Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet  
Speeches and Statements by Prime Minister TOP

Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

September 12, 2007

[Opening remarks by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe]

PRIME MINSTER SHINZO ABE: Today I decided that I should resign from my position as Prime Minister of Japan. The House of Councillors election on July 29 delivered a very harsh result. In light of that severe result I resolved to remain in my position out of the conviction that the momentum of reform must not be halted, and that the move to break away from the post-war regimes must not alter its course. I thus continued to make my very best efforts for the country as Prime Minister, right up until the present.

Furthermore, I announced in Sydney that the fight against terrorism, for which the international community has great expectations of the role played by Japan and for which Japan has gained strong appreciation from the international community, must not be suspended. At that time I stressed the need to continue our activity, whatever it takes.

Contributing to the international community lies at the very core of my "Proactive Diplomacy," and it is my responsibility to carry through this policy at all costs. I therefore announced that I would stake my position on doing everything to ensure that there is no suspension of Japan's activity. I stated that I will not cling to my job as Prime Minister. I have always believed that I have to make every possible effort to continue the fight against terrorism, and likewise that I need to work to the fullest to create the appropriate environment for this. I have been fully prepared to relinquish my post if need be to advance these aims.

I wanted to convey my frank thoughts and feelings to President of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Ichiro Ozawa, and as such, I proposed to him that we have a political party leaders' meeting today. However, it was unfortunate that my proposal was in fact refused. Earlier, President Ozawa voiced his criticism that I failed to receive a public mandate. It was indeed unfortunate.

As such I asked myself what I should do in order to maintain the ongoing fight against terrorism. I decided that the time has come to change the current situation; that my aim should be for the fight against terrorism to continue under the leadership of a right, new prime minister; and that in order to bring change to the current state of affairs it would be better for a new prime minister to attend the upcoming General Assembly of the United Nations. My determination was to continue to advance reform, and it was from this determination that I remained at my post and reshuffled the Cabinet. However, under the current situation it has become very difficult to advance Government policy vigorously with the trust and support of the people. I therefore reached the conclusion that I had to make a breakthrough in the situation by acting to take responsibility.

Just prior to this press conference I addressed the top five executives of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and explained my thoughts and my decision. I gave them instructions to start work today toward the election of a new LDP president, which should take place at the soonest date possible in order to avoid a political vacuum now that I have decided to resign.

I believed that were I to postpone my decision, it would lead to larger disorder in the Diet proceedings. Recognizing that, I concluded that I had to make a decision as soon as possible.

That concludes my comments.


QUESTION 1: Prime Minister, you just said that decision must be made quickly, but you were severely defeated in the House of Councillors election. In fact voices calling for your resignation were raised immediately after the election. Why did you wait until now, after reshuffling your Cabinet and delivering your policy speech? And precisely when did you make this final decision?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: The result of the election for the House of Councillors was indeed severe. Still I decided to stay on, reshuffled my Cabinet and delivered my policy speech, believing, while reflecting upon what needs to be reflected upon, that the current reforms must not be allowed to stop and that my nation building effort must also continue at all costs.

At the same time, it is vitally important that we continue the fight against terrorism, which is something that I pledged to do and which is also an international commitment on the part of Japan. I have made a decision that it would in fact be better that I resign now to change the situation in order to ensure the fulfillment of that commitment.

QUESTION 2: In what way do you think your resigning as Prime Minister will lead to continuity in the activities of the Self-Defense Forces?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Although I have continued up until this very day to devote my utmost efforts to advancing reforms, unfortunately due to the fact that I am currently serving as Prime Minister a situation has arisen that makes it difficult to conduct discussions with the head of the opposition party. I came to the view after considering the current situation that it would be better for the LDP to generate new energy and capitalize on that energy to break through the current situation and move ahead with the new law as necessary under the guidance of a new leader.

QUESTION 3: Prime Minister, you just spoke of an international commitment, but I believe that there is no way of avoiding criticism that it is irresponsible for you to give up after you yourself have made this international commitment and before completing the task. What are your thoughts on such criticism?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Naturally I too believed that it was my duty to do my utmost to fulfill my commitment. I also considered what type of environment needed to be created in so doing, and I realized after reflection that in fact it would perhaps be through my resignation that it would be possible to create such an environment. I judged that my holding of the prime ministership was unfortunately a negative factor working against the establishment of such an environment.

QUESTION 4: You stated that a political vacuum should not be created. With the General Assembly of the United Nations to be convened in only two weeks, is it your intention to hold the election of a new LDP president by then? What are your thoughts on how the new president should be selected? Please also let us know of your thoughts on the next president, including what conditions you will expect of your successor.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I only just today made this decision. Although no schedule has been determined, I do believe that there is a need for a new president to be elected at the earliest possible time. I do not believe that it would be appropriate for me to comment on who the next president should be. In any event, I would hope that it will be someone who can act as a new leader and guide the ruling parties and who can vigorously advance forward with policies.

