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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

August 3, 2017

 [Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
In the previous session of the Diet various issues were raised, including the sale of state-owned land to Moritomo Gakuen, the establishment of a veterinary school by Kake Educational Institution, and the daily reports issue at the Ministry of Defense. These issues have provoked a great deal of public distrust.

In opening my press conference today I would like to reiterate that I deeply regret what has happened and would like to offer my apologies to the people of Japan.

By listening to the people of Japan and working together with them we will advance politics.

Going back once more to the starting point five years ago when we regained the reins of government, we will make every effort to respond humbly and conscientiously to the mandate given to us by the people. By ensuring that we achieve results in each item on our policy agenda, we will work one step at a time towards regaining the trust of the people.

It is based on this determination that today I reshuffled my Cabinet.

In this new Cabinet I have appointed a broad range of people, from veteran to junior members, and I believe that I was able to achieve a lineup of ministers who are focused on results, who will put work above all else and who have the ability and competence to perform well.

The top priority task for the Cabinet is economic revitalization. The Abe Cabinet will continue to give top priority to the economy. To lead the efforts I have asked Mr. Toshimitsu Motegi, who has to date served as the Chairman of the Policy Research Council of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and has also previously served as Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Thanks to four years of Abenomics, almost two million jobs have been created and the effective jobs-to-applicants ratio for regular employees has also exceeded a ratio of 1.0. This means that if any person wishes to become a regular employee then there is at least one job available for that person. We have finally come this far in fulfilling a major responsibility of politics.

However, there is still much to be done. We will increase employment and raise wages. By further accelerating this positive economic cycle we will succeed in exiting deflation. I would like Minister Motegi to work together with Minister of Finance Taro Aso and Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko, both of whom have retained their positions, to further boost Abenomics.

I have also asked Minister Motegi to take on the newly created position of Minister for Human Resources Development.

We aim for a society in which any child is able to work hard towards reaching his or her dreams regardless of their family’s economic situation, and a society in which anyone can return to study at any age and can take on new challenges. I would like Minister Motegi to come up with bold ideas for a socio-economy looking ahead to people living until they are 100 years old.

The minister who will put working-style reform into action is Mr. Katsunobu Kato.

We will introduce equal pay for equal work, aiming for the elimination of the practice of long work hours that has been a persistent feature of the postwar years, and will break down the barriers between regular and non-regular employees. Working-style reform is about to move to the implementation phase. Minister Kato has compiled an implementation plan for working-style reform and as Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare I expect him to aim to achieve the passage of the necessary legislation in the next extraordinary session of the Diet.

Structural reform is the greatest weapon of Abenomics. By actively appointing people who have the drive to make breakthroughs, I aim to press on resolutely with reforms that respond to the needs of the times.

I have asked Mr. Ken Saito to serve as Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and spearhead agricultural reform. Mr. Saito is still a junior member, having been reelected to the Diet three times, but to date he has served as the Director of the LDP Agriculture and Forestry Division, and as State Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. In those capacities, he has taken leadership in promoting aggressive agricultural administration, including in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement negotiations and in reform of agricultural cooperatives.

Minister of the Environment Masaharu Nakagawa may be assuming a Cabinet position for the first time, but he is a professional in environment policy, having previously served as Administrative Vice Minister of the Environment. I would like him to take up the challenge of implementing bold socio-economic reforms to lead the world in global warming countermeasures, including the formulation of a long-term strategy towards the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The flagbearer for all aspects of regulatory reform will be Mr. Hiroshi Kajiyama. We will dynamically advance regional revitalization, leveraging the unique characteristics of each region. To that end, I would like Mr. Kajiyama to steadily tackle regulations and systems that have become as firmly entrenched as bedrock.

The discussion over the establishment of a school of veterinary medicine in a National Strategic Special Zone descended into a debate over what was said or not said between the people involved in the coordination process of the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). This debate has served only to arouse suspicions and doubts. I would like Minister Kajiyama to strengthen the National Strategic Special Zone system, including inter-ministerial coordination processes, with a view to further improving transparency.

Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Yoshimasa Hayashi has a wealth of experience from serving in various Cabinet positions to date and bringing together organizations in Kasumigaseki. I would like him to work to bring all personnel together at MEXT and to spearhead concerted ministry efforts to revitalize education and advance the promotion of science and technology.

