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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Press Conference by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on the occasion of the 66th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

Friday, September 23, 2011

[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda

: First of all I would like to mention Typhoon No. 15 and the damage it caused in Japan. The Chief Cabinet Secretary has been providing me with daily updates on the situation and it has caused me great concern. I would like to express once again my sympathies to those who have been affected by the typhoon and urge for continued caution and vigilance concerning the danger of damage from landslides.

This visit to the United States is my first overseas visit since assuming the position of Prime Minister, and I had four specific aims. Firstly, at the time of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Japan received tremendous support and assistance from more than 160 countries and regions and more than 40 international organizations. My first aim, therefore, was to express my appreciation for this assistance and convey Japan's resolve to engage in reconstruction and also to bring the nuclear power station accident to a conclusion.

My second aim was to share with the international community the lessons and knowledge Japan has gained from the earthquake disaster and also the nuclear power station accident, and to transmit them.

My third aim was to send forth a message that although Japan may be facing various difficulties at the present time, we will not turn inward, but will seek to make a further contribution towards the resolution of global issues and engage in international cooperation for the sake of a better future.

My fourth aim was to build relations of trust with the leaders of various countries, and to that end I have engaged in as many bilateral summit meetings as possible during my visit.

With regard to the outcomes of the various meetings I have attended, I have delivered speeches to two gatherings of the United Nations, firstly to the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Safety and Security yesterday, and to the General Debate of the 66th Session of the United Nations General Assembly today. It was my intention in both of these fora to convey a message of appreciation and express Japan's resolve.

In particular, with regard to Japan's strong determination to share the lessons and knowledge gained from our recent experiences, I felt that the response of the international community was favorable and supportive. Next year it has been decided that Japan will host two international conferences, one on cooperation in response to large-scale natural disasters, and one on nuclear safety.

Furthermore, on the consistent theme of realizing a better future, I expressed Japan's strong determination to make an active global contribution. I stressed Japan's resolve to achieve economic growth in tandem with fiscal health and also to provide support for increasing the size of the middle class in developing countries and promoting human security through Official Development Assistance (ODA) and other measures. Moreover, I also emphasized Japan's willingness to contribute to such issues as nation-building in South Sudan, famine in the Horn of Africa, and future reforms and democratization efforts in the Middle East and North Africa. I also expressed Japan's resolve to raise the safety of nuclear power generation to the highest level in the world and to take the lead in increasing development and use of renewable energies.

In addition, taking the opportunity provided, I also touched upon the issue of the DPRK and in particular the abduction issue in my address to the General Debate Session of the General Assembly today. I have also made strong requests to U.S. President Obama, President Lee Myung-bak of the Republic of Korea and U.N. Secretary-General Ban for their cooperation in bringing the abduction issue to a resolution.

In terms of the outcomes of bilateral summit meetings, in the Japan-United States summit meeting with President Obama I expressed my conviction that the Japan-U.S. alliance remains the cornerstone of Japan's diplomacy. I also affirmed that Japan will make further efforts to deepen the alliance and that both Japan and the United States must endeavor to achieve economic growth in tandem with fiscal health. I believe that this meeting represented an excellent start towards resolving points of concern between Japan and the United States and building personal relations of trust with President Obama. I was also able to hold useful exchanges of opinions in a cordial atmosphere with the leaders of Canada, the Republic of Korea, the European Union, the United Kingdom, India and France, and, as I have just mentioned, with U.N. Secretary-General Ban and also with President of the U.N. General Assembly, Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser.

This autumn the G20 Summit, APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting and ASEAN-related summit meetings are all scheduled to be held. Through these international meetings, I will work to ensure that Japan fulfills its commitments and works to promote steady and surefooted diplomacy in response to the various issues being faced by the international community, including the rise of emerging economies, the progress of a multi-polar world, and changes in the Asia-Pacific security environment.


REPORTER (Takatsuka, Mainichi Shimbun)
: Your first overseas visit has been to attend the General Assembly of the United Nations and you have just recently completed your address to the General Debate Session. You have just explained the points that you sought to highlight during your address, however, were there any specific points that you sought to emphasize in particular? If so, what was the response to these points? Also, can you tell us your thoughts about the bilateral summit meetings you have engaged in?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: Given that this was my first overseas visit, as I have just mentioned, my own strongly held intention was to come here to express appreciation on behalf of Japan for the cooperation and assistance extended to us following the Great East Japan Earthquake. It was also my intention to convey Japan's resolve to work diligently towards reconstruction and to bring the nuclear power station accident to a conclusion, thus working to achieve the revival of Japan. In addition, natural disasters, and also, depending on the situation, nuclear power-related accidents, are a shared global challenge. As Japan has experienced both of these events, I believe it is important to convey swiftly and accurately to the international community the lessons, knowledge and things we could have done better with hindsight relating to the recent disaster and so I made efforts in this regard also. Furthermore, as I have also already mentioned, while Japan must work to overcome the various difficulties we currently face without turning inward, it remains the case that there are various global-scale challenges to be dealt with. These cover various areas, including economic, humanitarian, peace and terrorism-related issues and I stressed at the United Nations Japan's determination to make an even greater contribution to such issues than before. In general I believe that these points that I laid out were well received by the countries present and have produced certain results. In bilateral summit meetings I also basically made the same points. Although there may be pending issues in Japan's bilateral relations with a number of countries in addition to Japan-United States relations, I believe that through these bilateral meetings I was able to make a good start in underlining our resolve to join hands in resolving outstanding issues between us and working together on issues that face the international community. In that sense I believe that I was able to build relations of trust.

