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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Policy Speech by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the 186th Session of the Diet

Friday, January 24, 2014

[Provisional Translation]

1. Introduction

As I begin my speech, I would like to offer my prayers for the souls of those who lost their precious lives in the collision between the Maritime Self-Defense Force transport vessel Osumi and a small boat and express my condolence to all involved. We will make all-out and exhaustive efforts to determine the cause and prevent recurrences.

"It always seems impossible until it's done."

The great achievements of H.E. Mr. Nelson Mandela, the late former President of the Republic of South Africa, encourage us. It was through his indomitable spirit that the abolition of apartheid, which everyone was resigned to thinking of as impossible, came to be achieved.

This is an example of dismissing the dispirited notion that something is impossible and taking action in the belief, however modest, that something is "possible." I believe that each individual confidently working hard, each in his or her own area, will become a major force that changes the world.

In the past, Japan experienced a dramatic rebirth as it set its sights on 1964, the year of the Tokyo Olympics. We came to enjoy a Shinkansen (bullet train), the Metropolitan Expressway, and litter-free streetscapes of beauty.

Our efforts will make things happen. The stage for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will not be limited to Tokyo. Instead, they will be a festival involving all of Japan, from Hokkaido to Okinawa.

As we gaze fixedly at 2020 and the years that lie beyond, we must make this a major catalyst through which Japan will be born anew. Taking that thought firmly to heart, the Abe Cabinet will build the country anew by bringing into full bloom each and every type of potential now lying untapped all throughout Japan.

2. Tohoku as a region of creativity and potential

In 2020, let us communicate to the world a new profile of Tohoku as "a region of creativity and potential."

Off the coast of Fukushima, floating offshore wind farms will have started their operations. In Miyagi, sweet strawberries will be cultivated in large-scale greenhouses. We will make Tohoku, which lost so much in the earthquake disaster, a "pioneering region" where the world's most advanced new technologies will put forth buds.

The disposal of debris in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures will be completed by the end of March. We also now find rice paddies where planting has been resumed, "fishing ports overflowing with the joy of the day's catches and public housing filled with families' happy faces.

A year and a half ago, there were not even any prospects for housing to be transferred to areas of high elevation or for public housing for disaster victims to be constructed, but now over 60 per cent of these projects have gotten underway. By March 2015, we expect 200 residential areas to be transferred to areas of high elevation and for the construction of more than 10,000 residences to be completed.

Our efforts will make this happen. We will steadily execute "the roadmaps for the reconstruction of residences" and press ahead with rebuilding residences as soon as possible.

I want all the people of Fukushima to return to their home communities at the earliest possible time. In addition to decontamination and fortifying measures to address health concerns, we will newly set up user-friendly grants and support the revitalization of industry and of infrastructure for daily life. We will provide adequate compensation to people who begin their lives anew in other places and support the development of hubs that underpin communities.

In order to take all possible measures for the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station of Tokyo Electric Power Company and measures to tackle the issue of contaminated water, the accident at Fukushima will not be left up to TEPCO to handle. Instead, the national government will also stand at the forefront as it advances preventive, multi-layered countermeasures.

The sturdy arch bridge Eitaibashi was constructed three years after the Great Kanto Earthquake through the adoption of the latest construction techniques from overseas. This technology, state of the art at the time, was introduced despite objections over mounting costs and other factors. It subsequently spread throughout the country and advanced Japan's bridge engineering technology significantly.

The third March 11 since the Great East Japan Earthquake will soon be upon us. Reconstruction is also an opportunity to create new things and take on the challenge to develop new potential. This being Japan, we should be fully able to do this. Let us together create with unwavering confidence a Tohoku that is "a region of fresh creativity and potential."

3. An economic virtuous cycle

(The sole road forward)

Through the three "arrows" of economic revival, the Japanese economy is also about to recover the confidence that it had lost through prolonged deflation.

We have seen positive growth in four consecutive quarters, and recovery of our GDP to 500 trillion yen has now also become a possibility.

