(THIS IS A PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION AND CERTAIN TERMS AND PHRASES MAY BE CHANGED AT A LATER DATE)
7 April 2000
It is indeed unfortunate that former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, who strove so boldly forward under the banner of his Five Challenges, including one for the rebirth of the Japanese economy, was taken with illness and had to withdraw from office with his aspirations not fully achieved. As I watch the steady outpouring of expressions of concern from within Japan and from leaders the world over, I am once again struck by the deep significance of the policy achievements which former Prime Minister Obuchi made across such a wide array of areas encompassing domestic policy and foreign policy, as well as the degree to which those policies were recognized. Indeed, I am unable to contain the grief that pervades me as my thoughts go out to former Prime Minister Obuchi, who now lies in a hospital bed unable to see the full blooming of the fruits of his work. My heartfelt prayers are for with him for a speedy recovery.
Such are the circumstances in which I unexpectedly find myself appointed Prime Minister of Japan. Hence, I choose to view the fact that I have been chosen to succeed former Prime Minister Obuchi as an act of providence. Thus, I herein pledge to carry forward the aspirations of former Prime Minister Obuchi and apply my full strength as I devote my very essence to addressing matters of state.
Recognizing that the ability to speedily effect decisions based on a firm bedrock of stable government was key to further developing our nation and ensuring stability for the well-being of our people, the former Cabinet, based on policy consultations with those who embraced similar aspirations, formulated and implemented policy as a coalition government. After evaluating the results achieved by this coalition government, and with a view to boldly implementing policies toward the creation of a new Japan for the coming 21st century in this stable political framework underpinned by strong relations of trust, I have launched a coalition government composed of the Liberal Democratic Party, New Komeito and Reformers' Network Party and New Conservative Party. I am determined to boldly take on the mounting tasks at hand and meet the expectations of the people of Japan.
Turning to the situation in the part of Hokkaido where Mt. Usu has been actively erupting since the end of last month, I would like first of all to extend my heartfelt sympathy to the many local people who have been forced to take shelter in uncomfortable surroundings. The Government has already established an Emergency Disaster Headquarters for the Mt. Usu eruption and is sparing no efforts in responding to this situation. We will continue to coordinate closely with the local entities concerned as we take every precaution and put into place a range of powerful measures to alleviate the difficulties of those residents who have taken shelter and to bolster the livelihoods of those engaged in agriculture, forestry and fisheries as well as those working in the tourism and other industries.
The recent series of improper acts perpetrated by civil servants is indeed truly deplorable. I strongly call upon the members of our civil service to strive for propriety in their actions and for an improvement in their ethics, in line with the recently promulgated National Public Official Moral Code. Moreover, I am determined to do my utmost to recover the trust of the people by boldly taking measures including conducting a review of the systems and operational modes of our police authorities, which fulfill such a vital role in the maintenance of order, based on earnest deliberations in the Police Reform Council.
(Perception Of The Times We Live In)
More than fifty years have passed since the end of World War II and Japan and many other nations of the world find themselves in the mighty swell of changing times evidenced by the advance of globalization, the IT revolution and aging populations with dwindling birthrates. As a result, many of the systems and the way of thinking that underpinned the breathtaking development achieved by Japan in the postwar period are no longer appropriate for the times in which we live.
We must not hesitate to effect reform toward the next age to come. I christen this administration the "Cabinet for the Rebirth of Japan" and pledge that we will move forward aiming to ensure that Japan will be a nation of people who live in security embracing our dreams for the future, a nation of beauty rich in spirit and a nation that engenders the trust of the world. To achieve such lofty goals I will carry forward the policy aspirations of former Prime Minister Obuchi as I strive to further develop policies and resolutely implement measures across the entire political spectrum including both domestic matters and foreign policy issues.
(A Nation Of People Who Live In Security Embracing Our Dreams For The Future)
First and foremost we must aim to be a nation of people who live in security embracing our dreams for the future.
