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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Policy Speech by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to the 181st Session of the Diet

Monday, October 29, 2012

[Provisional Translation]

1. Introduction: Tomorrow's Peace of Mind and Our Responsibility towards Tomorrow

On the occasion of the opening of the 181st session of the Diet I would like to present the basic policies of my administration.

It has been a little over a year since I was appointed Prime Minister. During this time, what has moved me is a sense of crisis in worrying about the future of this nation. I now have an urgent sense of mission that something must be done.

The difficult challenges that the Great East Japan Earthquake thrust upon our nation; the numerous heavy burdens that our country has borne since even before the earthquake disaster - regardless of which we consider, simply leaving them unresolved would lead to irreparable problems five or ten years into the future. There is no time for us to pause in our efforts.

The reconstruction of the disaster area, which is about to face its second harsh winter; the fight against the nuclear accident, which is continuing even now; energy and environmental policies, which need to be reestablished due to the accident; the increasingly uncertain economic situation and security environment now facing us; and the advent of a super-aging society with a dramatically falling birthrate, which is unprecedented in history. All these complexly intertwined issues envelop the future of this nation.

During the previous Diet session, I pledged to break away from "the politics that can't decide," which continually sidesteps making decisions, and to bring about "politics that makes decisions."

So what, then, is the purpose of "politics that makes decisions"? Now is the time for us to ascertain that launching point.

Tomorrow will without a doubt be better than today. I want to build a society in which it is possible for all Japanese born in this country earnestly striving to survive the "now" immediately before them to believe this. I would like each person to discover "a place where he or she belongs" and "a role to play" within society and live his or her sole lifetime in a robust manner, regardless of age, gender, existence of a disability, or other factors, wherever he or she lives. I want children, our local regions, and working people to restore their vibrancy.

I wish to bring forth "tomorrow's peace of mind." I intend to secure employment, eliminate economic disparities, and restore a fair society supported by a large middle class. I want to establish energy and environmental policies which, free of dependence on nuclear power plants, enable peace of mind.

I wish to fulfill our "responsibility towards tomorrow." I want to carry out our responsibility as the generation alive at this moment for the sake of our children and grandchildren and, indeed, future generations not yet born.

"Politics that makes decisions" must exist in order to bring forth "tomorrow's peace of mind" for those of us alive at this moment and fulfill our "responsibility towards tomorrow" for those who will be alive in years to come.

The previous Diet session saw the passage of legislation related to the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems. This is a groundbreaking achievement that indicates resolute will towards the attainment of "politics that makes decisions." It is a significant first step towards restoring a society overflowing with warmth and bequeathing it to the next generation.

And yet some "homework assignments" still remain. In order to fulfill our "responsibility towards tomorrow," it simply would not do to give up on our assignments while only halfway complete.

It surely cannot be a good thing endlessly to repeat politics in which the things that everyone must accomplish are tied to the political situation all for nothing and in which energy is perpetually poured into power struggles. We cannot allow a situation in which a political vacuum is created haphazardly, bringing policymaking to a standstill.

I urge the honorable members of the Diet, who represent all the Japanese people, including those in generations still to come, to carry through faithfully on those matters which must be addressed. In order to fulfill properly our responsibility towards tomorrow, I ask you to move forward forcefully during this Diet session to take the firm "next step" that lies beyond the "first step" that was successfully worked out upon the conclusion of deliberations in the previous Diet session.

2. Various Challenges in Fulfilling Our "Responsibility towards Tomorrow"

(Responsibility towards Tomorrow: Forging a Course towards the Revitalization of the Japanese Economy)
We will fulfill our responsibility towards tomorrow. That means breaking out of the deflationary economy and the excessive appreciation of the yen, which generate a chain of anxieties about the future. It also means awakening the potential of the Japanese economy and restoring firm confidence in what lies on the horizon.

Forging a course towards the revitalization of the Japanese economy and engendering a sense of reassurance regarding employment and daily life are the greatest tasks for the Noda Cabinet to undertake at present.

