Policy Speech by Prime Minister Kishida to the 213th Session of the Diet
1. 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake
I offer my heartfelt prayers for the repose of all those who lost their precious lives in the 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake that struck on New Year’s Day. I also extend my sympathies once again to the disaster victims who have suffered harm or damage and are now living their lives in extremely challenging circumstances.
Various harsh conditions have emerged concurrently as a consequence of this earthquake disaster.
The peninsula’s distinctive road situation resulted in disruption of the transportation network. Seabed upheaval and damage caused by the tsunamis interrupted sea-based transport. Infrastructure including water supply, electricity, and telecommunications all suffered serious damage. Small villages dotted with wooden homes vulnerable to earthquakes became cut off from the outside. And local communities where more than 50 percent of the population is elderly have been hard hit.
Amidst bad weather and numerous aftershocks, a great many people, including those from local governments in the immediate area, the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), dispatched police and firefighter units from all around Japan, support staff from local governments nationwide, and emergency response teams tackling medical care and welfare, roads, electricity, and similar issues, have been working to save lives, rescue people, and restore the infrastructure without pausing to rest or sleep, and despite the risk of structures collapsing. I wish to express my profound appreciation to them for their efforts.
Even in the face of such trying circumstances, the most remarkable things are the orderly actions of the disaster victims as well as those involved in providing support, and also the power of kizuna, the bonds of friendship. Thanks to highly patient cooperation from all sides, placidity is gradually being restored to what had been staggeringly chaotic conditions in the disaster’s immediate aftermath. As the saying about the area goes, “The kind, gentle nature of Noto extends even to the earth itself.” I deeply respect the underlying strength of the people of Noto, who are kind to outsiders and have an inner resilience.
Mindful of the needs and concerns of the disaster victims, the national and local governments will act fully in unison as we continue our long-term efforts to provide reliable support for people’s daily lives and their occupations and livelihoods. In addition, in order to protect the lives and health of the disaster victims, we will expand secondary evacuations while dispelling the victims’ anxiety and concerns about the future.
We will carry out even extraordinary measures without hesitation. For example, we took the decision to revise the fiscal 2024 draft budget that was just recently decided at the end of 2023 and doubled the general reserve fund to one trillion yen. We are determined that we must not hesitate in our disaster responses because of budgetary constraints. Although the phases of assistance will gradually change as we move forward, the Government will do its utmost under the philosophy of “doing everything it is possible to do” in a seamless way.
Moreover, we have newly established the Headquarters for Supporting Recovery and Reconstruction from the 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake, which I am heading. We are determined to steadily implement our package of measures to support the daily lives and the livelihoods of the disaster victims and work responsibly towards the return of the disaster victims and the revitalization of the disaster-stricken area, including Noto.
(Remarks in the disaster area)
The other day while visiting the disaster area, I stopped in at evacuation centers in the cities of Wajima and Suzu. People told me that they were anxious about a range of issues as they shoulder considerable hardships. I also heard very valuable stories about support for disaster victims and reconstruction efforts.
At the same time, several new efforts have sprung up compared to disaster responses in the past, leaving a deep impression on me.
- With roads cut off and the airport also unfit for use, new public-private cooperation enabled a comprehensive physical distribution system to get up and running. In a short period of time, a collaboration was underway whereby SDF helicopters took charge of urban areas and airlifts from the sea, private-sector logistics providers meticulously managed goods at cargo handling warehouses and conducted small-lot deliveries by truck, and SDF members each carried 40 kilograms of relief supplies on their backs to transport them to the evacuation centers farther afield that had been cut off from transportation.
- Warm showers that can be used even without access to a running water supply have helped lessen evacuees’ fatigue and are actively being turned to good account. The one who introduced those showers to the disaster zone was a start-up company with the technology to cycle water for daily use through filtration and reuse it. The showers are a reverse import from the company’s operations in Africa and the Middle East. Trailers with toilets that can be used even without access to electricity or running water have also arrived from all around the country.
