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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Following the G7 Summit

Thursday, June 5, 2014

[Provisional Translation]

1.  Opening statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

PRIME MINISTER ABE: The world is now standing at a major historical crossroads.  Now in particular the G7 leaders must stand united in indicating the direction in which the world should proceed from now on.  Demonstrating their determination and convictions in this regard, the leaders of the world’s major developed nations met here in Brussels these two days and held frank discussions.
Above all else, we share a common “language” of freedom and democracy, fundamental human rights, and the rule of law.  While sharing these fundamental values, we discuss the path forward that the world should take.  That is the G7 summit.
Last month at the NATO headquarters here in Brussels and last week in Singapore, I appealed to the international community for the importance of the rule of law.  It is freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight that are the most important assumptions for developing free trade and developing the world economy.  “States shall make their claims based on international law.  They shall not use force or coercion in trying to drive their claims, and they shall seek to settle disputes by peaceful means.”
These are principles that all countries must naturally uphold as members of the international community.  On this occasion we successfully confirmed these principles as the G7.  We must not under any circumstances accept changes to the status quo with force in the background.  The issues which have their roots in Ukraine are global issues that also impact Asia.  If we fail to address the rampant use of force or coercion, the world will be thrown into turmoil.  I shared that sense of crisis with the leaders of the G7 once more.  We are adamant that in neither Ukraine nor Asia can accept expansionism that challenges the regional order.  The G7 was united in sending out to the world a message of its clear-cut will on this matter.
In Ukraine, a presidential election was held and the country is now beginning new nation-building under President-elect Poroshenko.  Japan will provide assistance to the greatest extent possible in order to foster the stability of the new Ukraine.  In nation-building, the international community must be united in its cooperation.  That point was also confirmed at this summit.
In particular, the cooperation of Ukraine’s neighbor Russia is indispensable.  Originally, Russia’s President Putin was to be here at this summit.  I would like Russia to be constructively involved in the various issues facing the international community as a responsible nation.  The world also hopes for this.  For this reason too, I intend to continue to have dialogues with President Putin.
The current state of international affairs may turn into major risk factors even for a world economy that has finally begun to recover from the Lehman Shock.  Emerging economies showing sluggish growth also constitute a significant challenge.  The G7 will act in cooperation in its efforts to support structural reform in emerging economies and bring their great potential for growth into full bloom.
At the summit one year ago, the attention of the world was focused on Japan’s new economic policy, Abenomics.  This year it was the results of this policy that drew attention.  Through my “three arrows,” the ratio of job offers to job seekers in Japan has risen for 17 consecutive months and is now higher than one offer of employment for every person seeking work.
A large number of companies have taken the bold decision to raise wages from this spring.  At present, Japan is also an engine for reviving the global economy.  During the session on the economy, I declared my determination to continue to push forward with reforms without flinching.  “Japan has returned once more to the world’s center stage.”  This was also a summit where I realized that once again.
I explained the situation in East Asia to the other countries and I was able to gain the understanding of the G7 nations.  I believe that together with the other leaders of the G7 I was able to send out a clear message to North Korea, which has continued its provocative actions, that “we will absolutely not accept North Korea possessing nuclear weapons, and that there will be no future in maintaining the current state of affairs.”
I also introduced the recent agreement between Japan and North Korea and appealed for the need to resolve the abduction issue.  I succeeded in gaining the strong support and understanding of each country.  My mission will not be complete until the day comes that the families of all the abductees are able to embrace their relatives with their own hands.  I will work to the utmost of my ability to resolve the abduction issue, acting in cooperation with other related countries.
Here in Brussels, I have been shown superb hospitality during both this visit and my visit last month.  I would like to express my appreciation once again to the people here in Brussels for this.  From here, I will head to Italy.  Italy will hold the presidency of the Council of the European Union from next month.  With Prime Minister Renzi I wish to discuss the future of Japan and the EU, including notably the early conclusion of an economic partnership agreement between Japan and the EU.
Europe is an essential partner as I advance my“diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map.”  To make a grand finish of my series of visits throughout Europe, this time I will visit the Holy See and hold discussions with Pope Francis.  Even the challenges of conflicts and poverty facing the world can most certainly be resolved.  To make that a reality, we must continue to make our best efforts on a continuous basis.  I would like to share with the Pope this way of thinking that Japan has.

