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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now begin the press conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Prime Minister, your opening statement please.

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Today I was designated as the nation's 96th Prime Minister. The Liberal Democratic Party and The New Komeito have established a coalition government in light of the results of the recent general election. While on the campaign trail traveling all around the country during the recent general election campaign, I felt strong and clear expectations from the public that they wanted a stop to be put on this political confusion and stagnation as early as possible. At the same time, I felt very keenly that trust in our party has not yet returned completely and that the stern eye of the public continues to be cast on politics as a whole. Within that context I have inaugurated my Cabinet, brimming with a tense feeling of wanting to build up and also garner trust by producing results at as early a time as possible.

Over these three years, various issues have accumulated in the economy as well as in foreign and security policy, as well as in education and in daily living as the result of the DPJ government. Yet the crisis and the issues that we face at present will not be resolved by looking back on the past or by criticizing the previous administration. I intend for us to brush aside the past and from now vigorously take our first step forward towards the future.

In keeping with my determination to defeat the impending crisis for the sake of our nation and people, today I formed a 'crisis breakthrough Cabinet.' I included in my Cabinet people with experience as the President of the LDP and as Chief Representative of The New Komeito as well as leader candidates who will play a prominent role in the next generation. I emphasized character and ability in selecting the people who would serve. I intend to have them demonstrate their abilities to the fullest in order to overcome the nation's crisis.

In inaugurating this 'crisis breakthrough Cabinet' I have instructed its members to dedicate their greatest possible efforts to the three areas of economic revival, reconstruction, and crisis management. With regard to crisis management in particular, on the Sea of Japan side of northern Japan there are dramatic accumulations of snow at this very moment, and there are concerns that large-scale damage may also occur. A little earlier this evening I instructed the Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary for Crisis Management to establish a response office in order to take all possible precautionary measures to protect human life first and foremost and to ensure that future countermeasures to deal with heavy snow are made fully reliable. Having now taken over the reins of government, from that moment we have the responsibility to address crisis management with our utmost efforts and ongoing vigilance. I have ensured that all members of the Cabinet will respond committedly in this regard.

The areas stricken by the Great East Japan Earthquake are now in the midst of their second cold winter. Even now, 320,000 people are forced to lead lives of hardship, living evacuated into temporary housing and so on. I recognize the acceleration of reconstruction as being of the greatest importance. I have appointed as Minister for Reconstruction a person who is extremely familiar with the voices of the people in the disaster-stricken areas, and above all those of the people onsite in Fukushima. I will have the Minister for Reconstruction change the mentality of the personnel at the Reconstruction Agency and accelerate reconstruction through a hands-on approach that considers the sensitivities of the people in the disaster areas. With regard to Fukushima in particular, there have been a multitude of issues, including decontamination and livelihood rehabilitation. I will concentrate the capabilities of the various related ministries and agencies, centered on a newly created post of Minister in Charge of Comprehensive Policy Coordination for Revival from the Nuclear Accident at Fukushima, and undertake the revival of Fukushima under the responsibility of the national government, with the national government standing at the forefront. All the ministers in my Cabinet share a common awareness that they are all ministers for reconstruction and they will engage in an all-out mobilization of every possible policy means. Through these efforts, rather than stopping at merely the minimum level of livelihood rehabilitation, we will create a new Tohoku as a place of creative power and potential.

A robust economy is a source of national strength for Japan. Without reviving the robust economy, there can be neither fiscal reconstruction nor a future for Japan. Prolonged deflation has reduced the take-home pay of people working hard for their money. The historic appreciation of the yen has also led to a gradual hollowing out of exporting companies that are gritting their teeth and trying their best to make do in the domestic market. The restoration of a robust economy is a truly urgent issue. I will be establishing a Headquarters for Japan's Economic Revitalization as a "control tower" for economic revival. I will also reinstate the Council on Economic and Fiscal Policy. By newly creating the posts of Minister in Charge of Economic Revitalization, Minister in Charge of Breaking Out of Deflation and Countering Yen Appreciation, and Minister in Charge of Industrial Competitiveness, I have also put together a framework that facilitates the implementation of well-tailored policies.

