Opening Statement by Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori
at the Press Conference

April 18, 2001

I have resolved to resign from my duties as Prime Minister and I have already conveyed this intention to the Cabinet and the leaders of the Government ruling coalition parties. I have already informed the General Assembly of the Liberal Democratic Party Members of the Houses of Representatives and Councillors of my intention.

Today, at this press conference I would like to formally say a few words to the people of Japan.

Over the past year that I have been responsible for the administration of Japan, I have spent each and every day putting all my efforts into fulfilling my responsibilities to both the nation and the people. During this time I received gracious support and encouragement from the people of Japan and I would like to begin this statement today by offering my most sincere appreciation for this support.

Upon my appointment as Prime Minister of Japan in April last year, I was granted the position of the Prime Minister who should lead Japan into the dawning of the new century. I have thus immersed myself in formulating a foundation for the "Rebirth of Japan," to bring about hope and vitality for the future of the Japanese people and in their everyday lives. This endeavor is not yet complete, but I firmly believe that in a range of areas, this policy has managed to chart a fixed course for the future.

The greatest challenge facing Japan at the current point is the recovery of the economic climate and the basic infrastructure necessary for the new century. In this regard, the budget for fiscal year 2001, which incorporates a number of measures, was successfully compiled within the previous fiscal year, and the major budgetary-related legislation has, for the most part, been approved by the Diet.

Moreover, at the beginning of this month, the Emergency Economic Package was decided on by the government and the ruling coalition parties in unison, demonstrating to Japan and the rest of the world the government's firm resolve in tackling structural adjustment of the Japanese economy and avoiding a deflationary spiral.

The next major challenge facing us today is economic structural reforms, and in this context intensive discussions are continuing, mainly within the forum of the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy (CEFP). I expect that the Council will create an overall framework or model plans and continue to conduct debate on various issues at around June this year.

Concerning a response to the information and communications technology (IT) revolution that will be a predominating factor in the development of Japan's economy and society in the 21st century, with the enactment of the IT Basic Law and the decision to adopt an "e-Japan Strategy" as a strategy for the nation, the public and private sectors are working to promote efforts in this regard. In fact, in the current session of the Diet, more than ten related bills are being deliberated. In addition, with regard to the education reforms necessary to cultivate the generation of people who will bear responsibilities for the 21st century, bills which outlines concrete reforms has been submitted to the current Diet session.

In my Policy Speech to the Diet in January this year, I made a number of promises to the people of Japan, all of which I have also been steadily advancing.

Specifically, there have been a number of developments, including the formulation of a new basic plan for the promotion of science and technology that will provide an investment for the future, the formulation of guidelines aimed at reconstructing the social security system in order to provide stability and peace of mind in the lives of the people, and the launch of the one the Cabinet Office and 12 Ministries and the presentation of an overall framework for the reform of the public service employees system. In addition, in connection with the administrative reform, sweeping reforms of special corporations, or authorized corporations have been implemented, and a new plan for regulatory reform has been compiled. In particular, concerning environmental issues, in the quest to create "Wa-no-Kuni" - an eco-nation - concrete deliberation and debate is already underway.

These series of reforms should continue to be advanced with a mind to the future and while none of them will actually bear visible results overnight, I am convinced that a path has now been prepared that will thrust Japan into a new age. At the moment there are four persons debating with each other competing for the position of President of the Liberal Democratic Party. However, today, after hearing their discussions at the Press Club, I expect that they all proceed along the path of reform onto which I have placed Japan, and which I have just mentioned.

In terms of foreign policy, during the latter half of March I met with the President of the United States, followed by a meeting with the President of the Russian Federation.

In my meeting with President George W. Bush of the United States, we agreed to pursue constructive collaboration in the economic sectors between Japan and the United States, and pledged to work together to foster a new alliance and relations of trust between Japan and the United States.

During this past year, I have met with President Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation six times, and the personal relations of trust that we have built have enabled us to finally reach the state of being able to engage in specific talks on the issue of concluding a peace treaty, including the attribution of the Northern Four Islands.

