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Press Conference by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama

4 January 2010
[Provisional Translation]

Opening Remarks by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama

Happy New Year to all of you. First, let me express my hope that 2010 will prove to be a wonderful year for you all.

Last year, the Japanese people brought about a once-in-a-century change of government. We regard this not as an end, but as a beginning. In place of a politics in which everything is left to bureaucrats, we intend to introduce a new kind of politics in which the people are the protagonists. Thanks to your support, we were able to bring about a change of government in order to implement such bold reforms on a once-in-a-century scale. Now we begin this task in earnest. More than a hundred days have passed since the change of government. I suspect there is much to be desired [concerning the current one].
We have been going through trial and error and have faced a number of difficulties. I believe, however, that the public senses that politics has begun to change.

As Prime Minister, I am determined to return to my original intentions and ideals and to build, together with the people, a new politics, a politics for the people. I believe resolutely that this year is the moment of truth for our programme.

On New Year's Day, I visited the National Olympics Memorial Youth Centre in [the Tokyo district of] Shibuya, which was being used as a shelter for workers who have lost their jobs and housing due to the severe economic situation. There I met many people who are having trouble making a living. Over the next twelve months, I am determined to build a politics that protects people's lives and in which the government is able to provide strong support for people who need a place to live and who want to work but cannot find a job, so that everyone who lives in Japan can enjoy the minimum standards of living guaranteed by the Constitution. When it comes to protecting people's lives, many are worried about the economy and the employment situation. We are committed to preventing the economy from falling into a double-dip recession. It was in this spirit that we prepared the Emergency Economic Countermeasures for Future Peace of Mind and Growth on a total project scale of 24 trillion yen at the end of last year, based on which we have formulated the second supplementary budget [for fiscal 2009]. We intend to pass the second supplementary budget as soon as possible to provide people with a sense of economic well-being, even if on a small scale.

This year we intend to start fulfilling the many pledges we made in the [Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ)'s] Manifesto for the general election and in the Agreement for a Three-Party Coalition Government. These include the child allowance, the making of education at public senior high schools effectively free and the individual household income support system for [commercial] farming households. In formulating [the government's draft of] the fiscal 2010 budget, we strived to present a new kind of politics that thoroughly protects people's lives by including measures in such areas as employment, support for small and medium-sized enterprises, child-rearing, pensions, medical care, nursing care, education and the environment. I believe that, when these measures are implemented, the public will regard this as truly groundbreaking. The government will make every effort to secure the early passage of the budget.

At the end of last year, thanks to the efforts of a team led by Deputy Prime Minister Naoto Kan, we laid out [the basic framework of] a new growth strategy designed to protect people's lives and inspire people to face the future with hope and determination. There is a tendency to regard things like the environment and the greying of society as problems that will hold us back, but in formulating the new growth strategy we took the opposite, forward-looking view, seeing them as opportunities. Since the challenge is an environmental one, Japan should build a world-leading environmental industry and make itself the most comfortable country in the world for elderly residents by putting in place various innovative measures for promoting long life and maintaining health. People have so far been made to act for the sake of the economy, but this is surely wrong-headed. This year I want to effect a change to the idea that the economy must work for the sake of the people, giving greater emphasis to the needs of the demand side, rather than those of the supply side.

The cornerstone of our programme is to change society so that the regions are empowered to take care of their own affairs. The idea that the central government should take the lead in everything is out of date. Everything that can be done by the regions should be considered and decided by the regions. Changing how government works to bring about such a society is the very essence of politics whose protagonists are the people. It was to this end that we recently launched the Local Sovereignty Strategy Council.

Serving as chairman of the Council, I intend to address this theme for example by promptly establishing legal grounds for a forum for consultation between the national government and the regions. I also hope to instate a change from administration through [local] grants [for specific purposes determined in Tokyo] to a system of block grants [over which the regions have real control] by comprehensively reviewing the obligations (gimuzuke) and frameworks (wakuzuke) imposed [by the central government] on the regions [as a condition for using grant funds], and ensuring that budgets are formulated for the benefit of local communities. Through changes like these, I want to make this a year in which people gain a real sense that the relationship between the government and the regions has changed.

To this end, we must step up our efforts to establish political leadership over the policy-making process with a sense of urgency. I want to make preparations to enable politicians to play a greater, more effective role in the Cabinet. I believe it is extremely important to renew the institutions of government. We have already abolished the Administrative Vice Ministers' Meeting, and thanks to the tremendous efforts of the so-called "council of the three political-level appointees" [the Minister, Senior Vice Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries] in each government ministry, I believe we have made a positive start in establishing political leadership. I am determined to take further steps in this direction.

