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

Policy Speech by Prime Minister Naoto Kan
at the 177th Session of the Diet

January 24, 2011
[Provisional Translation]

1. Introduction

Before I begin my main remarks, I would like to say a few words.

The outbreak of highly-pathogenic avian influenza was confirmed in Miyazaki prefecture the day before yesterday. The government held the meeting of the headquarter for tackling avian influenza on that day and initially responded to it. I will take all possible measures including this countermeasure as well as those measures for preventing the spread of infectious disease.

In the half year since its launch, my Cabinet has aimed at making Japan dynamic once more by engaging in all-out efforts to effect an integrated strengthening of the economy, social security, and public finances. Once we have successfully moved forward with this, there are the questions of what kind of country we should build as we go forward, and what public policy should be at the national level to make that possible. Today I shall once more state my thinking to both the public and to the honorable members of the Diet.

The three principles for building the country that I have set forth are "the 21st-century opening of Japan," "achieving a society with the least unhappiness," and "politics that rectifies absurdities." Amidst an era of changes, a search is underway all around the world for ways to successfully navigate this new era. Japan should not be the only country that struggles with economic impasses and social uneasiness. We will examine the facts in a level-headed manner and break away from our inward-focused orientation as well as the fixed thinking we have had until now. In addition, we will bring the increasingly vigorous growth of Asia into Japan, seeking out a new formula by which we partake in prosperity along with the international community. We will also etch out a model of happiness at living in Japan within the context of changes in the social structure. This year is the year to take the helm and steer a course to building just such a nation. I shall explain here my determination in this regard.

2. The First Principle of Building the Nation: The 21st-Century Opening of Japan

The first principle of building the nation is that of "opening up the nation." Over the last 150 years Japan has achieved an opening of Japan in the Meiji era and also after World War II. In the midst of international situations marked by instability, Japan substantially reformed its political and social structure and overcame these difficult states of affairs through economic activities overflowing with creativity. I will now venture to take on the "third opening of Japan," succeeding to the first two. It brings with it difficulties that did not exist in the openings Japan experienced in the past—changes never before experienced, and the diversification of values. In light of this, if we seek out precedents or examples in a facile way, we will not find effective solutions. We must resolve these issues making use of our own original thinking and rock-solid convictions. I will undertake this "21st-century opening of Japan" through this firm resolve.

Promoting comprehensive economic partnerships

Bringing this opening up of Japan into concrete terms involves taking the initiative in the liberalization of trade and investment and in facilitating the exchange of human resources. Thus, we will promote comprehensive economic partnerships. Opening up the economy is the optimal means for Japan and the world to achieve mutual prosperity. Japan recognizes this fact acutely and we have put this into practice consistently since the end of World War II. In accordance with that principle, we have been working towards the reinforcement of international trade rules through the conclusion of the WTO Doha Round negotiations. Yet, Japan has for these past ten years been substantially slower than other nations in participating in the trend of rapid increases in the number of bilateral and intraregional economic partnerships. For that reason, in the autumn last year before the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting convened, Japan stipulated its Basic Policy on Comprehensive Economic Partnerships. This year is a year of determination and action. We will steadily implement the economic partnership agreements we agreed with India and Peru last year. We will move forward expeditiously in our negotiations with Australia, and we will aim to resume or launch negotiations on economic partnership agreements with the ROK, the EU, and Mongolia. I also intend to press forward further in the joint study for a free trade agreement among Japan, China, and the ROK. We will continue our consultations with the United States and other relevant countries concerning the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement and make a determination by roughly June of this year regarding our participation in negotiations to join the Agreement.

Reviving the agriculture, forestry, and fishery industries

In order to bring about this "21st-century opening of Japan," I have set forth as another major objective the revival of the agriculture, forestry, and fishery industries. Some say that the liberalization of trade will put agriculture in a vulnerable position. However, I do not adopt such an either-or way of thinking. Over the past twenty years domestic agricultural production has decreased by 20 per cent while the distancing of youth from agriculture has become increasingly pronounced. The average age of people engaged in agriculture is now 66. The revival of the agriculture, forestry, and fishery industries is a truly pressing issue. In visits I paid to various agricultural sites last year, I came into contact with agriculture that both had a dream and was enormously satisfying, solidifying my beliefs. We will pursue a transition to a "senary," or sixth-order, industry through industrial and commercial tie-ups. We will also pursue the expansion of scale through the consolidation of farmland. The expansion of such efforts will make it possible in Japan too to have agriculture in which young people participate and have rural lifestyles of abundance.

