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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during His Visit to Southeast Asia

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Peninsula Manila Hotel, Manila, Philippines
[Provisional Translation]

1. Opening Statement

PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: I have recommenced diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map, starting in Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. I will push forward with strategic diplomacy that contributes to both Japan's national interests and the peace and prosperity of the region and the world. ASEAN is an important partner in fostering the stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region, and, Japan will place importance on ASEAN going forward, in terms of both economic growth and security.

During this visit, the leaders of all three countries expressed to me their strong expectations that the Japanese economy will incorporate the vitality of Asia to undergo a revival and that Japan will play a more active role in the region. We agreed that we will strengthen across a broad range of sectors our partnerships with countries with which we share the universal values of freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and human rights, and that we will promote our exchanges still further, taking the opportunity of the 40th anniversary of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation.

I met with Vice-President Biden of the United States, who was visiting Singapore. He stated that the United States is implementing a policy that places importance on Asia and the Pacific, and that the U.S. values the strategic role that Japan plays. Mr. Biden and I concurred that in order to enhance the prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region, which is a growth center for the world, stability from the perspective of security has become more important than ever. We also agreed that in light of this, the Japan-US alliance has an increasingly major role, and that this alliance should be reinforced still further. Moreover, we shared the recognition that in this context, the TPP is significant in that it contributes to Asia and the Pacific as a whole, and that Japan and the U.S. should play a major role in bringing the negotiations to a successful conclusion.

In Singapore, I was invited to be the 33rd speaker in the "Singapore Lecture" series, which has a long and distinguished history. I delivered this address to an audience of approximately one thousand people, emphasizing that the will and the strength necessary for change has returned to Japan's politics, and that that my "three arrows," and particularly the third arrow-my Growth Strategy-will impart upon the economies of ASEAN and Japan an even greater win-win relationship.

The future of Asia is bright. Stability and peace that are both tranquil and blessed with abundance will come to Asia, as Asia respects freedom and steadily cultivates democracy while respecting the rule of law. I incorporated into this speech the overall line of thought found in the "Five New Principles for Japanese Diplomacy toward ASEAN," which I announced in January. I believe that my approach was thoroughly conveyed to the audience as well as to the people in the three countries I visited.

I firmly believe that through this visit, I succeeded in delivering a strong impetus to Japan's relations with Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines as well as with ASEAN, in a manner that is fitting as we mark our 40th anniversary of friendly and cooperative relations. I would like to close my opening remarks by extending my thanks once more to the people in each of the countries I visited, who gave me such a warm welcome.

2. Questions and Answers

REPORTER (MATSUTANI, NHK): Mr. Prime Minister, with regard to strategic diplomacy, you have been steadily moving forward in strengthening relations with the countries of ASEAN, including through this trip. At the same time, with China and the Republic of Korea, diplomacy at the leaders level has fallen behind. Towards China, your stance is that "the door of dialogue" is open, while towards the ROK, it is that "there are no pressing issues." In concrete terms, how will you proceed in the future in order to make a breakthrough regarding the current situation? Also, during your meeting with Vice President Biden of the United States on the 26th, Mr. Biden called on both Japan and China to take the measures necessary to ease tensions regarding the issues surrounding the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture. How do you intend to respond to that request?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: The relationship between Japan and China is one of Japan's most important bilateral relationships. It is exactly because we are neighbors that various issues arise. But it is critical that we each make efforts towards the other, under a recognition by both countries that we share an inseparable relationship. This is precisely the "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests," and my starting point is there. I very much look forward to China also returning to that starting point.

First of all, it is important for us to have candid discussions with each other. I have given instructions to push the dialogue between our diplomatic authorities forward. I would like to hold a meeting at the Foreign Ministers and head of state and government levels, without any conditions whatsoever, at the earliest possible time.

The Republic of Korea is for Japan the most important neighbor with which we share fundamental values and interests. We are currently engaged in communication between our diplomatic authorities. I would like to develop our bilateral relationship steadily through dialogue conducted in a level-headed and calm atmosphere. I have held telephone talks with President Park Geun-hye and she and I are of roughly the same generation. I very much look forward to being able to hold a summit meeting with President Park.

In addition, during the meeting I held with Vice President Biden, Mr. Biden and I agreed that first, we should reinforce further the Japan-U.S. alliance, given the strategic environment of Asia and the Pacific undergoing changes and given the heightening importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance. Against that background, we spoke about the fact that while the United States fully understands the position of Japan regarding the Senkaku Islands, it also expects us to settle the situation in a manner that does not escalate the situation, so to speak. I explained that Japan is indeed dealing with the situation in a level-headed and resolute manner to keep the situation from escalating. The United States also highly evaluates Japan's position and the way in which Japan has been responding.