The effects of the European debt crisis and the deceleration of emerging economies make it impossible to claim that the future of the global economy is unassailably stable. There is also an increasing sense of unease regarding the situation now facing the Japanese economy, including a trade deficit at a scale unprecedented in history.

A stalling of the Japanese economy at the current time would not only directly impact employment and daily life but also could even cause a loss of momentum for reforms geared towards the future. Seamless economic countermeasures will also be an investment in the future to facilitate carrying through on reforms.

Since assuming the post of Prime Minister I have met all around Japan pioneers who have continued to take on challenges that lead to tomorrow as well as heroes working behind the scenes, supporting the economy out in the field. When I recall their happy faces brimming with confidence, I am able to hold a firm conviction in Japan's potential.

The modern-day master craftsman who, in a small family-run factory in Tokyo's Ota Ward, performs cutting operations in units of microns, by hand, without any difficulty. Young farmers who are discovering the revival of agriculture and the "tomorrow" of their Gunma Prefecture hometown as they build bonds with consumers. Entrepreneurs working hard in Okinawa to develop software, they themselves embodying the mission to serve as a bankoku shinryo - a "bridge to the world." And Professor Shinya Yamanaka, who, continuing to push forward with his work despite repeated setbacks and taking to heart a spirit of appreciation and responsibility, carved out a frontier of knowledge. Such people demonstrate the potential we Japanese enjoy, but they are no more than just a small part.

The first driving force pushing economic revival forward can be found in the "Comprehensive Strategy for the Rebirth of Japan," which aims at robust growth through the development of frontiers. This is also a "fight song" giving support to the people who are striving for a better tomorrow out in the field in ravaged local economies. In order to enable people to follow steadily the paths elaborated within that Strategy, we will not only place stress on the fostering of human resources who will lead the rebirth of Japan and on the creation of innovations, but also mobilize policy resources as a priority matter to the utilization of the three priority areas of "green," "life," and "the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries industries" as well as to the utilization of small- and medium-sized enterprises.

I have given instructions to formulate new economic countermeasures that will be precursors to these endeavors, and the first portion was compiled just recently. The green energy revolution, which will be an engine for new growth. The promotion of regenerative medicine, which will shine light on the hearts of people who have long looked forward to a groundbreaking treatment. The transition to "senary," or sixth-order, industry within the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries industries, which are attracting passionate young people as future leaders. Through the recent economic countermeasures, we will bring forward the implementation of our investment in the future, including these initiatives. In addition, we will act in even closer coordination with the Bank of Japan, which sets monetary policy.

We must also reestablish in line with the reality of Japan since the great earthquake disaster our energy and environmental policies, which underpin the fundamentals of people's daily lives and of the economy.

The accident at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station has resulted in countless areas for reflection regarding the modalities of the energy policy we have promoted until now. Neither an approach of continuing with the promotion of nuclear power plants as if an accident had never happened, nor an insistence on the immediate elimination of nuclear power plants without consideration of the various impacts it would have on the lives of the people, fulfills our responsibility towards tomorrow.

As for our future energy and environmental policies, we will carry them out in accordance with the "Innovative Strategy for Energy and the Environment," which mobilizes all policy resources in order to enable the operation of zero nuclear power plants in the 2030's. In that case, we will uphold the promises we have made with the host governments and engage in responsible discussions with the international community while also addressing the matter with flexibility, conducting continual verification and reviews, so that a serious blow is not inflicted upon the daily lives of the people.

Changing the policy of promoting nuclear power, a policy which we have continued for many years since soon after the end of World War II, is by no means an easy task. Even still, we will not avert our eyes from, evade, or give up on this difficult issue, but rather, dauntlessly take on the challenge, transforming our policies dramatically to bring about a society that is not dependent upon nuclear power.

Moreover, this new challenge will serve as a second driving force that propels economic revitalization forward. The realization of a society in which energy conservation is practiced thoroughly together with the expanded introduction of renewable energy holds the keys of course to bringing about at as early a time as possible a society that does not depend on nuclear power, but also to the Japanese economy restoring its vitality. The active participation of the citizens will be imperative for these to come about. We will formulate the "Framework for Green Development Policy" within this calendar year and, together with economic countermeasures, we will venture to accelerate a green energy revolution spreading out from Japan to the world. We will also be engaged in the strengthening and stabilization of our electrical grid system, which is absolutely critical in expanding the introduction of renewable energy. Let us endeavor to carry through on this revolution together, using the power of an "all Japan" approach.

