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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Policy Speech by Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio to the 208th Session of the Diet

January 17, 2022

[Provisional Translation]
 
 
1. Introduction
 
Japan is now facing a sharp increase in the number of infections by the Omicron strain.
 
First, I extend my sympathies to all those who have contracted COVID-19 and are now suffering from it.
 
I also wish to convey my heartfelt thanks to my fellow citizens who, over a long period of time, have given us their cooperation during this battle with COVID-19.
 
Moreover, I express my deep appreciation for the essential workers in local governments, medical institutions, nursing facilities, quarantine centers, and public health centers, among others, responding to COVID-19 on the front lines.
 
The highest priority issue for the Kishida administration is responding to COVID-19. However, this is not a matter for which the Government can respond alone.
 
I want to overcome the current situation through all the citizens helping each other. I ask for your ongoing cooperation.
 
 (The challenge to build a post-COVID-19 new Japan)
 
Since I took office as Prime Minister, I have responded to a multitude of issues both domestic and overseas with a sense of speed as I made my decisions.
 
As the saying goes, “It is I who must take action.”
 
I have engaged in my duties prepared to accept full responsibility for each of my decisions.
 
Each time, I have listened carefully to the voices of you, the people, and as the situation changed, I have responded tenaciously to ensure that we emerge with measures that are better for the people. I have also done my best to thoroughly explain the background to decisions I have taken.
 
In this way, I have first of all dedicated myself body and soul to overcoming COVID-19 while adhering to a political stance of trust and sympathy.
 
It is precisely because we are facing the hardship of COVID-19 that, rather than stand transfixed, we should build a post-COVID-19 new Japan, with everyone taking up this challenge in cooperation.
 
2. Responses to COVID-19
 
(Fundamental approach to COVID-19 responses)
 
Infections by the Omicron strain are increasing in number.
 
I myself have heard people say “Not again,” “Enough is enough,” or “I can't take this anymore.” However, we must again recognize that this invisible enemy of COVID-19 is more formidable than we imagined.
 
Last year, through efforts in which the public came together as one, such as the administration of vaccines, Japan succeeded in somehow suppressing the Delta strain. But at that point, suddenly another strain appeared. We once again feel how terrible this virus is.
 
However, the experts have been pointing out to us the possibility of new strains emerging.
 
Since the moment I took office as Prime Minister, I have had the entire government working as one to prepare a thoroughly secure system, assuming the worst situation in which a strain more virulent than the Delta strain appears.
 
In the recent supplementary budget, we incorporated the expansion of medical systems, the promotion of vaccinations, the securing of a supply of orally administered therapeutics, and furthermore, assistance measures for fully defending people’s jobs and daily lives.
 
There still are many unknowns about COVID-19, and it is not the case that we are able to make decisions after foreseeing everything.
 
As for me, I am determined to advance our responses based on the most up-to-date knowledge in a level-headed manner, without being excessively afraid, as I listen to the views of experts.
 
Also, even for policies on which decisions have already been taken, I intend to once again develop our response flexibly and without hesitation if a better approach exists.
 
My fellow citizens, let us overcome this national crisis together, through receiving your cooperation once more.
 
I will speak about concrete responses we are taking.
 
 (Responses to the Omicron strain)
 
By adopting the most stringent border measures among the G7 countries, the Government of Japan has minimized the inflow of the Omicron strain from overseas.
 
These measures ensured we had time to prepare for an increase in the number of domestic cases of infection, including by starting to administer the third dose of vaccines, expanding testing conducted free of charge, securing a supply of orally administered therapeutics, and ensuring that our medical treatment structures are solidly in place.
 
As our response measures for the near term, we will maintain the framework of border measures until the end of February.
 
Beyond that, from now we will place importance on domestic countermeasures. We will take well-balanced measures based on the characteristics of the Omicron strain that have become clearer little by little over time.
 
