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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Inauguration of the Third Abe Cabinet - Press Conference by Prime Minister Abe

December 24, 2014

[Provisional Translation]

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now begin the press conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Prime Minister Abe will deliver an opening statement.

Mr. Prime Minister, your opening statement, please.


Opening statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Today, having been designated Prime Minister at the Diet, I have come to continue to shoulder the weighty responsibility of being Prime Minister.

I would like to express my deep appreciation once more to the public for having supported us in the ruling coalition during the recent general election.  The Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito will continue to advance policies on a strong and stable foundation.

What needs to be done is very clear.  I intend for the Abe Cabinet to act in unity as we work to bring about with absolute certainty the policies that we pledged to the public during this general election, one by one.

In order to be certain that we get rid of deflation, we will postpone by 18 months the raising of the consumption tax rate that had been scheduled for October 2015.  Even against that backdrop, we will eliminate childcare waiting lists and launch in April 2015 a new system that supports households raising children.  We will also carry out the reinforcement of medical systems, nursing care, and other aspects of social security as scheduled, to the greatest extent possible.  We will prepare the related bills and the draft budget for fiscal 2015 expeditiously and aim to have them passed swiftly during the next ordinary Diet session by also gaining the cooperation of the opposition parties.  The foremost issue is making the success of Abenomics a certainty.

During the election campaign I traveled some 14,000 km all throughout the country and I was able to listen directly to a wide variety of voices, including the voices of people working at small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and micro enterprises and people living in Japan’s local regions.  I intend to develop Abenomics still further by responding assiduously to this variety of sentiments as well.

This week we will compile our economic countermeasures.  We will rigorously undertake assistance measures tailored to the circumstances of each local area, including assistance with kerosene in cold regions, assistance for SMEs and micro-enterprises struggling with the sharp rise in the prices of fuel and materials, and assistance for child-rearing.  At the same time, I intend for us also to make proper investments towards future generations by preparing the infrastructure needed for energy conservation and for a hydrogen-based society, by creating a nation that is resilient against natural disasters, and so on.

At last week’s Government-Labor-Management Meeting, the business community agreed to make its utmost efforts to raise wages next year, continuing on from this year’s wage increases.  In order to have this pattern of wage increases continue into the following spring and then the spring after that, and to carry out further improvements in the area of employment, we will implement the economic policies within my “three arrows” even more boldly and with an even greater sense of speed.  We will undertake sweeping reforms of regulations that hold back the vitality of the private sector.  And, we will unfailingly make the turnaround of the economy come to be felt tangibly throughout the whole of the country.

This week, we will take a Cabinet Decision on a comprehensive strategy under which the local regions each put to best use their own distinct characteristics and open up new horizons through their own keen enthusiasm and which supports people in the local regions brimming with motivation.  Under this new strategy, we will create an environment in which people can grow up, study, and be employed in the local regions, and we will push forward in creating local communities that are convenient even if they are small in size.  We will also take steps forward towards building a society in which the hopes of the young generation become reality in terms of marriage and having and raising children.  In next year’s ordinary Diet session, we will bring to fruition the necessary budget and legislative bills and then embark on full-scale efforts to vitalize local economies. 

Realizing a society in which women shine continues to be the foremost challenge for the Abe Cabinet.  During the upcoming ordinary Diet session, we will aim for passage at an early date of the bill to promote women’s empowerment, which unfortunately failed to be passed during the recent extraordinary session of the Diet.

Diplomatic and security policies were also major points at issue in the recent general election.  I will secure Japan’s national interests by advancing diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the globe.  I am also unwavering in my determination to defend fully and resolutely the lives and happy daily lives of the Japanese people.

We are currently working to prepare seamless security legislation for submission to the ordinary Diet session next year, grounded in the basic policies decided upon by the Cabinet in July.  I have thus far asked Mr. [Akinori] Eto, who has a wealth of experience in this area, to serve as the minister responsible for this.  However, before I formed the new government today, Mr. Eto expressed his firm intention to resign in order not to bring about any delays in the Diet deliberations of these bills.  While this situation is unfortunate, I deferred to his wishes.