When we keep firmly in sight a grand picture of the flow of world history, the techniques that brought prosperity to Japan, a trading nation, lie in our prudent economic diplomacy. Economic diplomacy not only indicates the positions Japan takes over the medium to long term but also constitutes a third driving force for economic revitalization.

The Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group, which were held in Tokyo for the first time in almost half a century, also served as an opportunity to reconfirm the fact that, both after World War II and today, Japan enjoys prosperity thanks to moving forward together with the nations of the world. The important point for a trading nation is adapting to changes in the international environment. Will we orient ourselves to a path of decline, as an aged, inward-focused island nation floating in a far corner of Asia? Or will we aim to be an open nation brimming with vitality, asserting leadership in forging a new order for prosperity in the 21st century as a nucleus of the Asia-Pacific region, which lies at the heart of global development? If we do not boldly choose the latter of these paths, then we cannot fulfill our responsibility towards tomorrow.

The goal of realizing the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) is one that is already held in common both within Japan and overseas. We will continue to promote high-level economic partnerships as free trade and investment bring abundance to each country and exert leadership in formulating new rules that will strengthen our mutually beneficial relationships in the region.

To that end, taking as a major premise the securing of our national interests, we will protect those areas that should be protected and promote simultaneously and in parallel the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, a Japan-China-Republic of Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA), and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in East Asia. At the same time, we will advance negotiations on a Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and other potential agreements and aim to initiate at an early time negotiations on a Japan-EU EPA.

In addition, we will continue to provide strong support for the self-reliant development of Okinawa, which holds tremendous potential as a gateway to the Asia-Pacific region.

Moreover, within the process of reforming our energy and environmental policies, we will develop our resource diplomacy, which will strengthen our relations with resource-rich countries, and take all possible measures to ensure energy security.

(Responsibility towards Tomorrow: Ensuring Continuity in the Reconstruction of the Disaster-Affected Regions and the Revival of Fukushima)
We will fulfill our responsibility towards tomorrow. That means unfailingly taking strides forward towards reconstruction of the disaster-affected regions, never falling behind in providing support to overcome the trials resulting from the earthquake, even for a minute.

More than one and a half years have passed since the disaster. Although various kinds of progress can be seen in the revival of towns within the affected areas, buoyed by the indomitable spirit of the residents who love their hometowns, the fact is that there still remain insufficient and deficient aspects of the government's countermeasures. I have visited the disaster areas numerous times and listened directly to the heartfelt voices of the people living in temporary housing units. In response to their voices, we have taken all possible measures to ensure that adequate preparations have been made against the cold in order for them to make it through the harsh winter, such as equipping their bathtubs with the ability to reheat the water. In response to concerns that the disaster victims would lose their places to live, we have lengthened the temporary housing units' two-year residency term, but in addition to this we will be dynamically promoting the preparation of public housing for disaster victims as well as the transfer of housing to areas of high elevation. In addition, we have recently decided upon the flexible mobilization of reserve funds, including for the expansion of group-based subsidy programs for small and medium enterprises, for which there have been particularly strong requests from the disaster area.

The Reconstruction Agency will serve as the "control tower" into the future, improving upon those areas needing improvement and promoting such efforts as continued human resources assistance, special zones for reconstruction, and reconstruction grants and other such assistance. In cooperation with companies, NPOs, and other entities, the government will unite in its support for efforts by residents and local authorities striving to dispose of rubble and revive their hometowns to vitality.

There have been various criticisms made regarding how the budget for reconstruction has been spent. We must listen sincerely to the voices calling for the utmost priority to be accorded to disaster area reconstruction. We will properly provide allowances for budget items that are truly needed by the disaster-affected areas, and strictly narrow down other items.

