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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Following his Participation in the APEC and TPP Summit Meetings and the ASEAN-Related Summit Meetings

Thursday, October 10, 2013

[Provisional Translation]

1. Opening Statement

Today is October 10. Forty-nine years ago to this day, under clear blue skies, the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games were opened, helping Japan to rapidly become a growth center and drive the growth of Asia.

The crystal clear skies of Bali, where the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Summit Meeting were held, reminded me of the excitement of that day. The Asia-Pacific region now seeks a new model of dynamic growth as the growth center of the world. The recent APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting provided me with a real sense that the region is taking huge strides toward the acceleration of the growth of the entire region. Japan has boldly started on the road to economic recovery through the three prongs of economic policy and is drawing even greater interest and higher expectation.

We will build a dynamic, large and free economic sphere across the entire Asia-Pacific region that brings affluence and prosperity to the people in the region. Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and even the Free Trade Agreement Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) are no longer merely dreams. TPP is the very first step toward the creation of a large and free economic sphere. Developing shared rules across a broad range of fields - not only in the trade of goods but also in services, investment, intellectual property and the environment, among other fields - is the path to building a market fit for the growth center of the 21st century.

Through political resolve, we will continue to move forward and realize a new level of economic integration that stretches across the Asia-Pacific region. I believe that the leaders were able to share this understanding, creating tremendous momentum toward reaching an agreement before the end of the year.

At the center of all this are the ASEAN nations. My diplomatic efforts began with visits to ASEAN nations. This visit to Brunei marks my eighth visit to an ASEAN country. Japan and ASEAN have developed together hand in hand over the last 40 years. I am determined to raise this cooperative relationship to a higher level. During the recent Japan-ASEAN Summit Meeting, the ASEAN countries also demonstrated a strong commitment to this new relationship. Japan will further strengthen the interaction of youth who will shoulder the coming generation. Japan will contribute to enriching the lives of citizens of ASEAN nations by leveraging our experience and expertise across a broad range of fields, such as medical care, urban development, and disaster preparedness.

During the recent East Asia Summit, Japan emphasized the importance of the rule of law, particularly maritime law, and the importance of concerted efforts to address the North Korean issue to ensure the security and prosperity of the region. Many of the leaders expressed their support of our goals. I also provided a thorough explanation of Japan's national security policy, which seeks to proactively contribute to peace, and the leaders voiced their expectation for Japan to take on even greater responsibility.

In December, Japan will host the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit, inviting the ASEAN leaders to Tokyo. Building on the momentum of these recent meetings, I will present a future vision for further development of Japan-ASEAN relations.

During my visit, I have had the opportunity to once again meet with the leaders of other nations, who are my friends, just as I did at the previous General Assembly of the United Nations. Notably, I have held four rounds of talks with President Putin over the last five months, and I believe that we deepened our personal relationship of trust.

The extraordinary Diet session is fast approaching and will begin next week. We still face a mountain of issues, but during this Diet session I am determined to demonstrate, with all our strength, decisive and performance-driven governance.

2. Questions and Answers

REPORTER (HARA, NHK): I would like to ask a question concerning Japan's relationship with China and the Republic of Korea (ROK). I understand that while you were visiting overseas, you briefly met with the leaders of both countries. However, China, in particular, made critical comments in relation to Japan. Could you share with us what particular actions you will take in order to improve the relationships and to enable the holding of summit meetings?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I believe that maintaining and building good relationships between Japan and China, and Japan and the ROK is vital for the peace and stability of the Asia Pacific region.

Japan-China relations are one of the most important bilateral relations for Japan. Furthermore, the ROK is an important neighbor of Japan, and a nation with which we share fundamental values. My belief is that we should not close our door to dialogue because we are facing issues. Rather, we should engage in dialogue including summit-level meetings precisely because issues exist. As such, I call for China and the ROK to engage in dialogue with Japan.

Regrettably, we were unable to hold summit meetings on this occasion, however my door is always open for dialogue. I will continue to call for both countries to engage in dialogue with us.

: How important to Japan are the issues pertaining to the South China Sea that were discussed at the East Asia Summit? What role will Japan play in reaching resolution?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Japan and other nations in the Asia-Pacific region gain great benefit from open seas. The peace and stability of the East China Sea is an issue of concern for international community including Japan.

The seas are important global commons and I believe that they should be controlled by law rather than by force through respecting the fundamental maritime rules such as the peaceful resolution of conflicts, freedom of navigation and compliance with relevant international laws including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. I believe that this is a view that many countries share.

I have strong interest in the development of the discussions concerning the ASEAN-China Code of Conduct (COC). I anticipate that the COC that is legally binding and capable of contributing to conflict resolution will be concluded between ASEAN and China as soon as possible.

During the Japan-ASEAN Summit Meeting and the other meetings, I made statements outlining this, and I was able to confirm that many countries, including ASEAN, hold the same understanding. Moving forward, Japan will continue to work in cooperation with countries in the region including ASEAN.

I believe that the statement drawn up by His Majesty Paduka Seri Baginda Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, who served as the chairperson of the Japan-ASEAN Summit Meeting, reflects this view.

: During this overseas trip, TPP negations drew much attention. The chairperson of the Liberal Democratic Party's (LDP) TPP Committee, Nishikawa, commented in relation to the five sensitive items, which include rice and sugar, that he will explore the possibility of eliminating tariffs. This comment was very controversial in Japan. The opposition parties strongly criticized the comments, saying that it goes against the public pledge made during the campaign for the House of Councillors election. What do you say to these criticisms?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I believe that we, the LDP, must not run counter to the campaign pledge we made before the election. Negotiations will go into full swing. Our Government's stance to protect those areas that should be protected and seek to gain what should be gained while pursuing the path that best serves national interests has not changed at all. I understand that Mr. Nishikawa made his comments in his position as the chairperson of the LDP TPP Committee. The Government will keep a close eye on the examinations process at the ruling parties. Moving forward, I will continue to work in close cooperation with the ruling parties.

: You mentioned that you will raise ASEAN-Japan relations to a higher level, but what do you consider is necessary to enhance the involvement of ASEAN nations politically and economically? Also, how much influence do you believe China will exert on the region? Are Japan and China competing in terms of influence?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: This year marks the 40th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation. Thanks to lasting cooperation over a long period of time, Japan and ASEAN have developed strong ties throughout a broad range of fields such as economics, politics, security, and culture and people-to-people exchange.

On the other hand, the strategic environment of the region is undergoing substantial change. In light of this, I would like to discuss the vision that shapes the future of Japan-ASEAN relations and present that vision to the world by hosting the leaders of ASEAN member nations in Japan this December in order to enhance the cooperative relationship between Japan and ASEAN.

In this way, our stance of focusing on ASEAN was not made with any specific countries in mind. Incidentally, the economic development of China is imperative to the economic development of the region and the world. Together, Japan and China share responsibility for the stability and development of Asia as well as international community. I intend to develop our relations with China led by the prospect of a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests.

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