REPORTER (Eckert, Reuters): Approximately one year ago, in this same room, I also attended a press conference held by your predecessor, Prime Minister Naoto Kan. At that time there was considerable tension between Japan and China, concerning the apprehension of the Chinese fishing trawler off the coast of the Senkaku Islands. Although the situation has since settled down to some degree, there are still a number of factors that make Japan-China relations somewhat fragile. You noted in your opening statement that you would be attending the G20 Cannes Summit, the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Honolulu, and the ASEAN-related summit meetings in Bali. How do you intend to create and strengthen new bonds with China, which is a major power?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: I am grateful for your question. I recognize that the Japan-China relationship is a bilateral relationship of great importance, both for the Asia-Pacific region and in a larger sense the entire world. Next year will be a very important milestone year for Japan-China relations as it will mark the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations, and my basic recognition is that from a comprehensive perspective efforts must be made to deepen our relationship of strategic mutual benefit, thus ensuring stability in our relations. I believe that public sentiment is of particular importance. During the time of General Secretary Hu Yaobang and Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone I made my first visit to China as part of a 3,000-strong Japan-China youth exchange. In terms of public sentiment, therefore, it is exactly through such exchanges among young people, who hold the future in their hands, that dialogue and mutual understanding will emerge, and I believe that it is therefore vital to promote exchanges. This will form a base from which the relations between our two countries can develop. Although from time to time we may face some difficult issues, we must make efforts from a broader point of view to ensure that at just such times there is no adverse impact on overall Japan-China relations. Shortly after assuming the position of Prime Minister, I held telephone talks with Premier Wen Jiabao, during which I received an invitation to pay a visit to China. I would very much like to visit China at a time that is appropriate for both sides, and on such an occasion I would like to make the same points that I have just outlined to you.

REPORTER (Sato, Nippon Television): You have already mentioned that you raised the issue of the DPRK and the abduction issue in your address to the General Assembly, however the Six-Party Talks remain at an impasse and there are no signs of any progress being made. Could you please tell us if you have any concept about how to advance this situation, including as many specific details as possible? In addition, in your previous response you noted that it would be necessary to seek the help of China. When is the specific timing of a visit to China likely to be?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: The DPRK once made a pledge to denuclearize. It is to be hoped that the DPRK will take specific actions to demonstrate that it is carrying out this pledge. This basic recognition is one that I reaffirmed and shared with both President Obama and President Lee Myung-bak. The most fundamental stance, therefore, is that Japan, the United States and the Republic of Korea will continue to engage in close cooperation and call for concrete action on the part of the DPRK. In addition, in your question you mentioned China, and I believe that it will be also important to request both China and Russia to strengthen their calls on the DPRK and for us to engage in further cooperation with China and Russia. While the nuclear issue and the missile issue remain outstanding, on this occasion I made a point of emphasizing to President Obama, President Lee Myung-bak and Secretary-General Ban that Japan will make every effort to achieve the return of the abductees to Japan at the earliest possible juncture. It is with this strong resolve that the Government seeks to respond to the situation.

With regard to the timing of my visit to China, it remains unconfirmed, and as I have already indicated I would like to visit China at a time that is mutually convenient for both sides, on which occasion I will call strongly for China to contribute to issues relating to the DPRK.

REPORTER (Pennington, Associated Press): In your opening statement you mentioned that relations with the United States are the cornerstone of Japan's diplomacy, but I would like to ask a question about an issue that has been causing problems in the Japan-U.S. relationship. This is namely the issue of the relocation plan for Futenma Air Station in Okinawa Prefecture. Do you think that you will be able to gain the consent of the people of Okinawa with regard to the current plan? Is there a possibility that the current plan will be redrafted and consideration given to the formulation of another plan? In such a scenario it can be expected that the costs of relocation would be considerable. Is Japan prepared to bear the costs of relocation?

PRIME MINISTER NODA: I have spoken directly to President Obama about this, and with regard to the issue of the realignment of U.S. forces in Okinawa, including the relocation of Futenma Air Station that you mentioned, I explained that Japan's stance is to continue to make progress in cooperation with the United States in accordance with the agreement that was reached last year between Japan and the United States. In addition, in order to ensure that a deterrence capacity can be maintained while minimizing the burden on Okinawa to the greatest extent possible, while I am well aware of opinions in Okinawa that are calling for the relocation of the air station outside the prefecture, the Government will continue to provide thorough explanations to the people of Okinawa and seek their understanding. I believe that the people of Okinawa have a strong desire to avoid a situation in which Futenma Air Station remains in its current position and with that in mind the basic stance of the Government is to make every effort to explain the situation and gain their understanding.

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