Press Conference by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama
PRIME MINISTER YUKIO HATOYAMA: As you know, Japan is a democratic country, yet [just recently] it was the first time in the postwar era there was a change in government through elections. It was against this dynamic background we began diplomatic activity. I arrived here only on the sixth day since the new government took office. Thus we made our debut on diplomatic stage while we were still finding our way [at the helm of government], but I am confident that I was able to do my job both at the United Nations and the G20.
What I had really hoped to build was a relationship of mutual trust with President Barack Obama. I was uncertain how I should build a relationship of trust with someone whom I hadn't met before. But now the President calls me Yukio and I call him Barack. I think we've been able to nurture that sort of relationship after a number of meetings. As we parted after seeing him this morning, I told him that I had had Pamela's pancake at breakfast. The President seemed very pleased, and said he wished he had been with me then.
Some of you may think an in-depth discussion on security matters should have taken place [at the Japan-US summit meeting]. In fact, I've heard such views. I thought that at my first meeting with the President I should deliberately refrain from talking in a lot of detail. I also believe we can lead ourselves to mutually profitable solutions on security matters as we conduct a comprehensive review of the issues and build our relationship of trust. I believe I've been able to build a relationship of trust with President Obama, to a considerable extent. This is the first thing I'd like to report.
I also had bilateral meetings with President Hu Jintao of China and many others. These include the leaders of the United Kingdom, Australia, India, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea, Vietnam, and also President Medvedev of Russia. As a result of having such a series of meetings at my first appearance on the diplomatic stage, and this was possible because of the G20 as well as the UN [General Assembly], I believe I was able to impress on my counterparts that Japan's politics and diplomacy shall change.
As for changes in Japanese politics, we had discussions on the climate change framework [agreement] at the UN. I believe they also prompted many around the world to feel truly that change was taking place in Japan. The target of a twenty-five percent reduction from the 1990 level of greenhouse gas emissions is certainly no easy goal to reach, and to date the Japanese government was unable to make such bold announcements. Thus there must have been a lot of attention when the new government made such an announcement. I was most gratified when many people praised my speech and offered me words of encouragement.
Referring to President Obama's Prague speech, I also called for the elimination of nuclear weapons as the only country to have suffered atomic bombings. I believe Japan should have exercised far greater leadership in the past on nonproliferation, nuclear disarmament, and ultimately the elimination of nuclear weapons. In the Japan-US summit meeting I told President Obama about my desire to lead the way together with him in this regard. And at the UN Security Council summit on nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament I also made a statement to this effect. I believe this statement also received due recognition.
A point I should like to make before concluding is about the speech I delivered at the general debate of the UN General Assembly. My grandfather, Ichiro Hatoyama was Prime Minister when Japan joined the UN in 1956. Citing the words of his foreign minister, I renewed the call that Japan shall become a new bridge connecting various directions: east, west, north and south. It should serve as a bridge between developed and developing countries, and concerning the nuclear issue I mentioned earlier, Japan must surely be able to serve as a bridge between also between the nuclear haves and have-nots. I was very moved at the opportunity to speak at the UN in front of a global audience my hope to turn Japan into a country that can more actively serve as a bridge, or rather my conviction that we need to turn Japan into such a bridge.
Yesterday I moved here, to Pittsburgh and made several interventions at the G20 meeting. I was strongly impressed by the role the G20 has to play concerning the global economy. It has been a whirlwind trip, but I feel I have done a broad range of work at the UN and the G20 that was most fulfilling. I should like to thank many people who have given me support in various respects. With this I conclude my opening remarks.
QUESTION: As you mentioned, Prime Minister, the mid-range target of a 25% reduction of GHG emissions is certainly not easy to achieve. But since you've made an international commitment, you will presumably be pursuing it. How are you going to persuade and convince Japanese industries and the Japanese public who have to bear the burden? What kind of concrete forecast do you have about achieving the target? I7m sure you are aware of the very difficult target, but please tell us your views on these points.
