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Press Conference by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
January 4, 2005
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi: A Happy New Year to you all. I believe last year was an eventful and exhausting year for many of people of Japan, particularly for those who suffered great damages from natural disasters such as typhoons, earthquakes and torrential rains. I know that those people afflicted by these natural disasters still have hard times in their restoration and reconstruction activities, but I strongly wish for those affected to overcome this hardship and start a new year with hope and even stronger determination for the reconstruction of the disaster-stricken regions. As the government, we will give our utmost efforts to assist the people in their restoration activities.
Many countries have suffered an unprecedented level of damage caused by the tsunami that followed the earthquake off the coast of Indonesia at the end of last year. Japan itself, received assistance and aid from many countries for the damages following its own earthquakes and typhoons. As a member of the Asian community, Japan intends to provide the greatest level of assistance possible for reconstruction activities in the countries that have been affected, namely Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand and India among others. While taking this opportunity to offer my condolences for the many people, including Japanese nationals, who lost their lives in this incident, I intend for Japan to live up to its responsibility as a member of the international community through its provision of relief to the people afflicted by the damages and reconstruction activities.
As we start a new year, I perceive that this year will be a difficult one as well. Although the economy is finally starting to mark an upward trend, I think that difficult conditions will further persist. With such a view, I intend to vigorously carry forward reforms as much as possible throughout this year in order to get the economy onto a full-fledged recovery path.
In particular, at the end of last year, the government has compiled a supplementary budget for reconstruction activities following damages from earthquakes, typhoons and other natural disasters. The government will make every possible effort to secure its approval from the Diet at the earliest date possible, during Diet's ordinary session, which will resume by the end of January, so that the reconstruction projects will be conducted most swiftly and without delay.
With regard to the next fiscal year's budget, considering the Japanese economy is now facing its critical point, I ask for the cooperation of all political parties for the passage of the budget by the end of this fiscal year, so that a foundation for steady and sustainable economic growth led by the private sector can be formulated.
Starting this March, the 2005 World Exposition will be held in Aichi Prefecture with the theme of "Nature's Wisdom." Co-existence with nature\ maintenance of balance between environmental conservation and economic development\will be the theme of this 2005 World Exposition in Aichi. I believe that many foreigners as well as Japanese people will visit the exposition in Japan. Currently, the annual number of foreign visitors to Japan is only about five million; however, by introducing different aspects of the attractiveness of Japan, I envision doubling this number by 2010 to about 10 million foreign visitors. I believe that this will also lead to the development of the country's regions. From such an aspect too, I believe that this year will be important in the promotion of tourism. There is a need for Japanese people to welcome foreigners and assist their understanding of the richness and appeal of Japan's individual region.
On the domestic front, the most critical issue for this year is the privatization of the three postal services, to which all political parties have opposed thus far. Most of the parties is in favor of the ideas of "leave to the private sector what it can do," "boldly push forward the administrative and fiscal reforms" and "reduce the number of civil servants." Is it really a must that the operations of postal service, postal savings and postal life insurance be managed by civil servants? I believe otherwise. Private corporations already provide similar services: mail and parcel services, savings and insurance plans. These are services that can be provided by the private sector without much difficulty. Taking into account the abilities of the private sector, I believe the privatization of postal services is indispensable if we are to "boldly push forward the administrative and fiscal reforms," "reduce the number of civil servants" and "leave to the private sector what it can do." As such, I intend for the government as a whole to work for the realization of this reform.
We are faced with mounting challenges in our diplomatic area as well. I intend to deal with various diplomatic issues such as the reconstruction of Iraq and negotiation with North Korea among others, while taking full note of the importance of the Japan-US Alliance as well as international coordination.
In conclusion, I here ask for the understanding and cooperation of the people of Japan as I will devote all my effort to advance reforms and thus perform my responsibility, while bearing in mind that the year 2005 will be a very difficult and challenging year.
[Q & A]
Question 1: With regard to the privatization of postal services, discussions with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) concerning the formulation of a bill for the privatization of postal services will start this month, as you have mentioned. While the Basic Policy on the Privatization of the Postal Services was already compiled by the government last September, is there any room left for compromise in making adjustments with the LDP at the negotiation table? I would like to ask your idea about it.
Prime Minister Koizumi: The Basic Policy stated that postal services will be operated by four separate corporations upon the privatization of each of the postal services. It also stated that taking advantage of the same level of liberty as that of private corporations, these four corporations can expand their businesses of providing services. From the standpoint of people's convenience, I believe that putting the management of these services in the hands of the private sector instead of continuing with the current form of a public corporation will lead to improvements in the services provided.
Moreover, there is a need to transform the structure whereby funds from postal savings are allocated to the growing fields of the private sector rather than to public corporations.
Also, I will advance administrative reform, or the so-called reform in the public sector under the policy of leaving to the private sector as much as it can do. As such, I ask for the understanding of the ruling parties and I intend to work towards the submission of a bill for privatization under the policy of formulating the bill in accordance with, and in line with, the Basic Policy, which was decided upon by the government on September 10, 2004. Once the bill is submitted, I will put forth my best effort to enact it during this year's ordinary Diet session with the cooperation of the ruling parties.
Question 2: I would like to ask you about the issues of North Korea. The North Korean side has spoken of the possibility of terminating the Japan-North Korea Working-Level Consultations concerning the investigation of those Japanese abductees whose whereabouts are unknown. How do you intend to deal with this? Please share with us how the Government of Japan will respond to this situation, including the timing of the implementation of economic sanctions.
Furthermore, please provide your outlook of the policy at this point for the realization of normalized relations between Japan and North Korea.
