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Home >  News >  Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister >  January 2018 >  Policy Speech by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the 196th Session of the Diet

Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Policy Speech by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to the 196th Session of the Diet

January 22, 2018

[Provisional Translation]

1. Introduction

150 years ago, Kenjiro Yamakawa, as a member of the Byakkotai, a samurai group that fought against the government forces, witnessed the exact moment when the new “Meiji” era started.

However, the Meiji government decided to make use of his talent for the future of the country and gave Yamakawa an opportunity to play a role in society.

“The strength of a country lies in its people.”

Yamakawa was appointed as the President of the Imperial University of Tokyo, where he devoted his efforts to opening the door to education for young people from poor households, for example by building dormitories. He also placed importance on the education of women and helped to foster Japan’s first ever female professor.

Regardless of their social standing, birth, or financial circumstances, people were given opportunities.

Countless human resources were fostered in the new Meiji Era and they became the driving force for the rapid modernization of Japan, at a time when the country was being threatened by the technologically superior nations of the West in what could be deemed a “national crisis.”

Now, Japan is once again faced with an urgent issue that should be called a “national” crisis; a rapidly aging society and decreasing birthrate.

However, this obstacle, too, can surely be overcome. Much like our predecessors in the Meiji Era, we will again create opportunities for all Japanese people and thereby surely surmount the issue of the rapidly aging society and decreasing birthrate. Now is precisely the time for us to create a new Japan.

My fellow honorable members of the Diet, let us work together to create a new era, in which all Japanese people are able to realize their full potential, whether they are female or male, are young or old, or have disabilities or intractable illnesses.

2. Work Style Reform

My administration will decisively carry out Work Style Reform.

We will make it possible for people who have to attend to various other responsibilities, such as raising their children or providing nursing care for elderly relatives, to work with a sense of ambition. By implementing fundamental reforms, we will create a more flexible labor system that allows all people to make the most of their abilities. This will be a major reform, the likes of which have not been seen in 70 years since the establishment of the Labor Standards Law.

For many years, the concept of equal pay for equal work was merely debated, again and again. At long last, we are about to make this a reality. We will prohibit employment structures that create irrational gaps in the treatment of workers and remove the words “irregular work” from our country’s vocabulary.

In addition, my administration will expand the basic income tax exemption, while at the same time revising the exemption system, which is limited to certain specific lifestyles, such as that of a full-time, white-collar worker. By doing so, we will reform the tax system so as to have one that is not restricted by people’s work styles.

Furthermore, we will eradicate the practice of working long hours that has permeated our society. For the first time in history, through an agreement reached between labor and the business community, we will limit the maximum hours of overtime work permitted, with penalties attached, by which the exceptions of the Article 36 Agreement of the Labor Standards Act cannot be exempted. Moreover, in highly specialized professions, we will make it possible to choose a system in which one is evaluated not by the number of hours worked, but by one’s results.

“If we develop new ways of working, we will be able to compete on a par with major corporations.”

These words were said to me by a young startup manager. By actively introducing teleworking arrangements and three-day working weeks, the company has succeeded in recruiting talented workers who left their jobs at major corporations due to various family circumstances.

Work Style Reforms are not merely a social policy. They are exactly our growth strategy. If we are able to ensure work-life balance, everyone will be able to lead fulfilling lives and make the most of their abilities, and we surely can overcome the challenge of the aging society and decreasing birthrate.

Honorable members of the Diet, let us work together to reform work styles, which will pave the way for a new era.

3. Human Resources Development Revolution

(A social security system oriented to all generations)

In order to resolve the issue of the aging society and decreasing birthrate, we must strongly advance efforts to reform the social security system.

Making use of funds we obtain from the consumption tax rise planned for October next year, we will dramatically reform Japan’s social security system to become one that is oriented to all generations, under which both elderly and young citizens can enjoy peace of mind. At the same time, we will be certain to achieve fiscal soundness. By this summer, we will indicate when we will achieve a primary balance surplus, with a corroborative detailed plan.

My administration will eliminate worries felt by the working generation related to child rearing and nursing care.

We will prepare nursing care arrangements for 500,000 people by early in the 2020s. From April, we will increase the reimbursement for nursing care professionals, and make use of robots and other technologies to reduce the burden borne by caregivers, thereby improving the working environment in this industry.