The ratio of job offers to job seekers, which had dropped to as low as 0.42 after the global financial crisis, has recovered to 1.0 for the first time in six years and one month. A survey by RENGO, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, indicates that winter bonuses increased by an average of 39,000 yen over the previous year.

Compared to a year ago, consumption is expanding in all regions of the country, from Hokkaido to Okinawa. Business confidence among small and medium enterprises also turned positive last month for the first time in six years among manufacturers and the first time in 21 years and 10 months among non-manufacturers.

I will state once again, the range of economic recovery is steadily expanding.

There is no other road forward. I would like you all to walk together down this road with me.

(The Diet to bring about an economic virtuous cycle)

We will link corporate earnings to expanded employment and increased personal income. That will lead to further economic recovery through increased consumption. Without an economic virtuous cycle, there can be no breaking free from deflation.

The government, management, and labor have come to hold a common understanding that the government, labor circles, and the business community will work in concert to push forward such concrete measures as increases in wages, career progression for non-permanent employees, and so on.

We will form a "Team Japan" to help bring about economic revival. If everyone gives their best, we will most certainly be able to make this a reality. Fully confident in this regard, the national government will also take vigorous steps to move the Growth Strategy forward, notably in the area of regulatory reform.

In March, we will designate the specific areas that will serve as National Strategic Special Zones and make them operational. We will ease regulations on floor area ratios, the number of hospital beds, and other such areas where we have failed to do so for many years. This month the System for Granting Special Provisions to Companies for Field Testing will also be launched. We will eliminate all types of obstacles in order to expand opportunities for companies who are working to succeed in "frontier" endeavors. We will also further reduce the tax rates on capital investment and on research and development and support companies that, in the spirit of taking on challenges, move into new markets.

We will enhance tax measures to support companies that return profits to their employees. Upon securing the financial resources necessary for reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake, from fiscal 2014 we will eliminate the special corporate tax for reconstruction and decrease the effective corporate tax rate by 2.4%. We will expand subsidies for career development and promote career advancement of non-permanent employees to permanent positions.

What will be put to the test in this Diet is the realization of an economic virtuous cycle. Let us all work to ensure that a tangible sense of economic recovery reaches every corner of the country.

(Putting finances on a sound footing)

As the consumption tax rate will rise from April, we will take all possible measures to address the transition and also ensure sustained economic growth through economic countermeasures.

The fiscal resources for the 5.5 trillion yen supplementary budget for fiscal 2013 will come from "the fruits tanerated through the growth" we experienced over the past year including the rise in tax revenues We will not issue additional national bonds. In the fiscal 2014 budget as well, we will improve the primary balance by 5.2 trillion yen, a figure that dramatically surpasses the goal set under our medium-term fiscal plan.

Without economic revival, there can be no fiscal reconstruction. We will create an economic virtuous cycle and, with regard to the national and local governments' primary balances, we will aim to realize our goals for fiscal soundness of halving the deficit ratio to GDP by fiscal 2015 compared to the figures for fiscal 2010 and achieving a surplus by fiscal 2020.

We will also be thoroughly engaged in enhancing the efficiency of incorporated administrative agencies, reforming the civil service system, and other kinds of administrative reform.

4. Reinforcing the social security system

Social security-related expenditures have exceeded 30 trillion yen for the first time. In the context of our aging society and falling birthrate, we will unceasingly advance reforms to social security in order to make it a system with balance between the benefits and the burdens. We will endeavor to make generic medicines more widespread. We are also working to optimize medical treatment costs that increase by more than one trillion yen annually through advancing the prevention of lifestyle-related diseases, working to preserve health, and other such efforts.

On that basis, the tax revenue derived from raising the consumption tax rate will be allotted in its entirety to enhancing and stabilizing social security. We will properly hand down to the next generation our universal health care and universal pension coverage, which are among the finest anywhere in the world.

We will bring stability to pension financing and establish a pension system that will enable peace of mind into the future.

Premiums for nursing care insurance, national health insurance, and other such insurance will be reduced for low-income households. In the local regions we will enhance in-home medical care and nursing services and other functions required by the elderly.

