Speeches and Statements by Prime Minister Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet top page

Policy Speech by Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama
at the 174th Session of the Diet

29 January 2010
[Provisional Translation]

1. Introduction

I want to protect people's lives.

This is my wish: to protect people's lives.

I want to protect the lives of those who are born; of those who grow and mature.

I want to bring change to the sort of society where a young couple gives up having children because the economic burden is cause for unease. We must build a society in which children, who will support our future, are free to pursue their limitless potential.

I want to protect working people's lives.

Securing employment is an urgent issue. In addition to that, however, I want to create a society in which those who have lost their jobs and those who, for a variety of reasons, are continuing to search for work can remain active as members of the community, not losing their opportunities to interact with others. I hope to consider a new type of community in which all people can feel a connection with society, having a place where they belong and a role to play - through economic activity, of course, but also cultural, sports, volunteer and other activities.

At no time, no matter what the situation, must we allow people to fall into isolation.

We must put an end to incidents where elderly people living alone face a solitary death with nobody to attend to them. We must build a society in which all people can live their lives without becoming isolated in their local community.

I want to protect lives around the world.

It is my desire to create the kind of future in which children yet to be born will come of age and learn about the threat of nuclear weapons only as a lesson of the past from history textbooks.

Let us create a society in which children around the world no longer lose their lives to starvation, infectious disease, armed conflict or landmines. As a responsibility of the international community, we must secure for the world's children lives in which everyone can drink clean water, be free from discrimination and prejudice, enjoy protection of human rights and receive basic education.

I hope to create a network to protect people's lives - beginning in Asia and extending to cover the entire world - in order to keep the spread of damage from events like the recent Haiti earthquake to a minimum via international cooperation and to prevent so far as possible pandemics of new infectious diseases.

I want to protect the life of the Earth.

The universe is 13.7 billion years old, and 4.6 billion years have passed since the Earth's formation. Compared with this long timeline, the last 10,000 years - during which humans emerged and came to live in civilisations, giving rise to the so-called "homosphere" - are a very short period indeed. Within that short span, though, we have advanced the clock on our planet with surprising speed. We are squandering its resources, causing great damage to the global environment and causing drastic change to the ecosystem the likes of which has never been seen before. Of the roughly 30 million living species said to inhabit the planet, an estimated 40,000 are now going extinct each year. Our modern industrial activities and lifestyles have brought a wealth of benefits to our lives; at the same time, though, we must realise that they are also shortening the time remaining for humans to continue living the civilised lives they do today.

We must make full use of our wisdom and take concrete measures to bring about an appropriate "homosphere" which is in harmony with the system called the Earth. As a society we must act to slow, even by a little bit, the dwindling of the time remaining for our planet. This is the responsibility that we, who live today, have towards the future. This year, Japan serves as chair of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. In order to be able pass on this irreplaceable Earth to the generations of our children and grandchildren, we must transcend national borders and join forces.

Based on this thinking, I have named the budget for fiscal 2010 a "budget to protect human life". I present this to members of the Diet and the whole nation as a first step towards forming a new Japan, asking for an active debate.

2. My Vision for Japan's Future

When I visited India late last year, I was able to fulfil my wish to lay a wreath at Raj Ghat, a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, whom I greatly respect. The memorial is inscribed with the Seven Social Sins that Gandhi chronicled more than 80 years ago. They are:

"Politics without principles";

"Wealth without work";

"Pleasure without conscience";

"Knowledge without character";

"Commerce without morality";

"Science without humanity"; and

"Worship without sacrifice".

I was struck by how Gandhi's words incisively point to the problems facing Japan and the world today. Has the economy that sustained the material wealth of the twentieth century made people rich, in the true sense of the word, and happy? How should we control the excesses of "commerce without morality" and "wealth without work" while maintaining a capitalist society? What kinds of economy, politics, society and education are desirable to enable people to live happy lives befitting human beings? Such are the philosophical questions posed by the state of our world today.

Furthermore, what kind of nation should Japan aspire to be within Asia, within the world and as a member of the international community?

Having achieved a change of government, this session of the Diet will see us submit our first [principal annual] budget as a coalition government consisting of the Democratic Party of Japan, the Social Democratic Party and the People's New Party. It was for this reason that I resolved, as I stood before the Gandhi memorial, to begin this speech by presenting my political ideals to the members of the Diet and the entire nation.