Newly-appointed Minister [Gen] Nakatani brings with him not only a great many years of knowledge and experience regarding security policy but also expertise in the actual circumstances the Self-Defense Forces face in the field.  Minister Nakatani also played an important role when we held consultations between the ruling parties leading up to the Cabinet Decision taken in July.  In the future, under Minister Nakatani we will work to pass this legislation during next year’s ordinary Diet session, moving forward to prepare the bill in all aspects while continuing our efforts to obtain the further understanding of the public.

Since this government was inaugurated, we have been devoting our utmost energies to such critical issues as reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake and the revival of education.  We will accelerate these efforts still further.

Whether it be getting rid of deflation, reforming social security, or rebuilding our diplomacy and security, the road ahead of us will be very challenging.  I have been dedicating myself wholly to advancing the most drastic reforms since the end of World War II.  These are, in every case, entirely new attempts at reform.  Naturally, there are major divisions between those in favor and those opposed, and there is also intense resistance.

However, through the recent general election, the Japanese public has given us a firm pat on the back pushing us forward, telling us to stay the course.  Having garnered the great power of the confidence of the people, I am determined for the Cabinet to act in unity as we make good on our word and push forward in bringing our policies to fruition.

We will run the administration with an even greater sense of vigilance and with humility.
Now only one week remains in 2014.  Allow me to express to you once more my appreciation for the heartwarming understanding and support that you have shown to the Abe Cabinet over the past year.  And, although it is a bit early, I would like to extend to you my best wishes for a wonderful year in the year to come.

I will end my opening statement here.


Questions and Answers

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now open the floor to questions from the press. 
If you would like to ask a question, please raise your hand.  When you are called on, please first state your name and affiliation before asking your question. 
I will begin with a representative of a company coordinating the press club.  Yes, go ahead.

REPORTER (NISHINIPPON SHIMBUN): I am with the Nishinippon Shimbun, one of the coordinators of the press club.
Today the Third Abe Cabinet was inaugurated and, as you said a bit earlier, Mr. Prime Minister, you made a personnel change in appointing Mr. Nakatani, a former head of the Defense Agency, to replace Mr. Eto as Minister of Defense, but all your other Cabinet members were retained.  As one question I would like to ask about your personnel aims this time in having kept the replacement of ministers to a minimum.
Also, by having won in this House of Representatives election, there is also a widespread view that you fortified the foundation for holding the reins of government over the long term.  With that in mind, how do you intend to undertake constitutional revision, which has been positioned as a historical mission for you as a politician?  In particular, there has been some movement towards aiming for a national referendum to be held concurrently with the 2016 House of Councillors election.  I would like to know your thoughts on this, including with regard to this sort of timeline.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: First of all, I just reshuffled my Cabinet in September, and only three months have passed since then.  In light of that, in my mind it would be misguided to take the approach of having an overall reshuffle when only about three months have passed since then.
While we are a mere three months into this new lineup, the current members of the Cabinet all navigated the extraordinary Diet session.  Making use of that experience, I want them to make solid efforts together towards the deliberations on, and passage of, both the budget and various bills during next year’s ordinary Diet session as the “Cabinet for action and achievement”  I expect each of my ministers to squarely achieve results in his or her particular post.  I want them to invest their full efforts over the long term to take on various topics and policy issues, both domestic and international.
As for constitutional revision, I believe we can say that such revision has been a major goal of the Liberal Democratic Party ever since the party was founded.  When the LDP was formed, the two major goals were to bring prosperity to people’s daily lives by creating a solid economic foundation and, at the same time, to revise the Constitution going forward.  In that sense, the pledges that we made during this election campaign specified clearly that we will be working towards constitutional revision.
As for me personally, I began the work to create a draft of constitutional revisions when I was LDP Secretary-General.  During the First Abe Administration I got the National Referendum Act passed, and then after the Second Abe Administration began we revised that, lowering the requirement for participating in national referenda to 18 years of age.  We succeeded in making a decision on the eligible age for voting in a referendum—a task that still needed to be taken care of, as our “homework,” so to speak.
I think it is fair to say that the constitutional reform which lies ahead will be a historic challenge.  However, this will not be such an easy task.  First we must put together a two-thirds majority in both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors, so we must promote those efforts.  At the same time, the important thing is that once the proposal is approved in the Diet, a national referendum will be held, and the proposal must receive the support of a majority in that referendum.  I think we can say this will be the real moment of truth—that precisely this is the most important point or most crucial stage in constitutional revision.  That is to say, we must receive the backing of the public during that referendum.  I intend to work first of all to deepen the public’s understanding of which clauses we will start with when holding a national referendum, as well as the necessity of the proposed changes.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next I would like to take another question from a company coordinating the press club.  Yes, go ahead.