Aiming to create a social security system in which all generations both contribute and benefit, we will enhance support for children and child-rearing. In order to eliminate childcare waiting lists in Japan, we will prepare childcare arrangement for 200,000 children by fiscal 2014 and for 400,000 children by fiscal 2017.

Last year I received a letter from a girl. I still remember that letter even now.

This girl, named Ai, is now a junior high school student. She has not had a single typical meal since she was very young because of an intractable illness she was born with, by which her small intestine fails to function. Her letter closed with the following line, in which she expressed her expectations for iPS cell research:

"If a treatment can be found, then the future will be extremely bright. And I would love to be able to eat anything I like."

It is the task of politics to respond to wee voices such as hers and create hope in the future.

I believe that I, as someone who became Prime Minister after recovering from an intractable illness, have a responsibility that can also be called my destiny.

We will boldly reinforce our measures to address chronic pediatric diseases of specified categories and other intractable illnesses. We will dramatically expand the diseases eligible for medical subsidies to 600 pediatric and 300 adult diseases. We will also accelerate research to treat intractable illnesses and develop new drugs more than ever before.

Ai gave me an adorable picture when I went to visit her in her hospital room.

"I like to draw and in the future. I hope to become an author of children's books, bringing smiles to the faces of many children."

I want to build a society in which people suffering from intractable illnesses can nurture dreams for the future and work hard to make those dreams a reality. That is my heartfelt wish.

Soon we will host the 2020 Paralympic Games. Japan must become a country in which persons with disabilities can live more vibrant lives than anywhere else in the world.

We will foster an environment in which all people with intractable illnesses and disabilities are able to work, having a purpose in life. We will expand their chances for employment by preparing a highly customized support system that includes vocational training and other support that is appropriate for their particular characteristics.

5. Creating opportunities for everyone

Japan is blessed with a large number of elderly people who are in good health and good spirits and rich in experience. We will create opportunities for all people to be active in society and display their potential. This should enable Japan to grow vigorously despite our declining birthrate and aging society.

(A Japan in which women shine)

We will create a society in which all women can be dynamically engaged. This is the central core of the Abe Cabinet's Growth Strategy.

We will create an environment in which employment is comfortably compatible with child-rearing. We will steadily implement the plan to address children during afterschool hours that was begun under the first Abe Cabinet so that we can break through the "first grade wall, "whereby mothers often quit their jobs when their children enter elementary school.

Placing importance on family bonds, we will promote the participation of men in childcare. We will raise the childcare leave allowance to 67 per cent over half a year, from the current 50 per cent, so that if each parent in a couple receives this for half a year each, they will receive additional benefits over one full year.

I have urged the business community to allow those who wish to focus on raising their children to have the option of taking a maximum of three years of childcare leave. The government will also support training to develop parents' careers while they are taking childcare leave. I would like them to return to the workplace after raising their children even for a year and a half or for two years.

There is a woman who carved out a new market at a scale of 2 billion yen, making use of her experiences in child-rearing. Child-rearing is in itself also a type of career. I would like for those who have focused on taking care of their families to put those experiences to use in society. We will provide support for internships and for starting new businesses.

We will actively appoint women to various positions. We will aim to create a society in which women hold more than 30 per cent of leadership positions in 2020, across the entire spectrum of fields. We are now pushing forward with information disclosure in order to facilitate this. We must first undertake the actions we call on others to take. We will have women make up at least 30 per cent of the national civil servants hired, beginning in fiscal 2015.

We will let all women bring the potential they hold into full bloom with confidence and pride in their way of living. I would like you all to join me in creating a Japan in which women shine.

(Reviving education that develops young people)

Young people enjoy an unlimited amount of untapped potential. The key to drawing that out will be the revival of education.

It is the responsibility of adults to protect children suffering from bullying.

In order to make it possible to respond promptly and with precision to problems arising in the educational setting, we will fundamentally reform the current board of education system, under which there is ambiguity about where responsibility lies.

In order to cultivate public-mindedness and ample humanity among students, we will position Morals as special subject and move forward in preparing for this through teacher training and other efforts.

Ensuring that all children have the necessary academic ability is another important role of public education. We will move forward in stages to make early childhood education effectively free of charge. We will also advance our efforts towards textbook reform.