(An Economy for Human Beings, Once Again)

Economic globalisation and advances in information and communications technology have made our lives more convenient by the day and have made us astonishingly rich in material terms. At the same time, however, situations arise in which we are unable control the economic system we ourselves created, as seen in the financial crisis of 2008.

The mission of this government is to build an economy that serves to bring about human happiness, instead of having human beings exist as servants of the economy.

In the past, an emphasis on contributing to society was a prominent tradition of Japan's corporate culture. The fact that Japan is home to around 20,000 long-established companies with histories of more than 100 years, which have been sustained by long-standing relations of trust with their workers, regular clients, business partners and communities, is proof that Japanese companies have occupied a firm place as a "community" within society. Now is the time to put forward this Japanese model of companies that contribute to local communities as members of society even while withstanding international competition. To borrow Gandhi's words, our challenge is to foster "the morality of commerce" and restore "wealth derived from work".

(A Japan Sustained by "a New Public Commons")

Human happiness and the wealth of regional communities cannot be achieved solely by the social contributions of companies and the power of politics.

Today, citizens and non-profit organisations (NPOs) are actively striving to resolve everyday issues like those relating to education, child-rearing, community-building, nursing care and social welfare. Just as the example of the chalk factory that I introduced in my Policy Speech last year inspired empathy among many people, supporting and being of service to people is itself a source of joy and gives purpose in life. We consider the power of people helping each other as in this episode to represent "a new public commons", and we intend to harness this power to build a humane society of self-support and co-existence, to revive the bonds within communities and to slim down the bloated bureaucracy.

The day before yesterday, I held the first meeting of the New Public Commons Roundtable. Through this meeting, we will deepen dialogue with the aim of sharing the thinking behind a "new public commons" more broadly. We will produce, by around May, concrete proposals on social systems for opening to the public areas which were previously monopolised by the bureaucracy and for broadening the players which support this "new public commons", including on the nature of organisations engaged in such activities and the expansion of tax incentives for donations to support their activities.

(Japan as a Nation Founded on Culture)

What kind of country do we intend to build through a "new public commons"?

I want to make Japan a leading nation of culture in the world. When I say "culture" here, I mean it not in the narrow sense of the arts and other cultural activities but as a concept encompassing people's ways of life and patterns of behaviour, the nature of our economy and even our values.

In the face of severe environmental, energy and food constraints, an ageing population and falling birth-rate unprecedented in human history, and other problems, I believe that Japan - as a bridge linking diverse cultures, as the only country to have ever suffered the devastation of atomic bombings and as one of the countries that have reconciled traditional culture and contemporary civilisation to the greatest extent - should present to the world its distinctive ways of life, patterns of behaviour and economic systems that are adapted to this era of many difficult challenges.

Let us make Japan a radiant country admired and loved by people of many countries, a country that makes people yearn to visit at least once, and, if possible, to live in. I want to foster a culture that makes us Japanese people proud of having been born in Japan, one which teaches us to attach importance to understanding and respecting other cultures and makes us trusted members of the international community.

(A Japan That Contributes Human Resources and Wisdom to the World)

The keys to opening the way to a new future are education that cultivates the human spirit and science that creates human potential.

A nation of culture and an economy for human beings have no use for "education without character" which evaluates students simply by numerical grades, or the kind of "science without humanity" that ends up threatening the existence of humankind. We should aim for education that fosters in each individual the "character" to contribute to a larger purpose as members of a regional community, of the Japanese state and of Earth's community of life.

Science, meanwhile, must embody the "humanity" to marshal human wisdom and make a major contribution to the resolution of serious problems that threaten human existence and to the economy for the people. In the fields of disease, energy and the environment, food and water, among others, we need technological innovation on a par with -- yet in an entirely different phase to -- that of the Industrial Revolution. It is science that will give birth to such innovation.

We will take a hard look at the role of education and science, further increase the number of true educators and scientists and direct substantial resources to education and science on a society-wide basis. This is what is meant by the principle of "not spending on concrete, but on people" that I have consistently advocated.

3. To Protect People's Lives

I transformed the budget of the coming fiscal year into a "budget to protect human life". Public-works budgets were reduced by 18.3 per cent, while funding for social security increased by 9.8 per cent and spending on education, culture, and science increased by 5.2 per cent. That we were able to formulate a budget involving major changes of this kind was a result of the change of government chosen by the people.