The fight against the nuclear accident continues even now. Within the buildings of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, which I visited recently, the walls were completely covered with words of support and thanks sent in from all around the country for the workers on site who are continuing their exacting work. In response to the tireless efforts of the local people working to dispel unfounded reputational damage, there is now a spreading movement to support the affected areas by eating products grown there. The undaunted spirit of the people who love Fukushima and struggle to bring about its revival is connecting with, and most certainly reverberating with, kind-hearted people nationwide who want to support their efforts.

Without the revival of Fukushima Prefecture there can be no revival of Japan. This resolute determination, held throughout the government as a whole, is unshakable. There will also be no stoppage of assistance and encouragement arriving from both within Japan and overseas. In addition to steadily moving forward with the work to decommission the reactors impacted by the accident, in order to bring concrete shape to the revival of Fukushima, including, among other matters, decontamination, compensation payments, infrastructure recovery, and the rebuilding of industry, we will maximize our policies to be implemented, including the expansion of location subsidies for companies planning to newly establish facilities in Fukushima, prepared from reserve funds.

The recent great earthquake disaster also sounded a major warning bell for disaster prevention countermeasures for the nation as a whole. Utilizing the lessons learned thus far in countermeasures against a massive earthquake in the Nankai Trough, an inland earthquake under the capital, or other such events whose potential future occurrence are matters of concern also constitutes a responsibility towards tomorrow for us to shoulder. As everyday practices, we will conduct thorough preparations for situations that threaten the lives and property of the Japanese people, including not only large-scale natural disasters but also terrorist or cyber attacks, while taking all possible crisis management measures, staying constantly alert.

(Responsibility towards Tomorrow: Consolidating the Foundations for Peace of Mind in People's Daily Lives)
We will fulfill our responsibility towards tomorrow. That means removing - even if only slightly - the sense of unease towards the future that we feel as we go about our daily lives.

A sizable number of young people have no hopes for tomorrow. Some parents, rather than feeling the joy of bringing up children who will be the leaders of tomorrow, instead feel almost crushed by the responsibility. And there are some people either struggling with poverty or isolation or on the brink of doing so and cannot even imagine their lives tomorrow, as well as children who are frightened of being bullied.

We must not avert our eyes from such realities and must reach out our hand as society as a whole. We will foster a sense of reassurance regarding employment by reviving the economy as a whole and resolving mismatches, so that as many people as possible can come to have a firm sense of being connected to society through working. We will also endeavor to prepare an environment enabling the "New Public Commons" to take root in society, through which the community's warmth will also be conveyed to places the government is unable to reach.

The reason that a sense of anxiety remains concerning people's lives in the future is that uncertainties linger regarding the way forward for social security, including pensions, health care, and nursing care.

In a step towards a historic expansion, new doors are already open in the area of support for children and child-rearing, which is predicated on the philosophy of "children first."

We must further advance discussions on the outstanding issues within social security on the foundation of the three-party agreement [on the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems] that was pledged among political parties. Let us launch without delay a National Council to ascertain the ideal modalities for pensions, health care for the elderly, and other such matters to display an unwavering sense of reassurance regarding the future of social security.

There are some people saying they are anxious over the impact of an increase in the consumption tax on their daily lives, even when they understand the significance of raising it. In addition to elaborating in concrete terms measures to address the situation of low income earners as well as means of addressing price shifting, we must bring into practice a number system for social security and taxation, which would form the foundation for better tailored social security and tax systems. Beyond this, we must press forward to redress economic disparities from the angle of the tax system by making the structure of income taxes and inheritance taxes increasingly progressive, among other reforms. Let us set forth paths one by one for remaining issues such as these within the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems, including the early passage of related legislation that did not achieve passage in the previous session.

(Responsibility towards Tomorrow: Striving for Peace and Stability While Maintaining Pride as a Nation)
We will fulfill our responsibility to tomorrow. That means making efforts toward peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region while maintaining pride as a nation.