PRIME MINISTER: We discussed climate change extensively at the G20 and at the working dinner hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, among other occasions. What I should like the people of Japan and the world to understand is that unless we fulfil this promise, we shall find ourselves in a situation where life on this planet, the existence of humankind will be threatened. At that point the cost for human survival will be even greater. In order to avoid such a situation, we need to prepare ourselves now.
It is certainly true that we in Japan have already been bearing the burden so far as we have developed our industries [in a very energy-efficient manner]. But the most important point is that if we leave things unchanged, our children, grandchildren, and generations further into the future will actually be forced to take on even greater burdens. To avoid that, what should we, the current generation do? Such thoughts led us to feel that we needed to make a bold promise to the international community as well as the Japanese people.
I believe one of the most urgent tasks for the government is patiently to do everything possible in order to gain the understanding of the Japanese public on this matter. Of course, some in the business community claim that Japan has already done a great deal, hence a further big cut [in emissions] is totally impossible.
But since the past, Japan has taken the international lead in attaining difficult goals by setting high targets and drawing on its scientific and technological prowess. I believe that if we draw on these impressive capabilities it will be fully possible also to reach our mid-term target. So in this sense I'm confident. I believe in the Japanese people and their scientific and technological capabilities. So, I believe we can clearly foresee achieving these targets.
Needless to say, solar panels, fuel cells and various other types of green technology need to be mobilised. Hydrogen energy is also likely to become available in the future.
Regarding these alternative sources of energy, energy that does not rely on oil, and fossil fuels, it is very important that Japan should take the lead in this area and share its technological capabilities with developing countries. As we do this, discussion on matters such as [a system of purchasing surplus electricity from solar power generation in the household at] a fixed tariff, and emissions trading will be required. We will mobilise all available means to meet this challenge, indeed the challenge of global warming, on which is Japan is best suited to be at the leading edge.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Hatoyama, the G20 has called for a framework to reduce global economic imbalances. How do your administration's plans to stimulate domestic demand fit in with this framework? Do you expect to be pressured to come up with even more plans to increase Japanese consumer spending from G20 partners? Would a stronger yen help increase Japanese consumer spending?
PRIME MINISTER: You referred to a matter that was discussed at length at recent meetings, especially at the G20. During the period when there was strong demand from the US, Japan was able to develop a great deal relying on external demand. In reality, even today, Japanese industry's degree of dependence on external demand remains high. However, in the world and in particular in the US, consumption is declining amidst the financial crisis. Americans need to increase their savings rate. In such an era, Japan's economic structure, which is dependent on external demand, can no longer drive further Japanese growth. This means that as a new government, we need more than before to boldly employ measures that stimulate domestic demand. This is how we've been shifting our mentality. In other words, we shall boldly shift the Japanese economy towards a greater stimulus of domestic demand.
I should like to mention a couple of things in this connection. One, which will require 5.5 trillion yen a year, indeed a huge sum, is an expansion of the so-called child-rearing allowance to be provided until children graduate from junior high school. The allowance is 26,000 yen per child, so a total of 312,000 yen per household will be given to households each year. There are families that want children but find that a difficult prospect due to economic conditions. We are convinced that the allowance would provide strong support to such households. Japan is faced with the major challenge of declining fertility, a very tough challenge. In terms of coping with this problem too, I believe the allowance will be a substantive measure. Also, this will be a most effective means to stimulate consumption in Japan.
One other thing. The so-called provisional tax rate which has continued for over thirty years, on petrol as well as on the delivery of diesel oil, will also be abolished. Some have suggested that if we abolish this tax rate, this will have a negative impact on climate change. I do not necessarily subscribe to this view. People who use cars will not double their use of them even if the price of petrol falls by half. In other words, the price elasticity of petrol consumption is not that high. People are aware that there will be limited change. And as a tangential benefit, we believe that abolishing this tax will do much to stimulate the economy and increase [general] consumption.