- Full-fledged disaster responses using drones are also ongoing, including drone delivery of medicine in cooperation with SDF relief activities in villages cut off from the outside, aerial surveys of the disaster situation in locations difficult to enter, and emergency recovery of wireless communication lines through drones providing radio relay.
The common thread running through these is the power of our bonds, a traditional strength of the Japanese people, intensifying through its combination with new elements -- with digital fields, start-ups, new public-private collaboration, or resource recycling -- to become a new strength for Japan.
2. Making 2024 a year for feeling achievements tangibly
This is true not only in the quake-stricken areas. “New strengths” have begun to take off in various areas of the Japanese economy.
It has been two years and four months since I assumed office as prime minister. I will extricate Japan from the cost-cutting economy that has lingered on for thirty years and, by working to resolve social issues through new kinds of public-private cooperation, bring about a New Form of Capitalism driven by wage increases and investment and move Japan significantly forward.
Wage increases, capital investment, stock prices -- all have attained levels not seen for thirty years. Bright indications that the Japanese economy will transition into a new stage are emerging everywhere.
Right now, we have a chance to wrest ourselves completely away from the deflation that has clung to the Japanese economy for a long time and transition to a new kind of growth-oriented economy abounding in vibrancy.
We will seize this opportunity and not allow any turning back. This strong determination is being asked of politics. Esteemed members of the Diet who gather in this chamber, let us work resolutely, devoting all our political might, to make this year, 2024, a year in which we put all we have attained into concrete form and a year in which the public feels results tangibly.
With responding to the earthquake, extricating ourselves fully from deflation, and dealing with a strained international situation, Japan is now at a critical juncture, both domestically and internationally.
We must press forward decisively with our key policies.
We must properly steer the course of our diplomacy.
3. Political Reform Headquarters
That said, without political stability, there can be no pushing ahead with policies. And, without the trust of the public, there can be no political stability.
That trust is now being shaken.
The political funding problem of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)’s policy groups has led the public to cast doubting eyes our way, and as LDP President, I apologize most sincerely.
The LDP must return to the starting point of the founding of our party, that “politics is for the people,” and undergo change. With this resolution and determination, we held intensive discussions within our Political Reform Headquarters.
In the interim report that was agreed upon as the first step in restoring trust, we will first press forward with reforms in the current system, including transparency in political funding and thoroughgoing compliance, and then in terms of institutional reforms, we intend to implement legal measures, such as revisions to the Political Funds Control Act, after engaging in sincere consultations with the various factions of each political party.
Also, having frankly acknowledged that there was no avoiding the LDP’s policy groups being seen as so-called “factions,” or “groups existing for the sake of money and personnel,” we reflected on the situation sincerely and took the decision for our policy groups to part completely with both money and personnel matters.
As we work to restore trust in politics, I myself will stand at the fore and make certain that these changes are executed. Political reform is a never-ending issue and in the future, we will continue to make further efforts towards reform through the Political Reform Headquarters.
We will restore public trust to bring stability to politics and then implement our key policies.
In the policy speech I delivered at the Diet last October, I stated, “The economy, the economy, and the economy.” My thinking has not changed even the slightest since then.
The greatest mission for the Kishida Administration is reviving the economy. Standing here before you, I pledge that once again.
What is now being truly underscored as a matter of urgency is the economy, and above all, wage increases.
(Wage increases that keep pace with rising prices)
Last year, we achieved the highest level of wage increases in 30 years and the minimum wage also saw its greatest-ever gain. Linking this trend into this year, we will also undertake a public sector wage increase by the Government so that people can feel this trend tangibly.
We will without fail bring about wage increases that keep pace with rising prices for people working in a wide range of workplaces in the medical and welfare sectors, who make up 14 percent of all employed persons.
We are also pursuing reforms to unit price setting and to the procurement system so that wage increases also reliably take place within the procurement of public services, including public works and school meals.