(Protecting Children's Lives)

We will start a child allowance of 13,000 yen per month, without any income ceiling.

This represents a major first step towards providing support as a society to the raising of children. Further, in order that all young people who harbour aspirations can receive education, we will begin to make high school tuition effectively free. With regard to the clause in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights concerning the "progressive introduction of free tertiary education", we will make the withdrawal of Japan's reservation a concrete goal and continue to look at ways to close the education gap. In addition, under new targets based on our "Vision on Children and Child-rearing", we will work to enhance the provision of childcare services by eliminating day-care waiting lists and integrating the kindergarten and nursery school systems, and will increase access to afterschool childcare services as part of our efforts to create an environment in which the burden on families raising children is shared by society as a whole.

(Reviving Medical Care and Pensions to Protect Human Life)

Restrictions on social security spending and a disregard for the state of medical facilities in the regions have brought public health care to the point of collapse.

In order to get the system back on its feet and re-establish a health care system capable of supporting the public's health, we will increase the number of doctors in training and revise upwards the remuneration for medical services [reimbursed to medical institutions] for the first time in ten years. To ensure adequate medical care for everyone, from infants to the elderly, we will carry out a thorough review of the way these remunerations are allocated, with the aim of improving services in such areas as emergency care, obstetrics, and paediatrics. In the case of hepatitis treatment, which involves a heavy financial burden for patients, we will broaden eligibility for financial assistance and lower the maximum financial threshold of the costs to be borne by patients. We will look for concrete ways to promote integrative medicine with a view to extending healthy life expectancy.

It is also important to establish an environment in which elderly people can be assured of comfort and security as they look back over their lives. To enhance the dependability of the pension system, we will make a concentrated effort over the next two years to address the pension record problem as a "national project", including starting to crosscheck paper and digital pension records.

(Protecting Working People's Lives and Preventing Social Isolation)

The first thing that needs to be done to protect the lives of working people and prevent people from becoming isolated from society is to protect employment. We have considerably relaxed the requirements for receiving the employment adjustment subsidy, thereby increasing support offered to companies that strive to maintain employment [despite a fall in earnings and profits]. Further, in order to strengthen the safety net for non-regular employees, we will drastically expand eligibility for employment insurance.

We will carry out a far-reaching re-examination of the dispatch worker system, which regards labour solely from the perspective of cost and efficiency, or as a mere cog in the production process, and threatens to have an adverse effect on Japan's traditionally high technological standards. We will move to ban in principle "registered-type" dispatch workers and the dispatch of temporary workers to manufacturing jobs. To help those with the desire to work acquire skills and abilities which would be useful also in new industries, we will proceed with preparations to introduce in fiscal 2011 a permanent job-seekers support system that includes an allowance for living expenses.

In order to prevent individuals from becoming isolated, and to create an environment in which everyone ? the young, women, the elderly and those "challenged" by disabilities ? can use their talents to play a full part in society with a sense of purpose and pride, we will work to obtain an accurate understanding of the employment situation and work to rectify the systems and practices that currently act as barriers. We will make efforts to promote gender equality in all areas of society, and will establish the basic principles of reforms aimed at repealing the Services and Supports for Persons with Disabilities Act and ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Further, to build a strong foundation of a society that protects human life, we will bolster anti-suicide measures and work to improve the emergency medical care system through collaboration between fire departments and medical services. Together with the local residents, we will create a society with low crime rates and enhanced crime detection.

4. Turning Crisis into Opportunity: Extending Frontiers

(Creating New Industries to Support Growth for the Sustenance of Life)

One often talks about viewing crises as opportunities. What is the essence of the crisis we face today, and how should we seek to overcome it?

At the end of last year, we announced the "New Growth Strategy (Basic Policies)".

For the Hatoyama government, "growth" does not mean only growth in the conventional sense: growth of economic scale.

Human beings continue to develop their character as they overcome various difficulties and adversities, even after they reach adulthood and stop growing physically. The new "growth" that we aim for must be growth for the people and for the sustenance of life which is brought about through a qualitative self-renewal of the Japanese economy. The driving force that will induce this growth is the "crises" in the environment and energy field as well as the medical, nursing care and health field.