Last week North Korea once again disregarded the warnings of the international community and forcibly conducted the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM)-class missile. The most important responsibility of the Government is to take all possible steps to secure the safety of the Japanese people in response to the grave and real threat posed by North Korea.

Taking on the position of Minister of Defense will be Mr. Itsunori Onodera, a person who following the inauguration of the second Abe Cabinet worked committedly for more than 600 days on rebuilding Japan’s security policy. Under the unwavering Japan-U.S. Alliance and in order to improve our defense structures and capabilities, I would like Mr. Onodera to advance specific actions to strengthen Japan’s defense capacity.

With an increasingly tense situation surrounding North Korea, we will work to build good relations with the Republic of Korea (ROK), China and Russia, while further deepening the bonds of the Japan-U.S. Alliance. We must further advance the diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map.

At such a time characterized by a tumultuous global situation we must engage in flexible and resilient foreign policy that clearly discerns international currents. I would like Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Kono to exert his inherent creativity and ability to take action to the maximum extent.

The Minister of Justice is Ms. Yoko Kamikawa, who has previously served in the same position in the Abe Cabinet. I would like her to leverage her experience and once again take the helm of the administration of justice, including the appropriate application of the Act on Punishment of the Preparation of Acts of Terrorism and Other Organized Crimes.

I have asked Mr. Shunichi Suzuki to serve as Minister in charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which are due to be held in three years’ time. Mr. Suzuki has a wealth of political experience and is a native of Iwate, one of the prefectures affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake. In 2020 we will show the world a reconstructed Tohoku region. I would like Mr. Suzuki to continue preparations to ensure that the Games in 2020 are truly emblematic of the reconstruction.

There can be no revitalization of Japan without the reconstruction of Tohoku. This is the fundamental policy of the Abe Cabinet. Mr. Masayoshi Yoshino will continue to serve as Minister for Reconstruction, and as a minister hailing from the affected region of Fukushima Prefecture I expect that he will adopt a hands-on approach that is attentive to local wishes as a means of realizing reconstruction.

This year has been one in which natural disasters have struck various regions of Japan in succession, including the torrential rains in northern Kyushu last month. Under such circumstances, it is also important to engage in nationwide disaster prevention and mitigation measures, along with advancing recovery and reconstruction. Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Keiichi Ishii will continue in his role by building on his achievements.

I have asked Mr. Hachiro Okonogi to serve as Minister of State for Disaster Management and Chairperson of the National Public Safety Commission. This is Mr. Okonogi’s first Cabinet position. He has demonstrated his abilities in crisis management to date both in the LDP and in the Diet.

A total of six ministers are receiving a Cabinet position for the first time. I expect that this Cabinet will demonstrate the creative power and ability to achieve breakthrough that is unique to its junior and mid-level members.

I hope that Mr. Masaji Matsuyama will leverage his experience of corporate management to shape strategies that will open up a path to the future for the Japanese economy, in such areas as innovation, information technology and intellectual property strategy.

I have asked Mr. Tetsuma Esaki, who has served as chair of the Special Committee on Consumer Affairs, to assume the post of Minister for Consumer Affairs and Food Safety. I would also like him to devote his energies to Okinawa and Northern Territories affairs, which are immediate priority challenges for this administration. Together with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, who is in charge of alleviating the impact of bases in Okinawa, I hope that he will make every effort in developing Okinawa which is full of potential, while considering the wishes of the people of Okinawa.

The LDP is a treasure trove of talent.

I believe that in this reshuffle I have been able to gather together a pool of talent replete with expertise and practical ability in various fields, while also ensuring a balance across all age groups.

Ms. Seiko Noda will serve in the key Cabinet position of Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications and as Minister in charge of Women’s Empowerment. Ms. Noda was first elected at the same time as me, and together we have experienced difficult times during the two occasions that the LDP lost the reins of government. She also never hesitates to tell me home truths that may be difficult to hear.

When we retook the reins of government and the ruling parties were making concerted efforts to create structures to break through the crisis that we faced, I asked Ms. Noda to serve as the chairperson of the General Council of the LDP, one of the three party executive positions. I would now like her to help support the administration as a member of the Cabinet.