Beyond that is the matter of wage hikes at small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and for part-time workers and non-regular employees.
We have expanded and fortified the tax provisions for wage increases so that SMEs and medical corporations in the red can also take advantage of it. We have also formulated robust guidelines made by institutions including the Japan Fair Trade Commission. These guidelines support the smooth passing of increased labor costs at SMEs through to product prices, and we are now working to publicize them as much as possible to promote compliance.
Disincentives for second earners to earn more than a certain amount of income annually, known as the “annual income barrier,” have been a long-standing issue for people working part-time. We will expand our use of support measures in order to eliminate this problem.
Moreover, to precipitate substantial wage hikes for truck drivers, who find it extremely difficult to pass price increases through to clients, we will submit a bill advancing the introduction of appropriate freight rates.
In the construction industry as well, in order to secure funds for increasing wages, after the Government sets out a guide to appropriate labor costs in advance, we will submit a bill encouraging subcontract agreements for individual construction projects.
All of these will become powerful support that backs the raising of wages.
We will not let down our guard in defending people’s daily lives from rapid price increases.
We have taken measures to curb dramatic fluctuations in the price of gasoline, electricity, and natural gas in order to flexibly hold in check the burden shouldered by households and communities. We are also steadily proceeding with additional benefits of 70,000 yen per household for households exempt from resident taxes, including pensioner households being dealt a blow by rising prices. We will forge ahead with benefits to a broader group of low-income households, additional benefits to households raising children, and other forms of well-tailored support.
In addition, the main crux is to realize incomes that exceed the high cost of living. This year, we will bring about -- we must bring about -- incomes that surpass the high prices of goods, making use of every available means.
At the exchange of views held among Government, labor, and management, we made a vehement call for wage hikes that surpassed last year’s, and there is a growing movement to respond positively to it in spring negotiations between labor and management. The Government will make its utmost efforts to keep this momentum going.
In addition to the wage increases from the spring, from June, we will reduce income and resident taxes by 40,000 yen in total per person, supporting people’s disposable income. With the public and private sectors working in concert, we will with certainty create circumstances in which wages rise and disposable income increases and, as people’s own tangibly felt experiences build up, we will establish a forward-looking awareness in society as a whole that it is only natural for wages to rise, rather than the consciousness oriented towards contraction that has lingered for so many years.
We will also press forward with our investments in people in order to make sustainable wage increases possible. We will advance our three-pronged set of labor market reforms steadily and at an early time and proceed with preparing the domestic legal structure needed for expanding the safety net to encourage a wide range of work styles and for strengthening our assistance for education and training and for reskilling.
(Bolstering earning capacity)
We will also take major steps forward in bolstering the earning capacity of companies that generate wage hikes.
Capital investment is expected to reach 100 trillion yen in nominal terms, the largest scale in history. Our package of measures to promote domestic investment is designed to advance this further. With an eye on promoting future-oriented strategic investments such as in hydrogen and semiconductors, we have created unprecedented tax incentives and support measures for capital investment, including setting up tax deduction measures that address not only initial investments but also costs during the production stage.
Middle-scale enterprises and SMEs drive local economies, and we will firmly support them through our assistance measures for investment in automation and other such initiatives.
We will also place emphasis on strategically developing our infrastructure. Working towards reconstruction from the earthquake, we will move ahead with the Hokuriku Shinkansen extension on March 16 as originally scheduled and pursue innovations in physical distribution including not only preparing the environment for developing the Chuo Maglev Shinkansen but also realizing at an early time a vision for an automated physical distribution system that fully utilizes road space.
