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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Following his Visit to Cambodia and Lao PDR

Sunday, November 17, 2013

[Provisional Translation]

1. Opening Statement

The countries I visited on this occasion, Lao PDR and Cambodia, are both nations that have overcome the hardships of civil war and have achieved dramatic growth in recent years.

I have sincere pride for the late Police Superintendent Mr. Haruyuki Takada and the late Mr. Atsuhito Nakata, two Japanese nationals who sacrificed their lives for the peace of Cambodia.

During this visit, Japan concluded a cooperation agreement on peacekeeping operations with Cambodia. In keeping with the will of the two aforementioned individuals, Japan must continue to contribute to the peace and stability not only of this region, but also of the rest of the world. Through this trip, I was reminded of the importance of this thought.

(Strengthening of disaster cooperation)

This year, flooding wreaked havoc in Cambodia and Laos. The typhoon has also caused devastating damages to the Philippines. I would like to express my heartfelt condolences to the people affected by these disasters. Japan is determined to enhance support as much as possible.

Disaster response is one area in which Japan's knowhow can be harnessed. I am of the view that further strengthening the disaster cooperation framework between Japan and ASEAN in this area will also play a significant role in the peace and stability of this region.

(Overseas development of Japan's health and medical services)

To provide health and medical services is another area in which Japan can make significant contributions. The National Maternal and Child Health Center in Cambodia, supported by Japan for many years, has saved the lives of many mothers and children. The infant mortality rate has been halved due to Japanese cooperation.

Japanese women, including Ms. Yuriko Egami, have been leading these efforts. The proactive engagement of Ms. Egami and others has strongly inspired me, and has made me realize once again that it is precisely the active engagement of women that will become the driving force for creating an even better society.

In Phnom Penh, Japan will establish the first overseas emergency medical center that will make use of Japan's medical technologies. Memorandums concerning cooperation in the health and medical field were signed between Japan and Laos and between Japan and Cambodia.

Japan will continue to contribute to improving the level of health in the world through the overseas development of the Japanese medical system.

(Proactive Contribution to Peace)

Japan will proactively contribute to world peace and stability more than ever before. This concept of "Proactive Contribution to Peace" received the strong support of Prime Minister Thongsing of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, and Prime Minister Hun Sen of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

Japan will continue to engage in the kind of diplomacy that proactively contributes to the peace and stability of the international community while forging mutual trust through direct dialogues between leaders.

(Growth strategy)

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is the "growth center of the world." Without the dynamic growth of ASEAN, there can be no growth of Japan.

Laos and Cambodia are located in the heart of the East-West Economic Corridor (EWEC) and the Southern Economic Corridor (SEC), and are key junctions connecting the eastern and western halves of ASEAN. Elevating the economic growth of these two countries, which joined ASEAN later than the other member states, is also something that is desired by ASEAN. The further growth of the two countries is expected to promote the significant development of ASEAN as a whole.

Japan will support infrastructure development in this region, as well as back up the expansion of Japanese private companies' businesses in the region.

At the same time, as a country aiming to become a "Tourism Nation," Japan would like more people in Laos and Cambodia to visit Japan. Starting tomorrow, multiple-entry visas will be offered also for citizens of Laos and Cambodia.

With this visit here to Laos, I have now visited all ten ASEAN member states, beginning with my visit to Vietnam in January, which has given me the opportunity to hold direct talks with the leaders of each country.

By holding direct talks on a variety of issues, mutual trust is built, and thereby, understanding is deepened. I was keenly aware of this from my meetings with each leader.

Next month, the Japan-ASEAN Commemorative Summit will be held to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the friendship and cooperation between Japan and ASEAN, inviting all ASEAN leaders to Tokyo. I look forward to capping the "year of ASEAN" off by presenting a new vision for our friendly ties.

Over the next one month, I will be preparing for the Summit based on Japan's spirit of "omotenashi" or hospitality, with the hope that I will be able to reciprocate the hospitality I have received from ten ASEAN states.

2. Questions and Answers

REPORTER (HASHIMOTO, KYODO NEWS): With this visit, you have now visited all ten ASEAN states in less than one year since taking office. What are your strategic objectives in aiming to develop Japan's relationship with ASEAN, bearing also in mind the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit in December? To what level do you wish to elevate the Japan-ASEAN cooperative relationship?

Also, the Abe administration has been explaining to countries and seeking their understanding regarding Japan's initiatives for proactive contribution to peace and on allowing Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense. Are you of the view that understanding has been obtained from the ASEAN nations? Conversely, China has been strengthening its criticisms, including the remarks made by the spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs that "Any Japanese challenge to the postwar international order is worth alarming." How do you intend to seek the understanding and cooperation of China?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Ever since I assumed the office of Prime Minister, I have been promoting strategic diplomacy with an eye on the entire globe. ASEAN, as a special partner for Japan, has always been at the center of this policy. My visit to ASEAN on as many as five occasions and my visit to all ten ASEAN states this year stand as a testament to this.

Through our 40-year friendship and cooperation, Japan and ASEAN share deep ties. ASEAN, now the driving force of the world economy, is a friend that is indispensable to the revitalization of the Japanese economy. Simultaneously, it is an important partner for ensuring the free, open, and stable seas of Asia.

The relationship between Japan and ASEAN is maturing to the level of not only cooperating for each other's interests, but also for contributing hand-in-hand to the peace and prosperity of the region and the world. It is my hope to turn the Commemorative Summit in Tokyo next month into a fortuitous opportunity for elevating the Japan-ASEAN relationship to a whole new level.

