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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Monday, December 9, 2013

[Provisional Translation]

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now begin the press conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Prime Minister Abe will first deliver an opening statement, after which we will open the floor to questions from the press.

Mr. Prime Minister, your opening statement please.

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Yesterday the extraordinary session of the Diet ended after 55 days in session. I had stated as this session opened that this would be the Diet in which the execution of the Growth Strategy would be put to the test. Very important laws forming the pillars of the Growth Strategy have been enacted, including the Industrial Competitiveness Enhancement Act, designed to spark private-sector investment; the Act on National Strategic Special Zones, which will open the door to regulatory reform; the revision of the Electricity Business Act, which paves the way for liberalization of the electricity market; laws that promote regenerative medicine; and the Farmland Consolidation Banks Act], aimed at advancing structural reform in agriculture. I firmly believe that their passage will become the cornerstone for the Japanese economy, now just beginning its recovery, to make rapid progress even more forcefully. Although the Special Intelligence Protection Act dominated attention during this session, I believe that this session can indeed be properly called the "Diet to Execute the Growth Strategy."

Moreover, in enacting these pieces of legislation, we succeeded in receiving wide-ranging cooperation from not only the ruling coalition but also the opposition parties. In the cases of the Industrial Competitiveness Enhancement Act, the Act on National Strategic Special Zones, and the Farmland Consolidation Banks Act] in particular, we enacted the legislation after reaching agreement through Diet deliberations by holding consultations among the ruling and opposition parties and making revisions to the bills. I consider this to have been a Diet in which we succeeded in demonstrating to both the people of Japan and people around the world our strong determination across the entire Diet to bring the Growth Strategy to fruition, overcoming the differences between the ruling and opposition parties for the sake of Japan and the Japanese people.

This was not something limited to the bills related to the Growth Strategy. We enacted the bill to establish a National Security Council, the control tower for Japan's diplomatic and security policies - what is called the Japanese version of a "National Security Council" (NSC) - by amending the bill through consultations with the DPJ and the Japan Restoration Party and receiving the support of Your Party. Recently China unilaterally established an Air Defense Identification Zone by coercive measures. The reality is that the security environment surrounding Japan is becoming even more severe. At the same time, it is necessary for Japan fully to defend the lives and assets of its nationals in a resolute manner under all circumstances.  I believe it was precisely because we succeeded in overcoming the various positions of the ruling and opposition parties to share a common recognition on this point that we were able to enact the bill on the basis of a broad consensus.

We wasted no time in inaugurating the National Security Council last week. This Council will be actively engaged in exchanges of information with the National Security Councils of other countries. At the time of the hostage incident that took place in Algeria in January this year, I received information provided by Prime Minister Cameron of the UK. I am firmly convinced that advancing such exchanges of information will be conducive to protecting the lives and assets of the Japanese people. I believe that the new director general of the Council's secretariat needs to travel around the world from January in order to establish closer ties with the NSCs of other countries at as early a time as possible.

However, various countries around the world have explicit rules regarding the designation, termination, protection, and other aspects of state secrets. For that reason, Japan would be unable to receive information from such countries unless it establishes rules for managing such kinds of secret information. Moreover, a precondition for information exchange is that the information provided not be divulged to third parties. This is what is known as the "third party rule." A further issue was how to create a "checking function." The safety of the Japanese people would be brought to the brink of a crisis should information ever be leaked regarding the aircraft and warships and other vessels protecting Japan. In addition, there is information which must be prevented from leaking into the hands of terrorists at all costs in order to safeguard people's lives. In order to protect the lives and the assets of the Japanese people, it was necessary to enact the Special Intelligence Protection Act as early as possible in combination with the establishment of the National Security Council.

Through the deliberations at the Diet, wide-ranging discussions were held on the bill by both the ruling and the opposition parties, including the Japan Restoration Party and Your Party, among others.  This resulted in the significant accomplishment of amending the bill with regard to 12 points, and I believe we succeeded in making it a good law.

During the process of our deliberations, some concerns were raised that the meaning of "secrets" would expand unlimitedly, that people would be deprived of their "right to know," or that people's normal daily lives would be threatened. However, it would be absolutely impossible for such things ever to happen. There is information that is designated as secret within the government even now, and this law does not expand the scope of what is currently designated a secret. There is also absolutely no possibility for an ordinary person to become caught up in this. There may be some people who feel uneasy, having heard in the media or elsewhere that a private citizen could also be imposed a severe punishment for writing on his or her blog something he or she heard from a friend, or that restrictions would be put on free creative activities such as making movies. However, nothing of the kind will occur. Quite to the contrary, through this law, transparency will increase regarding the handling of specially designated secrets, an area which did not even have rules until now. I would like to make that fact clear.