The pillar of the policies designed to achieve this goal is the individual household income support system for families engaged in agriculture. In the upcoming fiscal year we will expand the recipients to include those engaged in growing crops other than in paddy fields and increase assistance to help farms to increase in scale. Moreover, we will convey the attractiveness of safe and delicious Japanese food to people overseas, thereby leading to exports. For small-scale farming families on the mountainside, we will provide assistance from the perspective of drawing out multifunctional characteristics. These areas will not be grounded only in agriculture. We will enhance the direct payment system and assistance to cultivate human resources so that forestry becomes revitalized as a key industry for the mountainside. We will also strengthen income support measures for fisheries. Furthermore, the Council for the Realization of the Revival of the Food, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishery Industries within the Cabinet will hold discussions intensively in order to formulate a Basic Policy by roughly June and an Action Plan by approximately October.

Proposal for discussions in the Diet

We have stipulated these policies under the thinking that the promotion of economic partnerships and the revival of the agriculture, forestry, and fishery industries are the gateways through which we can reach this "21st-century opening of Japan." The public has shown great interest in these issues. Let us start discussions within this Diet session, with each party bringing its own views to the table.

Implementing the New Growth Strategy to link the opening of the country to growth and employment

In addition, we will steadily implement the planned work schedule of the New Growth Strategy in order to link this "21st-century opening of Japan" to growth and employment. The policies I pledged in the policy speech I delivered at the previous Diet session have already been decided by the government and they are now being brought into execution. We have instituted a Japan Inward Investment Promotion Program and decided on a five per cent reduction in the effective corporate tax rate. We will also reduce the reduced tax rate for small and medium enterprises by three per cent. Medical care visas to promote Japan as a tourism-oriented country have been instituted as promised. The government has also reached a decision on the introduction of a global warming tax, which has been under discussion for many years, to ensure that Japan does its utmost to address the climate change issue. We will also introduce a system by which the entire amount of renewable energy generated [by households] is purchased. We are also forging ahead through the active promotional efforts of the members of the Cabinet in the overseas deployment of railroads, water business, nuclear power plants, and other "package" types of infrastructure, as well as in securing supply sources of rare earths, which are vital for high-tech products. I myself had been actively urging the Prime Minister of Viet Nam, and as a result Japan has come to realize its first advance in the provision of nuclear power facilities overseas. We have also agreed on "Open Skies" agreements with the United States, the Republic of Korea, and Singapore. The business community is fully in concert with these actions and has set forth for ten years into the future a capital investment goal of approximately 100 trillion yen. I welcome ambitious proposals to create new businesses and employment. To support the realization of such initiatives, we will increase the budget to promote science and technology, notably in basic research at universities. We will also strengthen our means of attracting global enterprises, so as to make Japan a hub for Asian economies. We will take all necessary measures to assist small and medium enterprises, including through the extension of the Act on Provisional Measures for the Facilitation of Financing to Small and Medium Sized Businesses and measures to address cash flow. I will carry these out one by one, true to my word, and make this year the year in which Japan takes a major leap towards the revival of its economy.

3. The Second Principle of Building the Nation: Achieving a Society with the Least Unhappiness

Next I would like to address the second principle for building the nation, to be pursued alongside the "21st-century opening of Japan." That is "achieving a society with the least unhappiness." Unemployment, sickness, poverty, natural disasters, crime—we must reduce these causes of suffering to the greatest possible extent if we are to successfully take on the "21st-century opening of Japan." This is because Japan as a whole cannot move forward with confidence if we fail to address the suffering of individual people. This Cabinet will make progress without fail in "achieving a society with the least unhappiness."