QUESTION 5: Haven't you considered that your resignation will actually result in a relapse in the efforts that you have made to advance the breakaway from the post-war regimes and the other various policies that you have advanced thus far?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: As I decided to carry on in my duties as Prime Minister, I was determined that I must advance the creation of a new nation and that in advancing the new nation building I must achieve a breakaway from the post-war regimes by reexamining from the starting point the various structures established after the war.

Thus far, I have tackled challenges such as effecting a revision of the Fundamental Law of Education, reforming the civil servant system, and changing other systems established after the war, and I believe that I have achieved results in those efforts. However, I came to a decision that it would be difficult to realize my policies under the current circumstance unless we move forward with new energy to achieve a breakthrough in the situation. I do hope that my successor will maintain this course.

QUESTION 6: You stated that the primary reason for your resignation was to do with the fight against terrorism. However, the responsibility of the prime minister is not merely for diplomacy, but rather encompasses factors that affect the entire livelihood of the people of the nation. Against such circumstances, from the perspective of the people your resignation can only be seen as your trying to evade responsibility when you delivered a policy speech, in which you expressed your determination to carry forward, on Monday of this week, and when you were just about to receive questions from leaders of each of the political parties. What are your thoughts on your responsibilities in that regard?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: The responsibility of Prime Minister is indeed an extremely heavy one. I set forth my beliefs in my policy speech. I reached a conclusion that, although I do have responsibility to implement what I said, I should make a decision as soon as possible from the perspective of minimizing political chaos if the situation is such that it will be difficult to accomplish things that I have stated that I would accomplish.

QUESTION 7: I believe that ever since the grave defeat in the election for the House of Councillors you have faced the same situation in which it was difficult for you to advance your policies. Why is it that now, right after ending your policy statement, that you reached the decision that you should express your intention to resign? I would like to ask one more time for you to tell us what was the most powerful reason for that and ultimately when exactly you made your decision?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I am constantly aware that the prime minister must always fulfill the responsibilities that he has with his post. Furthermore, it was today that I decided that I should resign from my position to make a change in the situation.

The decision came from my realization that commitments that I made would not be able to be fulfilled under the current situation where unfortunately it is impossible to hold a summit meeting of political party leaders and that moreover it would be an impediment were I to remain in my position.

QUESTION 8: You have stated that the situation was such that it was difficult to implement policy. How do you analyze the causes that led to the creation of that difficult situation? Finally, if there are any points where you feel in retrospect that you yourself bear responsibility for allowing the situation to become such, please tell us of them.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Naturally there are many points that I need to reflect upon. It is my responsibility that the Abe Cabinet -- both the former and the reshuffled Cabinet -- was unable to gain the trust of the people. Unfortunately we were unable to advance our policies with the trust of the people as a driving force.

QUESTION 9: You have stated as one of the reasons the fact that you could not realize a summit meeting of political party leaders. Was it really the case that even in the flow of events of the Diet proceedings, there was no possibility for another chance to realize the summit meeting? Moreover, do you believe that there is a positive outlook that once a new LDP leader is in place it will be possible to hold a summit meeting of political party leaders?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: One of the reasons that have been stated was that I have not received a mandate from the people. Although I made my decision to stay on in office based on the election result, the election result was indeed a large factor. I do expect that a new LDP leader will hold frank and open-minded discussions with leaders of other political parties.

QUESTION 10: The prevailing opinion among the media is that a revote in the House of Representatives could enable the fight against terrorism to continue, the importance of which you have stressed, even without discussions between the party heads. Even in light of that, you are saying that you had to quit because you could not realize a summit meeting of the political party leaders. It seems to me that this is in fact insufficient as an explanation if you consider the fact that you became Prime Minister with the support of many people. I would like once more to ask you to explain what your true feelings are and what it was that led you to this decision.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I expressed my intention to put my duties on the line in Sydney this week in the belief that there must be no suspension of the fight against terrorism.

Although some in the LDP insist that we should carry forward with our activity under the new law, there is a strong possibility that we would have to suspend the activity temporarily if we were to establish the new law due to the time schedule. I judged that there is no way to avoid my decision because such a possibility would in effect bring about the suspension of the activity.

Therefore I decided that rather than having to make a decision at that time, it would be better for me to make a decision now as this would be better for the LDP to make a new start. I also judged that the sooner I make my decision the better the situation will be as it would help avoid confusion among the people of Japan.