Looking back to the situation five years ago, it was also the case then that the public were deeply skeptical of politics overall, including the LDP. This administration made a start in the midst of rising public distrust.

Achieving results one by one is the way to restore public trust in politics. Based on this belief we have fully endeavored to respond to challenges at home and overseas, underpinned by the stable political foundation provided by the LDP and Komeito.

It is imperative that all Cabinet members recall the strong sense of mission and heightened degree of urgency that we felt when the government changed and look back once more to that starting point.

By gathering together a broad range of people from within the party I believe that I have been able to assemble a team that can concentrate fully on its tasks and produce results for the people of Japan.

This new Cabinet is a results-oriented “Cabinet of doers.”

By listening to the people of Japan and working together with them we will advance politics. We will also ensure that we produce results. This is what I am resolved to do and I ask for the understanding, cooperation and support of the people of Japan.

I will end my opening statement here.


REPORTER (MIYAZAWA, JIJI PRESS): I am Miyazawa, with Jiji Press.

My first question concerns constitutional revision. In your position as President of the LDP you have previously indicated that you are seeking to submit the LDP’s proposal for the constitutional revision to the extraordinary Diet session this autumn, with the aim of achieving the entry into force of the new Constitution in 2020. Following the results of the recent Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election and the drop in the Cabinet approval rating, some people believe that this target will be difficult to achieve. Is there no change to your envisaged schedule for the constitutional revision?

Also, a concurring vote of two-thirds or more of all the members of each House needs to be secured for the Diet to initiate amendments to the Constitution. In the ruling parties, from this perspective, some people are cautious about holding an early election of the House of Representatives in view of the Cabinet’s declining approval ratings. On the other hand, others think the Prime Minister should press forward with the dissolution of the House of Representatives by the end of this year, before opposition parties have time to rally their forces. Chief Representative Yamaguchi of Komeito has also recently indicated that he expects the timing of the dissolution to be brought forward. Can you tell us whether the option of dissolving the House of Representatives before the end of this year is still on the table?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: When we retook the reins of government at the end of 2012, deindustrialization was continuing and young people were faced with difficulties in securing a job. Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises were also going out of business. Under such circumstances, we regained the reins of government backed by people wishing that the state of the economy would be dealt with and restored so that the young high school and university students graduating in April can find employment. We have given the economy top priority. Thanks to our efforts the effective jobs-to-applicants ratio for regular employees has exceeded a ratio of 1.0 for the first time in history. Wages have also started to rise, but they still need to increase much further. Companies will also invest and people will come to feel confident enough to consume more. The highest priority of the Abe administration is to ensure that this positive economic cycle continues to revolve dynamically. We are still now engaging in efforts with the economy as our top priority. It is this mission that we must keep uppermost in our minds.

In addition, this year marks the milestone 70th anniversary of the entry into force of the Constitution of Japan. Over the course of 70 years both the global situation and also the lives of the people have changed tremendously. In this regard it is time to give thought to how we want the Constitution to be, isn’t it? I raised this question believing that it is necessary to further deepen discussion on this matter. Although I have raised the question, I have no specific timeframe in mind for the constitutional revision. As I noted when I raised the question, amendments to the Constitution are initiated by the Diet. That is why we will engage in thorough discussions in the Diet.

I would like the LDP to take the lead in the discussions. LDP Vice-President Komura has stated today that the party will engage firmly on this issue and that he would like discussions to be left to the party, and I entirely agree with him. I hope that the party will engage in thorough discussions, that deeper national discussion will take place and that the Diet will also further discuss this matter.

As for the dissolution of the House of Representatives, nothing has been decided.

REPORTER (HASHIMOTO, TV TOKYO): I am Hashimoto, with TV Tokyo.