Through the collective efforts of the Cabinet, I will generate results by vigorously advancing economic policy under the three prongs of bold monetary policy, flexible public finance policy, and a growth strategy that encourages private sector investment. I will restore a Japanese economy that rewards those who work hard and a Japanese economy in which people can feel keenly that their lives tomorrow will be better than their lives today.

We must also restore proactive diplomacy that defends our national interests. A great many issues can be found in Japan's relations with China and with the Republic of Korea and also in its relationship with the United States, the relationship that constitutes the foundation of Japan's diplomacy and security. It is necessary to consider strategy from a panoramic perspective of the world map, including the United States, Russia, India, the countries of ASEAN, and others. I will develop in a strategic manner our diplomacy as our comprehensive capabilities. More than anything else, it is imperative that we rebuild the relationship of trust we enjoy under the Japan-U.S. alliance. The other day, I had a telephone conversation with President Obama. At that time, we agreed that we would construct our relationship over the long term. I recognize that the first step in turning Japan's foreign and security policy around is reinforcing our kizuna - our bonds of friendship - once more under the Japan-U.S. alliance, which is the cornerstone of Japanese diplomacy.

As Prime Minister I intend to demonstrate my resolution to defend fully people's lives, our territory, and our beautiful ocean. Right now, at this very moment, the Japan Coast Guard and members of the Self-Defense Forces are defending Japan's seas and skies off the coast of the Senkaku Islands. The security of Japan is not someone else's problem; it is a crisis that exists right there and now. I have newly created the position of Minister in Charge of Reinforcing National Security. By establishing a Council on National Security to serve as a 'control tower' and other such measures, the entire Cabinet will be engaged in strengthening our foreign and security policy framework.

The lives and the futures of our children are currently in a critical situation. As a result of bullying, a decline in academic standards, and various other problems, the revival of education, which is at the point of crisis, is an area of governmental responsibility. The Fundamental Law of Education was revised in the era of the previous Abe administration. Under the revised Fundamental Law of Education, I will move forward with more concrete revisions by creating a framework for the nation to carry out its obligations as the entity having ultimate responsibility for public education. We will cultivate in children world-leading academic ability and social morality as well as an attitude of respect for history and culture.

We must sweep away the sense of anxiety within each person's daily life. The creation of a society of peace of mind is also an important issue for the Abe Cabinet. The Sasago Tunnel accident has heightened the public's sense of unease regarding the aging of the infrastructure that was constructed during the era of high economic growth. In order to safeguard the lives of the people, and indeed, in order to enhance Japan's competitive strength, I will push forward with measures to make the nation's infrastructure more resilient.

Another urgent issue is the establishment of a sustainable social security system. We will continue with the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems on the basis of the three-party agreement. In addition, I have created the post of Minister in Charge of Support for Women's Empowerment and Child-Rearing. The mission of the Abe administration includes creating a country in which women are dynamically engaged and in which it is easy for them to raise children. In accordance with the principle of starting near to home with the person who suggested it, I have asked highly competent women to fill two of the LDP's four executive positions. In this assignment of personnel as well, I proactively appointed women on the basis of merit.

My final point repeats what I mentioned earlier, but the mission assigned to this administration is first and foremost to restore a robust economy. Growth is difficult with the size of our population in decline. But while this is certainly a difficult condition, I believe that a country that abandons the pursuit of growth or a country that loses the desire to grow has no future. We shall grow through resolve and through the implementation of correct policies. I intend to work to create a country in which the people of Japan, striving for a bright future, move forward as one.

With that, I will bring my opening statement to a close.


CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now move on to the Q&A session. When you are called on, please first state your name and affiliation before asking your question. All right, Mr. Sasaki, please.

REPORTER: I am Sasaki of Jiji Press. Thank you for taking my question.

During the first Abe Cabinet six years ago, there had been criticism and dissatisfaction both inside and outside the LDP towards what was called a "Cabinet among friends," in which legislators within your inner circle were appointed to important posts, and it is said that this caused the collapse of your Cabinet. It was then that the trend began for the prime minister to change every year. Do you believe that this time you have succeeded in carrying out personnel matters, after reflecting upon what happened last time? That overlaps with the contents of your opening statement, but I would appreciate it if you could kindly address it.