"First in the world in reading comprehension"

In an international survey on academic performance targeting 15-year-olds, the ability of the Japanese test-takers reached the highest level in history. This is a generation that has undergone nationwide academic testing, under the revised Fundamental Law on Education. The revival of public education ever since the first Abe Cabinet has most certainly delivered results.

Our efforts will make things happen. With 2020 as our goal, we will reinforce English education by such means as conducting classes in English at junior high schools. Our aim will be to have students acquire practical English that enables them to communicate. We will launch this on a trial basis from fiscal 2014.

At Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, a student from Myanmar by the name of Min said, "Japanese need to have more confidence in stating their opinions." Almost half of both the professors and the students there are foreign nationals. Interacting with people from different cultures in daily life is marvelously stimulating for Japanese young people.

Taking 2020 as our goal, we will expand the number of foreign nationals studying in Japan to 300,000, more than double the current number. At eight national universities, we will double the number of non-Japanese faculty members over the next three years.

We will provide support for universities that carry out reforms to make themselves increasingly globalized, such as aggressively hiring non-Japanese faculty, improving their courses available in English, making the global standard of the TOEFL test a graduation requirement, and so on.

We will realize study abroad opportunities for all of Japan's young people who have the desire and the capability to participate. We will create a mechanism to reduce the economic burden on students and aim to double the number of Japanese students studying overseas as we head towards 2020.

We will foster young people full of potential into human resources that are able to play an active role on the global stage.

6. Fully utilizing Japan's potential in an open world

Turning our attention to the rest of the world awakens us once more to the various types of potential lying dormant in Japan. A world that is open is a significant chance for Japan to grow.

(Marketing Japan)

Emerging economies experiencing rapid growth require both roadways and railways. They face the challenges of preparing waterworks, electrical grids, and other kinds of infrastructure and of developing urban areas that are resistant to disasters. Eight trillion US dollars is expected to be invested in infrastructure development in Asia by 2020.

Japan has the ability to respond to those global needs. Japan has experience tackling such problems as energy shortages and pollution. Our advanced environmental technologies can also certainly contribute to climate change mitigation efforts around the world. We will share these experiences and technologies cultivated over the years generously with the world.

We will establish an organization to manage infrastructure exports. In such fields as transport and urban development, we will support businesses that dive in to overseas markets, and our public and private sectors will work as a team to have these efforts culminate in contractual agreements. We will triple our 10 trillion yen in infrastructure sales to 30 trillion yen by 2020.

Last year, a channel airing only shows from Japan named "Hello Japan" began broadcasting in Singapore. In Indonesia, Kamen Rider joined the ranks of children's heroes.

The world is taking notice of the strong points of Japan's content and fashion as well as its culture and arts and traditions. Here too there is potential. We will make use of the Cool Japan Promotion Organization to support the expansion of content business overseas, the overseas marketing of items distinctive to local regions, and other such endeavors.

(A bridge in Asia)

We will create a single economic sphere in Asia and the Pacific, a growth center. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement is an enormous opportunity and will be a provident masterstroke for the nation.

We will eliminate national boundaries for corporate activities. We continue intense negotiations on not only customs duties but also such ambitious topics as intellectual property, investment, and government procurement.

We will lead negotiations together with the United States, which is our ally and also an economic superpower, and, under the principle of "pressing forward assertively in areas where we should, while also protecting what must be protected," we will make the decision that best serves our national interests.

The gateway linking Asia and Japan - that is Okinawa.

The phrase "bridging the world through trade" is inscribed on the Bridge of Nations Bell there. From ancient times, the people of Okinawa were actively traversing the free seas to become a bridge in Asia. Now is the time for Okinawa to be a 21st century bridge in Asia, taking the free skies as its stage.

A second runway at Naha Airport is critical for Japan's growth, serving as a hub for physical distribution with Asia and a gateway welcoming tourists. Moving forward on the plan at an accelerated pace, we have begun construction from this month. We will shorten the construction period so that it will open from the end of fiscal 2019.