Experts have reported their analysis that while the Omicron strain has a high degree of infectivity, many of those infected have mild symptoms or are asymptomatic; that there is a high likelihood that the percentage of patients who will develop severe symptoms is low; and that, should infections spread rapidly among the elderly and other such persons, the percentage of people developing severe symptoms may rise.
 
Based on reports such as these and other factors, we will redouble our efforts to ensure that our medical treatment structures are solidly in place, with a focus on providing unerring medical treatment to patients with severe or moderate symptoms and persons at high risk.
 
I have asked each local government to assess itself and take all possible measures to ensure the readiness of its medical treatment structures.
 
We are moving forward as planned in securing the number of hospital beds immediately available.
 
Local medical institutions will respond to cases of recuperation at home or at lodging facilities, a form of recuperation that will be important going forward. We have succeeded in preparing 16,000 of these local medical institutions nationwide, a figure surpassing by a further 30 percent the number in the plan within our “Overview of Efforts.”
 
When someone is identified as a positive case, we will immediately begin health monitoring and treatment through home visits. We will also swiftly deliver a pulse oximeter and comprehensively ensure access to orally administered therapeutics.
 
We will strengthen our ability to readily appraise the operational state of affairs and we will get these initiatives running properly.
 
Beyond that, should the number of infections expand rapidly beyond our assumptions and the absolute number of patients with severe symptoms increase, we must, no matter what, avoid falling into an emergency in which the availability of hospital beds comes under strain.
 
From this perspective, we will accelerate the gathering of scientific knowledge regarding, for example, criteria for hospitalization and discharge, taking the efforts of developed countries as a reference, and consider our subsequent response.
 
Reinforcing our domestic framework of prevention, testing, and early treatment will also be critical.
 
We will further accelerate the schedule for administering the third vaccine dose to 31 million eligible medical practitioners and elderly persons.
 
After March, making use of 18 million doses of vaccines that we have additionally secured, we will administer doses to elderly people six months after their most recent dose. We will also administer 55 million doses to the general population after at least seven months pass, or six months when the local government has the capacity to do so.
 
The Government will establish large-scale vaccination centers run by the Self-Defense Forces and support the efforts of local governments.
 
In communities concerned about the spread of infections, we will expand testing that is free of charge with no appointment required.
 
For the 1.6 million doses of Merck’s orally administered therapeutic, nationwide more than 22,000 medical institutions and pharmacies have already completed their registration and about 30,000 doses have already been delivered to medical facilities.
 
For Pfizer's orally administered therapeutic as well, which has a different action mechanism, we will reach a final agreement on purchasing 2.0 million doses within the month and we will aim to have it in practical application as early as possible within February.
 
Omicron strain infections in children are also often seen. We will advance procedures so that among children under 12, who have not been eligible for administration of the vaccine until now, those wishing to do so will be able to get inoculated as soon as possible.
 
As for our public health centers, we will ensure that all necessary systems for immediate readiness are in place by pressing forward with reinforcing their systems; streamlining their operational duties as appropriate, based in science; and preparing a multilayered community network independent of the public health centers.
 
I ask that people actively make use of teleworking, not only to suppress the spread of infections, but also to carry out Business Continuity Plans and maintain social activities.
 
At schools as well, we will advance preparations for online classes when schools cancel in-person learning. I ask schools to adopt flexible responses in conducting entrance exams, for example, ensuring opportunities to take such exams through makeup examinations or other means, and allowing admission in April or later. 
 
The United States has announced measures by the U.S. Forces in Japan to prevent the spread of disease, including not allowing U.S. Forces members to leave their base except when absolutely essential, and prohibiting them from leaving their base at night. This concerns a health and hygiene issue related to the stationing of U.S. Forces in Japan, and we will hold in-depth discussions at the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee, based on the Status of Forces Agreement.
 
 (Reinforcing our long-running systems for responding to infectious diseases)
 
As measures to strengthen our long-running systems for responding to infectious diseases, first, we will establish a structure for rapidly granting pharmaceutical approval, premised on the confirmation of safety.
 