Also, there have been some expressions of concern from China and the Republic of Korea regarding the lineup in this Cabinet. Do you have any comments on that? Thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Six years ago, I had only just turned 52, so I was younger than I am now and on fire with ideals, but it is also true that I was excessively eager to realize my ideas. I attempted to bring together people who thought the same as I did, who were oriented toward the same direction as myself, and who had the same aims as I. As a result of being too strongly disposed to realizing my ideas, it is in fact true that I received such criticism.

From that perspective, for this Cabinet, I have taken a broad perspective in attaching importance to people's capabilities and included a wide range of people in the Abe Cabinet, not necessarily only those who share entirely the same views as myself. I leave it to the people to evaluate this Cabinet.

In the area of foreign affairs, national interests take the highest priority. As we work to ensure our national interests, there will be times at which the national interests of countries collide. At such times I consider it natural that we develop strategic diplomacy. How did the DPJ administration fare? The DPJ administration was actually welcomed, was it not? I would like for you to look closely at what the outcome of that was.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: The next question, please. Mr. Sato, please go ahead.

REPORTER: I am Sato with the Nikkei Shimbun. I would like to ask about three concrete policy issues, namely the supplementary budget, the TPP, and nuclear power.

First of all, what is the scale that you have in mind for the supplementary budget? I expect that any shortfall in financial resources would be covered by the issuance of bonds. Do you intend to reconsider the ceiling of 44 trillion yen for new bond issuance that was adopted by DPJ administrations?

The second policy issue is that of the TPP. The coalition government agreement between the LDP and The New Komeito calls for seeking the optimal path that serves Japan's national interests. Does this principle indicate that you will proceed proactively towards participating in the negotiations? When answering that, please also address what your aims were when you appointed the METI Minister, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and other relevant Cabinet members during this organization of the Cabinet.

The third question is with regard to nuclear power. In what way do you intend to review the DPJ's policy of "zero nuclear power"? Please explain in concrete terms what your future policy will be, including with regard to new construction of nuclear power plants.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: First with regard to the TPP, the public pledge made by the Liberal Democratic Party regarding the TPP is to oppose joining the negotiations as long as a precondition is the abolition of customs tariffs without considering any areas to be off-limits. Under the recent coalition agreement with The New Komeito, we will pursue the optimal path forward that serves the national interests, and this is of course our mutual agreement, as it were, as well as a public pledge.

In economic negotiations, the outcome is everything, so to speak. From the perspective of whether or not within the final outcome our national interests were safeguarded and we succeeded in obtaining what we wished to obtain, we will engage in a comprehensive examination of the issue, placing focus on whether or not we are able to safeguard our national interests. We will also conduct an analysis based on an ample grasp of the situation and sufficient information, insofar as we have just now taken the reins of government.

Next, to address the matter of the supplementary budget, it will be a large-scale supplementary budget. The reason for that is that the task assigned to this administration is to break out of deflation. As we conduct this breaking away from deflation, it is important that first we fill up that "deflation gap."

A further point is that, regrettably, as a consequence related to the timing of the election, the passage of the budget is quite likely to be delayed, so a provisional budget will be compiled. I expect that it will be necessary to cover that. Such matters will lead us to compile a sizable supplementary budget.

At the same time, with regard to your question concerning fiscal resources, within the scope of our current fundamental approach, it will of course be necessary for us also to conduct a proper scrutiny of the specifics of various matters, but as we assess policies and measures that are conducive to future outcomes, we intend to secure the necessary fiscal resources to execute them.

The next matter is that of nuclear power, and while the Liberal Democratic Party has its own fundamental stance on nuclear power, this is another area in which we also have a public pledge together with The New Komeito. How will we address the demand for electricity over the near term as an administration which takes responsibility for the daily lives and livelihoods of the Japanese people? This too is something that must be investigated immediately. But if we fail also to thoroughly examine the competitiveness of the economy, then there is also a risk that the domestic hollowing out of, for example, our manufacturing industries will continue. Within that context I will first have the Nuclear Regulatory Committee formulate strict rules within half a year. In this area safety is the number one priority, so these rules will be formulated on the basis of that philosophy. Then, within three years we will move forward with a decision on whether or not the reactors should operate, and we will simultaneously move forward with the development of renewable energies and other such areas and with innovations in these areas. The basic approach is to work out over a period of ten years the best energy mix within that context.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: The next question, please. Mr. White, go ahead.