There can be no doubt that the security environment surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly severe, to a degree never before experienced. Various developments related to territory and sovereignty have also taken place. We will with unwavering resolve carry out in accordance with international law our natural responsibilities as a nation, of protecting Japan's peace and safety while defending our territory and territorial waters. On the occasion of the recent United Nations General Assembly, I clearly stated Japan's position as such. Resolutely maintaining pacifism, a fundamental principle of our Constitution, we will continue into the future to engage in public relations efforts towards the international community while also working to reinforce the system to ensure security in our surrounding waters.

At the same time, cross-border people-to-people exchanges are now demonstrating a degree of depth never seen before. Forging from a broad perspective stable relationships of trust with neighboring countries, including notably China, the Republic of Korea, and Russia, is a foundation which enables Japan and the region as a whole to enjoy peace and prosperity and constitutes one of the major obligations incumbent upon the nation.

Serving absolutely as the cornerstone is the Japan-US alliance, and we must make that foundation even more solid. In light of this, the repugnant incident that occurred in Okinawa recently is one that has been deeply hurtful to the people of Japan and to the people of Okinawa Prefecture in particular and is something that must never happen. I reiterate my pledge to put forth my utmost efforts of course to prevent any recurrence of incidents and accidents and also to reduce Okinawa's military base burden, including the relocation of Futenma Air Station.

Regarding our relations with North Korea, we are currently coordinating the resumption of intergovernmental consultations, which would be held for the first time in four years. Japan adheres to the principle of seeking to normalize its diplomatic relations with North Korea in accordance with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, through the resolution of the outstanding issues of concern, including the abduction, nuclear, and missile issues, and settling the unfortunate past, and we will spare no effort towards the complete resolution of the abduction issue.

As I stated during the previous Diet session, I will endeavor to strengthen relations of trust with heads of state and government and work to enhance further our relationships of friendship and of mutual benefit with neighboring countries.

(Responsibility towards Tomorrow: Restoring Confidence in Politics and Government Administration)
We will fulfill our responsibility towards tomorrow. That means restoring confidence in politics and government administration.

Rectifying the disparity in the value of votes in different constituencies during the elections for both chambers of the Diet, for which warnings of a "state of unconstitutionality" have been issued by the Supreme Court, and electoral system reform, including a reduction in the number of seats [in the House of Representatives], are areas which must be addressed without delay.

We will without fail seek out a conclusion to this matter within the current Diet session. 

Without the issuance of special government bonds it would be impossible to execute fiscal management at present, no matter what administration is in power. By necessity, there have already been restrictions on implementation within budgets for the regions and other budgets, and should this situation continue, familiar administrative services and other areas may be delayed, possibly causing serious difficulties in the daily lives of the public while having a dampening effect on the revitalization of the economy.

Under the limitations resulting from the divided Diet, will we relapse into the unproductive politics of interparty antagonism, in which the political situation is given primacy? Or will we be able to engage in debate, giving consideration first and foremost to policies, and properly put forth conclusions to matters that must be addressed? The biggest test case of all will be the bill on special provisions concerning issuance of government bonds. I will work to ensure the passage of this bill at the earliest possible time.  In addition, the ruling and opposition parties have to move forward without reserve in their discussions on the content of the bills comprising the legislative backing for the budget and work out a resolution. At this juncture, let us break away from the abuses in which every year the bill on special provisions concerning issuance of government bonds is made the subject of political gamesmanship.

We must not allow our strides forward in administrative reform to come to a halt. For the DPJ-centered administration, local sovereignty reforms are the most central to reform. We will continue to move forward with a further review of the system of obligations and frameworks [imposed by the central government on the regions as a condition for using grant funds], the elimination of ministerial branch offices in principle, and other such efforts, in line with the opinions expressed by relevant persons. In addition, we will continue to promote the reform of incorporated administrative agencies and of special-purpose budget accounts, hold down the total personnel costs of national civil servants, and reform the civil servant system, while also working to resolve the differences between the public and private sectors in terms of retirement benefits. Moreover, along with preparing for the sale of shares of stock in Japan Post in order to lessen the public's burden towards reconstruction, we will steadily advance our efforts for reform of postal services, including as a fundamental point the provision of the three post office services (postal services, banking services, and life insurance services) in a unified manner and the obligatory provision of universal services.