We will furthermore objectively evaluate our responses to date and, in preparation for the next infectious disease crisis, by approximately June of this year, we will compile necessary responses from a medium- and long-term perspective, including strengthening the control tower function in order to rapidly and accurately respond to crises, examining the Infectious Disease Law in this context, and ensuring the system for health and medical services is solidly in place.
 
3. A new form of capitalism
 
(Economic revival)
 
In order to be victorious in our battle against COVID-19 and revive our economy, we will execute all possible measures, taking on without hesitation the fiscal expenditures necessary to address the crisis, including the early execution of the supplementary budget for fiscal year 2021.
 
The economy is the foundation of public finance. We will faithfully rebuild the economy and we will also work to put public finances on a sound footing.
 
 (Realization of a new form of capitalism)
 
The realization of a new form of capitalism is the key point for economic revival.
 
An overreliance on markets has caused the expansion of disparities and poverty arising from the failure to undertake fair distribution. Placing too much emphasis on the efficiency of markets and competition has resulted in a lack of mid- to long-term investments, as well as the loss of sustainability. Excessive centralization has created disparities between our major cities and regional areas. As too much of a burden was placed on the natural environment, the issue of climate change has become more serious. The decline of a large middle class has brought about a threat to healthy democracy.
 
A sense of crisis towards such problems as these has been rising around the world. Against that backdrop, we have overcome various harmful effects that have arisen from the neoliberal way of thinking that all will go well if only left to the markets, and an economic and social reform movement at a historic scale has begun, seeking the realization of sustainable economies and societies.
 
I will lead this global movement through a new form of capitalism that results from a virtuous cycle of growth and distribution. Through the public and private sectors sharing a common vision and working in cooperation, we will build a society in which each citizen prospers and lives his or her life in a vigorous way.
 
Japan can do it; and that is because it is Japan. Let us together take on the challenge of economic and social reforms.
 
From the perspectives of both our Growth Strategy and our Distribution Strategy, we will embed structures into capitalism that correct its various harmful effects, thereby maximizing the benefits that capitalism brings.
 
Under our Growth Strategy we will work to resolve social issues, including digitalization, climate change, economic security, science and technology and innovation. We will also bring together investments from both the public and private sectors into fields where Japan has been weak thus far to transform them into engines for growth.
 
We will also confront the problems of distribution and disparities head on, leading to subsequent growth. In this way, we will set the economy in motion from both the growth and distribution fronts, and by giving rise to a virtuous cycle, we will create a sustainable economy.
 
(A Vision for a Digital Garden City Nation)
 
First is the Growth Strategy. Its first pillar is revitalizing regions through digitalization.
 
It is the regional areas that play the leading role in a new form of capitalism. We will vigorously promote a Vision for a Digital Garden City Nation and resolve issues common to these local areas while also realizing bottom-up growth, from the regions to the nation as a whole.
 
Towards that end, we will undertake in an integrated manner infrastructure development, a review of regulations and systems, and the implementation of digital services.
 
It is precisely in our regions facing such issues as rapidly aging populations and depopulation that we will compile development plans for infrastructure that includes 5G coverage, data centers, and optical fiber so that those regions can make use of digital services such as online medical consultations, the GIGA School Program, and “smart” agriculture, forestry and fisheries.
 
We will promote private investment through a variety of means, such as by mounting 5G base stations onto traffic lights, thereby developing the infrastructure to support services of the future, including autonomous driving, dynamic traffic control, and drones.
 
We will push forward in reviewing our regulations and systems as we work towards implementing digital systems.
 
By creating new rules instead of merely deregulating, we aim to give rise to new services in local communities and enrich people’s daily lives.
 
For example, we will newly stipulate rules that cover autonomous cars having no drivers and low-speed, small-scale automated delivery robots running on public roads, as well as industrial safety rules premised on the use of drones or artificial intelligence. This will help to ensure safety while simultaneously opening up pathways towards the development of new services.
 
As one illustration, by clarifying the rules for the corporate hometown tax system, we will support efforts to develop satellite offices in local areas through assistance to companies while accelerating the flow of companies and individuals from cities to local areas.
 