Brimming with potential for growth, including among other things a high birth rate and an abundant young labor force, Okinawa is a growth model for the 21st century. We will secure a budget of more than 300 billion yen annually until fiscal 2021 and use it to support Okinawa's growth.

Outstanding faculty and students from all around the world have come together at Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University. We will engage in further expansion and enhancement to create the world's leading base for innovation there in Okinawa.

7. Creating new potential through innovation

IT and robots have the power to augment our competitiveness dramatically. Methane hydrate may transform Japan into a world power in resources. Our attempts to develop the oceans and space as well as accelerator technology will carve out our future. What is needed is the mettle to create new potential in Japan through innovation.

In order to bring together the very best researchers from around the world, we will create a new system of research and development entities that offers the best environment in the world in terms of the treatment of researchers and other such aspects. We will boldly support aggressive research and development that will revolutionize the economy and society. We will make it possible to implement budgets that do not adhere to the fiscal year system and ensure an environment in which it is possible to conduct long-term research in a stable manner.

We will make Japan "the most innovation-friendly country in the world."

(The underlying strength of small- and medium-sized enterprises and micro enterprises)

"A market share of 30 per cent of the global market"

An innovation that forms extremely thin plating unable to be imitated by anyone else has emerged from a local small factory in Tokyo's Sumida Ward having nine employees. What has supported Japan's innovation is the underlying strength of such small- and medium-sized enterprises and micro enterprises that use highly sophisticated technological capabilities to satisfy large corporations' strict demands.

We will expand to a large extent subsidies in the area of manufacturing. We will support investment not only in facilities and equipment for manufacturing but also in facilities and equipment for developing and expanding new businesses and services. We will at the same time revise the customary practice of placing disproportionate weight on personal guarantees.

Both the Sony Corporation and Honda Motor Company originated with micro enterprise business operators abounding in the venture spirit. We will enact the fundamental laws to create an environment which fosters increasingly active engagement by micro enterprise business operators and we will make all-out efforts to provide assistance for micro enterprise business operators.

(Eliciting the potential of growth sectors)

Japan has strengths in iPS cells and other areas within the fields of regenerative medicine and innovative drug development. However, the risks are high in unexplored technological development, causing reluctance among private-sector companies.

We will establish a Japanese version of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to serve as a "control tower" for research and development in the field of medicine. To address intractable illnesses and other incurable diseases, the public and private sectors will act together to undertake everything from basic research through to practical application in a consistent manner and pioneer innovative treatments, medicines, and medical devices at the global level.

We will push forward reforms to the electric power system and fully liberalize the retailing of electricity. All consumers will be able to choose their electric utility company freely. It is my hope that those with strong aspirations to engage in ventures enter the market and bring about dynamic innovations that resolve the high production costs, supply instability, and other issues surrounding the electric power system.

We will review our energy strategy until now starting with an entirely blank slate and build a responsible energy policy that supports people's daily lives and economic activity. There will be no restarting nuclear reactors unless they fulfill the safety regulations stipulated by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which embody the most stringent standards found anywhere in the world. We will work to bring about a society that conserves energy assiduously and introduce renewable energy to the greatest possible extent, thereby reducing our degree of dependence on nuclear power as much as possible.

8. Bringing the great potential of the local regions into full bloom

Regional revitalization is a topic of primary importance to the Abe Cabinet this year. We will bring the great potential of the local regions into full bloom.

(Major reforms to agricultural policies)

It is agriculture, forestry, and fisheries that form the central core of Japan's regional economies. Japan's tasty and safe agricultural and marine products enjoy tremendous popularity all throughout the globe. They should without a doubt be able to spread their wings around the world.

Farmland consolidation banks will be set into motion. We will consolidate agricultural land, thereby bringing structural reforms to production sites. We will moreover review the system of production adjustment for rice that has been in place for more than 40 years. In other words, we will do away with the policy of reducing rice acreage known as the "gentan" system. We will promote agricultural products that are in demand and make full use of farmland.

We will newly establish a Japanese type of direct payment system in order to maintain multiple functions such as waterways and paths between fields, the burden of which increases as the scale expands. We will provide support to expand the scale of farmland and preserve our beautiful hometowns.

