will exercise leadership with courage. I will make Japan a country filled with vitality, opportunity, and compassion. Today marks a bold beginning toward my initiative to build a new country.
I have no intention of conducting governance for the benefit of specific organizations, those with specific vested interests, or those with specific views. Instead, I will conduct governance with strong determination on behalf of the entire people, the ordinary people who live by the sweat of their brows, love their families, wish to improve their own communities, and who want to believe in the future of Japan. That is why today I have formed a "Cabinet for the creation of a beautiful country."
First of all let me make it clear that I will carry on the structural reforms by continuing the reform programs that former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has been advancing for the past five years. There are voices claiming "it is better to take a break in the structural reforms" or "it is better to make major changes to the structural reforms." To them, I say no. Rather we must in fact accelerate the structural reforms while providing additional measures required in the current phase.
I will build a society where people who work hard, toil with sweat and make every effort to test their ingenuity are fairly rewarded. I expect that vitality which stems from fair competition will boost the economy and power of our nation. In the meantime, we know that we sometimes fail in our endeavors since we are all human beings, but we should not let a single failure determine the course of entire life of an individual. There should be no stratification into winners and losers. We must build a society that provides countless opportunities
I would like to transform Japan from a society where people have to follow a predetermined path of life into a more dynamic society where ways of living are diverse and multi-tracked, in other words, a society of opportunity where everyone has a chance to pursue diverse values. In order to realize such society, I will promote "Challenge Again Assistance Measures" in a comprehensive manner.
There are regions in this country where it is difficult for the people to envision their future and there are also people and regions facing great difficulties despite their earnest efforts. I will firmly promote the building of attractive regions and communities under the concept that a nation will not be vitalized unless its regions are vitalized. I will also provide solid support for striving regions, and in order to realize this, I will firmly promote the decentralization of power from central government to local governments. Moreover, I will proceed with discussions concerning the establishment of a regional government (doshu-sei) as well.
Fiscal consolidation is another major mission of this Cabinet. Under the principle that "there can be no fiscal consolidation without growth," I will reduce and reform fiscal expenditure by cutting waste while implementing a growth strategy. I will take steady steps to achieve a surplus in the primary balance for the central and local governments in FY2011.
In the budget for the next fiscal year, I will hold down the issuance of new government bonds to below the level of the current fiscal year. I will definitely cut waste. To lead the way by setting an example, I will cut my own salary as Prime Minister by 30%. Moreover, I will cut the salaries of the other Ministers of State by 10%. In this way, we will take a lead in setting a good example.
The population of Japan began to decline last year. Even during this phase of the decline, I will build a nation that is capable of achieving solid growth. In order to realize this, there are three things that we must do.
The first is "development of human resource." The second is "innovation"-meaning the innovation of epoch-making new technology, tackling new challenges, and pursuing new ideas. I believe that we must improve productivity by stressing innovation and making investments in innovation. We must achieve productivity improvements that outweigh the effects of the declining workforce.
The third is to "open"-meaning an opening of society, the economy, and the nation. By realizing this, we can attract substantial investment from overseas. Vitality is generated when more and more talented people come to Japan. As each country opens itself up to others mutually through the promotion of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), there will be numerous opportunities to harness Asian growth to produce growth in Japan. I assure you that I will do everything necessary for these three priority areas-"development of human resource," "innovation," and "openness"-with the objective of sustaining a growing economy. I will build a nation in which tomorrow will be better than today, and tomorrow will be more prosperous than today.
One of the important items on the agenda that this Cabinet should pursue with determination is the rebuilding of education. We must guarantee all children the opportunity to reach a high standard of academic ability and to acquire a sense of discipline. In order to realize this, I will implement solid measures to rebuild the public schools, a place of learning that anyone may attend.
As a first step, I intend to enact a revision of the Fundamental Law of Education during the current extraordinary Diet session, rally the country's wisdom and establish an Education Rebuilding Council under my Cabinet, and firmly tackle the task of reform for rebuilding education.