In order to secure the necessary nursing care workers, we will improve their compensation. Under the current ruling coalition, we have already increased monthly wages by 47,000 yen. Furthermore, from autumn next year, we will further improve working conditions among nursing care workers by raising the salaries for leaders in the field by the equivalent of 80,000 yen, thus eliminating the disparity with wages in other industries.

With regard to childcare facilities, over the past five years, we have been expanding capacity at a pace that is more than 2.5 times that before the change in administration, and created places for 590,000 children, exceeding our initial target. In light of this, the employment rate among women with small children has risen by five percentage points, reaching a record high. For all generations of such women aged 25 and above, the employment rate is higher than that of the United States.

Raising the flag of active participation by women, my administration will continue to devote our utmost efforts to eliminate the wait for childcare. Using the supplementary budget and also increasing the contribution paid by the business community, we will accelerate the implementation of the Plan for Raising Children with Peace of Mind. Furthermore, with prefectural governments playing a central role, we will strengthen support for municipalities, which are at the heart of our efforts to eliminate the wait for childcare. We will also aim to prepare childcare arrangements for 320,000 children by fiscal 2020, and make arrangements for over 100,000 children in fiscal 2019.

To date, our coalition has improved the working conditions of childcare workers, raising monthly wages by the equivalent of 30,000 yen, and, in certain cases, an additional 40,000 yen, depending on experience. In addition, this fiscal year, we will improve monthly salaries by a further 3,000 yen. Next year again, we will increase this by another 3,000 yen and fill the salary gap with other industries, thus making every effort to secure childcare workers.

(Making education free)

My administration has been steadily advancing measures towards making early childhood education free and we will now push such efforts forward in one fell swoop, aiming to achieve this goal by fiscal 2020. We have already promised to make kindergarten, nursery school and certified childcare facilities free of charge, and we will make a decision on the full scope of such measures by this summer, taking into account the views of people on the frontlines and the relevant stakeholders.

We cannot allow disparities to become entrenched. We must break the poverty cycle.

My administration will improve support for children from families receiving livelihood subsidies. While revising the amount they receive from a fairness standpoint, we will also enhance specific forms of support for children, including lifestyle supports such as meals, as well as educational supports such as afterschool classes. With regard to housing benefits for students about to enter university, in addition to reforming the existing system while maintaining the current levels of disbursement, we will also establish a new system for assisting with the various expenses needed for starting a new life.

This year, we will raise the income limit on eligibility for child-rearing allowances and increase the amount of support for over 500,000 families. Furthermore, next year, we will increase the frequency of disbursements from three times a year to six, in order to provide single-parent households with greater stability.

The other day, a young person who grew up in a child welfare facility told me about his dream.

“I want to make fully autonomous driving possible.”

This spring, he received a tuition exemption and fund-type scholarship, and was able to enroll in the College of Science and Engineering at Aoyama Gakuin University.

He also told me, “From the spring, I will be in a completely new place, where there is no one for me to depend on, so I am nervous, but I will make the most of this opportunity I have been given and do everything I can to make my dream a reality.”

Every child can work hard to achieve their dreams. As adults, it is our responsibility to create a society where this is the norm.

My administration will ensure that all children can advance to senior high school or technical junior college, vocational college or university, no matter how financially disadvantaged their family may be. By fiscal 2020, we will make all senior high schools, both public and private, effectively free, by significantly increasing existing grants.

Next fiscal year, we will waive or reduce tuitions for an additional 17,000 university students. Furthermore, from this spring, we will provide an additional 20,000 children with the fund-type scholarships that we initiated last year.

From April 2020, we will significantly increase the amount provided, in order to help cover the necessary expenses for daily student life, and make this available to all children with ambition from households eligible to be exempted from municipal tax. We will dramatically enhance tuition waiver and reduction measures as well. In line with this, we will also thoroughly provide the necessary support to children from financially disadvantaged households. Through such measures, we will realize free tuitions of higher education for children for whom such assistance is truly necessary.

In addition, the nature of universities must also change. In order to produce human resources that firmly meet the needs of society, our measures to make higher education free will only be available for universities that not only promote academic pursuits, but are also passionate about human sources development.

My administration will announce the detailed plans for creating such a system by this summer.

