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Press Conference by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the Passage of the FY2006 Budget

March 27, 2006

PRIME MINISTER JUNICHIRO KOIZUMI: The budget passed the Diet today. Now that we have achieved the enactment of the next year's budget within the current fiscal year, I would like to strengthen Japan's steps towards a full economic recovery, which is approaching steadily, by implementing the budget smoothly from April.

Looking at various recent statistical indicators, the trend of the economy appears to be firm, so I would like to break the economy out of deflation as rapidly as possible by firmly solidifying the steady economic footsteps we have taken so far. Also, I want to continue working to implement reforms so that the Japanese people will further develop the economy motivated by the belief that "if you do it, it will happen," and in this way make people's lives even more affluent.

Up until the end of my term of office in September, I will continue to endeavor with all my might to carry out the duties and responsibilities expected of a Prime Minister. Moreover, I will keep working while obtaining the cooperation of the Japanese people and the ruling coalition between the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and New Komeito.

Today, I think it would be better if I answered your questions, rather than talking one-sidedly. I would like to answer your questions.

[Q & A]

QUESTION 1: With the passing of the FY 2006 budget in the Diet today, it is now expected that moves in preparation for the election of the next LDP president in September will become active within the party. Accordingly, I would like to ask you what kind of presidential conditions you yourself would like the candidates for the party presidency to abide by? Do you want your successor to carry on the "Koizumi policies" such as with regard to structural reforms and visits to Yasukuni Shrine?

PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: I am sure that the topic of the LDP presidential election will be gathering steam from now on. The LDP President who takes over from me will also assume the post of Prime Minister, so I would wish that person to place the reform policies with which the Koizumi Cabinet has been proceeding by obtaining the cooperation of the ruling coalition on a firm track. When I came into office five years ago I was criticized by many people, but the fact remains that reform was and is essential. At that time, there was much discussion as to whether when economic stagnation occurs, we should first take steps to spur growth and stimulate the economy rather than implementing reforms, which should only proceed after the economy has recovered somewhat. Now, however, I believe most people and most political parties have come to understand the idea that "without reform there will be no growth."

I appealed to people the necessity of carrying out reforms when the economy was stagnant, I appealed to them that first of all we must let the buds of reform appear, and now that the buds have finally come out, we must let them grow into a big tree. So, my wish is that the LDP President who comes after me will also proceed firmly along the reform track that the Koizumi Cabinet has been following.

One thing that I realized only after I became Prime Minister is that once one becomes Prime Minister, everything gets placed on one's shoulders as the Prime Minister's responsibility. Subjects of concern differ from one person to another. Policy priorities also differ in the same way. But for those who take up a subject, their own concerns become their top priorities. The Prime Minister has to accept these things firmly. If you think about it realistically, the Prime Minister is merely one ordinary human being. It is impossible to concentrate all of one's energy into dealing with all the myriad problems that the various government offices are dealing with, or to address everybody's concerns with the same degree of urgency. A Prime Minister cannot carry out his duties unless he borrows the strengths of many other people. Accordingly, the job of Prime Minister is a very hard one as the holder of the post has to respond sincerely to the concerns and priorities of many people in the same way as he would to what he considers his own most important or priority tasks. So I hope that my successor will accomplish the current reform track, while paying careful attention to his health.

In order to realize that, my successor must possess a sense of mission as well as responsibility as a Prime Minister and an insight in selecting objectives that can be realized. Moreover, the next Prime Minister should have a passion to steadily realize the objectives that are established, which are not short-lived ideas, regardless of criticism. This has been said since the old days, but I hope that the Prime Minister who comes after me will deal with things while concealing within his bosom his sense of mission, insight and passion, which are the three conditions of leadership. I fully expect that the person who takes over as the next president of the LDP will possess such qualities.

QUESTION 2: I would like to ask you about the situation in Iraq. It has been three years since the Iraq War started. The Government of Japan is currently dispatching the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) to Iraq, but what do you have in mind as for the timing of their withdrawal? Do you have intention to complete their withdrawal during your term as the President of the LDP?

PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: I made the decision for the Government of Japan to dispatch the SDF to Iraq as I considered how Japan could best support the efforts toward nation building of the people of Iraq, by the people of Iraq, for the people of Iraq, and what kind of assistance Japan could provide as a nation. The members of the SDF have earned high praise from the Government of Iraq and its people through their dedicated activities. There still lies ahead an uneven path before the Iraqi people can build a stable, democratic government with their own hands. However, we have finally reached a point where the Iraqi people have come to think, "We must work to build our own country Iraq with our own efforts." For this reason, Japan too must fully consider what kind of nation building, reconstruction and humanitarian assistance we can provide.

I believe that at the earliest possible juncture we must help create a government and a country so that official development assistance (ODA) may be offered and private corporations as well as civilians are able to so set foot inside Iraq to provide assistance.