We are pushing forward with green transformation (GX), which reconciles decarbonization with economic growth. We will accelerate investment within various fields in industry, daily life, and energy transition, making use of 20 trillion yen in GX Economy Transition Bonds, the first ever issued worldwide. We will also submit in the current Diet session a bill to expand the introduction of hydrogen, carbon capture and storage, and offshore wind farming. In addition, in the lead-up to the fully-fledged introduction of the carbon pricing system in fiscal 2026, we will proceed with drafting legislation while giving careful consideration to obligating participation by large companies and to establishing a certification system for individual companies' reduction targets. We will also continue to make use of nuclear power generation as an effective means for decarbonization and stable supply, positioning safety as our topmost priority.
We will accelerate efforts by the Asia Zero Emissions Community, which held its first summit-level meeting. Japan will use its technological and financial strength to contribute to the various efforts being made by Asian nations, and we will simultaneously bring Asia’s growth potential into Japan.
(Innovation and start-ups)
Science and technology are the key to converting the industrial structure, and they are the cornerstone for carving out the future. In order to realize in true fashion in the Reiwa era a nation oriented towards science, technology, and intellectual property creation, a goal we have aimed to achieve since 1995 on the basis of our Basic Law on Science and Technology, we will draw up a national strategy containing a long-term vision.
As for artificial intelligence (AI), we will move forward with developing regulations and promoting its use in an integrated manner. As one outcome of the Hiroshima AI Process established at last year’s G7 Hiroshima Summit, we agreed upon a Comprehensive Policy Framework, the first international framework aimed at managing the risks of generative AI. We will establish a research institute focused on AI safety evaluation methodologies.
With regard to the field of space as well, this month, Japan’s small demonstration craft landed on the surface of the moon, a first for us. We will also advance our efforts in space in cooperation with the private sector, aiming for a Japanese astronaut to land on the moon in the latter half of the 2020s under the Artemis program as the first non-U.S. astronaut to do so.
Taking a medium- to long-term view, we will undertake initiatives in biotechnology, quantum technology, and fusion energy, among other technologies, while promoting investment and pursuing regulatory reforms. In addition, we will work to strengthen international competitiveness and promote research and development within the telecommunications industry.
We will accelerate the Five-Year Plan for Promoting Startups and support taking on new challenges. Funding for startups is on a favorable upward trend, having over the last decade achieved roughly tenfold its previous level. We will steadily promote human resource development, the provision of financing, and open innovation while expanding our support for middle-scale enterprises highly oriented towards growth.
(Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai)
Having overcome COVID-19 and large-scale natural disasters, we will take an “all Japan” approach in working for the success of Expo 2025 Osaka Kansai, which will be an opportunity to re-examine how we look at life and the way society should be. We will continually monitor the appropriateness of the major expenses of the Expo, taking into account knowledge of outside experts.
(An asset management-oriented nation)
We will put the Japanese people’s personal financial assets, which exceed 2,000 trillion yen, to good use in increasing national income and in boosting earning capacity. At the beginning of 2024 we kicked off the dramatically expanded new NISA system.
We aim to bring about a virtuous cycle in which household finances are reoriented towards investment and the increase in corporate value leads to greater household income, giving rise to further investment and consumption. In addition to making substantive corporate governance reforms, we will work to improve the operational capacity of the asset management industry and asset owners and strengthen Japan’s investment chain.
(Economic and fiscal management)
We will have an increase in income take place first through our efforts to increase wages and then fully extricate ourselves from deflation, continuing our reform of expenditures all the while. Proceeding in this manner will help keep in check increases in the national burden ratio resulting from the aging of our population and other factors and also contribute to putting public finances on a sound footing. Since the economy is the foundation of public finance, first we will put the economy right again and then we will move steadily forward in attaining fiscal soundness.
Even as the Japanese economy’s greatest strategic issue is getting fully extricated from deflation, the greatest strategic challenge for Japanese society is the issue of the declining birthrate.
Giving due consideration to the profound sense of urgency underpinning the proposal drafted by the Population Strategy Council, a private-sector group of concerned leaders, we will do our utmost, espousing the approach of the Government doing everything it is able to do now.
(Bringing about an inclusive society)
The first thing is policies for children and child-rearing.