REPORTER (IWATA, NHK): I am Iwata with NHK.
Mr. Prime Minister, you have thus far developed diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the globe and at this press conference as well you have indicated your intention to secure Japan’s national interests by advancing this kind of diplomacy.  I believe that into the future as well there will continue to be a great number of diplomatic issues to be addressed.  I think that in one sense, we can say that next year will be a critical juncture, and I would like to ask you about that.
Last month you successfully held a summit meeting with President Xi Jinping of China, but this year there has yet to be a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting among Japan, China, and the Republic of Korea (ROK), which is a precondition for a summit meeting among the three countries.  How do you intend to work to improve relations with China and the ROK in the future?
Also, with regard to Russia, which faces the situation in Ukraine, how do you intend to advance negotiations on a peace treaty?  I look forward to hearing your views on these matters.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I was able to hold a Japan-China summit meeting with President Xi Jinping of China on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Beijing.  At that time, we agreed to improve our relations going forward taking the approach of a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests.  Continuing with that, under that approach of a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests, I intend to develop our bilateral relations by building up our dialogues at various levels, taking a broad perspective.
I believe that I succeeded in having President Xi share the understanding that favorable Japan-China relations are most certainly a plus for both countries’ national interests.  Moreover, I think that the international community has been hoping that Japan and China both make efforts to forge friendly relations.
I also spoke with President Park Geun-hye of the ROK very frankly about various topics during dinner at the APEC summit.  After that, President Park stated that she would like to hold a Japan-China-ROK trilateral Foreign Ministers’ Meeting at an early date and link that in to a trilateral summit meeting.  Japan, and I myself, wish to cooperate towards making that a reality.
Various issues arise as a consequence of countries neighboring each other.  I believe it is precisely because such issues exist that it is important for us to hold summit meetings and express our views to each other in a candid and frank manner, and that it is essential to have exchanges of views.  It is precisely because issues exist and because problems exist that we should hold summit talks.  It is entirely backwards to say there will be no summit meetings because there are problems or issues.  It is precisely because issues exist that we hold summit meetings and precisely why we should hold them.  Japan’s door for dialogue is always open.
I also held a summit meeting with President Putin of Russia on the sidelines of the Beijing APEC summit.  We came to launch concrete preparations in order to make President Putin’s visit to Japan a reality at a suitable timing next year.  On the basis of my personal relationship of trust with President Putin, I intend to advance Japan-Russia relations in order to serve Japan’s national interests while broadening the scope of our cooperation.  At the same time I intend to tenaciously continue negotiations towards the resolution of the issue of the Northern Territories and the conclusion of a peace treaty.
Furthermore, with regard to the issue of Ukraine, I intend to continue to urge Russia to play a constructive role towards a peaceful resolution.  For that reason as well I consider it essential to steadfastly continue dialogues with Russia.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: From now, I would like to take questions from someone other than the companies coordinating the press club.  To repeat, please raise your hand and I will call on someone.
Ms. Yamaguchi, please go ahead.