Social Security and Tax Number System (Individual Number) cards, commonly called “My Number” cards, are a passport that helps to make digitalized society safe while making people feel at ease. We will improve their convenience.
 
For instance, we will press forward on unifying driver’s licenses and “My Number” cards into a single card by fiscal 2024. When people move, once the procedures for changing one’s registered address are completed at the city office, there will be no need to do any paperwork at the police station.
 
As the real world and the Internet become inseparable, we will set in place systems for coping with cyberattacks and the like while also working to enhance corporate security and confronting the risks of a digitalized society head on.
 
 (Economic security)
 
Economic security is also a pressing issue and it is a major pillar of the new form of capitalism.
 
We will enact new laws to, among other things, provide support for making the supply chain more resilient, prepare a safety pre-screening system for critical equipment and systems within core infrastructure such as electricity, telecommunications, and finance, and prepare a patent non-disclosure system for inventions that are sensitive in terms of national security.
 
Alongside this, we will support capital investment for semiconductor manufacturing plants as well as public and private sector research, development, and investment in such fields as artificial intelligence, quantum science and technology, biotechnology, life sciences, optical communications, space, and oceans.
 
 (Science, technology and innovation)
 
If we are to elevate social issues to become engines of growth, the power of science, technology, and innovation will be absolutely essential.
 
To create research universities ranking among the finest in the world, we will use a fund of 10 trillion yen to provide support to universities that, in addition to having the capacity to conduct research, introduce highly advanced governance, such as separating research and administrative tasks and appointing young researchers.
 
With a view to strengthening the cultivation of innovative human resources in both the public and private sectors, we will accelerate the re-organization of undergraduate departments at universities and efforts to foster human resources that transcend the framework separating humanities and the sciences.
 
We will position 2022 as the first year for founding startups and, establishing a five-year plan, work to get startups off the ground on a large-scale. By so doing, we will bring about Japan’s second corporate founding period, following upon the post-war period when a great many companies were founded.
 
In 2025, Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai will be held. We will send out to the world the message of Japan carving out its future through the power of science, technology, and innovation.
 
 (Wage increases)
 
The key to realizing a sustainable economy through a virtuous cycle of growth and distribution is our Distribution Strategy.
 
First and foremost is wage increases that tie into rising incomes.
 
The other day I listened to the president of a medium-sized manufacturing company during a small group discussion. He spoke powerfully of his belief as the management of wanting to raise productivity and then raise the disposable income of his employees by 3 percent.
 
We distribute the fruits of growth to our employees; higher wages, which are an investment towards the future, become a driving force leading to further growth. This is the virtuous cycle we will create.
 
We will expand the tax system for promoting wage increases and also raise public prices. In addition, as small- and medium-sized enterprises struggle against sharp rises in raw material costs, we will push forward in preparing an environment in which they are able to pass reasonable price increases through to their clients.
 
Annual wage bargaining negotiations will take place in the spring. In recent years, the rate at which wages have increased has been on the decline, but I hope we will reverse that trend all at once and wage increases suitable for an era of a new form of capitalism will be realized.
 
We will also work to review the minimum wage at the earliest possible time so that the national weighted average amount surpasses 1,000 yen per hour.
 
 (Investments in people)
 
Second, we will undertake a fundamental strengthening of investments in people.
 
Capitalism is structured by large amounts of capital, but in an era of progressing from material-centric to experience-centric, the source of added value is “human capital” -- people -- who give rise to originality, ingenuity, and new ideas.
 
However, investments in the Japanese people are significantly lagging behind compared to other countries.
 
From now, we will simultaneously achieve both sustained value creation for companies and wage increases by at an early time at least doubling -- and aiming to surpass even that -- public and private investments made in people.
 
Enhancing human investment in the forms of improving skills, enhancing re-education, and making use of dual employment is the key to smoothly advancing reforms towards a digital society and a carbon-neutral society.
 