I have set a target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent by 2020 compared to the 1990 level, premised on the establishment of a fair and effective international framework in which all major economies participate and on agreement by those economies on ambitious targets. Some have said our target is excessively ambitious. However, it is the changes such targets will produce that will give us the chance to break the mould of the Japanese economy and create new demand. We will advance "green innovation" by making maximum use of Japan's world-leading environmental technologies. We will enact a Basic Law on Climate Change Countermeasures and accelerate regulatory reforms and the introduction of new systems relating to the environment and energy. Under the "Challenge 25" initiative, we will also mobilise all possible policy tools to transform Japan into a low-carbon society.

The qualitative enhancement of the medical, nursing-care and health industries will not only create a society that protects people's lives but will also create new employment. We will help to bring about a society of health and longevity by promoting research and development in medical and nursing-care technologies and their application in creating new businesses as "life innovation", providing users with the diverse services they need, and other means.

(Asia as a frontier for growth)

One frontier that should be further extended in search of a place for future Japanese activities in the global economy is that of Asia. Japan will seek to share its knowledge and experience with, and grow alongside, those Asian countries that face serious challenges in common with Japan, such as environmental issues, urbanisation, and a low birthrate coupled with an ageing population.

We do not regard Asia as merely an export destination for our products. We will share with Asia new systems that incorporate advanced technologies and services while conserving the environment and ensuring safety, such as smart grids, mass transport systems and advanced information and telecommunications systems, thereby enabling the entire region to partake in prosperity. This will generate new demand within this region and contribute to self-sustaining economic growth.

It is important to have a greater number of non-Japanese, centred on Asians, visit this country, not only to promote economic growth but also to form the foundation for wide-reaching cultural exchanges and friendly relations. We will promote a comprehensive tourism policy, with a goal of increasing the number of non-Japanese visitors to 25 million by the year 2020 and then further to 30 million people, as we refine Japan's points of appeal.

In developing truly necessary infrastructure, including our airports, seaports, and road networks that serve as base points for exchanges with Asia and the rest of the world, we will move forward strategically in light of our severe financial circumstances, utilising the private sector's wisdom as well as its funds.

(The regional economy as a source of growth)

Another new horizon for growth is individual regions within Japan.

Despite local areas' latent potential, the battering of their economies has reached its limit, having been subjected to direct blows from the recent recession in addition to the local regions having been disregarded for many years. We will first of all take all possible measures to promote business activity and increase substantially for the first time in eleven years the tax revenues allocated to local governments, by some 1.1 trillion yen, to ensure the ability to adapt flexibly to future changes in economic conditions. In addition, we will create a budgeting quota at a scale of two trillion yen to promote business activity, aimed at revitalising regional economies and creating employment opportunities.

On this basis, Japan will provide assistance to expand the frontier for growth within local regions.

We shall revitalise Japan's agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries by promoting the shift to a "sixth-order industry," in which production through to processing and distribution are considered in an integrated way, resulting in the creation of new value. I hope that farming households and others newly entering the field of agriculture will utilise the individual household income support system as a springboard for the revival of agriculture.

By combining Japanese culinary tradition, one of the greatest in the world, with advanced technologies for agriculture, forestry and fisheries, we will engender new tourism resources and industrial resources taking advantage of the appeal of our forests and our rural areas. The government will provide solid support for such endeavours as we aim to raise the food self-sufficiency ratio to fifty per cent.

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) sustaining the regional economies are a source of vitality for the Japanese economy. In addition to ensuring that the cash flow of these companies are secure, we will formulate an "SME Charter" and carve out new prospects under which ambitious SMEs will bolster the growth of the Japanese economy.

In addition, in order to stimulate interchanges among the regions, from next fiscal year we will also implement a pilot programme to eliminate highway tolls. We will then move further forward in stages as we assess the programme's impacts.

Basic services of the post office that support the lives of residents in the regions will be guaranteed legally as universal services able to be utilised in a unified manner regardless of the region in which one lives. We will conduct a full-scale review of postal services, including the restructuring of the current managerial configuration of a system of a holding company and four independent companies.

(Achieving Regional Sovereignty)

Decisions on regional matters should be the responsibility of the people who live there. Making regional sovereignty a reality is not a simple matter of reforming the existing system.

The system of centralised power we see today was introduced during the Meiji era under a national policy of "Enrich the Country, Strengthen the Military". The mould was further consolidated under the wartime regime, and became ingrained during the periods of reconstruction and rapid economic growth in the post-war years. Achieving regional sovereignty will involve transforming the current pyramid structure of centralised government and its associated public-sector corporations into an autonomous, flat system of regional sovereignty. This will bring about a major change in the way the country is governed, and represents the most fundamental reform to be undertaken by the Hatoyama government.