REPORTER: My name is White and I am with Reuters.

Since 2006 within Japanese politics, the Japanese prime minister has changed with great frequency. We have now seen the birth of the new Abe administration, but this is in fact the second time you have become prime minister. Please share with us your thoughts on whether the fundamental reason for the rapid succession of prime ministers is a problem with the system, or whether the problem lies elsewhere.

As another point, do you expect the current Abe administration to be able to continue on for a long time, and if so, please explain the reasons for that.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: First of all, let me address the question of why the prime minister has changed so much over these last few years. I am Japan's 96th Prime Minister but I was also its 90th. I believe that it simply will not do for us to go back again to the beginning and have the same thing happen once more. Therefore, I feel great responsibility as the person in charge of an administration that had no alternative but to finish after a year. At the same time, I would like to make good use of my experience of both having led an administration in the past and having suffered a setback. I intend to conduct political administration in a way that does not again bring such unease to the Japanese people. I believe that now, our mission is to carry out stable political administration, also in order to "put a stop on political confusion and stagnation," something which is truly called for now.

As for the matter of whether or not there is a problem with the system, the Koizumi administration was a long-term administration that existed within this system, so I do not think that it is necessarily a problem that is attributable to the system.

In the future, in order for the administration inaugurated today to become a well-established one, through generating results I intend to earn the trust of the people and thereby move forward as a stable administration.


REPORTER: I am Hayashi with the Asahi Shimbun. Thank you for taking my question. I would like to ask about the right to collective self-defense.

Mr. Prime Minister, as your own theory, you have made statements regarding changes in the interpretation of the Constitution that would allow the exercise of the right to collective self-defense. I believe that the LDP has also made a public pledge in accordance with that line of thinking, and I suppose that this point also connects in to the reinforcement of the Japan-U.S. alliance that you mentioned earlier.

Do you have any intention to put this plan into practice before next summer's House of Councillors election? And, if you do, then please tell us whether or not you have any intention of reviewing your relationship with The New Komeito, which has shown reluctance towards changing the interpretation in this way.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: First of all, with regard to the relationship between the LDP and The New Komeito, the coalition government between the two parties was inaugurated today. Through this coalition government we have stabilized the foundation for the administration and we will be able to put our policies into practice. In other words, fundamentally I consider this coalition government to be something that should be made even more solid. That is my fundamental stance on that matter.

Beyond that, concerning a change in interpretation regarding the exercise of the right to collective self-defense, the conclusions drawn by the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security established under the previous Abe administration were presented in the form of a report to the Chief Cabinet Secretary of the Fukuda administration. With regard to whether or not such kinds of cases are appropriate, under the Abe administration I would like to launch an examination of the report once more by speaking with the eminent persons originally involved.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We are already running substantially over the allotted time, so this will be the last question. Mr. Nanao, please.

REPORTER: I am Nanao of Nico Nico Douga. Thank you for taking my question.

Mr. Prime Minister, I would like to ask your views once more with regard to revising the Public Offices Election Law. Will you be aiming to lift the ban on election campaign activities using the Internet, acting quickly to enable it to be in effect during the House of Councillors election to be held next summer? If indeed you aim to do so, then please also share with us your thoughts on the significance it would have.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: To begin my response with my conclusion, I intend to aim at rescinding the ban before next year's House of Councillors election.

As for its significance, the current Public Offices Election Law itself utilizes a "positive list" approach [in which it gives a list of permitted activities], and of course the law was formulated quite some time ago. A large number of people currently use the Internet. If it were used by only a small number of people, then I think that would be problematic, but presently quite a large number of people are using it. Beyond that, we will be revitalizing the activities of the IT Strategy Council and establishing a minister in charge of this area as we make efforts in the area of IT to have Japan grow still further as an IT nation.

At the same time, the fact that currently the Internet is not used in election campaigns is in my view actually rather unnatural. To have a large number of people come to know your thinking, use of the Internet does not require a budget and yet it is effective, and furthermore a large number of people can all compete on equal footing. It needs to be such that no specific candidate can use it to create disadvantages for other candidates. However at the same time, naturally it will be necessary to think about how the rules should be laid out against that backdrop.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: With that, I would like to bring the Prime Minister's press conference to a close. Thank you very much.

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