In your opening statement you spoke about provoking great distrust among the public. With regard to the matter of the establishment of a school of veterinary medicine by Kake Educational Institution, the overwhelming view in various opinion polls is still that the Government has not provided convincing explanations. There are concerns that with this reshuffle you are replacing the ministers concerned and that the Government is seeking to bring the matter to an end while leaving some points unclear. Opposition parties are demanding that the Government provide explanations, either in Diet deliberations while the Diet is out of session or by bringing forward the opening of an extraordinary Diet session, including with regard to the matter of the Ministry of Defense daily reports that were compiled by the peacekeeping operations (PKO) unit dispatched to South Sudan. How does the Government intend to fulfill its responsibility to provide explanations about these various issues? Could you also tell us around when you are thinking of convening the extraordinary session of the Diet?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Off-session Diet deliberations were recently convened for two days in the Budget Committees at both Chambers, which I and other members of the Government also attended, and we provided explanations. However, we must sincerely accept that we have yet to gain the understanding of many people. We will continue to engage in efforts in a variety of ways to regain the trust of the people of Japan. In addition, when we receive a request from the Diet, the Government will certainly respond to the request. With regard to the request for the convocation of an extraordinary Diet session, the Cabinet will respond appropriately, as has been the case to date.

Recently budget ceilings were determined and work has begun in earnest on the compilation of next fiscal year’s budget, including budget requests. Taking such matters into consideration I would like to decide the timing of the convocation of the Diet session after fully sorting out the various issues relating to people’s lives and having completed extensive preparations, including the ongoing work for the draft bill for working-style reform, which will be a very important bill for the people of this country.

REPORTER (FURUTA, TOKYO SHIMBUN): I am Furuta, with Tokyo Shimbun.

You have just given various reasons for your selection of Cabinet ministers. At the end of your opening statement you explained Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Seiko Noda never hesitates to speak home truths that may be difficult to hear. Could you tell us your purpose in including an individual who has been critical of you in the past and also, therefore, if there is any reason why you did not appoint Mr. Shigeru Ishiba to a Cabinet position or senior party post?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Seiko Noda and I were both first elected to the Diet in the 1993 general election. In the general election that year the LDP became the opposition party. It was an election in which we lost control of the government and we started our careers as Diet members in opposition. As junior Diet members we engaged in serious discussion as to why the LDP had lost control of the government and also voiced many opinions to party executives. After that, once more in the 2009 election the LDP became the opposition party and so it is the case that Ms. Noda is a colleague with whom I have various shared experiences. As the general election of 1993 was one in which the LDP lost the reins of government, there were only 28 newly elected Diet members that year, many of whom are no longer in the Diet today. Ms. Noda and I share a frank relationship in which we can say anything to each other. It is in that sense that she always speaks to me honestly and tells me things that I might not want to hear. Ms. Noda served as Chairperson of the General Council of the LDP and after that has continued to be active as a Diet member. I believe that she has listened to a great many opinions from the public and has given thought to various matters from the perspective of the people of Japan. That is why I want such a person to join the Cabinet and work to drive politics forward.

I think it is fair to say that the LDP is what it is because there are many people with varying and wide-ranging opinions. We engage in a great deal of arguments on various issues, but when our opinions converge a unity is formed amongst us. I believe that this comes from a sense of responsibility as the party of the government. In that sense I am seeking to gather knowledge to tackle various issues.

I would like to refrain from commenting about the various processes involved in making personnel decisions.

REPORTER (YAMAGUCHI, ASSOCIATED PRESS): I am Yamaguchi, with Associated Press.

Various suspicions and scandals have arisen in succession in the Government of Japan, including the issues of Kake Educational Institution and the daily reports of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF). Against a backdrop where concerns are growing about the North Korean missile issue, how does the Government intend to respond to overseas perceptions that the weakened domestic foundation for the Government could have an impact on the promotion of the foreign and defense policies of the Abe administration?

With regard to North Korea in particular, President Trump of the United States has stated that he is prepared to take all means necessary. Although he still appears to be cautious about actually embarking on military action, how will Japan seek to advance Japan-U.S. cooperation, given that Japan is host to a number of U.S. bases?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: I have asked Mr. Onodera to serve as Cabinet minister responsible for defense policy as someone who has previous experience as Minister of Defense, and I have asked Mr. Kono to serve as Minister for Foreign Affairs. Under the Abe administration the bonds and foundation of the Japan-U.S. Alliance have become stronger than ever before, following the enactment of the Legislation for Peace and Security and under the revised Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation. An alliance in which the parties are capable of providing mutual assistance will serve to make the bonds between the allies stronger. North Korea has continued the belligerent act of missile launches. Under such circumstances, the United States has dispatched two aircraft carriers and has engaged in joint exercises with the SDF. Joint exercises have also been conducted with Japanese aircraft. We immediately demonstrated such a posture, which, I believe, shows the unprecedented strength and unwavering bonds of the Japan-U.S. Alliance.