We will advance reforms in a prompt, concentrated manner under political leadership in accordance with the timetable set down in our regional sovereignty strategy. As a first step, we will move to abolish all the unnecessary obligations (gimuzuke) and frameworks (wakuzuke) imposed by the central government on the regions [as a condition for granting subsidies], in accordance with our plan for implementing reforms towards decentralisation. In addition, we will do away with the system of local contributions to the funding of public works projects relating to the maintenance of roads, rivers and other types of infrastructure. Further, legislation will be enacted to establish a forum for dialogue between national and regional governments in order to transform the current hierarchical relationship between them into one of equals. In order to secure the fiscal resources necessary to support regional sovereignty, we will draw up an Outline for a Local Sovereignty Strategy that will include abolishing conditional subsidies to local governments and replacing them with "block grants" [whose use can be freely determined by local governments] and drastically reforming regional offices of the national government.

We will also promote "green decentralisation reforms", make a conceptual shift away from concrete roads to fibre cable highways, involving a thorough use of information and communications technologies as we work to revive regional ties and build a foundation for growth suitable to the new age. The government will make concerted efforts to push through reforms to make 2010 the first year of a regional sovereignty revolution.

(Responsible Economic and Fiscal Management)

The biggest issue for economic and fiscal management in the near term is to put the Japanese economy firmly back on the recovery track. Determined not to allow the economy to fall into a double-dip recession, we have drafted the largest-ever principal budget for fiscal 2010, in addition to the second supplementary budget [of fiscal 2009] recently passed, whose project scale is some 24 trillion yen. In addition to executing these two budgets to implement a seamless set of economic measures, we will work with the Bank of Japan to implement more robust and comprehensive economic policies aimed particularly at overcoming deflation.

An important responsibility of politics is to ensure fiscal discipline. In compiling the budget now under debate, we were largely successful in achieving our aim of capping new government bond issues at around 44 trillion yen. We also succeeded in raising the approximately 3 trillion yen necessary for the current government to carry out its policy agenda, by making cuts to the existing budget based on the results of the review of government programmes (jigyou shiwake) and allocating resources returned from the funds managed by public service corporations. Looking towards the future, in the first half of this year we will determine a mid-term fiscal framework that takes into consideration [the situation foreseen over] multiple fiscal years. We will also formulate a strategy for the management of public finances, including the manner of fiscal discipline to be sought over the mid- to long-term, and chart a path towards sound fiscal health.

5. Responsible Politics Aimed at Solving Problems

It is the responsibility of politicians and government officials to implement the policies I have described so far. So long as the government persists in the conventional kind of politics focused on the distribution of resources to interest groups, we will remain mired in Gandhi's "politics without principles". Towards the creation of a new nation, we must instead practise "politics of responsibility".

(Decisively Implementing an Exhaustive Clean-up of Post-war Government)

I believe the review of government programmes and the manner of child-rearing support became topics of considerable discussion in the home and workplace, and a wide range of views were expressed. We conducted the discussion forming part of the process of formulating the budget, which in the past had taken place among bureaucrats in rooms in the Budget Bureau of the Ministry of Finance, out in the public arena as the review of government programmes (jigyou shiwake), with the participation of leading private-sector specialists. It is entirely due to the change of government that we have been able fundamentally to alter the traditional style of budget formulation - which involved [bureaucrats] looking down from on high and tending to look after their own - with citizens involved as active participants and monitors.

The Exhaustive Clean-up of the Post-war Government, however, has only just begun.

We will implement the second phase of the review of government programmes, during which we will continue fundamentally to re-think the form of various regulations and systems, consider whether independent administrative corporations and public interest corporations are truly necessary or whether they have become functionless "shell" organisations which are hotbeds of wasteful spending, as well as sort out and combine the special-purpose budget accounts that have seen continued flows of funding out of the reach of proper oversight. We will review all these areas from the public viewpoint, leaving no sacred areas, in a manner which involves a full-scale restructuring of the entire budget consisting of the general account and special-purpose accounts. The Government Revitalisation Unit shall be given formal legal status and will use its bolstered authority and organisation to press forward with reforms.