(Diverse learning styles)

Starting this spring, ethics will become a compulsory subject in all elementary schools. My administration will revitalize education to foster children who care about the good of society, and are rich in humanity, and to respect the individuality of each child.

We will continue to provide support to children attending free schools. Moreover, we will build an environment in which children who are not able to go to school due to various reasons such as bullying or developmental disabilities, can regain their confidence and engage in learning.

For those people who, for whatever reason, were unable to go to school when they were younger, we will make it possible to attend junior high school classes at night.

Ms. Masako Wakamiya learned how to use a computer after she turned 80 and is now developing games. Her story has captured the attention of people around the world.

“In an era when human lifespans last a century, it is not enough to only be educated at schooling age.”

That is what Ms. Wakamiya said to me. We will ensure that everyone, no matter their age, has opportunities to brush up their skills and take on new challenges. Using the employment insurance system, we will radically expand recurrent education.

Looking ahead to an age of 100-year lifespans, we will boldly reform Japan’s socioeconomic system, such as by making education free and enhancing recurrent education. Fellow honorable members of the Diet, let us jointly advance the human resources development revolution towards the creation of a society in which all citizens are dynamically engaged and where opportunities abound for all members of society.

4. Productivity Revolution

(Productivity improvement of SMEs and micro enterprises)

Due to the five years of Abenomics, the Japanese economy has grown for seven consecutive fiscal quarters for the first time in 28 years. As a result of four consecutive years of wage increases, economic growth with strong private sector demand has been achieved and we are now steadily advancing down the path towards an exit from deflation. Before New Year’s Day, nearly 90% of university graduates seeking employment had been offered jobs. This percentage is the highest ever in history. The overall ratio of active job openings to applicants for regular employees exceeds 1, and conversions to regular employees has been accelerated. 

At the same time, SMEs and micro enterprises are facing serious personnel shortages. My administration will, together with assistance for securing personnel through the expansion of career advancement subsidies, strongly support ambitious investment towards productivity improvement.

We will support IT introduction by one million entities in three years. As decided by local governments, we will start a new system that will lower the fixed asset tax rate to zero. We will focus support on local governments that actively work on this, through subsidies for manufacturing and service of SMEs and for the sustainable development of small businesses.

Towards fairer business conditions for subcontractors, we will promote the formulation of voluntary action plans for each industry in fields including manufacturing, retail, and distribution. By conducting research on the state of improvements at 60,000 companies and ensuring strict application, we will work hard for better business terms and conditions.

Amidst the aging of business owners, we will fundamentally expand the business succession taxation scheme and defer the full payment of the inheritance tax. In addition, we will halve the patent fees for SMEs and micro enterprises, and protect unique technologies and knowhow to pass them down to the next generation.

By advancing productivity improvement of SMEs and micro enterprises, we will spread across Japan a wave of wage increases and economic recovery.

(All-out mobilization of policies)

During the Meiji Era, Sakichi Toyoda started a small company that made looms.

"Be at the vanguard of the times through endless creativity, inquisitiveness and pursuit of improvement."

This small business owner born in Aichi later tackled advanced innovation challenges such as loom automation and car development one after the other, and by doing so his business grew into a large company that is matchless in the world.

The Internet of Things, robotics, and artificial intelligence. As the world now moves towards Society 5.0, new innovations are being created in rapid succession. If we are not ahead of the wave of the productivity revolution, Japan’s economy has no future. With 2020 as a major milestone, we will fully mobilize all possible measures.

We will lower the corporate tax burden down to 25% for companies that raise wages by over 3% and actively invest, and create an environment where they can fully compete in the world. On the other hand, we will stop preferential tax treatment, such as tax reductions for research and development, for companies that are reluctant to invest despite expanding profits.

My administration will enact new laws towards achieving the productivity revolution. Furthermore, we will establish a regulatory sandbox system and create an environment in which businesses can pursue innovative services and business models without being bound by current regulations. We will boldly reduce the corporate tax burden to 20% for companies that take on the challenge of creating new innovation.

We will also encourage bold management decisions towards realizing the productivity revolution through corporate governance reform.

In addition, we will advance reform at universities that are innovation hubs. We will support governance reform through separation of management and research. Moreover, we will emphasize support to universities that actively take in private sector funding and greatly shift government resources to young researchers. We will formulate an integrated and concrete innovation strategy by this summer and swiftly implement it.