REPORTER (LEE-BRAGO, THE PHILIPPINE STAR): During the first Abe administration in 2006, you did not regard the Philippines as a "strategic partner," but now you identify the Philippines as a strategic partner, saying that Japan and the Philippines hold the values of freedom and democracy in common. Why have you come to place importance on the Philippines? Is our territory dispute [with China] the underlying reason?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I believe that we can say that Japan and the Philippines have from the outset been "strategic partners in substance" from well before the first Abe administration six years ago. In the international arena as well, our two countries have cooperated with each other to address various challenges in Asia and the Pacific.

Japan and the Philippines have cultivated a long history of friendship as neighbors connected by the sea. Our countries share the strategic interests of making Asia and the Pacific a region which is ruled by law rather than by coercion and which is free and open.

Not only do our two countries have close relations in terms of both economics and people to people exchanges, but also we are both allies of the United States and have cooperated in various forms in the area of security.

The Philippines will continue to be a reliable and important partner. I believe it is fair to say that the very fact that immediately after the inauguration of my government, Foreign Minister Kishida visited here, and that I myself am visiting the Philippines currently, is a manifestation of that, and an expression of our government's intentions. In the years to come, I would like to strengthen our relationship with the Philippines across the entire spectrum of fields, including the areas of politics and security, economics, and people to people exchanges.

REPORTER (NAKAKUKI, KYODO NEWS): Mr. Prime Minister, you have indicated that you will make a decision in the autumn about raising the rate of the consumption tax to 8 percent after looking at the rate of GDP growth and other factors in the April to June quarter. However, Mr. [Koichi] Hamada, a Cabinet Office adviser, has proposed a plan that would raise the tax rate gradually, in 1 percent steps, under the thinking that "there is no rush to raise the tax rate." Does the government plan to examine multiple proposals, including this one?

Related to this, a medium-term fiscal plan will be drawn up in early August. This is expected to be a plan predicated on an increase in the consumption tax rate. Insofar as a time lag will arise if you will make a determination on the increase in the consumption tax rate in the autumn, is there a possibility that you will either make a decision on raising the consumption tax earlier or push back the formulation of the medium-term fiscal plan?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: First of all, I have not yet instructed anyone to come up with multiple proposals. It will be necessary to decide upon an increase in the consumption tax rate this autumn through a thorough investigation of economic conditions by identifying various types of indicators, in keeping with article 18 of the supplementary provisions. I will make an appropriate judgment on behalf of the Cabinet by looking at economic indicators, taking into proper consideration the fact that we want to make the economy grow strongly and pull out of deflation while concurrently moving forward with fiscal reconstruction.

As for the medium-term fiscal plan, I would like to formulate it in August together with the budgetary request guidelines for the next fiscal year so that I will be able to present it at the Saint Petersburg summit in early September.

At any rate, the medium-term fiscal plan to be formulated in August is intended to delineate an outline for achieving our goal of cutting the primary balance deficit by half by fiscal 2015. It is not something that targets the raising of the consumption tax rate per se. Therefore, there is no inconsistency between deciding such matters and the timing at which we formulate this medium-term fiscal plan or take a decision on raising the consumption tax rate. Ultimately I will make my decision in the way that I have used all along, and we will formulate the medium-term fiscal plan in keeping with the approach that I just laid out.

REPORTER (TEVES, ASSOCIATED PRESS): Japan has naval and air defense capabilities that rank among the best in the world. However, the Constitution restricts Japan's ability to use its military capabilities to the maximum level. In light of this, are you planning to amend the Constitution? Also, I would like to know how you will strengthen Japan's defense capability in order to defend Japanese territory without prompting concerns that militarism is on the rise. How will you strengthen defense capability while ensuring that such concerns do not arise, particularly in countries that suffered aggression during World War II, such as China and the Philippines?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: First of all, the basis for my thinking is that the peace and stability of the region are prerequisites for the prosperity of not only Japan but also Asia and the Pacific, and that at the same time economic prosperity brings peace and stability to the region.

As for revising the Constitution, we are currently deepening the discussions on what a Constitution suitable for modern Japan should be, naturally premised on pacifism, popular sovereignty, and fundamental human rights.

Given the changes in the security environment within the international community as a whole, we will ensure Japan's security and contribute to the Japan-U.S. alliance and to the peace and stability of the region going forward. From that perspective, I intend for us to conduct a review of the National Defense Program Guidelines and move forward on establishing a National Security Council and on examining the use of the right to collective self-defense.

These are an attempt to make it possible for Japan also to conduct a portion of what almost every country other than Japan is able to do as a matter of course, with pacifism serving as the major premise. I will explain Japan's position carefully to avoid misunderstandings in other countries in the region. Throughout this trip, I have explained these matters to the leaders of the countries I visited. To add another point, Japan has made significant contributions to the peace and stability of Asia together with the United States since the end of World War II. I intend for Japan to continue to fulfill such a role in every respect.

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