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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during His Visit to Turkey

Friday, May 3, 2013

Ankara Hilton Hotel, Ankara, Turkey
[Provisional Translation]

1. Opening Statement

PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: During this trip, I have visited four countries: Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and now Turkey. Since I spoke about my visit to Russia during the Joint Press Conference I held with President Putin, today I would like to focus on the outcomes of my visit to countries in the Middle East.

The goal of this visit to the Middle East has been to go beyond the relationship we have had thus far centered on resources and energy, such as the sale and purchase of petroleum, to forge economic cooperation across a wide range of fields and furthermore a multi-faceted relationship that includes politics and security as well as culture.

Against the backdrop of this goal, in Saudi Arabia, in the first policy speech on Middle Eastern issues ever given by a Japanese Prime Minister, I declared that we would conduct a full-scale strengthening of Japan's relations with the Middle East region in order to achieve a "comprehensive partnership towards stability and prosperity."

In addition, the most significant feature of this visit was that I have been accompanied by our largest and most high-powered economic mission ever, with more than 100 persons in total representing Japan's business circles, including the agriculture and medical services sectors. They have sold Japan's "strengths" very cogently. This was truly the start of full-scale economic diplomacy.

I would like to overview the contents of this multi-faceted relationship one by one. The three key words are "collaboration," "coexistence and prosperity," and "tolerance and harmony."

The first of these is "collaboration," which is to say, cooperation in the areas of politics and security. The stability of the Middle East region also contributes to the security of Japan. Japan will play a greater political role in fostering stability in the region through cooperation such as assistance for counter-terrorism and security enhancement, regional stabilization, and democratization. In order to achieve this goal, we have decided newly to provide the Middle East and [North] Africa region with assistance amounting to US$2.2 billion. In addition, during this visit, in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, we agreed to launch security dialogues.

The second key word is "coexistence and prosperity," which means an expansion and a deepening of our economic relations. The high degree of latent economic potential in the Middle East region is directly linked to Japan's growth. I would like to build linkages that go beyond an energy-centric framework.

In particular, I felt very acutely these countries' strong interest in tasty and healthful Japanese agricultural products and in Japan's state-of-the-art medical equipment and technologies. As these are things that connect directly with improvements in the quality of life of the people in these countries, this cooperation brings us mutual benefits. One major outcome has been that during this visit, a considerable number of documents related to inter-corporate cooperation have been drawn up, and the gears of cooperation have now begun turning.

Moreover, keen interest was also shown in Japan's state-of-the-art technologies in the area of nuclear power, and three agreements regarding nuclear power cooperation were signed. In particular, here in Turkey, it was decided to confer on Japan exclusive negotiating rights regarding the "Sinop Nuclear Power Plant Project." I consider it Japan's duty to share with the world the experiences and the lessons gained through the severe accident and contribute to the improvement of nuclear safety.

The third key word is "tolerance and harmony," namely through a strengthening of cultural and people-to-people exchanges. We will engage in cooperation in human resources development and education showing understanding and respect towards each other's history and culture. In concrete terms, together with Middle Eastern countries, over the next five years, we will implement training programs for trainees and deploy specialists, involving approximately 20,000 participants in total. In addition, we will increase the number of Middle Eastern students studying in Japan.

As I laid out above, my visit has been a turning point for building multi-layered relations between Japan and Middle Eastern countries. I would like to express my thanks once again to all those in these four countries who welcomed me so cordially.

2. Questions and Answers

REPORTER (HASHIMOTO, KYODO): Mr. Prime Minister, you mentioned this yourself just now, but more than 100 top executives from Japan's business community have been participating in this series of visits to Russia and three Middle Eastern countries, and you yourself have expanded Japan's efforts to be the top seller in the fields of medical services, agriculture, energies, and more. Your Growth Strategy will be compiled in June and it is the focus of a great deal of attention in the run-up to the House of Councillors election. How do you intend to make use of the outcomes of this round of visits when implementing your Growth Strategy? Also, the signing of agreements on nuclear power with the UAE and Turkey was the first since the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station following the Great East Japan Earthquake. What are your thoughts on the timing of the restart of operations at nuclear power plants within Japan?

PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: My Growth Strategy is grounded in 'actively taking on challenges,' 'openness to other countries,' and 'innovation.' The overseas expansion of Japan's agriculture, medical services, and other kinds of business is truly the linchpin for all of these. This series of visits has also been the start of my economic diplomacy. In each of the countries we visited, the local people were actually able to try Japan's tasty agricultural and food products for themselves. I myself have been directly engaged in my administration's efforts at the highest levels to expand our markets overseas and both the high expectations and the enthusiastic response were very apparent. Using as a lever Japan's relations with each country that we strengthened through this visit, I intend to stand at the fore and provide assistance for the overseas expansion of a wide range of sectors, including agriculture and medical services, and link these in to the Growth Strategy.