(Reforming the System of Government through Political Leadership)

At the same time, it will be essential to review governmental organisations and the nature of national civil servants and to bring about a change in their mode of thinking.

We will do away with vertically-segmented public administration and elevate the National Policy Unit to a bureau-status organisation which formulates the frameworks of budgets and tax systems from a national perspective. We will also establish a Cabinet Personnel Bureau so as to centralise the management of high-level personnel affairs at the Cabinet, making appointments based on merit and need under the leadership of the Kantei [Prime Minister's Office].

In order steadfastly to carry out these reforms, we will present bills during the current Diet session to increase the number of Diet members and strengthen their positions in the government, with the government and the ruling parties working together closely and sharing roles towards this end.

Furthermore, I will personally take the lead from this summer in beginning a fundamental re-examination, from the perspective of the public, of the ideal composition of government ministries, including the manner of their establishment.

We will of course work to put an end to the practice of amakudari [golden parachuting], the prime factor behind wasteful spending of tax revenues. We will also ease people's suspicions by keeping a watchful eye on the practice known satirically as urakudari [behind-the-scenes parachuting], which is practically similar to amakudari. At the same time, we will move swiftly to begin implementing new reforms of the national civil service system, such as by reviewing the basic labour rights of national civil servants, creating an environment in which they can work until retirement age and revising personnel expenditures including wage systems.

(Politicians Straightening Up on Their Own)

In carrying out these reforms, it will first be necessary for members of the Diet to set the right example. I strongly hope to see energetic debate going beyond partisan boundaries on a review of the appropriate number of Diet members and the expenditures to cover their activities.

With respect to problems related to political funds, I should once again like to apologise deeply to all members of the public for causing them trouble and worry with issues surrounding my own political funds. Taking the public's criticism to heart, I will conduct an open debate on the nature of political funding, including the handling of donations from corporations and other groups, so as to make it more transparent and trustworthy from the public perspective.

6. A Japan that Propagates New Values to the World

(Japan, a Nation of Cultural Fusion)

Japan is a maritime nation surrounded by bountiful seas.

Since ancient times, Japan has developed its rich culture by assimilating diverse cultures and technologies brought over from the Asian continent and the Korean Peninsula by people who crossed the seas lying in between and by merging them with its own unique culture. Kanji and kana, nobles and warriors, Shintoism and Buddhism, Edo and Kamigata [Kyoto/Osaka] as well as gold coinage in the east of the country and silver coinage of the west are just some examples of the co-existence of multiple traditions, customs and socio-economic systems that is one of the defining features of Japanese culture. As expressed in the word wakon-yosai [Japanese spirit, Western learning], modern Japan also caught up with the advanced nations of the West by fusing Eastern and Western cultures. The co-existence and fusion of cultures are the source of new values, and Japan's strengths indeed lie in the flexibility which makes this possible. While treasuring the philosophy of living in harmony with the natural environment and the traditional values that regard even trees and stones as having souls, let us actively engage in new kinds of cultural exchange and interaction among people which lies at their core, and strive to make Japan a go-between and a country that creates new values and culture and propagates them to the world.

(How the East Asian community should evolve)

In the policy speech that I delivered to the Diet last year, I advocated the East Asian community initiative. I aspire to fashion a community of life sustenance and culture in Asia that develops our history of cultural exchange spanning several millennia and intensifies our cooperation to ensure this sustenance of life. It was this conviction that brought me to propose the initiative.

It will be essential for relationships of trust among countries to be consolidated over time across a broad range of fields if we are to bring this initiative to fruition. We must not under any circumstances make this into an exclusive community in which only certain countries come together, nor an economic bloc intended to compete with other regions. In that sense, not only is the importance of an unshakeable Japan-US Alliance unchanged but such an Alliance is indispensable as a precondition for forming an East Asian community. The East Asia region has achieved rapid development by expanding free trade with North America and Europe and indeed within the region itself. We should advance regional economic cooperation while reaffirming that strengthening the multilateral free trading system is of the greatest benefit [to all]. I hope to pursue a concrete form of open regional communities in parallel with the effort being made by the European Union, which has just elected its inaugural President of the European Council and which continues to deepen its integration.

(A community of life sustenance and culture)

Among the concrete measures that will help engender an East Asian community, I would like to emphasise in particular cooperation to ensure sustenance of life, along with the intensification of cultural exchanges.

