Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Following the Cabinet Reshuffle
August 27, 2007
[Opening remarks by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe]
PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: The result of last month's election for the House of Councillors was very harsh indeed. In acceptance of the critical voices of the people and in order to make a new start on the creation of a beautiful and new country and to continue with the reforms, I have today reshuffled the Cabinet. In addition, I have established a new structure for the party leadership.
Ever since assuming the post of Prime Minister last September, I have exerted myself to the fullest extent for the building of our country. During the intervening period, however, the people's trust in politics and in the administration has been lost, because of inappropriate remarks made by some Cabinet members, "politics and money" issues, the problems surrounding the nation's pension records, and so on.
To recover this lost trust in politics and in the administration, I have set my mind on doing the very best I can with the members of the new Cabinet to build real achievements. One lesson we have learned from the result of the recent election is that politics should pay greater consideration to the issue of the disparities existing between the central and local regions.
Although the New Economic Growth Strategy we have been implementing for the last 11 months has certainly brought about a recovery of the economy, it is also true that there are still regions where people cannot actually feel the recovery and are unable to dream of a better future. While I was on a campaign tour in the regions, I received requests from people for measures that would give their sons and daughters local employment.
We should listen attentively to such opinions, accept them with sincerity, and respond to them with policies.
In the present Cabinet reshuffle, I have appointed Mr. Hiroya Masuda, who has had experience as a prefectural governor, as the Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications. We will do all we can as the new Cabinet to support regional revitalization. Accordingly, the Cabinet members should actively visit the regions to listen directly to people's voices. What is important is to listen in person to what the people in the regions are really seeking, and to reflect these wishes in the government's policies in a conscientious manner.
It goes without saying that we must continue with the reforms. With the population shrinking and the economy becoming globalized, there is no way that Japan can get by without implementing reforms. We have a responsibility to future generations. I am determined to press on and move ahead with the necessary reforms to fulfill that responsibility, no matter how difficult. This is my unflinching resolution and belief.
At the same time, we must send out a clear message that we both understand and are making real efforts to deal with the pain that may accompany the reforms. We are aware of the need to make ever greater endeavors to find ways to alleviate this pain.
Unless we continue with the reforms, develop the economy and press on with the New Economic Growth Strategy, we will not be able to distribute the fruits generated by these efforts to the regions, or to the people who are actually bearing the pain of the reforms. In that sense, we must steadily proceed with the New Economic Growth Strategy while distributing the favorable results produced by the strategy to people who are living with and feeling the pain. Based on this philosophy, we will proceed further with the reforms and the New Economic Growth Strategy.
In the diplomatic arena, I have advanced my advocacy of "proactive diplomacy." We must continue to fulfill our responsibility to regional and world peace and security, while making contributions to the international community, as is expected of us.
Now that I have completed the Cabinet reshuffle, I am confident that I have put together a strong lineup with the right people in the right posts to meet a variety of domestic and diplomatic challenges.
It is true that we are in a very difficult situation with the positions of the ruling and opposition parties now reversed in the House of Councillors, but we should squarely develop discussions before the people and engage in constructive debate while asserting what needs to be asserted and listening to the Democratic Party of Japan and the other opposition parties. That is the policy we will take with us into the coming Diet session.
Both the ruling and opposition parties have a responsibility to the people. We will make sure to engage in constructive debate for the sake of the people.
I will now take your questions.
QUESTION 1: At this Cabinet reshuffle, you have appointed Mr. Kaoru Yosano as the Chief Cabinet Secretary and Mr. Yoichi Masuzoe as the Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare.
With this Cabinet, what are you going to undertake as your highest priority tasks? Also, when you announced that you would continue as Prime Minister, you said, "I reflect upon what needs to be reflected upon." Within this context, how are you positioning the policy of making a break with the postwar regime? Will this policy be continued from now on too? Or will you be re-examining it?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: This time, I asked Mr. Yosano to take up the post of Chief Cabinet Secretary. Mr. Yosano has a long record of political experience and has served in a variety of important posts. He is also a person with superb coordination skills. Against the backdrop of the severe Diet situation, I am expecting Mr. Yosano to display his outstanding coordination skill, utilize his political experience, and exert his administrative capabilities.