During the recent LDP presidential campaign, I received opinions and concerns from a great many people such as "Please take care of the social security system," "We need an easier to understand social security system," and "Will social security be all right?" I will take firm measures to safeguard the social security system, which provides the Japanese people with a sense of reassurance. This will require a comprehensive reform of the social security system. Pensions, nursing, medical care, and social welfare such as livelihood protection in time of emergency-I will implement a comprehensive reform package encompassing all these elements. It is important that the social security system is a fair system. Accordingly, I will take steps to realize unification of the mutual aid pension scheme and the employees' pension scheme, to eliminate what is considered to be an inequality between the public and private sectors.
In order to rebuild trust in the public pension system, I consider it is necessary to reorganize the Social Insurance Agency from scratch. In order to establish a pension system that is easy for the people to understand, it will be necessary to inform people of how long and how much they have paid in pension contributions and how much they will receive in the future.
We will develop a user friendly notification system and start its service at an earliest possible date.
I would like to make some remarks on diplomacy. The Japan-U.S. alliance forms the bedrock of Japan's national security and diplomatic strategies. I will strengthen the Japan-U.S. alliance by enhancing our mutual trust. To this end, I will improve our reciprocity to increase our sense of mutual trust. I will also put in place a framework that ensures constant communication between Japan and the U.S.
Japan is an Asian nation. Accordingly, I attach strong importance to Asian diplomacy. I will make efforts to achieve even closer relations with neighboring countries such as China (People's Republic of China), South Korea (Republic of Korea), and Russia.
Let us take a look at our neighbors China and South Korea. South Korea shares with Japan the fundamental values; freedom, democracy, and basic human rights. Through my efforts Japan and South Korea will bind together in a relationship of trust which will lead to greater prosperity for both in the future. Moreover, a peacefully developing China is an important and essential nation for Japan. I am certain that China's development will bring remarkable benefit to Japan as well. I will also make efforts to develop Japan-China relations even further.
I will also strengthen our relations with other countries in Asia, including India and Australia, which share fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, basic human rights, and the rule of law in society.
Furthermore, I will develop a diplomacy in which Japan firmly takes a proactive role. This does not mean that Japan will blindly insist on promoting its national interests. Rather, I will develop a diplomacy in which Japan lays emphasis on what it should do for the region and for the world, and on what objectives the world should be aiming at.
I would like to see Japan continue its efforts toward U.N. reform and take on its full responsibility as a permanent member in the Security Council to make the U.N. an even greater organization. To that end, I believe Japan should pursue permanent membership in the Security Council.
Japan is a nation of great national virtue. We must show this to the world as we make clear the path we intend to follow. That is why we should strengthen our capability to communicate our messages for overseas public relations.
I will do my best to create a beautiful country, Japan, a country trusted and respected by people in the world, a country our children's generation can have self-confidence and pride in.
I ask for the support and cooperation of the people of Japan.
Thank you very much.
[Q & A]
QUESTION 1: You have just declared that this is a "Cabinet for the creation of a beautiful country" and you also stressed "a beautiful country, Japan" in your policy vision, but among the people it is being pointed out that it is difficult to form a concrete image. Today you have become the Prime Minister. Could you please explain in concrete terms and in an easy-to-understand manner what kind of country you wish Japan to become, and in order to realize this, what are you going to do, and how will this affect the lives of ordinary people?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: Let me explain what I mean by a beautiful country. As I said at the press conference where I announced my candidacy, I visualize a beautiful country, Japan as a county that values beautiful nature, culture, tradition and history. We have to firmly protect the environment and reaffirm the family values that have been cultivated on a basis of such factors.
Secondly, we must aim at building a country which is underpinned by free society, respects discipline and has dignity. In order to realize this goal, it is essential to rebuild education. It is also essential to ensure that economic and business activities are conducted in accordance with rules.
A beautiful country is a country that continues to possess the vitality to grow toward the future. As I said earlier in my remark, I aim to build a country where people have hope for the future with a belief that tomorrow will be better than today. I also aim to build a country with a strong economy which has the vitality to grow steadily toward the future. Such a strong economy requires innovation, openness, and development of human resource. Lastly, a beautiful country, Japan should be a country that is respected and loved in the world, and which demonstrates leadership. It is quintessential for Japan to present its "country identity" to the world so that many countries and many people will regard Japan as a good model to emulate. Moreover, I will place emphasis on creating an environment that will attract such people to come to Japan.