Natural disasters such as earthquakes, typhoons and tsunamis constitute one of the greatest threats facing the people of Asia. Japan has cultivated a culture of disaster prevention whereby we properly pass on the lessons of the past and draw on them to prepare for the next disaster. We will work to foster human resources able to tap into Japan's experience and knowledge so as to disseminate this culture all across the Asian region.

Agile responses and cooperation is the key to protecting people's lives from infectious and other diseases. We will establish a system that enables countries to share various kinds of information, including that on novel influenza A (H1N1), and to cooperate in their responses. Beginning this year, Japan will dispatch a Maritime Self Defence Force transport ship to assist with the Pacific Partnership initiative underway to provide humanitarian relief, centred on the efforts of the United States. This will contribute to medical assistance and human resource exchanges within the Pacific and the Southeast Asian region.

(Dramatic enhancement of people-to-people exchanges)

Last December I visited Indonesia and India.

Each of these countries held extremely high expectations for enhancing the vibrancy of cultural exchange activities between the people of our countries while transcending national boundaries to deepen the interchange between us in such areas as education and culture or volunteer work, particularly among our youth, who will assume the responsibilities of the next generation. In order to meet such expectations, over the next five years Japan will expand people-to-people exchanges in Asia dramatically by inviting to Japan more than one hundred thousand youth, primarily from Asian nations. We will also reciprocally increase the number of people intimately familiar with the various languages and cultures of the countries of the Asian region dramatically, thereby fostering the human resources that will serve prominent roles at the core of the East Asian community.

I will also endeavour to strengthen and enhance the framework of APEC through my work as the Chair of this year's [APEC Economic Leaders'] Meeting. I will lead active discussions leading to the formulation of a new growth strategy, so as to build relations in which economic development serves as the main foundation but countries can also respect the cultures and societies of others.

(Deepening the Japan-US Alliance)

This year is a watershed year as it marks the fiftieth anniversary of the revision of the US-Japan Security Treaty. During this period the world underwent profound changes, such as the conflict between East and West during the Cold War and its end, as well as the emergence of new threats such as those from terrorism and regional conflicts. During this half-century of tumultuous change, the US-Japan security arrangements, while undergoing qualitative changes, remained indispensable for not only Japan's defence but also for the peace and prosperity of Asia and the world. Its importance will remain unchanged.

On the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Treaty's amendment, President Barack Obama and I announced that the Japan-US Alliance shall be deepened in a manner befitting the twenty-first century. We will frankly discuss the achievements of the Alliance and the challenges it confronts, advance broad-ranging cooperation and thus deepen and develop it into a multi-layered alliance relationship.

For the first time, the United States became a co-sponsor of the [resolution titled] "Renewed determination towards the total elimination of nuclear weapons" which Japan submitted and which was adopted last December at the United Nations General Assembly. This year a Global Summit on Nuclear Security and a Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons will be held in succession. It is highly important that Japan and the US should coordinate their efforts in order to bring about a world free of nuclear weapons.

With regard to the issue of the Futenma Air Station replacement facility, Japan will maintain the Japan-US Alliance as the cornerstone [of its diplomacy], while the Committee to Consider the Issues concerning Bases in Okinawa will conduct active discussions on what solution would be best in order to ensure the peace of Japan and Asia while also to alleviate so far as possible the extremely heavy burden that has been borne by the residents of Okinawa over the years. The government shall decide on a specific replacement site by the end of May.

In the area of climate change, Japan and the United States have agreed to conduct technological cooperation, joint verification experiments and exchanges of research personnel in search of an integrated solution to global environmental and energy security issues. The results of such activities will of course have great implications for the whole world. We will further develop our alliance in this field, and the entire Japan-US Alliance, as relationships which contribute to the peace and prosperity of not only the two countries but also of the Asia-Pacific region and the world.

(Bilateral relations with countries in the Asia-Pacific region)

I will work to further enhance the mutually beneficial relationship with China based on common strategic interests so as to enlarge the circle of trust in the Asia-Pacific region.

This year marks the start of a new century in the relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea, and we will strive to reinforce bilateral relations which are truly future-oriented and friendly, without averting our eyes from the negative history of the past and looking squarely at the prospects of the coming century. With Russia we will strengthen our cooperation as partners in the Asia-Pacific region as we work to resolve the issue of the Northern Territories.

