Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
September 24, 2007
[Opening remarks by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe]
PRIME MINISTER ABE: Since September 13 I have been hospitalized so that I could focus entirely on my recovery. However, my physical condition did not recover as quickly as I would have liked and therefore I have been unable to provide the people with an explanation of the situation until now. No matter what, I wanted to apologize to the people of Japan before resigning from my position as Prime Minister and, although it is not sufficient, I have taken the opportunity today to speak to you in this way.
First of all, what I would like to apologize for is the fact that my expression of intent to resign took place with the worst possible timing, right in the midst of the very important period at the opening of the Diet session and, in particular, directly following my policy speech. As a result of this, deliberations in the Diet came to a halt and this impaired the administration of the affairs of state. I would like to apologize deeply for the great problems that this caused all of the people involved with the Government, beginning with the members of my Cabinet, all of those involved both in the ruling and opposition parties and, more than anyone else, the people of Japan.
Immediately following the reshuffling of my Cabinet, I raised the extension of the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law as my top priority item. In my discussions with the leaders of other nations at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders' Meetings and at other fora, I keenly sensed the high level of the expectations that are placed on Japan for it to make an international contribution, and I expressed my determination in Sydney to meet those expectations. However, my physical condition continued to deteriorate during this one-month period and I came to realize that I had reached the limit of my physical wellness, which would have been the foundation on which I would have striven forward to carry out my will. I resolved that under such circumstances I could no longer carry out the responsibilities inherent to the position of the Prime Minister and, therefore, expressed my intention to resign.
I do not believe that the standing Prime Minister ought to speak about his or her own health and that is why I deliberately did not mention at the time of my last press conference the changes in my physical condition over this past month. However, it is truly unfortunate that by not speaking about the primary reason that led me to resolve to resign my position, I did in fact, as a result, fail to properly convey my true intentions to the people of Japan.
During my tenure as Prime Minister I was warmly greeted by many people who gave me their strong support, and I herein express my deep gratitude for that. I am sorry and deeply regret that I was unable to fully meet the expectations that were placed upon me.
I would like to express my heartfelt congratulations to Mr. Yasuo Fukuda, who was elected the new President of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) yesterday at the Joint Plenary Meeting of Party Members of Both Houses of the Diet. Although I will be resigning from my position as Prime Minister tomorrow, I am certain that under the leadership of the new Prime Minister, policies that will serve the people of our nation will be vigorously advanced. I am deeply grateful to Secretary-General Taro Aso and Chief Cabinet Secretary Kaoru Yosano, as well as everyone else in the Cabinet, the Government and the ruling parties, who continued to give me their strong support, right up until the very end of my tenure. I will continue to give my utmost as I carry on as a member of the Diet.
QUESTION 1: You stated that it was truly unfortunate that you failed to convey your true intentions with regard to the primary reason for your resignation. How do you feel now about the decision that you, as prime minister of a nation, made to not express that primary reason when you held your last press conference? Furthermore, please tell us once again of how you would like to explain the situation to the people of Japan.
Secondly, when you held your press conference to announce your intention to resign, you stated that the reason for your decision to resign was that you had been unable to hold a political party leaders' meeting with President of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Ichiro Ozawa. Would it be natural to assume that had you been able to realize that meeting, and had you been somehow able to extend the operations of the Maritime Self-Defense Force in the Indian Ocean, you would have intended to carry on as Prime Minister?
My third question is regarding the speculations that your illness is an extremely serious one. In light of that, please comment on the fact that you did not designate an acting Prime Minister to replace you and have until now remained in the hospital. Have you in fact not had any problem carrying out your duties?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: Regarding your first question, I now believe that I should have spoken frankly about my state of health, which was in fact the primary reason for me to decide to announce my intention to resign. As I expressed in my last press conference, I certainly wanted to do my utmost to carry on the fight against terrorism, only the situation turned out to be a very difficult one and I came to the view that my continued presence would make it hard to overcome the difficult situation. However, looking back now, I do believe that it would have been better for me to have spoken frankly and clearly on the condition of my health.