I will carefully listen to the voices of people working in the field regarding the types of workers and skills needed by the world, by industry, and by our communities. Once we have clarified them, we will conduct a zero-based review of what publicly-funded job training programs should look like, learning from advanced cases overseas.
 
Human investment is the foundation for sustained value creation for companies. In order to foster a common understanding with shareholders regarding that point, within this year we will formulate disclosure rules for non-financial information.
 
Alongside this, we will review the system of quarterly disclosure.
 
 (Maintaining the middle class)
 
Third, we will maintain the middle class of the next generation, which will shoulder the responsibilities of the future.
 
Focusing on families with small children and the young generation, we will work to raise household income.
 
At the Meeting on a Social Security System Oriented to All Generations, we will advance discussions towards creating a society in which men and women can work as they wish; towards increasing the number of people supporting the social security system through, for example, restraining increases in the financial burden borne by the young generation and providing universal workers’ insurance; and towards building a sustainable social security system in which all people, in accordance with their ability, mutually assist others.
 
When we consider raising household income, the wage gap between men and women is also a major topic.
 
We will review the rules covering corporate disclosure with a view to correcting this problem.
 
In advancing new public-private cooperation, one important point for discussion is the supplementation of public functions by the private sector, including the additional use of concessions in which the operation of public facilities is entrusted to the private sector, as well as support for NPOs and social enterprises and social impact investing being conducted through venture philanthropy.
 
This spring we will compile both the grand design of the new form of capitalism and an action plan.
 
Next year, with our sight set on Japan serving as the presidency of the G7, we will take advantage of such occasions as the Davos meeting and the G7 to share this same awareness of issues with heads of state from around the world and leaders of the business world and drive global discussions as we build up a surge heading towards changes to capitalism.
 
4. Responses to the problem of climate change
 
The climate change issue is where the negative aspects of capitalism -- market failures from attaching excessive importance to efficiency, a lack of sustainability, and environmental disparities between wealthy nations and poor nations, among other problems -- all condense. It is also the greatest issue to be overcome by bringing about a new form of capitalism.
 
In 2020, a resolution on a Climate Emergency Declaration was passed in both chambers of the Diet, receiving nonpartisan approval. My fellow citizens, let us together take on this difficult challenge for the sake of our children’s and grandchildren's generations.
 
At the same time, this is also a growth field receiving attention the world over. It has been estimated that to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, it will be necessary to increase annual investment at a global scale from US$1 trillion to $4 trillion by 2030.
 
In Japan too, the public and private sectors are working to share a common overall vision of reforms leading to a carbon-neutral economy and society, urgently at least doubling investments into this field, and making this field an engine that realizes decarbonization and generates growth for a new era.
 
As we work towards the targets of a 46 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by fiscal 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, we will be engaged in not simply changes to the energy supply structure, but rather, a major transformation of our economy and society as a whole, spanning our industrial structure, our citizens’ daily lives, and the way our communities should be overall.
 
In what kind of fields, by when, through what kinds of mechanisms, and how much of an investment will this draw? We will compile and then show to the public a path forward for economic and social changes, as our Clean Energy Strategy.
 
We will find future directions for many points at issue: power transmission and distribution infrastructure; storage batteries; non-carbon sources of power, notably, renewable energies as well as hydrogen and ammonia, innovative nuclear power, and nuclear fusion; demand-side and community-based decarbonization; changes in lifestyles; how financing is arranged; and carbon pricing.
 
One more important point is that Japan will make use of its technologies, systems and know-how in hydrogen and ammonia and other areas to contribute to the decarbonization of the world, especially Asia, and lead the world in technical standards and international infrastructure development, together with the countries of Asia.
 
We aim to join forces with like-minded countries in Asia in creating something that can be called the “Asia Zero Emissions Community.”
 
5. Towards a society in which all people can feel their purpose in life
 
What will become the foundation supporting a new form of capitalism is a society that values diversity, in which all people can feel their purpose in life, whether old or young, male or female, or having a disability.
 