The recent review of government programmes (jigyou shiwake) received high praise from the public. I intend to extend the scope of this review to the issues of regulatory and institutional reform so that it actively addresses reforms of bodies such as independent administrative institutions and public service corporations. Active discussions would take place on, for example, whether certain independent administrative institutions are no longer necessary, or changes are required. I also intend to enforce further the ban on amakudari [golden parachuting], among other measures.

I believe that, in a certain sense, foreign policy and national security represent half of what governing a nation entails. During my first hundred days in office last year, I went on eight foreign trips. I had numerous discussions with other national leaders, in particular of Asian nations, and I feel that they truly sensed that Japan is changing, slowly but steadily, after its change of government.

I also believe that they got a sense that Japan is delivering a message commensurate with its stature on issues such as climate change, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

Furthermore, it is my intention to make this a year, on the one hand to maintain the Japan-US alliance as a cornerstone [of Japan's foreign policy], while on the other to attach importance to relations with Asia and advance the East Asian community initiative. For this we must resolve the issue of the relocation of Futenma Air Station. With respect to this issue, we will pay close attention to the sentiment of the people of Okinawa Prefecture; at the same time, there is the Japan-US agreement to [keep in mind]. Based on all this, I do not intend to waste any time. I promise the nation that, having set a firm deadline, we will within several months reach a solution which would gain the understanding of the people of both Okinawa Prefecture and the United States. This will be done through thorough discussions to be conducted at the committee which was set up among the three parties in the ruling coalition to examine this issue. I feel that this issue [concerning Futenma] will be one central point, so to speak, in the Japan-US security relationship. In future, I trust that people will come to say that while it took some time, the end result was quite satisfactory.

This year is not the moment of truth for the Democratic Party of Japan and the coalition government. It is the moment of truth in terms of whether people are convinced that political power has been returned to their hands. I want to make this a year during which grandfathers and grandmothers can say that society now gives them peace of mind; during which younger people can say, "I want to work and I have a job," not "I want to work but can't find a job". I want to make this a year during which children feel they can move forward into the future with hope. These are my sentiments.

I vow to you that under my leadership, the Cabinet this year will dedicate itself entirely to its tasks, never forgetting the fundamental fact that it exists for the sake of the Japanese people. This is my message in the New Year.

I ask for your continued support. Thank you.


QUESTION: Happy New Year. The election for the House of Councillors, the major political contest [this year], shall take place in the summer. I would like to ask how you intend to approach this election. Firstly, will you go into the election with the Cabinet membership as it now stands, or are you planning to create a new line-up by reshuffling the Cabinet, perhaps right before the contest?

Secondly, are you at present considering the possibility of a double election in both the Houses of Representatives and Councillors?

In addition--and this may be something for you to answer as President of the DPJ rather than as Prime Minister--what do you see as your target for the election, the line separating victory from defeat? These are the three things I would like to ask.

PRIME MINISTER: As I just stated, for now, the immediate tasks are to pass the budget and to protect the lives of the people. I hope to use this year to add even greater momentum to my government. Therefore, at this stage I am focusing entirely on how to work in the Diet to pass the budget for the sake of the people, and how to create politics which protects their lives. This is not the proper timing for me to comment on the upcoming House of Councillors election, I believe.

In short, I am giving no thought to such questions as whether there will be a Cabinet reshuffle before the election, much less whether to hold elections for both houses of the Diet on the same day. These things are not in my mind. The first order of business is to do my best up to the time of the election. At that point, I believe, strategies for the House of Councillors contest will come of their own accord. Now, at the beginning of the year, I feel I am in no position to comment on what the victory line for us would be.

QUESTION: This month will see the convocation of the ordinary session of the Diet. Just now you touched on the budget, but there are other bills which may be seen as key legislation, such as those to upgrade the National Policy Unit to bureau-level status and to grant local suffrage to permanent foreign residents. With respect to the passage of these key bills, when and how you hope to gain approval? Also, during this Diet session, with regard to the issue of falsified political donations, you will likely be pressed to take political responsibility and asked by the opposition for further explanation of how the money was used. How do you plan to deal with this?