Moreover, with regard to nuclear power generation, Middle Eastern countries have great expectations for Japan's state-of-the-art technologies and for the safety that has arisen through our experience of a severe accident. I believe Japan should live up to these expectations.

In restarting operations at nuclear power plants, safety will be the utmost priority. The safety of the nuclear power plants will be determined through the expert decision of the Nuclear Regulation Authority. When the Committee finds that a plant is in conformity with the new standards, we will move forward on restarting operations, respecting their expert judgment.

REPORTER (ÖZBAY, ANADOLU AGENCY (TURKEY)): Mr. Prime Minister, before visiting Turkey, in an interview with the Turkish media, you said that Turkey and Japan would cooperate in third countries. What is your view regarding the potential for Japan and Turkey to advance their cooperation in Iraq in the field of energy? Also, do you think that the Kurdish peace process that Turkey has been promoting will lead to stability in the region surrounding Turkey?

PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: Japanese companies are highly interested in Iraq, where reconstruction and economic growth have been continuing steadily, and they are active in Iraq's energy, construction, and medical services sectors, among others. I am aware that Turkish companies have depth of experience in Iraq, and I believe that there is great potential for Japanese companies to tie up with Turkish companies in these sectors and cooperate together on those kinds of projects. A Japan-Turkey business seminar for operating in Iraq was already held in July 2012, and that October, a credit line for [facilitating Japanese business development in] Turkey and its neighboring countries was also set up between JBIC and several private sector Turkish banks.

Moreover, I believe that progress towards the resolution of Kurdish issues will increase the stability of Turkey and facilitate a strengthening of collaboration with Turkish companies. I look forward to Japan-Turkey partnerships between such private sector entities developing their business and making inroads in not only Iraq but also other third countries in years to come.

REPORTER (OGATA, TBS): As today is May 3rd [(Constitution Memorial Day)], I would like to confirm your views once more on revising the Constitution. Does the LDP intend to raise the revision of Article 96, which stipulates the requirements for proposing Constitutional amendments, as an issue in this summer's House of Councillors election, and aim to secure the weight of [a] two-thirds [majority in the House of Councillors]? The LDP's coalition partner New Komeito is cautious about revising Article 96, while the Japan Restoration Party and Your Party are willing to support it. Are you thinking of cooperating with the Japan Restoration Party and Your Party, taking this issue as a catalyst?

PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: Revising the Constitution has been a major topic for the Liberal Democratic Party ever since it was founded. As for revising Article 96, which addresses the procedures for revision, the LDP also made a public pledge on this matter in the most recent House of Representatives election. Naturally, we intend to raise this as a public pledge in the upcoming House of Councillors election as well. Within that context, I think it is important for us to build a group of like-minded legislators that will constitute the two-thirds [majority needed to fulfill the] requirement for proposing amendments. I will be making efforts to achieve that. At the same time, New Komeito is an important allied political party with whom we together form this coalition government. We will explain our position carefully and make repeated efforts to engage in a series of discussions with New Komeito, while respecting New Komeito's approaches and positions.

The Japan Restoration Party and Your Party are in favor of revising Article 96, and in light of that, I would like to ask for their cooperation in revising Article 96 as we work to form a [two-thirds] majority, as I mentioned at the beginning.

REPORTER (KASHRAM, AL JAZEERA (QATAR)): While Japan is an important country, until now it has not been actively involved in, nor played an important role in, the resolution of international issues. I heard what you said today, but I would like to ask if Japan will shoulder a new role and furthermore play an active role in international affairs from now on. Within that, I would also like to ask about Japan's engagement in addressing the nuclear problem in Iran and how you view the situation in Syria.

PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: I recognize that the Middle East region is now in a period of historic change. Japan is prepared to work to effectuate stability and peace in this region, together with the international community. Japan's assistance to foster stability at a scale of US$2.2 billion that I announced the day before yesterday is one part of that.

Regarding the situation in Syria, Japan is greatly concerned about the tremendous humanitarian problems, the potential use of chemical weapons, and other matters. Japan has provided assistance to the Syrian people and to surrounding countries through emergency humanitarian relief.  I do not believe the Syrian-led transition process will make smooth progress as long as President Assad remains in office. I believe that the international community needs to unite in its determination to settle the situation, and Japan also desires to carry out such a role.

As for the Middle East Peace Process, the resumption of the peace talks is a matter of great urgency. Japan will act in cooperation with the international community and actively urge the resumption of negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel. To foster a conducive environment, Japan will take a leading role in efforts such as the "Corridor for Peace and Prosperity" project.

Furthermore, Japan shares the grave concerns of the international community concerning the Iranian nuclear issue. Japan will continue to exert pressure on Iran, working with the international community based on the "dual-track approach" of dialogue and pressure. At the same time, while actively urging Iran, Japan will work for a peaceful and diplomatic resolution of the issue.


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