Prime Minister Koizumi: Upon negotiations with North Korea, as I have been sharing with you, I stand strong behind the policy of "dialogue and pressure," together with both sides making sincere responses in accordance with the Pyongyang Declaration. There is no change in the policy that the normalization of relations will be realized when the two countries act in good faith to ensure that provisions of the Pyongyang Declaration are put into practice. With regard to the issue of investigation of those abductees whose whereabouts are unknown, the investigation conducted thus far is still unsatisfactory.
At present, we have pointed out the areas in question concerning the reinvestigation conducted by North Korea and we are requesting that North Korea provide us with sincere responses on this matter. I intend to closely and carefully assess their response.
Although the North Korean side has spoken of terminating the consultations, I deem it necessary to make out their actual intent from their superficial remarks. As we are familiar with their past remarks and their actual actions, we must determine where their superficial remarks and their actual truth lies. In any case, I believe this is a problem where negotiations must be advanced on the basis of dialogue and pressure.
At the same time, negotiations with North Korea concern not just the abduction issue but also the nuclear issue and the missile issue, and those issues require a comprehensive resolution.
We have not set a time limit regarding the normalization of our relations. If North Korea desires and when it sincerely adheres to the Pyongyang Declaration, the normalization of our relations can be realized. Thus, Japan does not intend to set a time limit. My perspective is that not only is changing the current hostile relations between North Korea and Japan to a friendly relationship vital for the peace of our two countries, it is also vital for the peace of the Korean Peninsula and even the entire world. As such, I am relentlessly seeking to normalize our present abnormal relations, but, I repeat, we have not established any particular time limit in this regard.
Question 3: I believe that movements for the revision of the Constitution of Japan will gain momentum this year, such as the LDP's compilation of a draft for a revised Constitution. With regard to revising the Constitution, how far do you, including consultations with the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), intend to advance this issue during your term in office?
Prime Minister Koizumi: The revision of the Constitution has been a longstanding issue. However, the Constitution cannot be revised without the support of a majority of the people under an initiative taken by two-thirds of the Diet members. Faced with the reality, I believe that this issue cannot be resolved unless public debate is thoroughly initiated nor without the cooperation of political parties. This year will be a great turning point for the LDP as it celebrates its commemorative 50th anniversary since its establishment. I therefore intend to relentlessly advance preparatory work towards the formulation of a concrete draft for a revised Constitution by this autumn.
The main points of the past discussions will be sorted out in April or May of this year at the Research Commissions on the Constitution established in both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors. While referring to these points, the LDP must compile a draft by this autumn. However, the revision of the Constitution cannot be done by the LDP alone; thus, the cooperation of New Komeito, the coalition ruling party, must also be gained. At the same time, the LDP and New Komeito are not the only forces necessary for the revision. The cooperation of the DPJ, the largest opposition party, is also vital. I have been informed that the DPJ is also preparing to submit a draft for a revised Constitution this year or next.
Considering these facts, I do not believe that the revision of the Constitution can be realized by the end of this year or next. Sufficient and all necessary time should be utilized, where first the views of the ruling coalition, including the LDP, on the revision should be well discussed, and then the cooperation of the largest opposition party, the DPJ, needs to be gained. As such, we need to thoroughly discuss and make necessary adjustments in one another's views on the draft for revision throughout this year and next. After studying such a process and conditions, I imagine the question will arise of how to bring this to the floor of the Diet. It is my intent to take sufficient time in advancing work towards the revision of the Constitution.
Question 4: As this year will mark the 60th anniversary since the end of World War II, I imagine that the year 2005 will be filled with issues of the past and for the future on various and all fronts. In such a setting, how do you intend to develop diplomatic relations with our neighbor countries, namely China and the Republic of Korea (ROK)?
Furthermore, in relation to that, your visits to Yasukuni Shrine cannot be left untouched. You have stated that "I will respond appropriately and accordingly." Is it correct to understand that this includes every point such as a visit or non-visit, the meaning of a visit and the form of a visit?
Prime Minister Koizumi: Both the ROK and China are very important neighbor countries to Japan, and thus there will be no change in Japan's policy of friendly relations with the ROK as well as with China.
With such a position, the issue regarding North Korea that Japan now faces must be addressed with the cooperation of the ROK and China. At the same time, the Six-Party Talks with North Korea not only involve the ROK and China, but the United States and Russia as well. When considering this framework, I see great significance in coordination with the international community such as the ROK and China, our neighbor countries, the United States, our ally, and Russia, a member country of the Six-Party Talks.
With regard to Japan's relations with China, I have since my inauguration been delivering speeches in many countries noting that the rapid and stunning economic development of China should not be perceived as a threat to Japan but rather an opportunity. We must not overwhelm our minds with thoughts of preventing imports from China, but instead, look more at the positive aspects such that Japan too can export to China. Japan also should not be taken in by the "China threat" theory, but on the contrary, consider the development of China an opportunity and chance for Japan. This exact phenomenon can be seen today. Trade between Japan and China is drastically increasing, in both exports and imports. I believe that both Japanese and Chinese economic circles as well as the people of both countries fully understand our mutually interdependent and mutually beneficial relations for each economy.
The history of the two countries is not comprised of only unfortunate incidents. The relations rest upon a much longer history of friendly relations. Taking into account such ties, we have to consider in every and all aspect what each countries can do for the development in the future and what kind of considerations are necessary to maintain and develop our friendly relations long into the future, while taking history as a reference.
I do not consider my visits to Yasukuni Shrine to be the only major issue that lies between Japan and China. With such a view, I intend to persistently and relentlessly work to gain the understanding of China regarding these kinds of issues. Furthermore, I myself intend to make appropriate decision regarding a visit to Yasukuni Shrine.
I ask for your continued support and cooperation in 2005.