2. Questions and answers

REPORTER (HARA, NHK): While I believe that today’s G7 Summit Declaration sent a clear message to Russia and China, neither Russia nor China appears to be changing its basic position.  There has been no change in the postponement of Foreign Minister Kishida’s visit to Russia,and there are no prospects for a summit meeting with China.
Against such a backdrop, this autumn the APEC summit will be held in China, and President Putin of Russia is also scheduled to visit Japan.  In concrete terms, how do you intend to piece together diplomatic policy towards China and Russia in the future?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: We are adamant that in neither Ukraine nor Asia can we accept expansionism that challenges the regional order.  I believe it was a significant outcome that the leaders of the G7 were united in sending out to the world a message of their clear-cut will in that regard.
With regard to attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, I was also able to receive strong support at the G7 for the three principles I stated in the Keynote Address I delivered in Singapore the other day, namely that all states’ claims must be made based on international law, that threats using force or coercion cannot be accepted, and that disputes must be settled by peaceful means.  These three principles that garnered great support from numerous countries at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore—in other words, the principles that Japan set forth for the world—received firm support at the G7, and I consider this to have been a landmark occurrence for Japan’s diplomatic policy.
As for Japan-China relations, our two countries share an inseparable relationship, and stable Japan-China bilateral relations are necessary for regional peace and stability as well.  While there are currently various outstanding issues of concern between Japan and China, I believe it is precisely because such issues exist that we should return to the starting point of our "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests” and engage in interaction, summit meetings, and discussions between our national leaders.  My door for dialogue is always open, and I would like very sincerely for the Chinese side also to embrace the same stance.  I welcome China fulfilling a responsible and constructive role in bringing about regional peace, stability, and prosperity.
With regard to Ukraine, I consider the peaceful conduct of the presidential election on May 25 to have been a significant result.  It is necessary to urge Russia to hold constructive dialogue with the new Ukrainian administration in order to stabilize Ukraine, and we cannot under any circumstances accept the attempt to annex the Crimea.
At the same time, it is necessary to involve Russia in other international issues, such as issues concerning Iran and Syria.  I consider dialogue with Russia to be of absolutely crucial importance, and from now on I intend to continue to advance the Japan-Russia bilateral relationship in a way that promotes Japan’s national interests through building up dialogues with Russia.

REPORTER (DAHLBERG, ASSOCIATED PRESS): Thank you.  John Dahlberg with the Associated Press.  Mr. Prime Minister, as Japan tries to play a more active role in defense in the Asia-Pacific region and for global peace and security, what kind of contributions does your government hope to make to restore peace and stability to Ukraine, and also to deter Russia or any other country from what you refer to as “expansionist activities against their neighbors”?  Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Through this summit, we concurred that the three important things for peace and stability in Ukraine are improving economic conditions, restoring democracy, and encouraging national dialogue and integration.  At this summit we were united in saying that it is vitally important for the G7 to take responses in unison.  We concurred that we would seek the three matters of Russia recognizing the results of the presidential election in Ukraine, halting responses that will lead to a destabilization of eastern Ukraine, and conducting talks with the Poroshenko administration.
Furthermore the G7 will urge Ukrainian President-elect Poroshenko to push forward with domestic political and economic reforms.
Japan intends to participate proactively within the G7 framework in order to continue to support reforms being undertaken by the new Ukrainian administration.

REPORTER (TAKESHIMA, MAINICHI SHIMBUN): I would like to ask about domestic discussions on permission to exercise the right of collective self-defense.  Mr. Prime Minister, I believe that you have indicated your desire to take a Cabinet Decision on changes in the interpretation of the Constitution in time for the review of the Japan-U.S. defense cooperation guidelines taking place within 2014.  By approximately when do you consider it necessary to take a Cabinet Decision in order to fall within that timing?
Moreover, within the consultations between the ruling parties, there are three types of consultations underway, namely, about “gray zone” incidents, international cooperation, and the use of military force leading to the right of collective self-defense.  Some are of the opinion that a decision on “grey zone” incidents should be sought first.  Is there no change in your stance of seeking agreement on all three types before taking a Cabinet Decision?
Finally, the opposition parties Japan Restoration Party and Your Party have indicated their stances of approving the exercise of the right of collective self-defense.  In the future do you intend to explain the government’s position to these parties and seek their cooperation?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: As I indicated during a press conference I held last month, should disputes arise in the vicinity of Japan, is it acceptable that when the lives of evacuating Japanese nationals are in danger, the government is unable to do anything?  As the Prime Minister, it is my responsibility to safeguard the lives of the people as well as their peaceful lives.
On the basis of this awareness of the issue, from the standpoints of developing the legal provisions that will make it possible to deal with any kind of situation in a seamless way and of creating watertight preparations, I intend to move consultations between the ruling parties forward in an intensive and fully comprehensive manner.
At the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee, or “2+2” Meeting, held in October last year it was agreed that the work to revise the guidelines on Japan-U.S. defense cooperation would be completed within 2014.  This point was also confirmed at the Japan-U.S. summit meeting held in April this year.  It would be ideal in my view to have our policy on this matter fully consolidated so as to be in time for that review.
What is important in my view is gaining the understanding of the Japanese people through explaining the provisions created to safeguard the lives of the Japanese people as well as their peaceful lives in a way that is easily understood using specific examples, through explaining the matter at the Diet, and through other such efforts.
As for what we are doing now, I believe that we must conduct discussions properly, exhaustively, and intensively from the perspective of what we, the government and the Prime Minister, should do in order to safeguard the lives of the Japanese people.  In doing so, it is of course extremely important for the ruling parties ultimately to arrive at a conclusion.  At the same time, other parties such as Your Party or the Japan Restoration Party have indicated their understanding on these matters.  When we formulate our security policy and when we take a Cabinet decision on this matter, I expect it will be highly valuable to have as many entities as possible voicing their understanding on these matters.