Promoting measures to address employment

We will place the greatest emphasis on employment. Working enables people to find "a place where they belong and a role to play." Regarding the employment of new graduates, who are facing a particularly serious situation, measures were developed by a Task Force Team and "Hello Work" offices supporting new graduates were established in every prefecture. Through the assistance of "Job Supporters," whose numbers we had doubled to 2,000, by December of last year, the hiring of approximately 16,000 new graduates had been decided. The Job Supporters whom I met told me, "When we discuss things with sincerity, there are many students who get their confidence back and become vibrant in their outlook." To the students, please visit one of these offices without hesitation. I am certain that these Job Supporters will serve as your allies. We are also stepping up our efforts to appeal directly to companies, urging them to increase trial employment opportunities and to hire new those who completed their schooling within the last three years as new graduates. As of December, the percentage of university students expecting to graduate this academic year who had received tentative employment offers stood at only 68.8%, so we will continue to provide support to the best of our ability.

We will also further enhance employment-related measures in general. The first pillar is efforts to "connect" employment. As assistance to new graduates we will shore up the system for matching them with small and medium enterprises, in addition to the efforts I mentioned earlier. Furthermore, as a second safety net for those who are unable to receive employment insurance, we will institute a system for assisting job seekers that will provide disbursements to support people's livelihood during periods of job training. The second pillar is efforts to "create" employment. In promoting the New Growth Strategy, we will work to create employment in medical care and nursing care, in childcare, and in the field of the environment, all of which have great latent potential. In addition we will introduce a tax system that promotes employment by giving incentives upon a company increasing the number of people it hires. The third pillar is efforts to "protect" employment. In order to prevent the outflow of employment opportunities to overseas, we will expand our assistance to fund new business locations for low-carbon industries, which has already yielded positive effects on employment. We will also raise the basic allowance provided under employment insurance. In addition to securing employment through these three pillars, we will provide assistance to small and medium enterprises impacted by increases in the minimum wage. We will move forward in transitioning those in non-permanent positions, who are anxious over employment and income, to regular workers through revisions to the Labor Services Temporary Assignment Law and other endeavors.

Enhancing the social security system

One thing that is absolutely necessary in "achieving a society with the least unhappiness" is to make robust the social security system, which is the foundation for peace of mind in people's lives. In the upcoming fiscal year we will increase the budget for social security by five per cent. We will maintain the level of the state contribution to basic pensions at 50 per cent. We will also engage in all-out efforts to resolve the pension records problem. In the field of medical care, we began efforts to resolve the skewed distribution of doctors and began providing medical examinations for colorectal cancer free of charge, while continuing to provide medical examinations for breast cancer and cervical cancer without charge. We will respond constructively to the findings of the court in the litigation over hepatitis B and, through the understanding of the public, seek a settlement at an early date. In the area of nursing care, we will enhance home nursing care services that can respond to elderly persons living alone, such as through round-the-clock response services. As for support for children and for child rearing, we will strengthen these in the dual aspects of providing cash benefits and providing allowances in kind. We will raise the child allowance for children under three years of age to 20,000 yen per month and newly establish grants of 50 billion yen to support child care and unique local child rearing schemes. Services to support persons with disabilities will be expanded in accordance with revisions to the relevant law, and in this Diet session we will propose amendments to the Basic Law for Persons with Disabilities. In addition, we will examine the potential introduction of comprehensive welfare services for persons with disabilities.

Means for advancing reforms to the social security system

Although fiscal conditions are quite severe, for the next fiscal year we have secured a budget to uphold the lives of the people. This is the result of making our greatest possible efforts through rationalizing public works and reviews of special-purpose budget accounts. We also honored the pledge we decided last year to put finances on a sound footing. However, limitations have emerged in securing fiscal resources for expanding social security through such efforts alone. Now, with the socioeconomic situation envisioned by this system having changed drastically, Japan faces the necessity of fundamentally reforming its social security system. Grounded in this recognition, the Cabinet and the ruling parties have compiled five basic principles for the reform of the social security system. The first is securing a system having "a format that encompasses all generations," thoroughly protecting the elderly while also strengthening support for younger generations. The second is "investing in the future" through support for children and child rearing. The third is placing emphasis on "benefits in the form of support-type services" provided by local authorities. The fourth is overcoming vertical divisions in systems and in public administration to provide comprehensive assistance that takes the viewpoint of the person receiving the service. And the fifth is ensuring stable fiscal resources so that the burden is not passed on to future generations. In order to provide services that are fair and convenient, it will be necessary to create a system in which people use a common number under both the social security and tax systems. We will increase people's peace of mind in their daily lives by bringing concrete shape to these five basic principles. In order to do this, I believe I cannot avoid asking the public to bear the burden to some extent. The Cabinet will put forward by June of this year an overall vision for social security reform and set forth a basic policy on fundamental reform of the tax system, including that of the consumption tax, to secure the necessary fiscal resources. We will communicate the contents of our discussions in various forms starting from the deliberation stage so as to enable the public to consider this sufficiently.