(Administrative productivity improvement)

We must also advance efforts towards administrative productivity improvement.

My administration will boldly simplify application procedures related to social security and other matters and make it possible to complete the registration of a new company online within 24 hours. We will make the submission of any attachments entirely unnecessary when making electronic applications. While enhancing transparency in the management of official documents, we will thoroughly implement administrative review and ceaselessly advance administrative reforms.

By revising the Act on Promotion of Private Finance Initiative and further raising the level of operation freedom, we will enhance public infrastructure and improve services by leveraging private sector knowhow and funding.

We will boldly advance regulatory and institutional reform that creates new innovation. In order to meet the needs of the Big Data era and create new added value from various data held by government organizations, data will be opened up to the public and the private sector in principle. Amidst the convergence of telecommunications and broadcasting, we will advance fundamental reform towards the effective use of frequency bands, which are a shared public asset of our people.

5. Regional Vitalization

(A new era of the agriculture, forestry and fishery industries)

My administration will take on forestry industry reforms for the first time since the end of World War II. The forestry industry in Japan, which possesses abundant forest resources, has significant growth potential.

We will establish a forest bank. Concentrating forest resources among ambitious, capable business operators, we will advance efforts to increase their scale. Furthermore, by having municipalities manage other forests, we will promote national land conservation and pass on the beautiful mountains to the next generation.

The expansive seas surrounding Japan also contain abundant blessings. We will introduce resource management by volume of fish catches and make use of ingenuity to improve productivity by fishery operators. In order to make it simple for new entrants to join the aquaculture business, we will reform the system for the use of the sea surface. We will formulate a work schedule towards reforming the fishery industry and swiftly implement it.

We will make hygiene management based on international standards obligatory for all food producers, and strongly encourage the export of delicious Japanese agricultural and marine products worldwide.

Through aggressive agricultural policies, exports of agricultural, forestry and fishery products have topped record highs for five consecutive years. Agricultural income recently reached 3.8 trillion yen, the highest level in 18 years. The number of young new farmers in their 40s or below has exceeded 20,000 people for three consecutive years for the first time since we started keeping statistics.

Honorable members of the Diet, let us strongly advance reform across the entirety of the agriculture, forestry and fishery industries, and launch a new era for these industries, such that young people have dreams and hopes of working in them.

(Promotion of local universities)

Kochi Prefecture boasts Japan’s top productivity for eggplants. Eggplant farmers raised their productivity by 20% by implementing new farming methods.

This was enabled by technologies that precisely control variables such as humidity and CO2, which were developed over many years by Kochi Prefecture and Kochi University. Kochi University is conducting world-class horticultural research in cooperation with the Netherlands, and attracting students from countries all over the world such as the Philippines and Kenya. Even among Japanese students, 90% come from outside the prefecture.

My administration will create a wave of young people moving to the local regions. Using new allocations, we will support the development of dazzling local universities that conduct world-class research in specific fields, such as cutting-edge science, tourism, and agriculture. Young people will rush to the regions, believing that “these are the places with opportunities” to study and work. This is the kind of regional vitalization we will promote.

Ms. Chiharu Yasuoka, who studied the food business at Kochi University, has endeavored to develop sauce and jam products using tomatoes cultivated in Hidaka Village. Orders are now coming in from all over Japan, and these popular products have sales of over 10 million yen per year. These special tomato products create new added value, and have brought new vitality to Hidaka Village.

We will continue to support the ingenuity and passion of local people with 100 billion yen in local economic vitalization allocations. In order to encourage independent local initiatives in the area of social security, we will firmly secure financial resources by reviewing local consumption tax, which tends to favor cities, to place importance on population size for allocation.

Weeding, protecting ridges, and conserving water. This work, which spans across generations of farmers working hard every day as they till the fields, has protected the upland areas and abundant mountains of Japanese hometowns, created specialty products that regions can be proud of, and formed Japan’s beautiful rural landscape. By making use of items unique to each local area and local characteristics, we will strongly advance regional vitalization across all of Japan.

(Tourism-oriented country)

The former Nara Juvenile Prison, one of the Important Cultural Properties built during the Meiji Era in the early 1900s, will be transformed into a hotel in three years’ time. Japan is home to numerous tourism resources that are not fully utilized. We will amend the Law on Protection of Cultural Properties, and promote the use of our treasured cultural properties found across the nation. In addition, through attracting private investment while protecting their beautiful environment, our national parks full of natural gems will be harnessed as tourism resources. By enabling many people to have contact with national parks and understand their importance, we will ensure that they are preserved for posterity.