Furthermore, regarding a meeting with President Ozawa, I have always believed that in order to advance national policies in a situation in which the LDP controls a majority of the votes in the House of Representatives on the one hand and the opposition parties led by the DPJ hold a majority in the House of Councillors on the other, it is important for the leaders of those two political parties to hold discussions as necessary. In particular, I believed the two parties needed to share a basic foundation for tackling issues related to diplomacy and security, such as the fight against terrorism. My proposal to have a meeting with President Ozawa was made from that perspective and was an attempt to identify areas of commonality. I was also seeking to achieve a breakthrough by creating such an environment while building our relations of trust. Although I had already finalized my resolve to resign from my position by that time due to reasons related to my health, I did still intend to see if it was possible for our political parties to create a relationship that would allow us to address these issues as two parties working together.
Regarding the designation of an acting Prime Minister, I decided not to appoint one in line with legal stipulations and after taking into consideration the degree to which my condition would impair my abilities to carry out my responsibilities as Prime Minister.
There are reports that former Secretary-General Aso was aware of your intention to resign from your position as Prime Minister and, as a result, forced your hand or, otherwise, it was in fact Mr. Aso who took the initiative in pushing for your resignation. Reports are flowing of such a "coup d'etat" and it is speculated that, at the very least, this had some influence on the election for the President of the LDP. Can you confirm the facts here and explain your views?
Furthermore, who did you cast your ballot for in the presidential election? Did you vote for Mr. Aso or Mr. Fukuda?
Finally, what expectations do you have for newly-appointed President Fukuda and for the new leadership of the LDP in terms of their running of the administration?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: In my position as President of the party, I did speak to Mr. Aso in his position as the Secretary-General of the party about the fact that my physical condition then had not been very good, but I did not mention any intent to resign. The speculations of any kind of "coup d'etat" are absolutely groundless. I will state very clearly that there is no factual basis to any of that. Rather, I can tell you that I am grateful to the Secretary-General for all of the efforts he made to control what was a difficult situation.
As a result of the presidential election, we have now seen the arrival of Mr. Fukuda as our new President. President Fukuda has compiled a long career, including tenure as the Chief Cabinet Secretary. He is someone who gives off a sense of assurance and is someone who is thoroughly versed in policy. My expectations are for the entire LDP to come together as one under the leadership of Mr. Fukuda as our new President, and for the Government and ruling parties to implement policies vigorously.
Regarding my vote, the election for the new President ended yesterday and what is now important is for us all to unite our power under President Fukuda. I do not think that the outgoing President ought to be speaking about for whom he or she voted. I only want to express my gratitude to Mr. Aso for the true support that he provided me in his capacity as Secretary-General.
My second question concerns your health. A general election is expected to take place within the next two years. Are we to take it that you intend to put yourself forward as a candidate in that election?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: First of all, I intend to make a recovery of my health at the soonest possible date. I have gradually become able to eat normally again and as soon as possible I hope to leave the hospital. Tomorrow I intend to go and participate in the election to select the next Prime Minister.
I will be doing my utmost as a member of the Diet under the leadership of the new President, difficult situation though it is. Regarding the next general election, with the understanding of the people of my constituency, I do intend to carry on as a politician.
PROFESSOR TOSHIFUMI HIBI OF THE SCHOOL OF MEDICINE, KEIO UNIVERSITY: As I explained earlier during the Prime Minister's stay in the hospital, we have seen his accumulated mental and physical fatigue and this has come out strongly as functional dyspepsia. During his overseas visits, the Prime Minister developed acute gastroenteritis, and that resulted in a worsening of his condition. He has a significantly reduced appetite and overall a greatly weakened physical condition.
We at the hospital believed that he would recover through several days of intravenous solutions and complete rest in the hospital but, as was just stated, he has not recovered his appetite, which is in fact one barometer of health, and although he has been hospitalized now for 12 days, he has not regained any of the five kilograms that he lost.
Still, we are seeing a recovery in his appetite little by little, and believe that as long as he continues to improve, his physical condition will recover to its initial state.
PRIME MINISTER ABE: There is absolutely no factual basis to that. In particular, although in the end I wound up unexpectedly announcing my intent to resign, I have to say that I am truly grateful to both Secretary-General Aso and to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yosano for their excellent efforts to contain the situation that ensued. There is absolutely nothing factual about what you are referring to.