Proposal to foster discussions in which the public participates

The issue of burden sharing is one that some may not want to touch. Naturally a prerequisite to discussing the issue of burden sharing will be the thorough elimination of governmental waste. In addition, I believe that it is necessary to indicate to the public that the members of the Diet are also prepared to conduct themselves in a more disciplined manner, reducing the number of Diet members and other means. Needless to say, these are issues that must be decided upon through discussions in the Diet. Today, speaking as a single politician and as the representative of a single political party, I propose that we have consultations among the ruling and the opposition parties alike regarding this issue. After thoroughly undertaking such efforts, I would like us to look squarely at the present situation and consider together with the public how we should overcome it. A year and a half ago, the Council for the Realization of a Reassuring Society established under the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito coalition government recommended that the ruling and opposition parties transcend party lines to advance deliberations and consensus building regarding the modalities of social security benefit payments and burden sharing, in order to create a sustainable reassuring society. Furthermore in December last year, the Liberal Democratic Party, in its [position paper] "Basic Concept on Revising the Tax System" states that "in taking up consideration of fundamental reform" of the tax system, "we will set up a suprapartisan round table or other such forum to build a national consensus." The interim compilation of the "New Vision for a Welfare Society" announced by the New Komeito at roughly the same timing appealed for the realization of a well-developed "intermediate level of social welfare and intermediate level of burden sharing" based on "welfare based on robust mutual assistance and robust employment security, as its starting point" and also proposed the establishment of a "Consultative Meeting on Social Security" in which the ruling and the opposition parties would hold consultations on institutional arrangements. Thus I believe that already we have a substantial number of shared points in terms of our awareness of the issues and our contentions. This is the issue regarding which the people have the greatest degree of interest. Shall we not proceed as each party has proposed, by launching discussions that span both the governing and the opposition parties? The unprecedented reduction in the working age population through a dwindling birthrate and aging population was anticipated from quite a long time ago. The responsibility for formulating measures to address this enormous issue falls on all legislators in governing and opposition parties alike. Under such a recognition, let us bring a "Deliberation Diet" into reality. I ask sincerely for your cooperation in this regard.

Forming a society in which all can live vibrant lives

In this way, as we solidly construct the framework for social security, we will enhance policies in concrete terms to help form a society in which all can live vibrant lives. In order to provide children with the ability to bring their dreams into reality, we will enrich support for children and child rearing as well as education, including through the unification of nurseries and kindergartens. We will limit class sizes in the first year of elementary school up to 35 children. We will steadily implement making senior high school tuition effectively free and we will expand upon scholarships.

We will also support the active participation of women in society. Some two million women hesitate to work because of child rearing and other concerns. In light of that, the Task Force Team within the Cabinet has prepared a project to eliminate childcare waiting lists for 26,000 children. In accordance with this, in the upcoming fiscal year, we will spend 20 million yen on developing flexible and diverse childcare services, such as subsidies for non-registered childcare facilities. Women with families and women who have experienced rearing children will join the workplace motivated to work. Alternately, men, who had been work-oriented, will participate in raising the family. There are many expected benefits from such development. Let us work to develop the workplace and the home environments such that we can create a society in which men and women can participate jointly.

It is also important for safety to be fortified. We will progress in strengthening law enforcement against cyber crimes and international crimes, reinforcing the system for administration of consumer affairs, and strengthening disaster prevention measures. We will also propose an amendment to the Civil Code with a view to preventing child abuse.

Promoting a "New Concept of Public Commons"

It is absolutely critical to advance a "New Public Commons" as the means by which we will achieve such a "society with the least unhappiness." Because we share in each other's hard times, we are also able to share in their joys. Japanese society has cultivated this spirit until the present day. Recently, too, activities through which we can feel this strongly are spreading. I believe that we who live in Nagatacho and Kasumigaseki in particular should modify our approaches in which we interpret the bounds of public service in a narrow sense, and then support such undertakings in a proactive manner. We will introduce a groundbreaking system in the upcoming fiscal year by which, if you make a donation to groups taking on this "New Public Commons," such as certified non-profit organizations, the donation will be eligible as a tax deduction. At the same time, we will also significantly relax the requirements for becoming a certified non-profit organization that qualifies under this system.