 (Women)
 
People’s lifestyles and family styles are becoming increasingly diverse. We will work to foster women's economic independence and eradicate violence against women, including domestic violence, which has increased sharply since we started battling COVID-19.
 
(Loneliness and isolation)
 
In order to be attentive to the feelings of those suffering from loneliness and isolation and support them, we will provide assistance for the activities of nonprofit organizations (NPOs) and other social actors in a well-tailored way. Additionally, we will strengthen collaborative structures among the national government, local governments, and NPOs.
 
 (Measures to address the declining birthrate and policies to help children)
 
Another urgent issue is actively advancing measures to address the declining birth rate and also policies to help children.
 
We will expand the scope of fertility treatments and begin covering fertility treatments through public health insurance in April.
 
We will establish an Agency for Children and Families in order to place policies affecting children at the very center of Japanese society.
 
The Agency for Children and Families will take the lead and work to create a Japanese version of the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS), through which proof of criminal records in sex crimes can be requested at educational and daycare facilities, an initiative which could not make headway until now because of the government's vertically-segmented administrative structure; data linkage on children, tying inquiries into children’s causes of death together with cross-system, cross-age education, welfare, and family data; and a community-based comprehensive support system for children with disabilities.
 
(Consumers)
 
In in preparation for the age of adulthood being lowered this coming April, from the angle of consumers, we will work intensively to prevent young consumers from suffering damage.
 
6. Regional revitalization
 
We will also work determinedly towards regional revitalization in ways beyond digital matters.
 
We will work to transform agriculture, forestry, and fisheries into growth industries by promoting exports and increasing productivity through “smart” transformation.
 
The export value of agricultural, forest, and fishery products last year surpassed 1 trillion yen. We will prepare a structure for promoting exports on an “all Japan” basis, broken down by item, aiming at surpassing 2 trillion yen in 2025, our next target.
 
We have dealt with a decline in the price of rice resulting from the COVID-19 situation by establishing a special framework covering 150,000 tons. We take the current situation very seriously and will work to create prosperous agriculture, forestry, and fishery industries in which a diverse range of agriculture, forestry, and fishery workers can produce their goods with confidence, including family farms and farms in hilly and mountainous areas.
 
Regarding the tourism industry as well, keeping the post-COVID-19 world firmly in view, we will promote a shift to greater added value in the tourism industry as we provide appropriate support against the impacts of COVID-19.
 
We will send out a message to the world about Japan's appeal, including by working to have Japanese sake, shochu, awamori and the like registered with UNESCO as cultural resources.
 
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Okinawa's reversion to Japan. During this historic year, we will recall the historical significance of the reversion and our thoughts will turn to the history of Okinawa. We will advance efforts to create a robust Okinawan economy.
 
7. Disaster response measures

Twenty-seven years ago today, the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake struck, with more than 6,000 people losing their precious lives.

Taking this earthquake disaster as lesson, we have enhanced our disaster response measures and crisis management beyond what we had in place until then.
 
An impending massive earthquake in the Nankai Trough; an earthquake directly beneath the Tokyo metropolitan area; a massive earthquake around the Japan Trench and Chishima Trench; preparations against storm and flood damage and torrential rains.
 
Over the next five years, we will move forward with intensive disaster countermeasures at a scale of 15 trillion yen. I am also strongly determined for us to continue to reinforce our efforts to prevent and reduce disasters and enhance national resilience.
 
To ensure we never repeat the same kind of tragedy as the mudslide disaster that occurred in Atami last year, we will develop laws allowing us to regulate dangerous embankments, even in locations we were unable to regulate until now. Alongside this, we will move forward in ensuring the safety of embankments where inspections are necessary, at some 36,000 sites around the country.
 
Reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake, including the revival of Fukushima, is a major priority for my administration.
 
Beginning with the towns of Okuma and Futaba and the village of Katsurao, we will advance our measures allowing temporary stays in preparation for returning to the area, moving towards the lifting of the evacuation order on Reconstruction and Revitalization Bases. We will make progress with the return of residents while staying attentive to the feelings of those affected by the disaster.
 