3. Closing Remarks: Determination to Fulfill Our "Responsibility towards Tomorrow" by Adopting a Moderate Stance

Each of us has 1,024 ancestors, if we trace back ten generations. We have been born in this country having been handed down the sash of a long history inherited from our ancestors from long ago. It was precisely because our forebears took great pains to continue to invest in the future, even in times of war and hunger, and even in the period of transformation during the Meiji era or the burnt-out ruins after World War II, thinking of future generations and persevering in their efforts through the sweat of their brows, that we in the present enjoy peace and prosperity.

What can we leave for our children and grandchildren, or for the generation that will live ten generations into a future yet unseen?

Sundown is a moment at which we again become filled with the strength to take on tomorrow, as we feel moved to look up and see the beauty of the setting sun after finishing a day's work, enveloped by a feeling of satisfaction at having worked hard. I want the Japanese people to be industrious and able to be genuinely moved at the beauty of a sunset ten generations or a hundred generations into the future. I wish for us to pass down to the next generation a Japan of peace and abundance whose society overflows with warmth.

The situation now confronting us is one of a great many difficult and complex issues of the type that could divides public opinion. Due to the future being too uncertain and our feeling that we are caught in an impasse, we may be inclined to give in to the temptation to rely on straightforward and easily understood solutions. Yet no true solutions lie beyond arguments taken to extremes.

We will untangle complexly intertwined threads one by one, and in order to act with integrity to both the present and the future, we will explain matters at length and discover the path we should follow. We will proceed step by step tenaciously and steadily down the path that we seek out together. The path for fulfilling the responsibility that we bear towards tomorrow can only be worked out after overcoming our differences of opinion and competing interests, on the basis of moderation.

My fellow honorable members of the Diet, we must first of all squarely face the issues now before us. Let us endeavor to establish a political culture that gives adequate thought to the future and single-mindedly carries out our responsibility towards tomorrow, giving consideration first and foremost to policies.

And to each of the sovereign citizens of this country listening to this speech in their living rooms or at work, it will be impossible for the nation to fulfill its responsibility towards tomorrow under the thinking, "As long as everything is fine at present, that's good enough." We need the assistance of you, in whom sovereignty rests.

It is you who will lead the revitalization of the Japanese economy, who will lead the green energy revolution, who will revive your hometowns back to vibrancy. Whether adhering to the position of defending the nation or holding in common a sense of crisis towards Japan's future and sharing various burdens, it all lies with you, the people.

Is what you, the people, wish for politics characterized by repeated clashes between political parties that consistently prioritizes politics over the greater picture? Or do you desire politics that follows through on the issues to be addressed and steadily carries out our responsibility for tomorrow? I would like for you as the holders of sovereignty to keep a very close eye on the workings of politics and push politics in the direction of carrying out our responsibility to the future.

The measures undertaken until now by the DPJ-led government since the historic change of government are still only half complete in terms of measuring up to the public's expectations. Yet I am of the conviction that the societal direction for which we have been aiming has been entirely correct. That is the strong determination to share "tomorrow's peace of mind" with others living here in the present and to execute "responsibility towards tomorrow" for our children and grandchildren who will be alive in years to come. It is an approach of firm determination to restore the large middle class and bring back a fair society free of economic disparities.

People who lie in fear from worries over daily living and employment are waiting even at this very moment to be presented with the warmth of society. Disadvantaged people living in the future who lack a voice are constantly waiting for our responsible actions. Now is the time to bring about tomorrow's peace of mind and fulfill our responsibility towards tomorrow.

I urge all the people of Japan now to join hands and take a further stride towards the realization of a society overflowing with warmth and supported by a large middle class. Let us demonstrate as much latent potential as possible and consolidate our confidence in the future into something unfailing. Let us then endeavor into the future to meet the unvoiced expectations of citizens of our nation in years to come, who will live on into an everlasting future.

I close my policy speech to this honorable Diet with my strong expectations that this Diet session be a forum for constructive deliberations bringing peace of mind to tomorrow while fulfilling our responsibility towards tomorrow. 

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