It has always gone without saying that diplomatic and security policies should be advanced by sharing information with the general public as we ensure transparency. I intend to continue to explain this thoroughly as we go forward in order to dispel the concerns of the public.

Last week, we decided on a package of economic countermeasures at a scale of 5.5 trillion yen. We will link economic recovery with increases in income and we will make efforts to boost consumption. These efforts will in turn lead to further recovery of the economy. We are now heading towards the critical juncture for bringing about such an economic virtuous circle. I will be engaged in still greater efforts in order to ensure that we will succeed in spreading to the general public in every corner of the country a tangible recognition of growth.

While 2013 will soon be coming to an end, I intend to invest myself fully in formulating the budget for the next fiscal year.
With that, I would like to end my opening statement.


CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now open the floor to questions from the press. Please raise your hand if you would like to ask a question. When you are called on, please first state your name and affiliation before asking your question. Please make your questions concise, as we would like to take questions from as many people as possible. All right, please raise your hand if you would like to be called on. Mr. Nakata, please.

REPORTER (NAKATA, MAINICHI SHIMBUN): I am Nakata, with the Mainichi Shimbun.

First, I would like to ask about the Special Intelligence Protection Act. Even after the Special Intelligence Protection Act was passed, there has been intense criticism that the deliberations at the Diet were insufficient. The public opinion polls conducted by various media organizations also indicate this. Mr. Prime Minister, what do you think are the causes of this criticism regarding this law?

As a second question, the date of enforcement of this law is stipulated as being no more than one year from the date it is promulgated. Mr. Prime Minister, do you intend to have this law come into effect at as early a time as possible in order to make the National Security Council, which has already been launched, function effectively? Or, in consideration of the criticism from the public, do you intend to establish a preparatory period that will span as close to one year as possible?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: First of all, with regard to the harsh public opinion, I believe that I must accept it sincerely, in a spirit of humbleness, as that is the voice of the people unreservedly pointing out our shortcomings. I also have reflected that I myself should have explained the bill much more carefully and taking more time.

However, as I mentioned just now, secrets as they have existed until now have had no rules for their designation, revocation, or protection, a situation that is clearly problematic. For example, there is the issue of what is called the secret agreements regarding the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. I myself have served as Chief Cabinet Secretary and as Prime Minister in the past, but even I never received any briefings on those matters said to be so-called secret agreements.

However, now that we have enacted this law, things will be different in the future. The Prime Minister must from now on report each and every year to the Consultative Committee for the Protection of Information regarding specially designated secrets.  Therefore, the Prime Minister will of course be briefed on specially designated secrets in accordance with those items. He will explain to this Consultative Committee the accounting that he received, and then the Consultative Committee will report its views to the Diet. This is a significant difference.

Accordingly, it will be impossible for there to be secrets about which even the Prime Minister is not aware, which has been the situation until now. The person who designated something as a secret will also become evident. I would like to state that in those aspects, we have succeeded in creating truly thoroughgoing rules and in clarifying who is the person in charge.

Also, there are, for example, 420,000 specially controlled secrets that currently exist. Of those 420,000 secrets, 90 per cent of them are satellite information. I suspect that you didn't know that. I myself didn't know that, so it is only natural that you would not know either. This is where the problem lies. In the future, such categories will become apparent. So, 90 per cent of these secrets are satellite information. And other than that, a large portion of these secrets are cryptography-related. Furthermore, the specifics concerning the capabilities of each of the Self-Defense Forces' warships and other vessels and so on are all designated as secrets. Such things would come to light as categories. The matter of what kind of categories these fall into essentially means enhancing the degree of transparency.

There was also the criticism of whether or not the Prime Minister could possibly manage 420,000 secrets, but in fact within that number, 90 per cent are satellite photos, so they would fall into a satellite photo category. The degree of resolution of these photos - how fine a photograph can be taken - is itself a secret, so therefore they all can be bracketed together as one set. Then, categories would be broken down further regarding cryptography, weapons capabilities, and other remaining matters. The Prime Minister would have an understanding of those, so I would like to state clearly that, in this regard, strikingly, the designation of secrets and the revocation of that designation would be conducted on the basis of rules, and beyond that it would also become evident who has responsibility for those decisions.