We will develop the laws necessary to enable an international education and research hub to take concrete shape, thereby not only advancing the reconstruction and revival of Fukushima but also contributing to the resolution of global issues.
 
Last year the United States abolished restrictions on the importation of food products from Japan, and the exportation of rice from Fukushima began. In the case of the UK also, where I myself urged Prime Minister Johnson to come around on this matter, they are beginning procedures to abolish their restrictions. The Government will work as a united front in urging the abolition of restrictions in every country and region at the earliest possible time.
 
8. Diplomacy and security
 
 (Realism diplomacy for a new era)
 
Amidst an increasingly severe and complex international situation, this is a year that will test how astute Japanese diplomacy can be.
 
I will stand at the fore, firmly holding aloft the flag of ideals for the future, and, looking squarely at the actual situation, pursue “realism diplomacy for a new era.”
 
 (Placing importance on universal values)
 
As the first pillar of “realism diplomacy for a new era,” we will place importance on the universal values and principles of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
 
I will hold talks with President Biden of the United States, a nation with whom we share these values and principles, at an early time. We will further reinforce the deterrence and the response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, which is the cornerstone of Japanese diplomacy and security, and lead the way to an Alliance that contributes to the peace and prosperity of the region, and more broadly to the international community.
 
Prime Minister Morrison of Australia and I have raised our countries’ “Special Strategic Partnership” to a new stage, having signed the Japan-Australia Reciprocal Access Agreement and working to strengthen our defense cooperation, among other initiatives.
 
In cooperation with our allies and like-minded countries, I am determined to deal resolutely with serious human rights issues, together with a dedicated Special Advisor in my Cabinet on this matter, the first such appointment ever.
 
The abductions issue is one of the highest priority issues of the Kishida administration. Working in cooperation with other countries, I will do everything in my power to realize the return of all the abductees to Japan at the earliest possible date, making use of every possible opportunity. I am determined to meet with Chairman Kim Jong-un myself face to face, without any conditions.
 
In accordance with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, Japan seeks to normalize relations with North Korea, through the comprehensive resolution of the outstanding issues of concern with North Korea, such as the abductions, nuclear, and missile issues, and the settling of the "unfortunate past."
 
 (Promoting a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”)
 
The concept of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” which Japan advocates and promotes, is supported by many nations.
 
The Quad of Japan, Australia, India, and the United States is advancing its cooperation, with practical cooperation taking concrete shape through vaccines, high-quality infrastructure development, and more.
 
We will also strengthen our cooperation with partners such as ASEAN and the countries of Europe.
 
We will work to expand the TPP Agreement while continuing its steady implementation and maintaining its high level. Japan will play a central role in international rule-making with a view to realizing Data Free Flow with Trust (DFFT).
 
 (Diplomacy with our neighbors)
 
The peace and stability of this region is also important.
 
I will say to China the things that need to be said and strongly urge China to act responsibly. I will at the same time properly continue dialogues with China, including on outstanding issues of concern, and cooperate on matters of common interest, and aim to build constructive and stable relations, mindful of this year being the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China.
 
With Russia, I will develop our bilateral relations overall to serve our national interests, including cooperation in the field of energy, while tenaciously advancing negotiations under the principle of resolving the territorial dispute and concluding a peace treaty. When doing so, I will continue on with the interactions we have held at the summit level since 2018, based on the agreements reached thus far, including our interactions at the summit meeting in Singapore 2018.
 
With regard to our important neighbor, the Republic of Korea (ROK), based on Japan’s consistent position, I will strongly urge the ROK side to make appropriate responses.
 
 (Efforts to resolve global challenges)
 
As the second pillar, we will actively work to tackle global-level challenges, including climate change and the attainment of Universal Health Coverage.
 
Six years ago, President Obama wrote in the guest book at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, "Let us now find the courage… to… pursue a world without nuclear weapons‎" and left origami cranes that he folded himself. As a prime minister with his roots in Hiroshima, where an atomic bomb was dropped, I will carry this thought forward and courageously pursue a world free of nuclear weapons.
 