With regard to Japan's security policy based on "proactive contribution to peace," as I said in my opening statement, the leaders of both Cambodia and Laos have expressed their strong support. This concept has also received broad support of other ASEAN states, European countries, and the U.S. Furthermore, high expectation has been expressed towards the concept.

For more than almost 70 years since the end of the war, Japan has contributed significantly to the building of a free, open, prosperous, and thriving international order which is based on rules. Japan's steps as a peaceful nation have been unwavering, and under the concept of "proactive contribution to peace," Japan will contribute to world peace and stability more proactively. I will continue to carefully and thoroughly explain this concept to the countries concerned.

REPORTER (VONGCHANDY, LAO NATIONAL TELEVISION): The enhancement of the private sector, such as small- and medium-sized enterprises, is essential for the development of the Lao economy. Human resources development and the supply of talented human resources are also indispensable. Is Japanese assistance in this area a possibility?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: The vitality of the private sector is essential for steady economic growth. I am pleased that in recent years many Japanese companies have expanded their businesses into Laos and are contributing to the development of the Lao economy. At the same time, Japan has implemented human resources development projects and vocational training in various business fields in Laos.

I communicated to Prime Minister Thongsing when I met with him earlier that Japan will continue to support initiatives aimed at the economic and social development of Laos. Japan considers human resources development as the most critical area, and stands ready to proactively consider supports in the area of human resources development according to the request of the Lao Government.

REPORTER (TANAKA, NHK): The consultations for revising the special intelligence protection bill are entering the final stage. However, there are concerns that this law may infringe on basic human rights and that this matter should not be settled through revisions. What is your response to these concerns? Also, yesterday, you stated that it is also an important task to create a third party organization to prevent the arbitrary designations of "special intelligence." Does this mean the establishment of a third party organization as requested by the Japan Restoration Party? Additionally, what do you think about the proposal made by Your Party for the Cabinet's integrated management of the designation of special intelligence or the removal of such designations? If the revision consultations with the opposition parties end in failure, do you intend to push the bill through the House of Representatives even with the votes of only the ruling parties?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Intelligence is shared with other countries on the assumption that an intelligence protection system has been established. Furthermore, in order to promote information sharing within the Government departments, and in particular, for the deliberations at the National Security Council to be conducted with greater efficiency, the establishment of common rules regarding intelligence protection is indispensable.

At the same time, the Government recognizes that considerations for the people's right to access information and freedom of the press are important. We consider that by swiftly passing this bill while bearing in mind the various opinions and taking steps to protect particularly highly confidential security intelligence, the security of Japan and the Japanese people can be ensured.

Special intelligence must not be designated arbitrarily. This is as I have noted earlier. Therefore, this law sets out a multilayered scheme to ensure that designations are not made arbitrarily.

On the other hand, as I stated yesterday, to ensure the appropriate operation of the system, the ruling and opposition parties are carrying out constructive discussions regarding important issues, including: (1) ensuring the appropriate operation of the system under a third party scheme; and (2) the integrated management and operation of the system by the Government. I hope that based on these discussions, a better system for the people will be developed.

The revision consultations among the ruling and opposition parties are taking place at the Diet precisely now. It is the hope of the Government, and of course the ruling parties, for as many people as possible to participate in and cooperate with the passage of the bill.

REPORTER (SISOULATH, KPL DAILY NEWS, LAO NEWS AGENCY): ASEAN is taking steps to launch the ASEAN Community in 2015. However, there are disparities in the level of development within the ASEAN region. How does Japan intend to be involved in the realization of fair competition within the region?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Japan supports the launch of the ASEAN Community in 2015. Furthermore, in order to increase the unity within ASEAN, Japan would like to support the realization of balanced growth within the region. In particular, Japan has high expectations for the economic development of Laos. On this a matter, Japan would like to discuss also at the Japan-Mekong summit meeting in Tokyo in December.

Japan will continue to offer its support, such as for poverty reduction, raising the standard of living, including health and medical services, mitigating domestic disparities in each country, infrastructure development, including roads and bridges for increasing connectivity within ASEAN, and the standardization of regional systems, including the customs clearance system.

REPORTER (YOSHINO, TV ASAHI): Regarding infrastructure supports, I understand that the development of economic corridors and supports for hospitals were also discussed during the summit meetings. Can you please describe how Japanese infrastructure supports will contribute to vitalizing the entire region, and moreover, what benefits this in turn will have for Japan? Is there some kind of blueprint or the like?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Increasing regional unity is critical for ASEAN, which will be launching the ASEAN Community in 2015. What will constitute the foundation for increasing this unity is, I believe, infrastructure development.

In particular, the countries I have visited on this occasion, Cambodia and Laos, are located along key traffic points of the Mekong region, and Japan has proactively supported the development of SEC and EWEC for instance.

Increasing intra-ASEAN connectivity, and thereby further stimulating the flow of people, goods, and capital within the region, will contribute not only to the countries in the region, but also to vitalizing Japanese companies doing business in this region, and by extension, the Japanese economy.

Connecting the region through infrastructure, including roads, bridges, and railroads, in particular, will significantly contribute to the high economic growth of the region, just as the development of the Shinkansen bullet train and expressways during Japan's economic growth led to the speedier and dynamic flow of people, goods, and capital, coupled with increasing unity across Japan, and contributed largely to Japan's high economic growth. If these outcomes are steadily realized and regional economies develop, then this will also be a significant advantage for Japan which is investing and expanding its businesses in this region.

In addition, in this region, improving the level of medical services is another major challenge. Based on the platform of the overseas development of Japan's medical services, which constitutes one of the growth strategies of Japan, I believe there is significant room and potential for future cooperation in this area.

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