We will create rules regarding the destruction of these pieces of secret information. Of the 40,000 pieces of secret information that have been destroyed to date, 30,000 defense secrets [30,000, including defense secrets] were destroyed during the DPJ-led administration, in only three years. It is not clear why they were destroyed or who was responsible for their destruction, but now thanks to this law, this will never occur again. In other words, transparency, accountability, and the rules governing secrets will all become markedly clearer, and I would like to state that unambiguously. By explaining these matters thoroughly, I am absolutely certain that we will obtain the public's understanding.

As for the matter of when to enforce this law, I would not like to suggest that it will necessarily be one year, but we will design the system, including the oversight function, in a sound manner, and I will thoroughly provide explanations just like what I have stated now. Given those points, I would like to bring the law into enforcement when the timing is appropriate to do so.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: All right, I'd like to take the next question now. Mr. Ogata, please.

REPORTER (OGATA, TBS): I'm Ogata with TBS. I would like to inquire about Japan-China and Japan-ROK relations. With regard to China establishing an Air Defense Identification Zone as you touched upon earlier, I would like to know if you consider it necessary to have measures or a mechanism in place to avoid contingency situations.

Also, it will soon be one year since the second Abe administration was inaugurated, but there has yet to be any summit diplomacy conducted with either China or the ROK.  Mr. Prime Minister, you have been saying that the door for dialogue is always open, but I would like to hear about concrete measures you are taking to make summit meetings a reality.

Moreover, you have refrained from visiting Yasukuni shrine in consideration of Japan-China relations. Are you planning not to pay a visit to the shrine within 2013?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Having good communication among Japan, China, and the ROK is very meaningful in bringing about peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. At the present time, we do not have any prospects for a summit meeting with China or the ROK. However, I believe that it is precisely because we face challenging issues that the leaders of our countries should have frank discussions without any preconditions attached. The door for dialogue is always open. I would like very much for China and the ROK to embrace the same stance.

As for the establishment of the Air Defense Identification Zone, the government will respond firmly but in a calm manner. At the same time, in order to lessen needless misunderstandings and friction between Japan and China and avoid contingencies, I realize that we need to strengthen the system of contact between the defense authorities of our two countries.

During the first Abe administration, Japan and China agreed at a summit meeting that we would strengthen the system of contact between our defense authorities and prevent contingencies from arising. After that, we reached agreement in principle on a concrete contact mechanism. However, regrettably, China has still not agreed to commence operations of that mechanism. The Japanese government will continue to urge China to commence operations of that contact mechanism at an early time. I look forward to China acceding to this.

As for visiting Yasukuni shrine, it is only natural to express one's respect for those who sacrificed their lives for their country. At the same time, it has been my position that we should avoid making this matter into a political or diplomatic issue.  I believe that it would not be appropriate to state at this time whether or not I will visit Yasukuni shrine.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: All right, I'll take the next question. Mr. Abiru, please.

REPORTER (ABIRU, SANKEI SHIMBUN): I am Abiru, with the Sankei Shimbun.

I would like to ask a question with regard to formulating the rules governing the designation of secrets and the revocation of that designation. In order for the public to make correct judgments and assessments of national policy, it is necessary for the government to disclose and provide accurate and appropriate information. At the same time, recently, there was a case of the Kan administration arbitrarily concealing the video of the incident of the Chinese fishing boat collision, depriving the public of information for making a decision, and furthermore blindfolding them. Mr. Prime Minister, I would like to ask you once again what your views are on this matter, and how you intend to deal with it.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: The video of the fishing vessel that was hidden by the Kan administration of course would not be something that would be a designated secret.  The problem is one that arose at that time as well, specifically that it is not clear who took that decision - Prime Minister Kan, Chief Cabinet Secretary Sengoku, or Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Fukuyama. That video naturally should have been released publicly - it should have been released to the Japanese people and disclosed to the world. A video showing the correctness of Japan's position is something that must be made publicly available, and yet it was not released to the public. Who was it that made that mistaken decision? You do not know the answer to this question either. However, through the new law, this would not in fact be a designated secret, but if, for discussion's sake, it had been designated as such, it would be evident where the responsibility for all that lies. Every five years, a check will be conducted to determine if this designation will be revoked. I believe that what is important is to protect secrets through the proper formulation of rules - to protect that secrecy rigorously.

In addition, classified documents, including these kinds of designated secrets, must naturally be subjected to historical evaluation. In other words, they must be transferred smoothly to the National Archives. Those rules will now be properly formulated and I believe that there will be significant improvements over the current state of affairs. Therefore, I can assert that when this law is enforced, there will be no cases of concealing information when it is convenient for the government, the mistaken action taken by the Kan administration.