In order to further develop the discussions of the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament, a group I founded during my tenure as Minister for Foreign Affairs, I will establish an international group of eminent persons for a world free of nuclear weapons, with the participation of current and former political leaders from around the world. We will convene the first meeting in Hiroshima, aiming at sometime within this year.
 
We will make contributions to the International Development Association amounting to roughly US$3.4 billion, Japan’s largest contribution ever, to support poverty reduction.
 
At TICAD8, with the post-COVID-19 world firmly in view, we will lay out a course forward for African development.
 
 (Efforts to fully defend the lives and livelihoods of the Japanese people)
 
The third pillar is efforts to resolutely and fully defend the lives and livelihoods of the Japanese people.
 
North Korea’s repeated ballistic missile launches cannot be tolerated, and we cannot overlook the marked improvements in its missile technology.
 
We face this missile problem alongside an intensification of attempts to unilaterally change the status quo; rapid changes in the military balance; problems in space, cyberspace, and other new domains; and economic security challenges. Never looking away from these realities, the Government will act as one in fully defending our territory, territorial waters, and territorial airspace as well as the lives and assets of our nationals.
 
For that reason, we will spend roughly a year drawing up a new National Security Strategy, National Defense Program Guidelines, and Mid-Term Defense Program.
 
Through this process, we will realistically examine all options, including possessing what is called “enemy base attack capability,” without excluding any possibilities. We will fundamentally reinforce our defense capabilities with a sense of speed, including through the supplementary budget enacted last month and the budget for fiscal year 2022.
 
In addition to strengthening our maritime security system, including cooperation between the Japan Coast Guard and the Self-Defense Forces, we will move forward in boosting our island defense capabilities and other capacities and reinforce our preparations towards the Nansei Islands.
 
During this Diet session we will submit bills to amend the Self-Defense Forces Act in order to take all possible preparations for transporting Japanese nationals who come under threat overseas.
 
While maintaining the deterrence of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, we will continue to pay close attention to the feelings of the people of Okinawa and continue to work to alleviate the impact of U.S. military bases. We will press ahead with the construction work for the relocation to Henoko in order to realize the total return of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma at the earliest possible time.
 
9.   Constitutional reform
 
I welcome the fact that the Deliberative Councils on the Constitution convened during the recent extraordinary session of the Diet and that discussions towards reforming the Constitution took place at the Diet.
 
What the Constitution should look like is a matter for the citizens to decide. In order to stimulate national debates about amending the Constitution, it is imperative that we Diet members hold repeated discussions and send out a message, both within the Diet and outside it.
 
Within this Diet session too, I wholeheartedly look forward to active debates being held.
 
10.   Conclusion
 
 (The inappropriate handling of statistics)
 
I would like to address the inappropriate handling of the Current Survey of Orders Received for Construction that came to light at the end of 2021.
 
Last week, on the 14th, a third-party panel of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and the Statistics Committee of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications released the results of their investigations.
 
Taking these investigation outcomes seriously, I extend an apology to the Japanese people.
 
I immediately instructed all relevant ministers to take steps to prevent a recurrence. I will instruct and supervise matters to restore trust in the Government’s statistics overall.
 
 (Reforming oneself)
 
“I will reform myself.””
 
KATSU Kaishu, who lived at the end of the Edo Period, said this together with, “It is I who must take action,” placing importance on controlling himself.
 
Now, as we carve out a new era, and of course with regard to the inappropriate handling of statistics, we politicians and the administration are called upon to reform and control ourselves.
 
The greatest driving force for that is the voices of the citizens. If we listen carefully to the unvoiced opinions of the citizens and walk together with the people, the path towards reform will naturally come into view.
 
I will continue to engage in my duties humbly, aiming at politics of trust and sympathy. I make a sincere request to all the Japanese people for their understanding and cooperation in order for us to join together to carve out the future of this country.
 
Thank you for your kind attention.

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