Through a fundamental strengthening of our policies for children and child-rearing at an unprecedented scale, Japan’s family-related expenditures per child will reach the level of Sweden, the top OECD country, at 16 percent of GDP. We will press forward with this in a groundbreaking manner.
To secure funding, we will at first as a general principle secure funding by conducting a thoroughgoing reform of our expenditures. Spending reforms and wage increases will have the effect of lowering the burden of social insurance in real terms. We will build our support fund system within that scope, thereby avoiding any additional financial burdens for the public in real terms.
This year, we will at last enter a stage in which policies are implemented in a fully-fledged manner, including radically expanding the child allowance, reducing the financial burden incurred in higher education, improving the staffing criteria for day care centers for the first time in 76 years, and expanding the additional childcare allowance.
Within this Diet session we will submit the necessary bills and, with a sense of speed, transition into implementation.
But it is not simply a matter of drawing up systems, policies, and measures. As the other side of the coin, we will also press forward with efforts across society as a whole to increase momentum for cheering on children and households raising children.
Sex offences and sexual violence perpetrated against children are grave violations of human rights and must never occur. We will endeavor to submit bills within the current Diet session to establish the legal system for preventing sexual assault against children. Accordingly, we will push forward in our considerations with a view to making a more effective system.
In addition, as we work for the revival of high-quality public education and for the internationalization of education, we will also make efforts to improve quality by reviewing the treatment of teachers.
We will exert every effort to support women’s active participation in society. With various efforts already underway, our 53.2 percent employment rate for women is the highest level ever. In particular, the rate for women from 25 to 39 years of age surpassed 80 percent for the first time. In order to propel this further forward, we will support the hiring and fostering of human resources as we work towards our target for the proportion of female board members. We will also enhance our support policies so that both men and women are able to strike a good balance between work and childrearing.
We will also actively deal with dementia, an urgent issue for the elderly and their family members. The Basic Act on Dementia, which incorporated the views of those concerned with the issue, entered into force this month. We will utilize the outcomes of discussions by the Council for the Realization of an Aging Society That Addresses Dementia, which drew on participation from dementia sufferers themselves and family members of dementia patients, in setting out our Basic Plan and in our efforts to address issues arising in the daily lives of the elderly, including elderly people living alone.
Through these efforts, we will bring about an inclusive, cohesive society in which all people, regardless of their age or whether or not they have a disability, are able to feel their purpose in life and in which diversity is respected without anyone’s dignity being compromised.
(Digital administrative and fiscal reform)
In order to address the increasingly diverse and complex needs of the public while also adapting to the decline in the population, what is required is digital administrative and fiscal reform. By leveraging the power of digitalization, even as the labor shortage becomes more acute, we will create an environment in which it is possible to maintain administrative services without increasing the number of public servants. Alongside this, we will conduct a review of our funds and promote putting information on government-funded projects into forms that can be easily seen and assessed by the public.
Furthermore, based on issues identified from the perspective of the users, we will implement measures to resolve issues by combining digitalization and regulatory reforms. In doing so, we will work to thoroughly enhance the convenience of “My Number” cards, which are the passport of the digital society.
With regard to the issue of ride-sharing services in particular, we will hammer out a concrete form for the system and provide support to make it possible to implement from April new transportation services using privately-owned vehicles and ordinary drivers in local areas. While examining the effects of implementing these measures, we will continue towards June our discussions on the legal system related to ride-sharing services.
With regard to autonomous driving as well, within fiscal 2024, we will double to more than 20 the number of projects with year-round operations conducted on general roads leading to social implementation, and we will aim to have plans and actual operations underway in every prefecture.
6. Regional vitalization
Without regional vitalization, there will be no development of Japan. New efforts are now underway in our local areas on the basis of the power of kizuna, the bonds of friendship. We must provide support for the development of tourism, agriculture, and other key industries and fully protect local areas where people can live their lives with a sense of security.