Motivated actors with a management-oriented mindset will carve out the agriculture of tomorrow. I believe that the path to realizing a doubling of the income of farmers and farming communities overall will be our provision of an environment in which they can be dynamically engaged, with both peace of mind and aspirations. In order to make agriculture, forestry, and fisheries into growth industries that hold appeal for young people and support local agricultural, mountain, and fishing communities, we will conduct a review of the Basic Plan for Food, Agriculture and Rural Areas and proceed with major reforms to agricultural policies.

(Creating vibrant local regions)

We will foster local regions that are vibrant despite declining populations. This will be a major challenge.

Increasing the autonomy and independence of local areas will give rise to communities abounding with individuality. We will take steps towards the transition of authority from the national to the local governments and work to ease regulations on local governments as a compilation of the second decentralization reform that began under the first Abe Cabinet.

In order to ensure both the quality and quantity of government services, we will institute a new system of regional collaboration in which regional hub cities with populations of more than 200,000 and surrounding towns and villages cooperate flexibly with each other. Consolidating key functions for daily life in central urban areas and concurrently restoring regional public transportation will lead to revitalization of communities as a whole.

Those who live in such places as hilly and mountainous areas and remote islands are preserving our traditional hometowns and supporting a beautiful Japan. Revitalizing dynamic hometowns will lead to the vibrancy of Japan. In such areas, we will prepare a system by which the prefectural governments can provide support for welfare, the maintenance of infrastructure, and so on. We will create arrangements to redistribute the revenues from local corporation taxes, which have a tendency to favor cities, thereby also securing financial resources for local regions facing depopulation.

Our local regions have "local resources" such as characteristic products or traditions, tourist resources, and the like. These have growth potential. We will support business operators of small, medium, and micro enterprises who make use of regional resources and try to link them into new businesses.

(Japan as a tourism-oriented country)

Last year, we achieved our target of welcoming 10 million international visitors to Japan.

In Hokkaido and Okinawa, international guests staying at hotels and other accommodations increased by a striking 80 per cent last summer. Making Japan a tourism-oriented country is an ideal opportunity for our local regions. Tourists from Thailand almost doubled year-on-year after Japan granted them visa exemptions this past summer.

Our efforts will make things happen. Aiming at our next target of 20 million visitors, we will thoroughly eliminate the inconvenient regulations and the obstacles that face non-Japanese travelers. Eighty million international tourists visit France annually. Japan should also be able to achieve that number. We will redouble our efforts to realize that goal as we head towards 2020.

"The service provided by the Japanese is second to none anywhere in the world."

These are the words of Mr. Praphan from Thailand, who was Japan's ten millionth international visitors last year. Japan's spirit of hospitality is known even to non-Japanese. Last year, Mt. Fuji and washoku, traditional Japanese cuisine, were registered on UNESCO's World Heritage List. Japan's brands enjoy a high degree of trust overseas.

I hope that you join with me in advancing our efforts to make Japan a tourism-oriented country while also fostering local regions that brim with vitality.

9. Restoring peace of mind

A situation with the potential to make the Japan brand waver has arisen.

Regarding the problem of deceptive labeling, in which hotels and other establishments used ingredients that differed from how they were labeled, we will reinforce our system for inspection and guidance. We will work to prevent the victimization of the elderly through fraudulent business practices and ensure the safety and peace of mind of consumers.

We must make Japan "the safest nation on earth." To address cases of stalking, which have occurred frequently in recent years, we will prepare a system to protect the safety of victims through cooperation between police, women's consultation centers, and other such entities and implement measures to prevent repeat offenses by assailants. We will press forward in our measures to counter organized crime groups that threaten society, terrorism, and cyberspace threats and ensure good public order.

Last year, significant damage from natural disasters occurred in one case after another. In order to protect human life from disasters and maintain society's functions, we will be thoroughly engaged in crisis management while also making the nation more resilient. We will do this by working to prevent and mitigate disasters before they occur and by addressing aging infrastructure from both the hard and the soft aspects, including seismic retrofitting of large buildings, flood control measures, drafting evacuation plans, and providing education on disaster prevention. We will move forward on these using an order of priority.