Moreover, I have made a total of 11 overseas visits over the past year, roughly equivalent to traveling around the globe as many as five times. I have also attended eight multilateral or regional international meetings. I recall having met President Putin six times, President Clinton five times, President Kim Dae Jung of the Republic of Korea seven times, and Premier Zhu Rongji of the People's Republic of China three times.

In particular, through my diplomatic efforts through this past year, I have naturally aimed to deepen the friendly and co-operative relations Japan has with its Asian neighbors while exploring new multiple dimensions for Japanese diplomacy in the 21st century.

In July 2000, Japan successfully chaired the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit. Moreover, I made the first visit in a decade by a Japanese Prime Minister to Southwest Asia, and was the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit the Kingdom of Nepal. Furthermore, I made the first visit ever by a Japanese Prime Minister to three sub-Saharan African countries, where I announced that "human security" would be made into a major pillar of Japan's foreign policy. I am certain that this will broaden Japan's standing in the international community and increase our credibility.

Retrospectively, it seems to me that although one year is by no means a short term, it may not necessarily have been sufficient to accomplish a great deal. Even so, as I already mentioned at the General Assembly of the Liberal Democratic Party Members of the Houses of Representatives and Councillors, I believe that "swift actions and certain results are more important than a prolonged time in office." I succeeded former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi after he was taken ill and withdrew from office. As such, I am here before you at this press conference with confidence that I have done all that I could by throwing myself wholeheartedly and striving forward full speed ahead, mindful every day to carry out my promise to him resolutely, charting a fixed course in a range of areas for Japan in the new century.

I said in the General Assembly of the Liberal Democratic Party Members of the Houses of Representatives and Councillors that in baseball there were various types of pitchers; those that could hold out for the whole game, those that relieve the situation in the middle innings, and those that appear at the last moment and close the innings like the baseball player Kazuhiro Sasaki. I received criticism from certain people who said I sounded as if I had rated myself as brilliant a closer as Sasaki. On no account have I ever considered myself in this way. In my opinion, as I just mentioned, I believe that having succeeded former Prime Minister Obuchi, I have firmly charted the course that ought to be charted for Japan and, in that sense, accomplished the role of relieving the situation in the interim.

At the same time, it is a fact that recently various scandals have successively rocked our nation's political arena and as a result, a wide gap has appeared in relations of trust between the people and the politicians. I am gravely aware and humbly reflective of the extremely severe judgment that the people of our nation have rendered. My decision to step down stems from my view that if we are somehow to restore the faith of the people in politics, it is imperative that we adopt a completely new mindset and that, under a new structure, the Government ruling coalition make sincere efforts to return to its founding principles.

I do not believe that the direction of Japanese politics in the future will necessarily be guided by politicians without party affiliations. After all, the single-seat constituency system, which we and other parties strove for, invoked a bipartisan system. Political reform started with the aspiration of building a political system able to facilitate a smooth change of administrations and a structure allowing both the ruling and opposition parties to cooperate with one another for the prosperity of Japan and the happiness of its people. Once again, I recall its origins to mind. It is in this respect that I have decided to sacrifice myself in order to firmly restore once again the hopes of the Japanese people in the Liberal Democratic Party while being fully aware that they harbor major concerns regarding the Liberal Democratic Party.

I believe that now is the time for us to regain the trust of the people, breathe new life into our nation's politics and strive to revive our political party system.

I am often apt to give sporting analogies, and one of those is the valuable and highly regarded action in rugby, that of saving. When ten large men are running after one ball there is nothing for it but to protect the possession of that ball by launching your whole body on it. But when there are ten people all dribbling with the same ball, in order to keep the ball from one's adversary, it is necessary to launch your entire body in front of these men. Ten or 20 men on two teams will without doubt kick or maul the player with the ball, and the save is therefore a brave and courageous act that is indeed an exquisite skill. In having launched my body for the "ball" it is my desire to see other team players cooperate in taking the ball forward and scoring a fantastic try.

Although I am now stepping down from the helm of government, as one politician I stand here again at the kick-off line determined to devote myself to working as a member of the Liberal Democratic party with those who will succeed me to restore the faith of the people in politics. I would like to thank all the Japanese people for their support and cooperation to date, and ask for continued guidance and understanding. With that I would now like to bring my opening statement to a conclusion. Thank you.