REPORTER (YAMAGUCHI, ASSOCIATED PRESS): I am Yamaguchi, with Associated Press.  Thank you for taking my question.
I would like to ask about policy issues you will address in the future.
Mr. Prime Minister, during the election campaign, you placed the highest priority on economic recovery, and it seems that the foundation for your efforts regarding security matters has also become fortified, with your selection of Mr. Nakatani, who is very well versed in policy matters, as Minister of Defense in this Cabinet.  In light of various other issues such as constitutional revision, education issues, and history issues, I would like you to discuss what issues other than the economy you would like to focus on as the Third Abe Cabinet, which is expected to be a long-term, stable administration.  For example, over the next few years, which also include the milestone of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, will you focus on efforts to transition away from the post-war regime?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I will take on the economy as my topmost priority, as I stated during the election campaign as well, since when we first regained the reins of government, we pledged to restore a strong economy.
Why is the economy my utmost priority?  The reason is precisely that for more than 15 years, Japan had stagnated under a deflationary economy.  It is a fact that this resulted in Japan’s presence diminishing within the international community and in Japan’s figure gradually becoming fainter in the areas of diplomacy and security.  First of all a great many among the public said that they want us to free the nation from this economic stagnation and to get rid of deflation and restore a strong economy.  They also said they want the turnaround of the economy to be felt tangibly all throughout the country at the earliest possible time.  Placing the utmost priority on the economy is for living up to these sentiments of the public, and in addition, if we are not able to achieve a strong economy, we will be unable to create a firm fiscal foundation for social security.
And, for example, we need financial resources for education as well.  It is imperative that we have a strong economy in order to obtain those fiscal resources.  And, it is only once there is a robust economy that we can develop strong diplomacy.  Diplomacy and security are two sides of the same coin.  That is why I have pledged to take on the economy as the foremost priority.  Naturally, besides the economy, there are the issues of social security, education, and reconstruction, which I mentioned just now.  It is imperative to achieve a strong economy in order to proceed with reconstruction.  I intend to take on various issues such as these.
Of course, there is also the matter of constitutional reform, as I mentioned at the beginning.  This is an issue of what kind of Constitution we should create that is appropriate for the 21st century.  This is also because I believe that having the entire nation deliberate this will lead to the carving out of a new Japan.  While it goes without saying that I will be engaged in various kinds of issues such as these, first of all, we must restore a strong economy, which will serve as their foundation.  I believe that at present we are still only halfway there.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: I will take only one more question.  Mr. Nakayama, please.

REPORTER (NAKAYAMA, NIKKEI SHIMBUN): I am Nakayama with the Nikkei Shimbun.
I would like to ask about Abenomics, which was taken up during the House of Representatives election campaign.
With regard to regulatory reform, which you also mentioned in your opening statement, it seems that even within your own party and the relevant business circles, there is extremely strong opposition to reviewing regulations that have become hard like bedrock, such as those governing labor or agriculture.  Mr. Prime Minister, now that you have won this election, do you intend to carry out these reforms at an early time, even if that means reining in those voices of opposition, and please also explain your stance on how you will undertake such reforms going forward.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Throughout this election campaign, I continually asserted that this election was about whether we should carry on with my policy of the “three arrows”—Abenomics—or retreat.  I consider the outcome of this election to have been that we must in fact squarely advance this policy, bringing a tangible sense of economic [recovery] to every corner of the nation.
We will carry out bold regulatory reforms in such fields as agriculture, energy, employment, and medical care.  On no account will we retreat from or water down these reforms.  During the ordinary session of the Diet early in the New Year, we will submit bills related to regulatory reform in the areas of agriculture, energy, medical care, and employment.  We also intend to submit to the upcoming ordinary Diet session a draft revision of the Act on National Strategic Special Zones, which unfortunately failed to pass the recent extraordinary Diet session.  We will be adding to it an even bolder menu of reforms.
In addition, from the standpoint of building up the competitiveness of Japanese companies and securing employment so as to enhance people’s daily lives, we will also undertake reforms that will transform Japan’s corporate tax into a form that is growth-oriented.  After securing our financial resources, we will aim over several years to lower the effective corporate tax rate down to the twenties, with these decreases starting from the 2015 fiscal year.  In line with this principle, the ruling parties’ research commissions on the tax system are currently holding discussions, and I have directed them to compile a draft revision within 2014.  I want to make revisions in a way fitting for the first year of reforms.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: As we have now reached the end of our scheduled time, I would like to bring Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's press conference to a close.  Thank you very much for your cooperation.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Thank you very much.

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