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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during His Visit to the United States of America

Friday, February 22, 2013

Renaissance Washington Hotel, Washington, DC, USA
[Provisional Translation]

1. Opening Statement

PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: I have visited the United States as Prime Minister for the first time in six years. I would like to thank once again President Obama, along with Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Kerry, for welcoming me warmly at a very busy time as he begins his second term.

I had a frank discussion with President Obama regarding the direction in which we will reinforce the Japan-U.S. alliance, and our views on this matter are in agreement. I am able to declare with confidence that we have restored the bonds of friendship and the trust between Japan and the U.S. that had been markedly damaged over the past three years and that the close Japan-U.S. alliance has been fully revived.

While President Obama and I discussed a truly wide range of areas of cooperation during our summit meeting, I would like to focus on the major outcomes in my remarks here.

First of all, with regard to security, given the increasingly severe security environment surrounding Japan, Japan is determined to fulfill its responsibilities together with the United States, and President Obama fully shares this recognition. In concrete terms, I explained to President Obama Japan's own efforts towards reinforcing the alliance, including such matters as the right to collective self-defense, increased defense spending, and the review of our National Defense Program Guidelines. In addition, President Obama and I concurred on advancing Japan-U.S. defense cooperation across a broad range of fields. We also agreed to instruct our ministers to follow up on these areas, making use of the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee (the "2+2 Meeting") and other opportunities. We agreed that with regard to the realignment of U.S. Forces in Japan, we will move forward at an early time on the relocation of Futenma Air Station and the plan to return areas south of Kadena.

Second, regarding regional issues, President Obama and I concurred that, taking the Japan-U.S. alliance as our foundation, our two countries will cooperate so that the Asia-Pacific region becomes a region governed not by coercion or intimidation but rather by the rule of law. With regard to the nuclear test conducted by North Korea, we confirmed that we will continue to work in close cooperation in order for us to take such resolute measures as the swift adoption of a new UN Security Council resolution that includes additional sanctions. We also agreed that Japan and the U.S. will act in close cooperation regarding financial sanctions. I also conveyed my strong will towards the resolution of the abduction issue and once again received President Obama's understanding and support. We were also able to have a meaningful exchange of views regarding global issues. In particular, given the terrorist incident in Algeria in which a large number of Japanese nationals were victims, we agreed that we will conduct Japan-United States Counter-terrorism Consultations in the near future regarding measures to tackle terrorism.

Our third topic was economic matters. I explained that the Abe Cabinet's priority is achieving Japan's economic revival and overviewed my "three prongs" of economic revival. President Obama welcomed these points and said that he looked forward to my strong leadership. We shared our recognition that the revival of the Japanese economy is significant for both Japan and the U.S. and also for the world.

We discussed the TPP agreement thoroughly, including its significance and the domestic situation in each of our countries. I received explicit confirmation from President Obama on three points. [First,] both countries have bilateral trade sensitivities, namely certain agricultural products for Japan and certain manufactured products for the U.S. [Second,] the final outcomes are to be determined during the negotiations. [Third,] it is not required to make a prior commitment to unilaterally eliminate all tariffs upon joining the TPP negotiations. Over the course of the election campaign I pledged to the Japanese people that we will not participate in the TPP negotiations as long as the requirement for participation is that the Japanese government make a prior commitment to eliminate tariffs with no sanctuary. And, through this summit meeting with President Obama, it has become clear that under the TPP there is no requirement for the unconditional elimination of tariffs. Besides these points, during the meeting with President Obama I also stated the five criteria that we [(the LDP)] have laid out for determining.

In addition to these areas, we also discussed cooperation in the area of the environment and energy as well as the area of space and cyberspace. I intend to continue to forge an even more solid Japan-U.S. alliance on the basis of my relationship of trust with President Obama. With that, I will end my opening statement.