(Tourism and agriculture)
In order to support the growth of our local regions, we aim to have 60 million foreign tourists visit Japan and 15 trillion yen in tourism consumption in 2030. Moving towards this goal, we will work to prevent, before it happens, overtourism resulting from an uneven distribution of tourists to only a portion of locales at particular times of year. To ensure that the benefits of tourism spread to every corner of the country, we will also vigorously promote adding high amounts of value to tourist sites and the tourism industry and attracting tourists to Japan’s local regions.
Agriculture supported by local regions is the foundation of the nation. We will address head-on the social issues, both domestic and international, that Japan’s agriculture faces, such as global volatility in supply and demand for food and fertilizers, environmental issues, and Japan’s sharp decline in the population and insufficient labor force. We will conduct a fundamental review of agricultural policy to ensure that overcoming these challenges leads to the growth of local areas.
Towards that end, we will submit during this Diet session a bill to amend the Basic Act on Food, Agriculture and Rural Areas, which is positioned as the Constitution of agricultural policy. This will be the first full-scale revision of this Act in the quarter-century since its enactment.
Furthermore, in order to systematically promote the enhancement of food security in times of uncertainty, the securing of a total amount of land for agriculture and ensuring its proper and effective use, stabilization of the procurement of food raw materials, and the encouragement of smart agriculture, we will also submit bills related to these matters in this session of the Diet.
Alongside these, we will promote the transition to environmentally friendly and sustainable agriculture, forestry, fishery, and food industries, including green agriculture, sustainable forestry, conversion to aquaculture, and other initiatives. In addition, with a view to maintaining the domestic production base, we will further promote the export of agricultural, forestry, and fishery products.
The foundation of agricultural policy is found in the field. We will stay faithful to the needs and concerns of those who toil away day after day running their operations and develop agricultural policy that supports their forward-looking efforts.
(Safety and security; the reconstruction of Fukushima)
We will fully defend safety and security beginning in ordinary, unexceptional times. Given that natural disasters are becoming increasingly intense, including the Noto Peninsula Earthquake, we are continuously advancing our measures in both hard and soft aspects to prevent and reduce disasters and enhance national resilience, including measures that address river basin management and aging infrastructure.
In addition, working towards sustainable infrastructure development in local areas, we will promote integrated water management in river basins through public-private cooperation and also promote the granting of small-scale concessions in order to actively make use of vacant houses and idle real estate. Moreover, we will advance the recycling of resources and strengthen resource circulation within local areas.
The reconstruction of Fukushima is one of my administration’s highest priority issues. The Government will make all-out efforts to restore people’s daily lives and livelihoods. To address China and others suspending imports of Japanese marine products in response to the discharge of ALPS-treated water, the Government will protect Japanese fisheries by calling for the immediate repeal of such measures and by steadily promoting the expansion of domestic demand for marine products affected by this situation, the cultivation of new export markets, and the strengthening of domestic processing systems.
In response to the collision accident at the beginning of the year at Haneda Airport, to ensure this kind of accident does not happen again, we will swiftly take measures in both hard and soft aspects to prevent reoccurrence and, taking into account the Japan Transport Safety Board’s determination of the cause, adopt fundamental measures to enhance both safety and peace of mind in aviation.
7. Diplomacy and Security
The degree of tension in the international community is increasing further. Besides aggression against Ukraine and the Middle East situation, there are a number of important national elections that will sway the direction of the direction the globe takes in the future, including the U.S. presidential election. Taking the G7 Hiroshima Summit, the Japan-U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) Summit at Camp David, and various other diplomatic occasions we have had until now, Japan will give shape to them and lead the international community towards global stability and prosperity through an approach that is quintessentially Japanese.