4. The Third Principle of Building the Nation: Politics That Rectifies Absurdities

Alongside the "21st-century opening of Japan" and "a society with the least unhappiness" is my third principle for building the nation, "politics that rectifies absurdities." This is a principle related to the orientation of politics. The dynamic force I brought to bear at full power in the past on the problem of AIDS contracted as a result of tainted blood products was anger towards the absurdity that tremendous suffering had come about as a result of unreasonable public administration. At the time, fellow legislator Mr. Takashi Yamamoto was engaged in this issue with me. Mr. Yamamoto plunged into national politics conducting election campaigns that required hardly any funding, and consistently took up social security issues, saying, "A politician's job is to defend people's lives." Even after he had been stricken with thymic cancer five years earlier, despite looking very thin, he withstood the side effects of his anticancer drugs to enact the Fundamental Law for Anti-Cancer Measures and the Basic Act on Suicide Prevention. I must take over Mr. Yamamoto's energy for taking action, which drew the trust of all regardless of party or faction, and also his ardor in fighting heart and soul against absurdities in the society. Last month we marked the third anniversary of his death and with that I have renewed my determination in this regard.

Eliminating absurdities through task force teams

Japan still has absurdities that have been overlooked. If even one person is having a hard time as a result, we should not desert him or her but instead offer a helping hand. It has been with that sense of responsibility that I have established several task force teams.

As for the Task Force Team for Human T-Lymphotropic Virus Type 1 (HTLV-1), I formed this task force team immediately after hearing from Ms. Kayoko Sugatsuki and other patients that this issue had not been resolved after many years. Three months since its formation, we succeeded in compiling comprehensive measures to advance medical examinations and consulting during gynecological checkups and also research into treatment. Mr. Shiro Asano, former Governor of Miyagi Prefecture who battles a disease caused by this virus, kindly sent a message that says, "I am very thankful to the Task Force Team. I am determined to win in my battle against this disease."

The Task Force Team for the Recovery of the Remains of the War Dead in Ioto was a concept that had been in my head since I visited the island of Ioto four years ago. Even though this island is part of Japan, the remains of some 13,000 people are still unrecovered today on Ioto. It is incumbent upon the nation that we press forward with recovering the remains. The Task Force Team investigated a large amount of documents in the United States and, though the cooperation of the bereaved families and other interested persons, succeeded in locating a previously unknown mass burial site.

Efforts to address the issue of social isolation

Last week I established another task force team to take up the problem of social isolation, including participation by practitioners out in the field. As we glean from the terms "a disconnected society," and "single family households," there is an increase in people who become isolated from society. This forms the backdrop against which illnesses and poverty and also suicides—now exceeding 30,000 per year—occur. At the launch of my Cabinet, I pledged that I would bring about a society in which not a single person is excluded. We have already popularized Personal Supporters and strengthened our policies to address suicide and depression. This new Task Force Team will investigate once more the actual state of isolation and its causes, across all generations. In addition, we will work to create a "strategy for social inclusion" that will encompass warmly isolated people.

Driving forward with political reform

The public calls on us to make unceasing efforts towards political reform. Politicians and political parties have a responsibility to respond to these demands. Increasing the transparency of political funds, prohibiting donations from companies and associations, and reforming the tax system to foster donations from individuals are all items regarding which many political parties have made public pledges. I urge the ruling and opposition parties to each bring their proposals, and to put forth a concrete response that the public can accept finally this time around.

5. Moving ahead on reforms for regional sovereignty; intensifying and thoroughly implementing government revitalization

Moving ahead on reforms for regional sovereignty

The foundation on which we will push forward with these three principles for building the nation is the promotion of reforms to regional sovereignty, which is one of the overriding principles of the Cabinet. We will advance these reforms substantially this year. Block grants will be instituted which the local areas can utilize as they see fit. Only 2.8 billion yen was proposed at first from the various ministries and agencies, but as this would not enable the local areas to bring their dreams into reality, I gave instructions to the Cabinet ministers on this matter quite vigorously. Consequently we were able to realize a scale of 512 billion yen for the upcoming fiscal year and a scale of one trillion yen for fiscal year 2012. This is a significant outcome of the change of government. Yet, our ultimate goal for regional sovereignty reforms lies still beyond that. During this Diet session, we will propose the transfer of power to the municipalities and the establishment of the 'comprehensive special zone system.' As for ministerial branch offices, we will develop a system for wide-area implementation conducted by local areas, and then transfer control. Efforts for extended associations are already underway in Kyushu and the Kansai area. Through such proposals originating in the local areas themselves, let us sweep away the cautious approach towards local sovereignty.