Mr. Masuzoe stated when he became a politician that he was going to undertake social welfare policy as his life's work. He is very knowledgeable about medical issues and he also has an extremely detailed knowledge of pensions. He also has the ability to explain things to others in an easy to understand way. I trust that he will make good use of these qualities and abilities.
We must make an effort to increase the level of transparency in political funding in accepting the result of the election for the House of Councillors and in the face of the "money and politics" issues. I myself will also be making an effort to increase transparency. Revision of the Political Funds Control Law is one such area that I will work on to restore people's trust in politics.
Clearly it is also important to solve the pension record problems.
We will also continue our efforts for education rebuilding.
We will proceed with the New Economic Growth Strategy in order to keep the economy, which has finally started its strong recovery, expanding.
To make a break with the postwar regime means to review the system that was established after the end of the war from the starting point. The education rebuilding aimed at the resolution of education issues is one effort toward such a break, and reforming the civil servant system is yet another effort. There has been no change in my policy of breaking away from the postwar regime.
In addition, how did you consider the "politics and money" issues in reshuffling the Cabinet and making personnel decisions? In the event that such a problem comes to light again with a Cabinet member, how do you intend to deal with it?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: Let me explain about the Anti-terrorism Special Measures Law. The 9/11 terrorist attacks were a terrible incident in which the precious lives of 24 Japanese people were also lost. In the wake of these attacks, the whole world, the international community has come together in the fight against terrorism. Japan too is making an important contribution, and the Japanese contribution is also relied upon. The Anti-terrorism Special Measures Law exists for this reason, and I will make an effort to obtain the understanding of the DPJ and the entire opposition camp. The revision to the law will naturally be an important bill in the upcoming Diet session.
We must make an effort to increase transparency in political funding to resolve the "politics and money" issues. Cabinet members must explain themselves when problems are pointed out. The members of my Cabinet have taken up their posts in readiness to leave the Cabinet in the event that they are unable to provide satisfactory explanations.
PRIME MINISTER ABE: In organizing the present Cabinet I have focused on people's ability to execute policies. Within that context, I placed the right people in the right posts. As a result, experienced people, or veterans, and people who have held a variety of offices have been appointed as Cabinet members.
The special advisors system is intended to establish the political leadership of the Prime Minister's Office in politics. The idea behind this was to make a change from the initiative of bureaucracy, and five politicians were serving the posts accordingly. I am quite certain that each one of the special advisors has achieved a variety of results, and I was also sure that some had just about completed their roles.
The abduction issue is an outstanding issue that must be solved, so the Special Advisor in charge of this issue is remaining in office. Speaking of the education rebuilding, the Education Rebuilding Council will be announcing its final report this December. The rebuilding of education has just started, and its results will be produced gradually one by one, so I have asked Ms. Eriko Yamatani to remain in office as well.
Political leadership of the Prime Minister's Office can only be realized unless we try various approaches.
PRIME MINISTER ABE: I became Prime Minister after being elected to the Diet five times, so I think it is only natural that there are a lot of people who have been elected more times than I have, and this is something to be expected.
With regard to the point that they have distinguished personalities, in my experience all politicians have distinguished personalities. In these circumstances, I have appointed many experienced people. Many of them have been elected more times than I have. Among them, I asked those who have accepted the election result sincerely, and who at the same time agree about how we should proceed with the reforms and how we should proceed with the growth strategy, to join the Cabinet. I am convinced that with such a Cabinet lineup we will be able to tackle the issues in front of us with great unity.
Also, you said that you wished to talk with the DPJ, but do you think that there is scope for discussions with the DPJ about the policies with which you are in conflict with the DPJ, such as the education reform and reform of the civil servant system?
PRIME MINISTER ABE: In the Diet, the majority is with the ruling parties in the House of Representatives and with the opposition parties in the House of Councillors. However, in as much as both the ruling parties and the opposition parties have a responsibility to the people, both are in the same position. From this perspective, we must hold constructive discussions.
On such issues as rebuilding education, reforming education, and changing the mechanism of the civil servant system that was set up after the war, both the ruling parties and the opposition parties recognize the necessity to make changes. The key is the way we bring about these changes. I am confident that we can certainly hold constructive discussions if we discuss the issues with each other from a responsible position.