QUESTION 2: Let me ask you about the appointments of your Cabinet members. What kind of ideas and goals did you have in your mind?
Also, you referred to a "Cabinet for the creation of a beautiful country", but within the LDP there are voices saying that the current appointments are essentially rewards for people who supported you in the election. At the press conference you gave when you announced your presidential candidacy, you said while you would listen to opinions within the party eventually you would decide on your own. Was there actually any phase in which you listened to the opinions in the party? And if this was the case, how were these opinions reflected?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: As for the first point, I placed the right people in the right jobs. I appointed people who have a thorough knowledge of their respective fields and people who have a deep insight after observing their field objectively for quite a while. In the LDP, there are large numbers of capable people. So I am sure there are many people who have confidence in carrying out the duties if they are appointed. This is why the appointment is always difficult. But I have chosen who I think are the right people for what I think are the right jobs.
This is absolutely not a case of making reward-oriented appointments. Results are important in politics. I have chosen people who can produce solid results.
There are many voices within the party. We are no longer in an era where one is approached and asked to appoint certain personnel. While I looked over a wide range of colleagues and senior Diet members, and while I listened to the opinions of a great many people on the desirable quality of the person to be selected, in the end I made decisions on my own.
QUESTION 3: I would like to ask a question about Asian diplomacy. Do you have a plan to restart summit-level relations with China and South Korea before the end of this year? It seems that China and South Korea still see problems in Japan's prime ministerial visits to Yasukuni Shrine and Japan's perception on its history. If you plan to resume high-level relations, how will you persuade them and what materials do you think will serve to develop diplomatic relations?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: I served as Chief Cabinet Secretary in the Koizumi Cabinet. I would like to stress that Japan always keep its door open. The Japanese side has never refused to hold summit meetings. With different countries, there are bound to be times when their interests go against to each other and times when their perceptions differ from each other. It is precisely under such situations that it becomes very important that the top-level leaders of each country meet and talk to each other by opening their hearts to each other. I will make efforts in order to realize this, and I would like both countries to move a step forward as well.
QUESTION 4: Concerning the Human Rights Protection Bill and the revision of the Imperial House Law, so far you have shown a cautious attitude towards both of these pieces of legislation. In the future, how is your administration going to handle these bills?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: A variety of opinions have been expressed within the LDP concerning the Human Rights Protection Bill. I will encourage cautious and prudent discussions on this bill while also referring back to the discussions of the previous bill at the Ministry of Justice.
As for the revision of the Imperial House Law, the stability of the imperial succession is an extremely important issue. And being such an important issue, it needs to be decided in a manner in which the nation as a whole can accept. It needs to be discussed repeatedly, cautiously, and deeply.
QUESTION 5: A little while ago, you said that you would improve the reciprocity of the Japan-US alliance, and during the LDP presidential campaign, you also said that there was a need for more studies concerning the right of collective self-defense. So, I would like to ask about your idea of a schedule for these matters as Prime Minister. How will you promote the aims of exercising the right of collective self-defense, by changing the constitutional interpretation, and then of establishing a self instituted constitution within a target date of five years as you yourself have previously said? In the first place, why is conducting a study into the exercise of the right of collective self-defense connected to improving reciprocity?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: Firstly, reciprocity, as you can easily see, means helping each other. When two countries are available respectively and able to make use of each other in times of need, this leads to improved reciprocity. And that is extremely important for an alliance.
From this standpoint, I have given a number of specific case examples. Among these, we have to study what should be studied. It is not appropriate to conclude that we should not carry out a study, or that we should not present specific ideas. As Prime Minister, I have a significant mission to protect the lives of the Japanese people and firmly maintain the peace. For the fulfillment of this mission, we have to research what we should research. As for the interpretation, we have to do what should be done in order for Japan and the surrounding region to peacefully become even more peaceful and stable. These things have been studied within the government up to now. I will firmly promote this and hopefully draw out a conclusion on the matter.
Moving onto the Constitution, as I have said on a number of occasions during the LDP presidential campaign, I will demonstrate leadership as party president to make sure that this matter is put on a political schedule. From now on, the LDP will play a central role in promoting discussions with other parties.