(Deepening relations with other nations)
First and foremost, our cooperation with our allies and with like-minded countries is critical. Through opportunities such as my official visit to the United States, planned for early April, I will further expand and deepen Japan-U.S. relations, which are the cornerstone of Japan's diplomacy. By further reinforcing the Japan-U.S. Alliance, we will make Japan’s security absolutely unfailing while contributing to regional peace and stability. Moreover, we will use various channels to reinforce cooperation between Japan and the United States in the area of economic security, including cooperation to enhance the resilience of our supply chains and cooperation regarding semiconductors.
Based on the outcomes of the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit for the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation held in Tokyo last month and making use of Japan-Australia-India-U.S. meetings, we will strengthen our partnerships with relevant countries and further advance our cooperation to promote a Free and Open Indo-Pacific based on the rule of law.
With the ROK, an important neighboring country with which we should cooperate in our responses to international issues and other areas, taking my relationship of trust with President Yoon as the cornerstone, I will further expand and deepen our wide-ranging cooperation while also advancing the trilateral strategic partnership among Japan, the United States, and the ROK as well as a trilateral framework among Japan, China and the ROK.
With China, we have engaged in a significant amount of communication at all levels, including notably the summit meeting I held this past November with President Xi Jinping. We will continue to pursue comprehensively a "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests." At the same time, Japan will say to China the things that need to be said, including regarding any unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force in the East China Sea or South China Sea, and, strongly urging China to act responsibly, we will engage in dialogue, including regarding outstanding issues of concern, and build through efforts on the part of both Japan and China a “constructive and stable Japan-China relationship,” in which we cooperate on common issues.
We will continue to press forward vigorously in our sanctions against Russia as well as our assistance to Ukraine. In February in Tokyo, we plan to hold a Japan-Ukraine Conference for Promotion of Economic Reconstruction. Notwithstanding the acutely challenging circumstances enveloping Japan-Russia relations, Japan maintains its policy of resolving the territorial issue and concluding a peace treaty.
(The abduction issue)
The abduction of Japanese nationals, an issue whose resolution has time constraints, is a human rights issue about which we cannot let our mindfulness dwindle for even a moment, as the families of the victims continue to age. The abduction issue is one of the highest priority issues for my administration. In addition, nuclear and missile development by North Korea is totally unacceptable. In order to realize the return of all the abductees to Japan at the earliest possible date and raise Japan-North Korea relations to a new stage, and in order to resolve outstanding issues of concern with North Korea in accordance with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, we will advance high-level consultations that report directly to me, with a view to realizing summit-level talks with Chairman Kim Jong-un.
(Cooperation with the Global South)
At last year’s Hiroshima Summit, we succeeded in reaching an aligned recognition of the importance of the rule of law, respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and other such principles in a venue where leaders from countries outside the G7 also met with us under the same roof. Taking this outcome as our foundation, we will uphold and reinforce the free and open international order based on the rule of law and, leveraging the opportunity of the G20 summit in Brazil and other diplomatic occasions, deepen our cooperation with the Global South and lead the international community away from division and confrontation towards cooperation. Also, with regard to the food crisis, climate change, infectious diseases, and various other global challenges, while drawing upon the strengths that are unique to Japan, we will promote diplomacy and international cooperation that place human dignity at the very center.
(A world without nuclear weapons)
Russia’s threats of nuclear weapon use and North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and other issues have increased the severity of the situation surrounding nuclear disarmament. However, precisely because we find ourselves within such a context, we will, taking the G7 Leaders’ Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament issued last year as a solid platform and also embracing the wisdom of the International Group of Eminent Persons, carry out efforts under the Hiroshima Action Plan one by one and continue and strengthen our realistic and practical measures to realize a world without nuclear weapons.
(Fundamentally reinforcing Japan’s defense capabilities)
Japan is now right in the middle of the most severe security environment of the post-war era. In light of that, we will steadily bring concrete shape to the fundamental reinforcement of Japan’s defense capabilities and, moreover, work to improve the living and working environments and the treatment of the members of our Self-Defense Forces.
