Home >  News >  Speech and Statements by the Prime Minister >  February 2014 >  Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Following His Visit to Sochi, Russia

Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Following His Visit to Sochi, Russia

Saturday, February 8, 2014

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

PRIME MINISTER ABE:  Sleepless days that come around once every four years - a time of excitement for everyone - have finally begun, with the start of the Sochi Olympics and Paralympics.  First of all, I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to all those involved in the successful holding of these Games, as well as to the people of Russia.  I also wish to extend my gratitude to President Putin for having invited me here.

Yesterday, with the approval of the National Diet and the Japanese people, I made a visit to here, Sochi, and attended the Games' Opening Ceremony.  Japan's national delegation is comprised of 113 athletes, from 41-year-old Mr. Noriaki Kasai, a true veteran Olympian and our delegation captain, to 15-year-old, third-year junior high school student Mr. Ayumu Hirano.  Moreover, 60 per cent of the delegation is female.  With our national flag carried by Ms. Ayumi Ogasawara leading the delegation, our athletes entered the stadium carrying the flags of both Japan and Russia, to show their respect to the host nation, Russia.  The delegation from Japan radiated a very impressive appearance.  Seated with other heads of state and government from around the world, I felt enormous pride watching them.

There is no doubt that each of these athletes has been engaged in a tremendous amount of arduous practice over these four years, outclassed by no one.  Armed with that self-confidence, pride as representatives of Japan, and most of all, the nation's enthusiastic support, I am certain that they will show the world their very best performance.

"When we give our best, our dreams come true."  I would like our athletes to make their grueling efforts bear fruit, delivering great results on the global stage.  I also sincerely hope that they impart dreams, hopes, and courage all throughout Japan.  It is with those wishes that I send out my wholehearted support to all of Japan's athletes as they head into the decisive competitions ahead.

Tonight, in the team competition in figure skating, Ms. Mao Asada will perform in the ladies' singles short program.  Since it is Saturday, I imagine there will be many people staying up late tonight in front of their televisions.  I will be at the arena cheering for her with everything I have, also on behalf of the Japanese public.

The spirited efforts of Japan's athletes in Sochi will surely lead to [Japan's] success in [hosting the] 2020 [Games].  In the years leading up to 2020, I intend for Japan to spread the Olympic spirit to more than 10 million people in 100 countries worldwide through the "Sport for Tomorrow" initiative.

I held my fifth summit meeting with President Putin.  The President expressed his appreciation to me for attending [the Opening Ceremony] and before and after luncheon, we held a frank summit in an extremely cordial atmosphere through our personal relations of trust.

I have been saying for a long time that Japan and Russia have the bilateral relations with "the greatest latent potential anywhere."  Japan is contributing significantly to the development of Russia's energy industries.  The Russian people are giving considerable attention to Japan in the areas of manufacturing, Japanese food, and medical care, among others.  Russia and Japan each need the other.  It can be said that our relations is full of potential for prospering enormously together.

However, there is the harsh reality that a peace treaty has not been concluded between Japan and Russia in the 68 years since the end of World War II.  Precisely in order to bring into bloom this tremendous potential still lying dormant between our two countries, Japan and Russia must at the earliest possible time resolve the difficult issues between us and conclude a peace treaty.  I hope to create another opportunity for discussions here in Sochi during the G8 Summit in June.  We agreed that President Putin will visit Japan this autumn.  I wish to markedly raise the personal relations of trust that President Putin and I have built up until now to a level of developing our bilateral relations.  I will make this year one in which we make dramatic progress in Japan-Russia relations.

Incidentally, deliberations on the draft budget for fiscal 2014 will begin on Monday.  I will make use of this, together with the supplementary budget that was passed this week, to bring about an economic virtuous cycle and convey a tangible feeling of economic recovery to every corner of Japan.  For that reason as well, I will aim for the passage of this budget at the earliest possible time.

It is with the greatest reluctance that I will leave Sochi without seeing Japan's athletes give their outstanding performances or mount the medals podium, but I will return to Japan and cheer for them in front of the television, as I rub my drowsy eyes.


REPORTER (HARA, NHK): I would like to ask about the issue of the Northern Territories.   Since the end of World War II, the Russian side has maintained the recognition that the four Northern Islands became Russian territory in the course of World War II.  Do you intend to continue to maintain the Japanese government's position of concluding a peace treaty upon resolving the issue of the attribution of the four Northern Islands?  In addition, I believe that in the past, there was some discussion about searching for points where breakthroughs could be made, such as the prior return of two of the islands.  What are your views on such issues?  Also, you mentioned just now that you reached agreement with President Putin that he would visit Japan this autumn.  What kinds of outcomes do you envision during that visit?  And, by roughly when do you hope to resolve the issue of the Northern Territories?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: The Japanese government's approach is to engage tenaciously in negotiations under the basic policy of concluding a peace treaty upon settling the issue of the attribution of the four islands, while simultaneously advancing our cooperation with Russia across an entire spectrum of fields and developing the Japan-Russia bilateral relations overall.  President Putin stated that he has been receiving reports regarding the outcomes of our Vice-Ministerial Meeting.  We concurred that we will continue to build up consultations between our countries.

President Putin will be visiting Japan this autumn.  Since I visited Russia last year, our relations have been moving forward at a very good pace.  I would like to hold a constructive and frank exchange of views while maintaining this sense of speed, by which we have been moving ahead at a good pace.

In any case, I believe we must not pass this issue on to the next generation.  I am determined that we must reach a resolution at the earliest possible time in order to foster a relations in which the people of Japan and the people of Russia are able to trust each other profoundly while we develop our bilateral cooperation rapidly.