While dispatched for disaster relief to the island of Izu Oshima, a member of the Self-Defense Forces discovered a mortuary memorial tablet during his work and used the water from his own canteen to wash away the mud and wipe it clean. One person who watched this unfold on television sent a letter to the Self-Defense Forces.

"The tears really fell watching that. I was moved at the kindheartedness of that SDF member in the midst of such harsh conditions."

The letter continues, saying, "I am already 80 years old and, I daresay, the last generation familiar with war. I feel a sense of security knowing that Japan has such robust yet kind-hearted members in its Self-Defense Forces."

The Self-Defense Forces have earned the priceless trust of the Japanese people. They are a point of pride for me as they silently carry out their duties.

10. "Proactive contribution to peace"

Some 1,200 members of Self-Defense Forces also provided emergency assistance in response to the typhoon damage that struck the Philippines, Japan's neighbor across the sea.

As the C130 cargo plane carrying evacuees touched down in Manila, thunderous applause erupted among the passengers. I was told that the children repeated "Thank you! Thank you!" over and over again as they came up to the SDF members to shake hands with them.

It is not just Japan but indeed the entire world that counts on Japan's Self-Defense Forces. In the Gulf of Aden, through which 20 per cent of the world's shipping containers pass, the SDF and Japan Coast Guard receive high acclaim from all around the world for their anti-piracy activities.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of Japan first providing ODA. Japan has been extending a hand of assistance to the world since not long after the end of World War II. Japan has contributed to improving living standards, including in the fields of medical care and health. We have also stood at the fore in advancing efforts to bring about human security, including the active participation of women.

In Syria, we are cooperating in the disposal of chemical weapons. Japan is working independently with Iran to urge a peaceful resolution of its nuclear issue.

All of these activities contribute to world peace and stability. This is our proactive contribution to peace. It is the fundamental thinking running through Japan's first National Security Strategy. The control tower for that Strategy is the National Security Council. The path of a peaceful nation that Japan has followed for 68 years since the end of World War II will remain unchanged going forward. We will examine how to deal with the issues of right of collective self-defense, collective security, and the like taking into account the report prepared by the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security.

At the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit held in Tokyo last month, Japan received the support of many countries regarding our "proactive contribution to peace." ASEAN is Japan's partner for prosperity and also our partner for peace and stability.

China has unilaterally established an Air Defense Identification Zone. Intrusions into our territorial waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands have occurred repeatedly. Japan can under no circumstances accept any attempts to change the status quo through coercion. We will continue to respond firmly but in a calm manner.

Under our new National Defense Program Guidelines, we will reinforce our defense posture in order to ensure the security of the vast waters surrounding Japan as well as our skies, notably in our southwestern region.

Without freedom of the seas and the skies, we can expect neither a flow of people back and forth nor brisk trade. A democratic atmosphere brings people's potential into full bloom and gives rise to innovation.

I believe that the principles of freedom and democracy, human rights, and the rule of law are the foundation that will bring prosperity to the world. We will deepen our cooperation with countries with which we share these fundamental values in order for Japan, and the world, to grow going forward.

It goes without saying that the Japan-U.S. alliance is the cornerstone for this.

"My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man."

That is how former President Kennedy of the United States, the father of the U.S. Ambassador to Japan appointed last year, Ambassador Caroline Kennedy, appealed to the world upon taking office.

After more than half a century, Japan wishes to respond to his appeal. Under our proactive contribution to peace based on the principle of international cooperation, Japan will play a more proactive role for the peace and stability of the world, working hand in hand with the United States.

As for the realignment of US forces, the Government is dedicated to reducing the base burdens on Okinawa while maintaining deterrence.

In particular, in response to the approval granted to the application to reclaim land off the coast of Henoko in the city of Nago, we will work for the prompt return of Futenma Air Station, which is in the middle of an urban area and located close to schools and residences. Concurrent with these efforts, one critically important issue is eliminating risk until the time we complete the relocation. Therefore we will work with an extraordinary amount of efforts outside Okinawa, such as the relocation of Osprey training exercises and other such endeavors outside Okinawa.