Intensifying and thoroughly implementing government revitalization

We will thus move forward with regional sovereignty reforms and then strengthen leadership by politicians so that we can implement concrete policies towards the "21st-century opening of Japan" and "achieving a society with the least unhappiness." Upon doing so we will make further progress in consolidating and thoroughly implementing government revitalization. Since the historic change of government two years ago, we have engaged in government revitalization, above all the cutting of government waste, at a scale and a degree of enthusiasm never before seen. Yet that does not mean that we can take it for granted that everything is now acceptable. Taking the attitude of not overlooking even a single yen of waste, we will intensify our review of government programs (jigyou shiwake). We will moreover undertake reforms to the system for civil servants and a 20 per cent reduction in personnel costs of national civil servants, and we will reform incorporated administrative agencies and public interest corporations, which have become hotbeds for amakudari (the practice of civil servants obtaining posts in related organizations after retirement from public office) and waste. Also, through a review of regulations, we will bring about regulatory reform, which will provide the spark for new growth. Regarding the initiatives contained in our Manifesto, while some of these have already been brought about, taking the two-year anniversary since the declaration of the Manifesto as a separating line, we will verify its contents listening to the voices of the public. With a view to transparent and fair public administration, through amending the Act on Access to Information Held by Administrative Organs, we will work to strengthen "the public's right to know" and move forward with reforms to the public prosecutor system.

6. Foreign and National Security Policies That Actively Address the Creation of Peace

At the same time, turning to an international perspective, we find that even as significant changes occur in the international community, there still remain uncertain and unstable factors in the environment surrounding Japan. In order to ensure peace and stability amidst such a state of affairs, it will be indispensable to pursue foreign and security policies that actively address the creation of peace, based on balanced pragmatism.

Deepening of the Japan-U.S. alliance

The Japan-U.S. alliance is the cornerstone of Japanese diplomacy and national security and also a publicly shared asset fostering the stability and prosperity of not only the Asia-Pacific region but also the world. President Obama and I have already reached agreement on deepening the Japan-U.S. alliance particularly regarding the three basic pillars of security, economics, and exchanges of culture and human resources. Based on this, when I visit the United States at a timing currently scheduled for the first half of this year, I want us to set forth a vision for the Japan-U.S. alliance in the 21st century. Moreover, we will strengthen our cooperation with the United States that pulls world peace forward, such as our reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Reinforcing economic promotion and reducing the burden of U.S. military bases in Okinawa

Okinawa is now full of the vitality of young people, and through the promotion of tourism and the concentration of the information and telecommunications industry, it has the greatest potential in Japan for growth. In addition to supporting the realization of this potential through the budget for the economic promotion of Okinawa, we must conduct all-out efforts to reduce the burden of U.S. military bases, which are heavily concentrated in Okinawa. Although approximately 40 years have passed since Okinawa's reversion to Japan, it is deeply regrettable that only in Okinawa does the lessening of this burden lag behind. During my visit to Okinawa at the end of last year I confirmed for myself the current situation there, thereby renewing my thoughts on this matter. We will steadily implement the plan for transferring U.S. Marines to Guam and move forward still further in the return of U.S. military facilities and areas and in the transfer of training to outside Okinawa prefecture. Regarding the issue of the relocation of Futenma Air Station, in line with the Japan-U.S. agreement reached in May last year, I will explain the situation sincerely to the people of Okinawa to ask for their understanding while working towards the elimination at the nearest possible time of the associated risks, as a priority issue.