The number of foreign visitors to Japan has reached 28.69 million people, setting a new record for the fifth consecutive year. At the same time, the number of visitors to local Japan has recently increased at nearly double the pace of the three largest metropolitan areas of Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka.

Being a tourism-oriented country is a multiplying catalyst for vitalizing local economies.

The number of visitors to Okinawa exceeded the number of visitors to Hawaii as of September last year. Four years ago, only three cruise ships a year visited Miyako-jima Island. Last year, this number rose by more than 40 times to 130 ships. Quay construction will move into full swing with a view to starting the operations of a new cruise ship terminal in 2020. We will aim to turn this terminal into a logistics hub in Asia, and continue with our efforts for the promotion and development of Okinawa.

In accordance with the Integrated Resort Promotion Law, we will submit a bill on the implementation of actual measures to develop Japanese-style tourism complexes. Based on the discussions that have taken place in the Diet, we will address issues such as countering gambling addiction, and promote resorts offering leisure and recreation services all in one place, which will attract visitors from all over the world.

We will expand takeoff and landing slots at Haneda and Narita Airports to 1 million, the highest level in the world. To achieve this major target, we will implement noise reduction measures to allow for flight path changes and, with the understanding of the local communities, expand the slots by 80,000 by 2020.

Revenues from the tourism promotion tax will be used to install gates so that travelers can pass through immigration using instant facial recognition technology. Through such measures we will create a comfortable traveling environment that befits Japan as a leading nation in tourism.

We will make every effort to achieve our goal of 40 million foreign visitors to Japan by 2020.

(Ensuring safety and security)

We will take thorough measures to tackle passive smoking, with our sights set on the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games two years from now. A range of transportation means will be made barrier-free, so that the elderly and people with disabilities can travel without concern. As part of the process of lowering the legal age of adulthood to 18, we will amend the Consumer Contract Law to prevent harm caused by malicious commercial practices targeting young people and others.

Along with taking all possible measures for crisis management, we will implement cybersecurity measures and measures to fight organized crimes such as terrorism in order to advance our efforts to become the safest and most secure nation in the world.

We will create a scheme so that when a natural disaster strikes, the Government can restore major roads on behalf of local governments. This will enable faster rescue operations as well as transport of daily necessities. To swiftly proceed with the development of disaster risk reduction infrastructure, procedures will be established for local governments to utilize lands that have unknown owners.

Last year we again saw a series of natural disasters occur in various areas of Japan. We will take steps to reduce and mitigate disaster risks, further build up national resilience, and continue to provide robust supports for restoration and reconstruction from natural disasters, including the Kumamoto Earthquake and heavy rain in northern Kyushu.

(Reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake)

By the spring of next year, in three prefectures in Tohoku, we expect to have 99% of disaster public housing built, as well as 98% of the construction work completed for relocations to elevated sites.

“We love our town.”

At Otsuchi High School in Iwate Prefecture, which I visited recently, high school students were discussing the future of their town with a serious look on their faces. Their commitment to overcome the challenges from that disaster through their own efforts will be deeply etched in my heart and mind. I will continue to firmly support community building initiatives for reconstruction.

“There can be no revitalization of Japan without the reconstruction of Tohoku.”

With that resolve, we will keep doing everything we can for the revitalization of “nariwai,” or occupations and livelihoods that sustain people’s daily lives, and for the recovery of people’s emotional well-being.

In Fukushima, work has begun to establish reconstruction and revitalization hubs in difficult-to-return-zones. By having FY2022 as a target, we will carry out decontamination and infrastructure development accordingly. However long it may take, we will steadily press forward with reconstruction and revitalization with the aim of lifting evacuation orders in all regions.

The Fukushima Innovation Coast Scheme is set to enter into full swing. Namie Town will begin construction of the world’s largest-class hydrogen production plant this summer. It will produce hydrogen from renewable energy, becoming a model for new energy supply with zero CO2 emissions. We will use Fukushima’s clean hydrogen at the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and emphasize the theme that is emblematic of the reconstruction to the world.