PRIME MINISTER: Firstly, with regard to the bills before the Diet, some coordination needs to take place with members of the ruling coalition, not least [the party side of] the DPJ. That coordination has yet to be completed. There are discussions of [submitting] bills on establishing firm political leadership in government so to speak, on amendments to the Diet Act and on [granting] local suffrage [to permanent foreign residents]. On these we will duly coordinate with the ruling parties. This is of the essence.

Once this has been done, of course we will submit the bills to the Diet, but I believe the coordination needs to be completed first. The thing necessary before this, though, is to pass the supplementary budget [for fiscal 2009] and the budget [for fiscal 2010], whose purpose is to protect the daily lives of the people. Once this is done, I hope to submit various bills and have them passed [as well].

As for my own personal political funding, you are aware of the situation on this matter as it evolved at the end of last year. I held a press conference then on this matter. I believe I have explained the facts as best I can within the limits of my knowledge. Yet since there were aspects of the matter that I had been unable to understand myself, I suspect there are aspects which the public finds hard to fathom. As for my duty to explain, I shall continue to discharge it so far as possible. As far as the prosecutors are concerned, they have reached their conclusion, and I think matters have been brought to a close along those lines concerning the so-called falsified political donations issue. But in the event there is a debate in the Diet on this issue, I of course intend do my best to answer questions. While the question remains to what extent I can ascertain such details as how the money was actually spent, I will strive to offer a satisfactory account.

QUESTION: You spoke earlier about Japan-US relations. I recall that this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Japan-US Security Treaty. Could you describe your ideas on the alliance, and give a concrete image of what you think is the ideal state of the relationship?

PRIME MINISTER: I believe this year, which marks the fiftieth anniversary of the revision of the Japan-US Security Treaty, is an extremely significant one. I should very much like to take advantage of the opportunity. There is no doubt that national security is the fulcrum of the Japan-US Security Treaty, but I believe it is important to remind people that the relationship between Japan and the United States is an indispensable one for both countries on many levels. These include cooperation to address global issues. There is the problem of climate change and nuclear non-proliferation. We should increase our relationship of trust by actively expressing our respective positions on these issues and saying clearly what needs to be said. It is no good avoiding difficult subjects and simply doing as the other side says; instead, we should be able to say clearly what we think needs to be said. And through such an approach, we will develop greater trust between us. This is the kind of relationship I want to build between Japan and the United States. I think this will be an important year for deepening the Japan-US alliance in a multi-layered fashion.

QUESTION: I should like to ask about amending the Constitution. In the past, you have published draft proposals on a new Constitution, and you alluded to the subject again at the end of last year. Do you indeed intend to proceed with amendment? And if so, what parts of the Constitution would you change, and how? How would the debate proceed? And do you intend to bring the Deliberative Council on the Constitution into play?

PRIME MINISTER: I believe that every politician and member of the Diet should have his or her own view on the kind of Constitution we should have. It was in that sense that I put my own tentative draft of an ideal Constitution before the public for debate. Rather than questions of national security, these were based on the idea of radically changing the relationship between the national government and the regions, thus on the idea of local sovereignty.

On the other hand, there is a stipulation that requires me as Prime Minister to uphold the Constitution. Obviously, this requires me to do my job from the perspective of defending the Constitution. With this in mind, I think it is vital as we move forward with the debate to draw together the opinions of the three coalition ruling parties, in particular within the DPJ. Being as I am a member of the Diet I should not shun debate on the Constitution, yet on the other hand the most foremost task for the government is to find solutions to the serious difficulties currently faced by the people such as the current economic situation. Taking this into account, as well as my duty to abide by the Constitution, I believe debate on [the possibility of amending] the Constitution should be conducted among the ruling coalition parties, or rather on a non-partisan basis [including the opposition parties].

Consequently, a decision concerning the Deliberative Council on the Constitution should be reached through discussions in the Diet among the ruling and opposition parties.

QUESTION: My question is related to the first one, and perhaps would have been better asked when the new government was formed [in September 2009]. Did you put together your cabinet with the intention that the present ministers, some of whom are here with you today, would stay in office at least until the next general election, or are you considering a cabinet reshuffle as necessary? A long-lived cabinet would seem to be preferable, particularly from the standpoint of establishing firm political leadership in government.

PRIME MINISTER: I think this is an extremely important question. If the composition of the cabinet were to change constantly, not only would public trust in the government suffer, but it would be very difficult for ministers to make any kind of impression internationally. This would result in a reduced overseas presence for Japan. Therefore I would like members of my Cabinet to remain in office as long as possible. I do not believe that chopping and changing the Cabinet at will would be in the interests of the country.