REPORTER (FIDLER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL): Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister.  It’s Stephen Fidler from The Wall Street Journal.  We’re seeing, as you said, an emergence from the shock of Lehman Brothers in the world economy but in many parts of the world, that recovery is fragile.  And there has been concern expressed about the sales tax increase in Japan, which appears to have prompted falls in consumption and in industrial production.  Are you concerned that these falls represent a long-term setback for growth in Japan, and if not, when would you expect growth to pick up again?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I believe that we must not under any circumstances miss this opportunity to break free from deflation, a chance it is fair to say Japan has finally attained after 15 years.  Therefore, I have been undertaking a weekly check of consumption trends since the consumption tax rate rose.  We are seeing a reaction to the last-minute demand for such items as personal computers and automobiles.  But at the same time, we are also hearing that at supermarkets, the margin of year-over-year negative growth has been contracting, while department stores are in the midst of a recovery trend.
The food-service industry is in fact seeing good sales, showing positive growth over last year.  Travel reservations for the summer holiday period also seem to be proceeding more favorably than last year.  I expect that the dip in consumption will be a temporary phenomenon.
In addition, the employment scene is critically important.  If we take a look at the employment situation, the ratio of job offers to job seekers has risen for 17 consecutive months, recovering to 1.08 offers of employment for every person seeking work.  We are seeing this level for the first time in seven years and nine months in fact.  Moreover, a large number of companies took the decision to raise wages from this spring.  According to a survey by RENGO, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, monthly wages have risen by an average of more than 2 per cent. This is the highest level of wage increases seen over the last decade.
In addition, a survey conducted by Keidanren (the Japan Business Federation) indicates that this year’s summer bonus is set to rise by 8.8 per cent over last year’s level.  This is the highest rate of growth at any time in the last 30 years.  Very good outcomes are emerging in terms of both employment and wages.  I have concluded that there has been no disruption in the movement towards an “economic virtuous cycle” in which improved corporate earnings flow into wage increases, which then lead to expanded consumption.
The increase in the consumption tax rate was a political decision taken for the first time in 17 years to maintain confidence in Japan and transfer to the next generation one of the best social security systems in the world.
At the same time, in order to overcome the reactionary decline in demand, we have taken all possible measures and we are now taking economic countermeasures at a scale of 5.5 trillion yen.  We will also hammer out the Growth Strategy prudently going forward.
I understand that an IMF analysis also anticipates that the Japanese economy is now successfully overcoming the impacts of the rise in the consumption tax and that, while the economy will contract in the April to June quarter because of a reactionary decline, it is expected to recover in the latter half of 2014, supported by increases in employment and rising wages.
I intend to restore the economy to a growth track swiftly, from July through the second half of the fiscal year.  The Abe Cabinet will revitalize the Japanese economy without fail.

REPORTER (MATSUYAMA, FUJI TELEVISION): Mr. Prime Minister, you took the opportunity of this summit to touch on the issues surrounding North Korea.  Earlier, you explained the full-scale investigation into all Japanese abductees that Japan agreed with North Korea, the partial lifting of sanctions, and other matters.  In the future, what kind of measures in concrete terms will you consider in order to increase the effectiveness of that reinvestigation?  For example, if you were to dispatch government personnel from Japan, what level of government personnel would you considering sending?  Also, if North Korea were to want to dispatch personnel, what kind of system would you like to prepare in order to accept them?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: At this G7 summit I gave an explanation about this abduction issue as well as the agreement that was reached recently with North Korea on a reinvestigation.  Also, as we stood talking, I provided President Obama directly with an explanation of Japan’s stance on this reinvestigation.  The North Korean side has promised that it will conduct a comprehensive and full-scale investigation into all Japanese abductees.  North Korea will be setting up a Special Investigation Committee from now.  Before the investigation is launched, North Korea will notify the Japanese side of the Committee’s organization, the person in charge, and other such matters.  The Japanese government will first of all get a firm grasp of this information and work to enable us to obtain concrete results.
During the investigative process as well, we will hold consultations upon receiving information from North Korea as the situation develops.  At the same time, we will line up a structure for directly confirming the results of the investigation.  We are solidly incorporating such a structure, learning from, among other things, the various negotiations that we have had thus far with North Korea as well as negotiations we have had until now regarding this matter.
This investigation will be conducted in an area fully outside of Japan’s sovereignty.  I believe that Japan thoroughly confirming the investigation conducted by North Korea is critical in ensuring the investigation’s effectiveness.  I intend for us to coordinate various specifics as we go forward, including the dispatch of an investigation delegation.  However the details are worked out, we will utilize a structure under which we proceed by properly confirming matters ourselves.  I intend to continue to strongly urge the North Korean side to respond in good faith.


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