We will engage in these matters with the stance of "doing everything possible," taking into consideration the feelings of the people of Okinawa.

11. Diplomacy at the highest level taking a panoramic perspective of the world map

In the year since I assumed the office of Prime Minister, I have gone on 15 overseas missions, visited 30 countries, and held more than 150 summit meetings in all.

With President Putin of Russia I held four summit meetings, and our two countries also came to hold Joint Foreign and Defense Ministerial Consultations. Through our personal relationship of trust, we will make progress on cooperation in such areas as security and economics and engage in negotiations in earnest towards the conclusion of a peace treaty. In this way, we will build a relationship appropriate for us as partners in the Asia-Pacific region.

I held three summit meetings with Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey. Through these meetings we reached agreement on cooperation across a broad range of areas, including subways, bridges and other aspects of transportation systems, nuclear power, and human resources development in the fields of science and technology. Our strategic partnership is advancing steadily.

We will move forward on one issue and then another as we meet directly and build relations of trust. Whatever the issue may be, a situation makes dramatic headway when national leaders talk to each other face to face. Last year I once again felt very keenly the importance of diplomacy at the highest level.

This year I will again expand upon this strategic top-level diplomacy, taking a panoramic perspective of the world map.

Regrettably, a summit meeting with China has yet to be realized. However, my door for dialogue is always open. Rather than take a stance of not engaging in dialogue unless issues are resolved, we should engage in dialogue precisely because issues exist.

Japan and China share an inseparable relationship. I will urge China to return to the starting point of a "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests" and I will at the same time continue my efforts to improve our relations.

The Republic of Korea is our most important neighboring country with which we share fundamental values and common interests. Good relations between Japan and the ROK are indispensable not only for our two countries but also for the peace and prosperity of East Asia. I will work to build a cooperative relationship taking a broad perspective.

We will strongly urge North Korea to take concrete actions towards the comprehensive resolution of outstanding issues, including the abduction, nuclear, and missile issues.

Regarding the abduction issue, my mission will not be complete until the day comes that the families of all the abductees are able to embrace their families with their own hands. Under the policy of "dialogue and pressure" with North Korea, I will do my utmost to achieve the three points of ensuring the safety and the immediate return to Japan of all the abductees, obtaining a full accounting concerning the abductions, and realizing the handover of the perpetrators of the abductions.

12. Conclusion

This month I visited three African countries. Africa, which is growing vigorously, is a new frontier for Japanese diplomacy. Japan is making further contributions for the sake of the African people in the fields of infrastructure, human resource development, and more.

"For the sake of the African people..." There was a Japanese person who went to Africa 87 years ago by the name of Dr. Hideyo Noguchi.

"I will not return until I have realized my aspiration."

Spreading his wings departing his home prefecture of Fukushima for the wider world, he traveled to Ghana despite the objections of those around him in order to research yellow fever and died from yellow fever there in the course of his work. He was filled with the avid initial enthusiasm he held for medicine right through until the final moments of his life.

The reason that we have become members of the National Diet has been to "realize our aspirations." I will again say that these aspirations must have originated in a desire "to make this nation a better place," or "to work to the best of my ability for the sake of the Japanese people."

Engaging in constructive discussions with a spirit of mutual tolerance and producing results, all for the sake of the country and the people, is the mission assigned to us as national legislators.

I said these very words here one year ago. The ruling coalition comprised of the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito now holds a majority in both the House of Councillors and the House of Representatives. Yet my belief remains unchanged still now.

We in the ruling coalition will conduct policy consultations flexibly and sincerely with "responsible opposition parties" that aim to bring policies into being.

By building up these kinds of efforts over time, I believe electoral reform, including reducing the number of seats, Diet reform, and amending the Constitution will all most certainly be able to move forward.

Let us engage in constructive discussions going forward, remembering the avid initial enthusiasm we had when we first became members of the National Diet.

I will end my policy speech with that wish. Thank you for your kind attention.

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