2. Questions and Answers

REPORTER (HARA, NHK): I would like to ask about the TPP. Mr. Prime Minister, you stated just now that you were able to confirm that there is no requirement to make prior commitment to eliminate tariffs without sanctuary. However, domestically the opposing viewpoint continues to be firmly established. How do you intend to move forward on domestic procedures from now on? Also, what are your thoughts regarding the timing for making a decision [on whether or not to join the negotiations]?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: During this Japan-U.S. summit meeting, we held lengthy and thorough discussions on the significance of the TPP and the domestic situation in each of our countries. I explained to President Obama that the LDP returned to its position as the ruling party through my pledge during the recent House of Representatives election that we would "oppose participation in the TPP negotiations as long as the requirement for participation is that the Japanese government make prior commitment to eliminate tariffs with no sanctuary" and that the LDP had laid out five other criteria by which we would decide.  I also said that I consider promises to the Japanese people to be of extreme importance. Beyond that, through this summit meeting I confirmed with President Obama that both of our countries have sensitivities within bilateral trade, namely certain agricultural products for Japan and certain manufactured products for the United States, that the final outcomes are to be determined during the negotiations, and that it is not required to make a prior commitment to unilaterally eliminate all tariffs upon joining the TPP negotiations.  Based on these discussions with President Obama, I was able to confirm that the elimination of tariffs without sanctuary is not a requirement for participating in the negotiations. Looking forward, as for the matter of whether or not we will participate, the first step will be to report to the LDP the outcome of this Japan-U.S. summit meeting. There is a meeting of the Board on the 25th and I will explain the outcome there. I will also explain the outcome to our allied political party, New Komeito. After that, I will leave the matter entirely to the government, as the question of whether or not to participate in negotiations is the exclusive jurisdiction of the government. I plan to ask the parties to understand the procedure. Then I intend to make a decision on the basis of their findings. As for the timing, I would like to take a decision at as early a time as possible.

REPORTER (REYNOLDS, BLOOMBERG NEWS): Over the past few years, several high-ranking U.S. government officials have confirmed that islands regarding which there is a "conflict" (sic) with China do fall within the scope of the Japan-U.S. alliance. Did you receive confirmation on this point once again from President Obama during your meeting with him today? As a more general question, in what way do you expect the U.S., together with Japan, to be able to improve its relations with China?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: First of all, I believe that taking the Japan-U.S. alliance as a foundation, Japan must cooperate with both the United States and other countries having mutual interest in order for the Asia-Pacific region to become a region governed by the rule of law rather than by force. At this summit meeting, we agreed that Japan and the U.S. will cooperate to uphold the principle of freedom of the seas and build an order based on laws and grounded in the principles of law rather than force. I consider it important to uphold firmly the rule of law within the international community.  At the same time, Japan's relationship with China is among our most important bilateral relationships. I would like China to return to the principle of pursuing a "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests" and I wish to state that the window for dialogue and indeed the door for dialogue are always open. Moreover, Secretary Xi Jinping is the same age as myself. As a fellow national leader, I fully recognize that governing more than a billion people - 1.3 billion people - is an enormous challenge, and I think that it would be good if we had the opportunity to talk about various matters as leaders from roughly the same generation. In any event, there exists no issue of territorial sovereignty to be resolved concerning the Senkaku Islands. At the same time, I would like to state unequivocally that we have no intention of escalating this issue.

REPORTER (KURAMOTO, KYODO): I would like to ask about the selection of the governor of the Bank of Japan. With Governor [Masaaki] Shirakawa's term in office ending soon, roughly when in concrete terms do you plan to submit [your nominee for his successor] to the Diet? And, at the same time, I believe that cooperation between the ruling and opposition parties will be essential in gaining the approval of the Diet. Are you planning to coordinate with the opposition parties on this matter before submitting [your nominee] to the Diet? I would also like to ask once more about the points on which you place special emphasis as you decide upon the next governor or what sort of profile you value.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I will be returning to Japan on Sunday, and I am planning to move forward on the process of selecting nominees for the Bank of Japan governor and deputy governors from approximately Monday. With that in mind, I would like to call on all, or almost all, of the political parties within that week and request [positive consideration of my nominees]. I would also like to receive consent from each of the nominees themselves. At the same time, I wish to begin the process of explaining to each party my nominees and requesting that they be approved. I expect that the various political parties hold a range of views on the matter. I myself will approach the various parties - of course, the DPJ and the Japan Restoration Party, and also Your Party and the other parties, including, naturally, our coalition partner New Komeito. I will first gain understanding within the ruling parties. After gaining understanding within the LDP and New Komeito, I will approach the various opposition parties on this matter.

REPORTER (TANDON, AFP): I would like to ask your views on the Hague Convention (the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction), which is an issue for a large number of members of the U.S. Congress. Was this issue brought up during your summit meeting? The previous DPJ administration had expressed interest in acceding to this Convention. Does the current Abe administration take the same stance?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I believe that we must also consider this issue from the point of view of the child. That is to say, international marriages are increasing in number and naturally there are some which end as failed marriages. Against that backdrop, I consider it important for international rules to exist. Within that context, I intend to make efforts to gain approval of this Convention during the current Diet session. I also stated that to President Obama.


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