REPORTER (DMITRY, INTERFAX): It is well-known that Japan is actively accelerating is efforts in the area of missile defense, in connection with the North Korean threat.  Is it accurate to think that within Japan's plans regarding the area of missile defense, the factor of China also exerts an influence?  My understanding is that Japan intends for its missile defense system to be one part of the global missile defense system being advanced by the United States.  Russia has already expressed its concerns regarding the U.S. system and has requested that the U.S. government provide legally-binding guarantees that this system is not targeting Russia.  If Russia were to make the same request of Japan, would Japan provide Russia with that kind of legally-binding guarantee?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Japan's ballistic missile defense system is an exclusively defensive system that will defend the lives and assets of our nationals in the event of an attack using ballistic missiles.  The background to this is the fact that North Korea's nuclear and missile development constitutes a grave and imminent threat to the security of Japan.

I will state categorically as the Prime Minister of Japan that Japan's missile defense system is not targeting Russia.

As a "proactive contributor to peace" based on the principle of international cooperation, our basic policy for security is that Japan will contribute to the stability of the region and the world more actively than before..  From that perspective, Russia is an important partner and Japan wishes to continue to develop our cooperation in the field of security.

REPORTER (MIYAZAWA, JIJI PRESS): I believe that part of the backdrop to the administration's high approval rating is the trend towards "a weaker yen and higher share prices" resulting from Abenomics.  However, recently this is swinging over to "a stronger yen and lower share prices" because of concerns about the future of the economy in both the U.S. and emerging economies.  How do you perceive the state of the global economy at present, and are you considering any kind of new responses?  There are increasing expectations in the market towards the economic growth strategy.  What kinds of concrete measures are you thinking of initiating as the new economic growth strategy pillars that you will compile in June?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I believe that it is better for me as Prime Minister not to comment on movements in the markets or their causes.  Through the policy of the "three arrows" of economic revival, the Japanese economy is without a doubt improving in terms of both consumption and employment.  I am firmly convinced that we are making steady progress towards breaking away from deflation.  As the Bank of Japan's Tankan survey (Short-term Economic Survey of Enterprises in Japan) released this past December also clearly demonstrated, business sentiment has improved among companies, including small- and medium-sized enterprises, while both the ratio of job offers to job seekers and the unemployment rate released the other day showed improvement as well.  It will be possible to link these improvements in corporate earnings to wage increases, with that in turn leading us into an economic virtuous cycle.  We are placing importance on wage growth and the expansion of employment.  Within that context, we must spread a tangible feeling of economic recovery to every corner of the country.  The recent supplementary budget [for fiscal 2013] and principal budget draft [for fiscal 2014] are designed to do that.  We will carry out the supplementary budget, which is at a scale of 5.5 trillion yen, at an early time.  Although the consumption tax rate will rise from 5 per cent to 8 per cent from April, we will mitigate the reactionary decline [in demand] and other impacts, with the intention of enabling the economy to return to its current growth trajectory.

As for the Growth Strategy, since its formulation in June last year, we have been working tenaciously to execute a substantial number of reforms that had historically been regarded as "surely impossible," namely, reforms to liberalize the electricity market, reforms to industrialize regenerative medicine, and a review of the system of production adjustment for rice that has been in place for more than 40 years.  We are on the verge of achieving results in these areas.

Moreover, the Abe administration's Growth Strategy is an "evolving Growth Strategy," and we are now heading for what is truly the crucial juncture.  I intend to undertake all-out efforts towards further structural reform, looking towards a mid-year revision of the Growth Strategy.

REPORTER (HERITAGE, REUTERS): Japan and Russia have a longstanding dispute, and that stems back to World War II, and historically, [they] were opponents then.  Nevertheless, you have had five summit meetings with President Putin, and the two countries are making efforts to improve ties and resolve the dispute.  In contrast, Sino-Japanese relations are very much strained by their own territorial dispute and history issues.  What is the big difference that allows Japan and Russia to at least try to resolve their disputes, while Japan and China's leaders cannot even meet?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I have designated the Japan-Russia relations "the bilateral relations abounding in the greatest latent potential anywhere."  Japan places value on Russia as a partner in Asia and the Pacific.  Strengthening Japan-Russia relations is not only consistent with the interests of both countries but also important for regional stability.  I believe that both Japan and Russia are discovering national interests in building up dialogues from this perspective and developing their cooperation.

This summit meeting was the fifth that President Putin and I have held since my official visit to Russia in April last year, and I feel that our personal relations of trust has also become firm.  In the future, I would like to continue to hold summit meetings and deepen our relations of trust still further while raising the level of our relations overall, advancing cooperation with Russia across a full spectrum of fields, including the economy and security.  It is certainly true that a peace treaty has not yet been concluded between our two countries, and that there is the major issue of concluding a peace treaty.  But precisely because this issue exists, we would like to forge relations of trust, develop our bilateral relations, expand our people-to-people exchanges, and advance the understanding between the people of our countries, and it is why we have made efforts until now.  The most challenging issue - the conclusion of a peace treaty - is something that I believe can be called a historical issue.  I believe it is exactly because of this historical issue that President Putin and I are undertaking this major historical mission of resolving the issue.  I will be making all-out efforts to resolve this matter.

As for our relations with China, regrettably, we have not achieved any summit meetings thus far.  However, the fact remains that the Japan-China relations is one of our most important bilateral relations.  I would like to improve our relations by returning to the starting point of a "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests."  It is precisely because Japan and China face challenging issues between us that we should have frank discussions without any preconditions attached.  That is my sincere wish.  Japan's door for dialogue is always open, and I look forward to China embracing this same position and attitude.

Page Top

Related Link