(Provisional Translation)

Transcript of Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi's Press Conference

July 31, 1998

Opening Statement

I have assumed the weighty responsibility of the position of Prime Minister. As I am faced with Japan's extremely difficult situations both domestically and internationally, I resolve to utilize the fullest extent of my knowledge and capabilities, as well as all of my energy, in dealing with these situations. I would like to ask, from the depth of my heart, for the cooperation and support of each of you, the people of Japan, in my endeavors.

During the 35 years of my experience in political life, I have received the firm support of many people and have learned many things which I have needed to learn. It is my desire to regain the trust of each of you, the Japanese people, by dedicating all my strength and by listening sincerely to the voices of the people, while boldly responding to and quickly addressing the problems facing us. Once again, I would ask for your support in this endeavor.

To this end, I firmly believed that my first job as Prime Minister was to form a powerful Cabinet.

I took great pains in contemplating how to create a Cabinet which is dignified and, at the same time, fresh and new. I feel very fortunate that yesterday a new Cabinet, which I am naming the "Cabinet for Economic Revival," was launched and it includes the participation of members with the wide range of capabilities necessary for finding a solution to the current economic issues.

Given the utmost importance of resolving the economic crisis affecting Japan today, although it is inexcusable, I requested Kiichi Miyazawa, himself a former Prime Minister, to undertake the daunting task of serving as Minister of Finance and to be instrumentally involved in the Cabinet.

In addition to the respect he receives from the international community, Kiichi Miyazawa has long had a sound understanding of Japan's financial problems, and he was emphasizing the seriousness of the economic situation from an early stage and was stressing that there cannot be a revival of the Japanese economy without dealing with the bad loans of financial institutions.

Furthermore, within our party itself, he was one of the first to take the responsibility to lead the party's effort to deal with the bad loans problem.

Therefore, I have asked Kiichi Miyazawa to lend us his strength. I appreciate his accepting the responsibility to be Minister of Finance, as having him will be a great and powerful force for this Cabinet in solving these issues.

At the same time, this Cabinet includes the participation of Taichi Sakaiya as Director General of the Economic Planning Agency from the private sector, who is known for his foresight and his insight. During the oil crisis, he wrote the book "Yudan," which means both "Carelessness" and "Interruption of Oil." I have high expectations for him due to his experience in the private sector and his wide range of knowledge as was reflected in his press conference comments yesterday, in which he expressed that his interest in entering the Cabinet at this time is precisely because of the current situation of economic difficulties and if it had been another time, he would have not have acquiesced.

Also, this Cabinet draws on many mid-level and young party members who have experience at the working level and offers them the opportunity to actively serve as Ministers. In this sense, I see this Cabinet as being dignified, while also being fresh and new, and I am confident in our ability to adequately handle the challenges facing Japan today.

I, myself, will work together with each member of the Cabinet and will do my best at the helm in guiding the Cabinet to adequately fulfill the role of being the Cabinet for Economic Revival as I mentioned above.

In this respect, it is my desire that our response in addressing the issues at hand be bold and quick. With an approach of decision and implementation, I will work earnestly to measure up to the expectations of the Japanese people.

As I have explained, the top priority issue for this Cabinet is achieving a recovery in the economic situation, and this problem requires seeking a solution which comprehensively brings together a wide range of measures. It is my intention to conduct a full mobilization of all possible measures, including financial, fiscal and taxation policies.

Furthermore, reflecting upon the results of this last election, there is clearly a feeling of apprehension, in a variety of senses, on the part of the Japanese people. One example is the insecurity about what will happen to pension payments and other matters, toward the 21st century, given the current societal trend of a falling birth rate and a rapidly aging population. In working to establish a brighter outlook and eliminate apprehensions about the future of Japanese people's lives, including the pension system, I would like to pursue our efforts under the theme of "national prosperity and virtue" and to thereby successfully build a society with a sense of security in the 21st century.

To realize "national prosperity and virtue," it is essential from an economic perspective, that medical care, the pension system and other issues which contribute to the daily lives of our people be addressed, leading to the stabilization of the economy and the improvement of national wealth.

At the same time, Japan, as a nation, must be benevolent and act in a manner truly respected throughout the world. With this as a goal, I believe that we must build the initial foundations for this standing as we enter the 21st century.

Turning to the current difficulties in Japan's economic situation, it is no exaggeration to say that for the Japan of today, as a nation with a significant economic influence, which differs greatly from the Japan of the past, as it is a nation whose economic situation has a considerable impact not only on its own country, but the entire Asian region as well as the international economy. In this sense, working to achieve a recovery in its economic situation and establishing a basis for stable economic growth is not only a duty owed to itself, but is an international responsibility. Domestic policy is foreign policy, and foreign policy is domestic policy. With this perspective, I am determined to fulfill Japan's economic duty.

Meanwhile, in the area of foreign policy, it is vital to our existence that Japan be a country which is trusted throughout the world. As we have in the past, I believe that we must continue to further strengthen our alliance relationship with the United States. In the wake of the financial crisis which has affected Asia since last year, in spite of Japan's own extremely difficult fiscal situation, Japan provided cooperation to Asian countries, as one country in the region. From this perspective, I will work toward Japan fulfilling its responsibilities globally, including in Asia, as well as in Africa, the Middle East and Europe.

In particular, regarding a current foreign policy issue, as has been mentioned on numerous occasions, I believe that we are approaching the final stages of efforts to conclude a peace treaty between Japan and Russia. The personal trust built up between former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto and President Boris N. Yeltsin of the Russian Federation has brought about truly significant progress in the relationship between our two countries in the past year or two, and I, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, was working actively on this issue in cooperation with former Prime Minister Hashimoto. We are at an important juncture, with a decisive stage approaching this fall to next spring. I will engage myself in this task with the hope of settling the affairs of the 20th century within the 20th century. In this connection I am now contemplating to ask former Prime Minister Hashimoto to assume a position and to dedicate special effort to this issue.

In any case, I intend to focus on finding a way out of the current difficulties facing Japan by making my best effort to listen closely to the voices of the people, genuinely responding to these voices and gathering together the wisdom of our nation.

Particularly with respect to international financial issues, we must find a solution, with the assistance of Kiichi Miyazawa as Minister of Finance. However, I believe it is also important for the Cabinet itself to provide support in this regard, and there is a real need for us to explain our policies in an easily comprehensible manner, both domestically and overseas. At present, Japan's efforts to do various things are being communicated in a variety of ways to the international markets through different types of media, but it is also necessary for the Cabinet itself to communicate openly, issue by issue, to the world. From this perspective, today I have appointed Toyoo Gyoten as a Special Cabinet Adviser for the purpose of receiving advice about international financial policies and for the purpose of accurately and promptly explaining our actions, both domestically and to the world.

In any case, I am committed to giving my utmost effort to achieve the most important mission of this Cabinet, which is to stabilize the living situation for the Japanese people by overcoming the current severe economic environment and stimulating a recovery in the economy for a return to positive growth and to pull out of the so-called "negative growth" situation as quickly as possible. As this task would be rather difficult on my own, as mentioned earlier, I am pleased to have formed a strong Cabinet.

With the Cabinet firmly working together as a unified team, I am ready to begin dealing with the various challenges, in a manner which satisfies the expectations of the Japanese people and with a sense of urgency that this is our final chance. Finally, I would once again ask for the understanding and cooperation of each of you.