New Year's Reflection by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Happy New Year.
In September of last year, I assumed office as the first Japanese Prime Minister born in the postwar years. In order to realize my vision of "a beautiful country, Japan" - a country filled with vitality, opportunity and compassion, which cherishes a spirit of self-discipline and is open to the world, I have been undauntedly determined to keep the torch of reform burning, convinced that a bright future is open before us.
In October 2006, I visited China (People's Republic of China) and the Republic of Korea, important neighbors of Japan. With China, we agreed to enhance our relationship from one of friendship to a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests. With the Republic of Korea, we agreed to strengthen our partnership founded on a relationship of such shared values as freedom and democracy. Moving forward, I will continue to build our trust and a future-oriented relationship with both of these countries.
On the North Korean nuclear and missile issues, Japan, in coordination with the countries concerned, strongly urges North Korea to sincerely implement the Resolution 1718, which was unanimously adopted by the United Nations Security Council. Japan will also make efforts toward peaceful and diplomatic resolution of these issues through the framework of the Six-Party Talks. Furthermore, there can be no normalization of relations between Japan and North Korea unless the abduction issue is resolved. Under the policy of dialogue and pressure, the Government of Japan will make concerted efforts, centered around the Headquarters for the Abduction Issue that was established last September, in continuing to strongly demand the return of all abductees assuming that they are all still alive.
In November 2006, I explained to the world leaders gathered at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting Japan's policy to be a nation that is open to the world and that enjoys robust growth on the pillars of innovation and openness. As the second largest economic power in the world and the country with the longest tradition of democratic governance in Asia, Japan will continue to strive to exercise leadership for the development of this region.
I intend to appeal to the world the charm of "a beautiful country, Japan", with a renewed appreciation on Japan's natural beauty, history and tradition which we can be proud of. Aiming at new "creation and growth", I will promote the Asia Gateway Vision, with a view to make Japan a place where human resource and information from Asia and from all around the world gather, enabling Japan to become a center of communication to the world, thereby making Japan an attractive place for Asia and other parts of the world.
The Ministry of Defense will be inaugurated in January of this year. I expect that this will encourage our defense staff to work even harder in their efforts to fulfill their noble mission of protecting the lives and assets of the people of Japan, as well as this land in which we live. Japan will continue to assist in the reconstruction of Iraq through air lift support by the Air Self-Defense Force (ASDF) and official development assistance (ODA) in coordination with non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Moreover, I will make every effort to prevent and eliminate terrorism and international organized crime in cooperation with the international community.
Regarding education rebuilding, a major theme of my Cabinet, the Fundamental Law of Education was amended in last year's extraordinary Diet session for the first time in the 59 years since the establishment of the law. The revised law incorporates fundamental values that have often been forgotten in the postwar period, such as a spirit of self-discipline and public-mindedness and affection for one's community. Keeping these principles in mind, the Education Rebuilding Council will deliberate on proposals for fundamental measures to ensure high-quality education and improve the educational function of families and communities, as well as measures that concern the role that boards of education should be playing. The Government will advance these measures as one.
The FY2007 budget achieved the greatest-ever reduction in terms of issuance of new government bonds, and made clear the Cabinet's strict and strong determination to restore fiscal health. We have been successful in slashing the deficit in the primary balance of the general account, which was 11.2 trillion yen in FY2006, to 4.4 trillion yen in the FY2007 budget. Meanwhile, we were able to formulate the budget in a prioritized manner even under this stern fiscal discipline, with budgetary increases for investment in the future in such areas as education, measures for tackling the declining birthrate, measures to support small- and medium-sized enterprises and the promotion of science and technology.
We were able to carry out the first full-fledged reform of tax revenues earmarked for road projects since the system was originally established in 1954. The recent system under which specific tax revenues were automatically allocated to road development has now been reformed. Under the new system, the actual amount required for road development will be determined first and all tax revenues in excess, including gasoline taxes, will be channeled into the general revenue account.
It will be 60 years this year since the Constitution of Japan entered into force. A constitution embodies a country's ideals and vision. Now is precisely the time that we should be writing out a constitution that befits this new era that we live in. As the first step, I will work for the precondition of the revision - a bill on the procedures for amending the Constitution - to be enacted in this year's ordinary Diet session. With this as a turning point, I expect national debate on constitutional amendment will grow more intense.
Our country Japan possesses beautiful nature, long history, culture and traditions, which we can be proud of in the world. Together with the hardened generation born before and during the war and the young people who are eager to contribute to the people and the country, I, with the participation and cooperation of the people, will put all my body and soul into leading the challenge to create "a beautiful country, Japan," a country admired and respected by people in the world, a country in which our children's generation can have self-confidence and pride.
I ask for the continued understanding and support of the people of Japan in these endeavors. From my heart I wish each and every one of you a wonderful, fruitful and fulfilling year in 2007.
January 1, 2007
Prime Minister of Japan