Strengthening relations with the countries of Asia and the Pacific

We will also make efforts to strengthen our relations with the countries of Asia and the Pacific. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution, the launching point for China's modernization. Sun Yat-sen, who led the revolution, had many Japanese friends supporting him. With next year's 40th anniversary of the normalization of relations between Japan and China, it is important for us to once more look back on the long history of exchanges between our two countries and enhance the "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests" through cooperation across a broad range of fields. At the same time, Japan will urge China to play a constructive role as a responsible member of the international community. In our relations with the Republic of Korea, in accordance with last year's Prime Ministerial Statement, we will further strengthen our cooperative relationship including in the area of security while maintaining due respect for the viewpoints of the ROK, and we will build a future-oriented Japan-Republic of Korea relationship that looks squarely at the prospects of the next one hundred years.

With Russia, we will expand our cooperation in the economic area, such as in the development of resources and modernization, as well as our cooperation within the Asia-Pacific region and the international community. We will at the same time tenaciously engage in negotiations adhering to the basic policy regarding Japan-Russia relations of concluding a peace treaty upon resolving the issue of the Northern Territories. We will deepen our relations with ASEAN, Australia, India, and others and develop an open network.

Strengthening relations with the countries of Europe and Latin America

We will continue to act in close cooperation with the countries of Europe, who are Japan's partners with whom we share fundamental values. We will also deepen our relations with emerging economies such as Brazil and Mexico, who have been increasing their presence in the international community, and other nations of Latin America and the Caribbean region, particularly in the economic area, including the development of resources.

North Korea

Regarding North Korea, Japan will strengthen its collaboration with the United States and the ROK while strongly urging North Korea not to engage again in provocative actions, including the incident of the sinking of the ROK military patrol vessel, the shelling of the island of Yeonpyeong, and uranium enrichment activities. Based on the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, Japan seeks to normalize its diplomatic relations with North Korea through the comprehensive resolution of the outstanding issues of concern, including the abduction, nuclear, and missile issues, and settling the unfortunate past. Regarding the abductees issue, as the responsibility of the state, we will spare no effort to realize the return of all abductees to Japan at the earliest possible time.

Contributions to the creation of peace

We will also contribute to the resolution of various issues facing the international community with a view to reducing human suffering around the world to a minimum. The 26 Special Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons, whose cooperation I requested, are visiting various countries around the world to talk about their experiences as survivors of the atomic bombings. As the only country to have ever suffered the devastation of atomic bombings, Japan will continue to appeal for the imperative of nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. In partnership with other countries, we will also work to address environmental issues, cooperation in the fields of health and education, assistance to African and other developing nations, comprehensive peace in the Middle East, and peacekeeping and peacebuilding including counter-terrorism and peacekeeping operations. Japan will take the lead in efforts to reform the United Nations and the United Nations Security Council.

Strengthening national defense and maritime security

Taking into consideration the security environment currently surrounding Japan, at the end of last year the government adopted National Defense Program Guidelines as new guidelines regarding the modalities for security and national defense. These new Guidelines set forth objectives for security as the defense of Japan as well as contributing towards ensuring world peace and stability and human security. In accordance with these new Guidelines, Japan will enhance its readiness and mobility and work to build a dynamic defense force supported by high levels of technological and information capabilities, thereby enhancing the structure to be one that responds rapidly to any crisis. In doing so, we will reinforce our response capabilities in southwestern Japan and outlying islands. Also, to augment our maritime security, we will enrich our capability, including through accelerating the upgrading of large-scale patrol vessels. We will also examine a possible strengthening of our maritime police authority.

7. Closing Remarks

Today the Diet opens. In this Diet session, we must deliver peace of mind and vigor to the Japanese people by passing the budget for the upcoming fiscal year and related bills and by breaking free of deflation at an early time.

Furthermore, in the previous Diet session, regrettably, a large number of bills and international agreements came to be discarded or carried over for deliberation, including the bills for the Postal Reform Act and the Basic Act on Global Warming Countermeasures, and the agreement between Japan and the Republic of Korea on books. I ask the honorable members of the Diet to deliberate these bills and other matters adequately.

What are the Japanese people expecting of the Diet? I believe that they are calling on us to emerge from the present-day crisis and discuss constructively how we should build the future Japan. Indeed, I believe they are calling on us to emerge with a final decision, rather than put off matters into the future. Let us live up to those expectations through the Diet discussion and party leaders' debates. I will end my policy speech by urging my honorable fellow members of Diet to work to make this session a truly deliberative Diet.