In line with this aim, I am considering what kind of assistance is necessary for Japan to provide in order for us to fulfill our responsibilities as part of the international community while working in cooperation with the rest of international community on issues such as the current political process, the international situation, multinational forces, and support of the United States. Therefore, I think that the timing of the withdrawal of the SDF members from Iraq to Japan must be considered from the perspective of whether Japan will be able to provide necessary assistance to Iraq even after the withdrawal takes place. I believe we are not yet at the stage where we can state when the SDF members will withdraw from Iraq.

Japan does not limit its assistance to that provided by the SDF. The activities on which the SDF members currently engaging with such dedication may someday earn the praise of many Japanese people, who will be glad that Japan helped the Iraqi people to rebuild their country. Moreover, the Iraqi people may praise the assistance provided by Japan, remembering that Japan supported their nation building efforts when they were suffering the most. As the assistance to Iraq involves the entire people of Japan, I intend to cooperate with the international community as well as with the people and the Government of Iraq to build a structure whereby all the people of Japan may provide assistance. I plan to look into the situation from a comprehensive point of view.

As of the present time, however, I would like to refrain from giving any timetable for the SDF's withdrawal from Iraq.

QUESTION 3: Since taking office, you have visited Yasukuni Shrine every year. It seems as if your idea is to visit the shrine once a year. Are you planning to visit Yasukuni Shrine this year too? Also, before your term of office ends in September, do you have any idea about visiting Yasukuni Shrine on August 15-the anniversary of the end of the Second World War -as you pledged five years ago during the LDP presidential election campaign?

PRIME MINISTER KOIZUMI: If I may answer this question starting from the conclusion, I will restrict myself to saying only that I will make an appropriate judgment about visiting Yasukuni Shrine.

As I have repeatedly answered in the Diet, I still do not understand the stance of the Chinese and Republic of Korea (ROK) governments in their criticism of my visits to Yasukuni Shrine. I am an advocate of the friendship between Japan and China and between Japan and the ROK. Until now, ever since taking office, I have cooperated with both of these nations in a variety of fields. I am confident that our country has been offering these nations the fullest possible support and cooperation.

Exchanges in many fields have also expanded compared with before I took office. Interdependent relationships and reciprocal relationships have also been deepening. Under these circumstances, I do not understand why these nations will not carry out summit meetings with Japan on account of my visits to Yasukuni Shrine. There are no other nations that refuse to carry out summit meetings merely because they have a difference or conflict of opinions on particular matter. Furthermore, among progressive people, cultural people and critics in Japan, there are voices who say that "Because Koizumi visits Yasukuni Shrine, Japan-China relations and Japan-ROK relations are going off the rails." Is such an attitude really all right? Surely this is a matter of the heart. The Japanese Prime Minister is also an individual human being. I believe that Japan's present prosperity was not only created by those of us who are alive today. It was also founded on the precious sacrifices of the war dead-fellow Japanese who fell victim in war. We should not forget such things. I visit to Yasukuni Shrine to offer my sincere condolences to the war dead. In addition, I do not understand why foreign governments tell the Japanese Prime Minster not to visit a Japanese facility or why some Japanese people say, "They are right," "Do as the Chinese government says," or "Do as the ROK government says." Many of the very people who should most respect freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of mind, are in effect saying that "If you listen to what the Chinese government tells you to do, then the relationship between China and Japan will get better, and Japan's Asian diplomacy will improve." In straight terms, is not the meaning of their words, "Japan's Asian diplomacy will develop if we do what China tells us to do?" I do not think that is true.

Even those who respect freedom of expression and freedom of speech say that the relationship between Japan and China and the relationship between Japan and the ROK would become smooth if I would stop visiting Yasukuni Shrine. But after all, when you get down to it, is not this view also linked to "Follow what China tells us," "Follow what the ROK tells us," and "Japan-China relations will not go well if Japan does what China does not like." In relations between any counties, there are bound to be one or two issues on which there are differences of opinion or conflicts.

I think that maintaining friendly relations between Japan and China is an extremely important diplomatic issue. Of course, friendly Japan-ROK relations are important too. And Japan's Asian diplomacy is extremely important as well. While making the Japan-US alliance its core relationship, Japan will cooperate with China, the ROK, and the rest of Asia and the international community too. This is the way Japan lives. China and the ROK say that my visiting Yasukuni Shrine is outrageous, and they will not take part in summit meetings unless I cease visiting the shrine, even though I visit Yasukuni to offer my sincere condolences to the war dead, and I do so with the feeling that we should never engage in a war again based on my remorse over the last war. And here in Japan we have public opinion formers who say let us respect freedom of thought and freedom of mind, criticizing me for the same thing. I really do not understand this. Is it all right to say such things?

Since friendly relations between Japan and China and between Japan and the ROK are extremely important for Japan, I would like to develop friendly relations with China and with the ROK even if there are one or two conflicts of opinion between us on certain issues. I have not changed my views on this matter up to now, and neither will I do so in future.