REPORTER (SEKIGUCHI, DOW JONES): I am Sekiguchi of Dow Jones.

Mr. Prime Minister, you have positioned the Diet session that just ended as the "Diet to Execute the Growth Strategy." However, among overseas investors, there are some pointing out the weakness of the third arrow of Abenomics, in the context of neither tax reductions nor the relaxation of regulations making much headway. In particular, there has been criticism about the lack of progress in cutting corporate taxes. Please tell us what kinds of commitment you have made towards lowering taxes that would go further than abolishing the Special Corporate Tax for Reconstruction.

Also, what are your views on the prospects for reducing taxes within the National Strategic Special Zones?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: First of all, during this Diet session we also enacted such legislation as the Industrial Competitiveness Enhancement Act as well as the Act on National Strategic Special Zones. In addition, in order to make agriculture a growth industry, we reached a decision to abolish the policy of reducing the acreage of rice cultivation known as the "gentan" system by deciding to review the system of production adjustment for rice that has been in place for more than 40 years. It used to be said that the LDP could never abolish the gentan system in the agricultural sector. And yet, we did it. We decided that we will be doing exactly that.

We also reached the decision that beginning in fiscal 2014 we would lower the effective corporate tax rate by 2.4%. Beyond that, we will also take steps to examine the nature of the corporate tax after that tax, while also considering our competitiveness within the context of the global economy and other factors.

Moreover, I am currently having the Research Commission on the Tax System discuss the treatment of taxes within the National Strategic Special Zones, including the tax systems related to research and development and capital investment.

There is no end for the Abe administration's reforms. At the beginning of 2014, we will take a Cabinet decision on the policies and measures related to the Growth Strategy to be implemented from now, making them an Action Plan, and we will make known the timeframe for executing them and the minister who will be in charge.  Together with this, we will be engaged in still further structural reforms in the areas of employment, human resources, agriculture, medical treatment, and nursing care, in order to bring still more depth to the Growth Strategy.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We are already running over the allotted time, so this will be the final question. All right, Mr. Ogawa, please go ahead.

REPORTER (OGAWA, YOMIURI SHIMBUN): I am Ogawa with the Yomiuri Shimbun.  I would like to ask you about the Japanese version of the National Security Council.

I believe that the Japanese version of the NSC aims to bring stability to diplomacy led by the Prime Minister's Office by serving as a control tower for diplomacy and security, but I would like to know in more concrete terms how the coordination and planning of foreign and security policies as well as Japan's coordination with relevant countries, the United States, and so on will change, as well as how you intend to change them.

Related to that, a National Security Bureau that will serve as the secretariat has not yet been established, but the name of Mr. Yachi, Special Advisor to the Cabinet, has also arisen as one of the people on the short list for the position of the director general of this bureau. When do you expect to finalize the selection of the bureau head, and by approximately when do you intend to establish the National Security Bureau?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I intend to utilize the National Security Council as a control tower for diplomatic and security policies to the fullest possible extent. I will safeguard the nation and the Japanese people through powerful political leadership and advance diplomatic and security policies designed to contribute even more proactively to global peace and stability.

As for who will head the National Security Bureau, I intend to appoint Mr. Yachi, currently Special Advisor to the Cabinet, to that position. Under the leadership of Mr. Yachi as director general, I would like to launch the National Security Bureau and have it operate at full scale at the beginning of the year.

As soon as the National Security Bureau is inaugurated, I would like to have Mr. Yachi travel immediately around the world visiting the National Security Councils of the United States, the United Kingdom, and other major countries and have our countries work in close cooperation. That is to say, it is necessary to collect and analyze accurate information in order to draft better diplomatic and security policies that will safeguard Japan. The information that Japan possesses is insufficient by itself, and as we formulate policies going forward, it will presumably be necessary for us to get advice as we conduct policy consultations. In that sense, I would like Mr. Yachi to hold exchanges of views, conduct exchanges of information, and receive information in a thorough manner going forward, working of course with the UK and the U.S. and also other such countries.

We have already been contacted by the NSCs of various countries that they would like to engage in these types of exchanges of views with Japan's National Security Council and also with the head of the National Security Bureau. Also, with regard to information, some have also conveyed to us that it will now be easier than before to provide information to Japan because they have been able to confirm Japan's intention to manage secrets properly, even though the system for doing so has not yet come into effect.

: With that, I would like to bring the Prime Minister's press conference to a close. Thank you very much.

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