We will settle the "unfortunate past" and normalise relations with North Korea through a comprehensive resolution of the outstanding issues of concern with North Korea, including the abduction, nuclear and missile issues. This is indeed an important challenge in seeking to attain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. We will coordinate yet more closely with the countries concerned, including through the Six-Party Talks in order to induce concrete action from North Korea. The government will use all its powers and do its utmost through the newly-established Headquarters for the Abduction Issue so as to bring about the return of all victims of abductions to Japan as early as possible.

(Assistance to save lives from poverty, conflicts and disasters)

The people in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world who suffer from hunger and poverty, the refugees in [and around] Iraq and Afghanistan who cannot return to their homelands, the victims of international terrorism, and the people who have lost their homes in natural disasters -- what assistance can Japan provide to support the lives of such people? What are we called upon to do? With regard to the devastation wrought by the Haiti earthquake, Japan announced the dispatch of a unit of the Self-Defence Forces to serve in the United Nations Stabilisation Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) as well as emergency and reconstruction assistance amounting to approximately 70 million US dollars. In these and other situations, Japan will assist efforts to overcome various hardships and to rebuild countries, listening also to views which are only quietly expressed in the international community and collaborating closely with the UN and other international organisations and the major countries concerned.

7. Conclusion

I want to protect people's lives.

Not for an instant since taking office have I forgotten this ideal, which lies at the core of my politics of yu-ai (fraternity). It is a resolve that grows stronger all the time.

On 17 January I attended the Memorial Ceremony to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. The earthquake that tore through the region on that day fifteen years ago took away precious human lives and destroyed beautiful neighbourhoods and tranquil lifestyles, all in an instant.

At the ceremony, I spoke to a father who lost his sixteen-year-old son that day.

The house collapsed in the earthquake. Our son, who had been sleeping upstairs, was trapped under the rubble.

The only part of him that was visible from beneath the pile of rubble was his feet. I could hear him banging against the side of the bed, calling for help.

I pulled and pulled at his legs to try and help him out. But the rubble was too heavy and I couldnft move him. After about half an hour, the banging faded and his legs began to turn cold. I could do nothing to help my son.

"I'm sorry. I'm sorry I couldn't help you. You were in pain. You were suffering. I'm so sorry."

Was this real or a dream? I couldn't tell. Time stood still. I wept every day, as if I were crying out every last tear in my body. I had nowhere to vent the anger inside me, and I felt a searing pain day after day as if gastric juices were corroding my body from within.

Surely no parent -- indeed no human being - can fail to understand the mortification and despair this man must have felt as he saw his own son's life ebbing away before his eyes, powerless to do anything but watch. This man's account brought home to me more powerfully than ever just how vital it is for those of us charged with ensuring the safety of this disaster-prone island nation to devote our energies to preventing disasters and to doing everything we can to mitigate the damage they cause.

Kobe has striven to move beyond the tragedy of that day, and today the city is once again full of the energy and vitality thus regained. Activities to rebuild the city from the ashes began immediately after the earthquake hit. In addition to the rescue efforts of the police, fire services and the Self-Defence Forces, we also saw ordinary citizens giving encouragement to family members and neighbours and working to rebuild the city even as they themselves struggled to cope with the hardships of life in evacuation facilities. Volunteers shouldered rucksacks and rushed to help from all over the country. Donations of equipment and financial help flooded in to help with the recovery. Fund-raising events helped to boost peoplefs morale. Despite the confusion and chaos, I understand that there were hardly any instances of looting. Everyone worked together -- for each other and for the sake of society.

In a sense, that terrible disaster fifteen years ago may have marked the first beginnings of a new public commons in Japan.

A huge statue of the "Tetsujin 28-go" robot was put up by a local non-profit organisation in Nagata Ward of the city, not far from the centre of the disaster, and stands as a monument to this indomitable spirit. It has become an attraction in its own right, and a magnet for tourism in the city.

Japan is uniquely placed to stand tall with pride and propagate to the world the concept of a new public commons that protects people's lives. I am convinced of this.

A politics that protects people's lives -- the time has come to put the ideal into practice. We must ensure a happy society for our children to live in, and make sure that we pass on our precious planet to future generations.

My fellow citizens, fellow members of the Diet: Let us work together so that Japan regains its lustre.

Let us make the twenty-second year of the Heisei era (2010) the year of a new start for Japan.