With regard to North Korea, I recently held a very in-depth exchange of opinions with President Trump. President Trump reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to Japan’s security, stating that Japan and the United States are strong partners and that the United States’ commitment to Japan’s defense is unwavering. The recent launch of an ICBM-class ballistic missile by North Korea has raised the level of threat posed by the country. It indicates clearly that the threat has increased dramatically for both Japan and the United States. There has never been a time when the strengthening of the Japan-U.S. Alliance has been more needed. Under the new Cabinet we will swiftly hold a Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee meeting (2+2 Ministerial Meeting) and engage in concrete consultations on how to further enhance the overall deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance.
REPORTER (YOSHIMURA, YOMIURI SHIMBUN): I am Yoshimura, with the Yomiuri Shimbun.

In this reshuffle Mr. Fumio Kishida, who has served as Minister for Foreign Affairs for four years and eight months, has been appointed Chairperson of the LDP Policy Research Council. Mr. Kishida is said to be a strong candidate to succeed you as party president, so can I ask about your aims in appointing him to a party position?

My other question is you have appointed Mr. Taro Kono as Mr. Kishida’s successor. What sort of role do you expect him to play, particularly with respect to Japan’s relations with neighboring China and the ROK? Mr. Kono advocates for ending the use of nuclear energy, so how will the Government of Japan be approaching negotiations on the renewal of the Japan-U.S. Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, which is due to expire next year?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Firstly, as Minister for Foreign Affairs for a long period Mr. Kishida has advanced diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map with me and leaves his position having achieved many significant outcomes. Mr. Kishida played a very large role in the visit of President Obama to Hiroshima and I am grateful for his efforts. He is truly someone who will be a central presence in Japan’s future. I expect that in his new position he will work to oversee all policies and make progress on the respective policies as the person in charge of policy within the LDP.

Minister Kono made clear upon his previous appointment to the Cabinet that, as he stated in responses to the Diet, with regard to nuclear energy policy, for example, he would follow the Cabinet’s policy as a member of the Cabinet. On that point, I have total confidence in Minister Kono.

Also, with regard to foreign policy and other matters relating to China, the ROK and Russia, given that the Japan-U.S. Alliance is the cornerstone of our foreign policy, as I have just noted I would like a 2+2 Ministerial Meeting to be convened in the near future.

Furthermore, Minister Kono is a graduate of Georgetown University in the United States, and since becoming a Diet member he has often traveled to Washington, D.C. and other locations in the United States, where I believe he has made many connections and friends. He is also involved in exchange between Japanese and U.S. parliamentarians. In that sense, I expect that he will apply himself to his new position with a view to further strengthening the Japan-U.S. Alliance.

Another point, although not one that you mentioned in your question, relates to observations that are often made about Minister Kono’s understanding of history. However, the position of the Abe administration is made clear in the statement I issued on the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, which was approved by the Cabinet, and as a member of the Cabinet Minister Kono also fully concurs with this position.

With regard to Russia, in September I will be visiting Vladivostok, where I will be meeting once again with President Putin. Based on a sincere determination to resolve the peace treaty issue as expressed by myself and President Putin at the Nagato Summit meeting in December last year, we will advance measures so that former island residents can make grave visits freely, promote joint economic activities, and work to achieve further progress relating to a peace treaty.

As for China, I consider that I was able to have a substantive meeting with President Xi Jinping at the recent G20 Hamburg Summit. In addition to engaging in further cooperation on the North Korean issue, we will use the opportunity provided by the 45th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China this year and the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China next year to further develop stable and friendly relations in all areas, under the concept of the “Mutually Beneficial Relationship Based on Common Strategic Interests.”

With regard to the ROK, I also met with President Moon Jae-in at the recent G20 Hamburg Summit, where we held a Japan-U.S.-ROK trilateral summit meeting and also held a bilateral summit meeting. At that time we agreed that we will carry out shuttle diplomacy.

Furthermore, we will work closely with the ROK to deal with the issue of North Korea, and will develop and build a future-oriented Japan-ROK relationship. We will develop relations in a variety of areas.

Thank you very much.

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