In addition, the Japan-U.S. Alliance, which takes the Japan-US Security Arrangements as its cornerstone, functions as "public goods" for global stability and prosperity, and we will further reinforce the deterrence and the response capabilities of our Alliance.
We will continue to work to lessen the impact of U.S. military bases. Aiming to realize the total return of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma at the earliest possible time, we will proceed with construction for the relocation to Henoko. We will also continue to provide assistance to strengthen the Okinawan economy.
With regard to securing the financial resources necessary to fundamentally reinforce Japan’s defense capabilities, we will clearly lay out the direction we will follow and then undertake it, based on the framework decided upon by the Cabinet at the end of 2022.
Alongside the reinforcement of Japan’s defense capabilities and our diplomacy and security, a fundamental strengthening of Japan’s economic security is a matter of urgency. We will enhance our security clearances and our cyber security.
Bolstering Japan’s cyber response capability is an issue that is becoming increasingly urgent. We will lay out a bill to prepare the relevant domestic legal structure at the earliest possible time and accelerate discussions on it.
8. Constitutional reform and Imperial succession
We will also work to tackle other issues that cannot be postponed.
First among these is constitutional reform. I welcome the active discussions that have been held in the Deliberative Councils on the Constitution in both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors. I look forward to even more proactive discussions taking place with a view to releasing a Diet proposal, so that the public may exercise their judgment regarding it. In addition, speaking as the president of the LDP, I remain unchanging in my intention to make constitutional revision a reality during my tenure as president, and towards that end, I intend to do everything in my power to advance discussions on the matter. This year, we will draw up explicit draft articles and accelerate nonpartisan discussions.
With regard to addressing stable Imperial succession and related matters, the Government has compiled specific steps to be taken to ensure the number of members of the Imperial Family and reported those measures to the Diet. I look forward to the Diet engaging in vigorous discussions so that the “consensus of the legislature” can be compiled as soon as possible.
In the Kumamoto earthquakes of 2016, a large number of valuable ceramic creations broke, and in response it was wajima-nuri lacquerware artisans who lent a hand.
Collecting the fragments of the broken ceramics, the craftsmen used the wajima-nuri lacquerware technique of mixing lacquer with gold to restore the items superbly. The new pieces of craftsmanship integrating the works of disaster-stricken Kumamoto and the traditional techniques of wajima-nuri lacquerware moved people as beautiful symbols of reconstruction. It was a moment when the power of kizuna -- the bonds of friendship -- in thinking about the disaster area and the ideas of young people converged with support raised through crowdfunding, giving rise to a radiant new strength for Japan.
The movement from Kumamoto to reciprocate to Ishikawa the warm support from eight years ago has spread, including among young people. Precisely because it is the very same kind of disaster-affected area, it is possible to provide responses that are well-matched to the feelings of the local people, in the forms of staff dispatched to day care centers, people taking care of administrative tasks associated with donations, and assistance for disaster-affected rail lines, among other areas.
Traditions and youth; private-sector companies and public-sector agencies; local communities and start-ups. Even in the reconstruction from the earthquake disaster, these new strengths that arose through these kinds of combinations have all become a driving force for restoring Noto.
Our new strengths are not limited to disaster-affected areas. We are reminded that new strengths are cropping up in a wide variety of settings. It may be young people imbued from the very start with the ambition to actively make their mark internationally, or attempts to resolve local issues through new technologies, or, indeed, places where people are, one by one, working steadily away within their own areas of responsibility. We will link these endeavors together and combine them with new elements such as digital or green fields, public-private cooperation, and start-ups. I am confident that by doing so, they will become strengths we can count on with certainty as we move towards a Japan where tomorrow is better than today.
We will not fail to seize this opportunity to change Japan.
Although the ruling and opposition parties each have their own positions, let us, together with each member of the Diet, do our utmost for the sake of the next generation.
I ask once again for the understanding and cooperation of my fellow citizens.
Thank you very much for your kind attention.