Within a similar context, we shall also make motorways toll-free. The important thing is that we employ measures that stimulate domestic consumption. If anything, the Japanese economy tended to depend excessively on external demand. These measures, I believe, will be very necessary to transfer the Japanese economy in a major way. I believe that this is something that other countries will also understand. So, rather than pressure from abroad, please think about the measures as a transfer of economic policies that Japan itself needs.
On the currency question, I do not think it is appropriate for the Prime Minister to say much on that matter. I will limit myself to saying that the most desirable thing is that currency is stable.
QUESTION: My question is on US-Japan relations. In January next year, the basic law authorising the Self-Defense Forces to perform refuelling activities in the Indian Ocean will expire. Is your policy not to extend the duration of this law unchanged? In November, President Obama is visiting Japan. Would you propose an alternative proposal regarding support to Afghanistan at that time? What do you foresee [proposing] in concrete terms? Also, you expressed the view yesterday that the US has a higher interest in the Afghanistan issue and that the issue of the realignment of US forces is not particularly urgent. What will be the timing and manner of the decision on the Futenma base relocation?
PRIME MINISTER: I will first speak on the replenishment operations, and then on support for Afghanistan. As far as the so-called replenishment operations in the Indian Ocean are concerned, [the Special Measures Law] will expire next January. We are not thinking about a simple extension of this law. This remains unchanged. I stress though that we should not think in terms of what we should do instead of conducting replenishment activities. Rather, we should find out in detail what form of assistance from Japan would be appreciated by Afghanistan and the international community, not least the US, and offer the kind of assistance which is most desired.
I also discussed this point briefly in the summit meeting with President Obama. In other words, starting from the basic question, "What is it that Japan can do?", we will consider whether we can offer the kind of assistance that is Japan's forte, for example agricultural or vocational training. I am thinking of offering assistance that will also be appreciated at the end of the day by the US and the international community. I understand that the two major issues facing President Obama are healthcare reform on the domestic front and Afghanistan on the diplomatic side. Japan would like to consider how best it can provide assistance with regard to the latter challenge. Having the two countries reach the right conclusion through close coordination will further boost the Japan-US Alliance. I will give priority to this matter based on this line of thinking.
Of course, with regard to the realignment of US forces, not least the relocation of the Futenma Air Base, there is no time to be lost on this issue either if one considers the feelings of the Okinawan people. The fact that this issue remains unresolved since the time of the Hashimoto government is a big failure on the part of previous governments. We are certainly aware that there is not much time left to resolve this issue. We need to address this matter within the overall review of the question [of the realignment of US forces in Japan], without drawing out the matter for very long. At the risk of being repetitive, I will say that we need to draw a conclusion bearing fully in mind the feelings of the Okinawan people, not just those of the Japanese and US governments.
QUESTION: One of the delegations at the G20 today said that the G8 is not dead, but on its deathbed. Do you think that is correct? Do you think the G8 should die? What would be the consequences for Japan and the world?
PRIME MINISTER: I believe that the G8 should not be discarded. I say this because, yesterday, during the working dinner I said the following. The G20 involves twenty or twenty-five people gathering and discussing. It is extremely difficult to reach conclusions in such setting. So what do you do if conclusions are difficult to reach, and people cannot meet frequently? We risk ending up relying on prior coordination by our officials. The more we try to come up with good solutions in the G20 context, the more the ideas of bureaucrats will come to the fore. I am not suggesting that the G20 will not be able to reach conclusions; I do believe this time we produced respectable results. But I believe that the number of topics on which we can reach conclusions in such a large setting is very limited.
On the other hand, at the G8 political leaders can hold very frank and candid discussions with each other. The Canadian Prime Minister expressed exactly the same view when I had a short meeting with him today. He said that the merit of the G8 was that leaders whose values are similar can speak their own minds as much as they wish. I believe that a good political reason for the G8, a meeting of the developed countries, will continue to exist.
On the other hand, G8 is not a gathering of just developed countries. Leaders of developing and emerging countries will take part as well [in the outreach meetings etc]. I think there are important discussions to be had in this format. It is all right to consider the G20 as being the premier forum [for international economic cooperation], but that does not make the G8 irrelevant.