Off the coast, full-fledged operations of the world’s first floating offshore wind power generation have begun. To further adopt offshore wind power generation, we will create a new system that will allow for exclusive use of sea areas for power generation.

Having sustained significant impact from the nuclear power accident, Fukushima will be one of the first regions to demonstrate what a future energy society will look like, and drive decarbonization in the world.

6. Diplomacy and Security

(Proactive contribution to peace)

We will move forward with developing a strategy for achieving the 2050 goals in the Paris Agreement. Japan’s excellent environmental technologies will contribute to both realizing world economic growth and fighting climate change.

To achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Japan will exercise strong leadership in the international community for finding solutions to the full array of issues related to human security, including poverty reduction, health and hygiene, and women’s empowerment.

Last month, we saw the finalization of the negotiations of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between Japan and the European Union (EU). The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) among 11 countries also reached an agreement in principle at the ministerial level. Japan will strive for their early entry into force. We will, as the standard-bearers of free trade, continue to scale up a 21st century economic order based on free and fair rules to the broader world.

Japan has long forged amicable relationships with all Middle Eastern countries, and has fulfilled a proactive role in peace and stability in this region through the provision of supports including refugee and humanitarian assistance and economic assistance. We will continue to contribute in whatever ways we can for the realization of peace in the Middle East.

Under the banner of “Proactive Contribution to Peace,” we remain fully committed to achieving world peace and prosperity by working hand-in-hand with the international community.

(Responses to North Korean issues)

That peace and prosperity, however, are now under threat. North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missiles represents an unprecedentedly grave and urgent threat. It is no exaggeration to say that the security environment surrounding Japan is the most severe in postwar history.

We will make North Korea abandon its nuclear and missile programs in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner. Furthermore, we will resolve the abductions issue, which is still our top priority. In order to compel North Korea to change its policies, we will engage in resolute diplomacy without giving into any acts of provocation.

Three years ago we passed the Legislation for Peace and Security. As tensions run high over the North Korean situation, the Self-Defense Forces of Japan conducted a mission to protect a US Forces vessel and aircraft for the first time. An alliance that allows two nations to provide mutual aid will further deepen their ties.

My fellow honorable members of the Diet, there is no doubt that the Japan-U.S. Alliance has become stronger than ever.

(Strengthening of defense capabilities)

In the face of escalating North Korean provocations, we will prepare for all situations and take concrete actions based on the strong Japan-U.S. Alliance. In close coordination with the United States, we will maintain a high alert posture and protect the lives and peaceful livelihoods of the Japanese people in any situation.

At the core of our security policies will be the efforts that we make. We will look squarely at the reality of the increasingly severe security environment, and strengthen our defense capabilities, including introducing Aegis Ashore and stand-off missiles.

We will also proceed with reviewing the National Defense Program Guidelines in the lead-up to the year-end. While maintaining our exclusively defense-oriented policy as a given, I intend to identify what defense capabilities we truly need to protect the people, rather than simply extending existing capabilities.

(Deterrence through the Japan-U.S. Alliance)

The Japan-U.S. Alliance has been and will continue to be the cornerstone of Japan’s diplomacy and security.

I have held more than 20 meetings with President Trump including our telephone talks. Based on our relationship of trust on a personal level, we will together tackle a range of global issues.

At the end of last month, 4,000 ha of the Northern Training Area of the U.S. Forces in Okinawa returned to the landowners, more than 70 years after the end of World War II. This was the largest return of lands since Okinawa was returned to Japan. Furthermore, two supplementary agreements to the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) concerning the environment and the civilian component were concluded for the first time.

While maintaining the deterrence of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, we will continue to pay close attention to the feelings of the people of Okinawa and make utmost efforts to alleviate the impact of U.S. military bases. It goes without saying that safety must be ensured for the flights of U.S. Forces aircraft. The Government will continue to urge the United States to give maximum considerations to safety and minimize the impact on local residents.

We must work to accomplish, as quickly as possible, the total return of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma, which is surrounded by schools and residences and is said to be the most dangerous airfield in the world. We will move forward with construction work to relocate MCAS Futenma to off the coast of Henoko, Nago City, in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling on the case. The relocation will be limited to one of the three base functions. It will dramatically improve safety by enabling flight paths to occur over water. In addition, zero homes in Futenma will need to be soundproofed, when soundproofing used to be needed for anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 homes. The Abe Cabinet, based on a relationship of trust with the United States, will deliver results one by one to alleviate the impact of the bases in Okinawa.

(Diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map)

It has been five years since I took office as Prime Minister. I have visited 76 countries and regions and held 600 summit meetings, aspiring to contribute to world peace and prosperity as well as pursue our national interests boldly and actively. I will continue to engage more proactively in diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map.

Japan will work together with countries with which we share fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. We will work hand-in-hand with the United States, as well as Europe, ASEAN members, Australia, India, and other countries to ensure the peace and prosperity of this region stretching from Asia and the Pacific Rim to the Indian Ocean.

A vast expanse of sea stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean. Since ancient times the people of this region have enjoyed affluence and prosperity from this large and free body of water. Freedom of navigation and the rule of law form their bedrock. We must ensure that these waters are a public good that brings peace and prosperity to all people without discrimination into the future. To this end we will promote the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.

Based on this overall direction, we will also work with China to meet the growing infrastructure demand in Asia. Japan and China share significant responsibilities for the peace and prosperity of the region, and maintain an inseparable relationship. We will fulfill the expectations of the international community by deepening our friendly relationship in a stable manner from a broad perspective.

This year marks the major milestone of the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China. Exchanges between the people of both countries will be enhanced dynamically at all levels, including business, culture, tourism, and sports. We hope to host a Japan-China-ROK Summit as early as possible and welcome Premier Li Keqiang to Japan. I hope to visit China at an appropriate timing and realize President Xi Jinping’s visit to Japan at the earliest possible time. Through conducting more mutual visits at a high level, we will elevate the Japan-China relationship to a new level.

With President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea (ROK), we will work to deepen the cooperative relationship between us for a new era with a future-oriented perspective, by building on the international agreements between our two nations and on our mutual trust.

The relationship between Japan and Russia has the most potential of any bilateral relationship. Last September, former residents were able to make grave visits on Kunashiri and Etorofu Islands by airplane for the first time. We will make further progress on our joint economic activities on the Four Northern Islands and the eight-point economic cooperation plan, and enhance Japan-Russia ties. Furthermore, we will steadily carry through with the items agreed upon in Nagato one by one to resolve the territorial issue and conclude a Japan-Russia peace treaty. Building on my deep relationship of trust with President Putin, I will further enhance our relations for cooperating on the various issues facing the international community, including the issues of North Korea.

Last month, the United Nations Security Council, including China and Russia, unanimously adopted a robust resolution that toughens United Nations sanctions on North Korea to an unprecedented level. Japan will further strengthen our collaboration with neighboring countries for our regional peace and prosperity.

7. Conclusion

Based on an Imperial Household Council meeting, it was decided that the Special Measures Law on the Imperial Household Law will be put into effect on April 30, 2019. We will put forth every possible effort to ensure that the abdication of His Majesty the Emperor and the accession of His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince to the Imperial Throne takes place flawlessly amidst the good wishes of the Japanese people.

(Pooling our efforts)

“I will seek to enrich our lands 50 and 80 years into the future,” said a man by the name of Kinpara Meizen.

Tenryu River flooded repeatedly and caused hardship to local villagers 150 years ago. In order to protect the village from floods into posterity, Meizen embarked on a project to control the flooding by planting trees.

This was an enormous project involving the planting of 3 million trees in 600 ha of barren land. Still, many people supported Meizen’s cause and moved with him to the hills in order to plant the trees.

People with strength plowed the hills and planted seedlings. People good at climbing trees cut off branches. Women and children removed ivies and weeds. Each person made the most of their individual strengths.

The forest that was created with many people joining forces is still, to this day, 100 years later, revered as a deity protecting the fertile Enshu plains.

By pooling the strengths of many people, we can carve out a new era. Honorable members of the Diet, let us work together across party lines to turn Japan into a nation that offers plenty of opportunities for everyone.

I will engage in nation-building efforts that look ahead to the next 50 and 100 years. It is the Constitution that describes the national framework and ideal nation. I hope all political parties will bring to the Diet a concrete proposal for the Constitution and deepen discussions at the Commissions on the Constitution, in order to make strides on this matter.

The future is not granted to us. It is created with the efforts made by each and every one of us. I ask you to join me in promoting now a new nation-building effort for our children and grandchildren.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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