Against the background of elements such as the decreasing credibility of our financial system, the Japanese economy recorded five consecutive quarters of negative growth since the autumn of 1997. Indeed, there were even some who feared that we might have been heading into a deflationary spiral. However, with the effect of the sweeping policies boldly and swiftly implemented by the Government and ruling parties, the Japanese economy is continuing to improve moderately, despite the fact that harsh conditions remain in such areas as employment. We are seeing gradual increase of developments in capital investments and other corporate activities, indicating enhanced corporate confidence as our economy moves toward a self-sustaining recovery with ever-brighter spots. We must not relinquish this opportunity to pass the baton smoothly from public demand to private demand and I intend to do my utmost to place the economy firmly on the path to real recovery. I will also pay full attention to improve the employment situation as I strive to relieve the people of any concerns they might have for their job security. At the same time, I will steadfastly advance structural reforms, including strategic investments in our social capital in order to ensure that we are prepared for the coming 21st century, the implementation of even more regulatory reform and the promotion of science and technology. Moreover, I intend to focus on the formulation of policies that will imbue our society with new vitality in the 21st century, such as economic development that capitalizes on the explosive force of the IT revolution. In this vein I will earnestly strive towards the holding of the Internet Fair 2001 Japan. Turning my eyes to the very source of economic dynamism, our small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and venture businesses, I will continue to support the self-help efforts of ambitious companies and implement carefully-crafted policies including measures in the financial sector.
There is no doubt whatsoever that fiscal structural reform is a matter of utmost priority that must absolutely be achieved. I firmly believe that once we have placed our economy firmly on the path to real recovery we must not limit ourselves to tackling issues in the fiscal sector alone, but must persevere to address such matters as our system of taxation and the modalities through which we ensure our social welfare, as well as such broader issues as the relations between our central and local governments and the very nature of our society and economy. Furthermore, in order to break free of the fiscal rigidity born of a budget allocation process that gives priority to the purview of respective ministries and agencies, bearing in mind the principle which led to the reorganization of our central ministries and agencies in January 2001, and effecting in advance the basic premise of the new procedure where the Council on Economic and Financial Policy will coordinate overall economic and fiscal policies, I will personally direct the formulation of a fiscal 2001 budget appropriation to the needs of the dawning 21st century.
If we are to build a society in which we can live at ease despite the rapidly ageing population and dwindling fertility rates, we must make ours a society in which we can be employed throughout our lives in positions commensurate with our aspirations and abilities at the same time that we advance reform of our social welfare structure to ensure our security as we become older. Aiming to ensure fairness in the way we spread the burden among generations, the Law to Revise the Pension System has already been passed in the Diet. Moreover, steady progress is being made in systemic reform in response to changes in the environment in which we live, including the initiation of nursing care insurance from this April. Bearing in mind the discussions to take place in the recently established Council of Learned Individuals to Study the Modalities for the Structure of Social Welfare, I intend to further examine the full spectrum of systems spanning our pension, health and nursing sectors from a cross-cutting perspective as I will do my utmost to build sustainable, stable and efficient social welfare systems for our future.
(A Nation Of Beauty Rich In Spirit)
The second goal for us to work towards is to be a nation of beauty rich in spirit.
At the outset of this Session of the Diet former Prime Minister Obuchi made it clear in his Policy Speech that he was resolved to make educational reform a top priority focus of his Cabinet. I have long been involved in educational issues and educational reform and it was with the same thoughts in mind that I listened to that speech.
Looking back over the education that we have provided for our people in the postwar period, it is clear that we have achieved great success in the cultivation of a populace to support the development of our economy. Still, our performance in terms of instilling our people with compassion for others, a spirit of dedication to the betterment of others, respect for the culture and traditions of our nation and other elements of what it takes for us to be rich in spirit as Japanese, as well as the fostering of principles and ethics, has not necessarily been as exemplary. This in turn may have led to recent serious issues such as class disruption and violence at school. Indeed, it seems to me that this is also exerting an influence in many ways on our social morals. The goal of education is not merely to cultivate individuals who excel only in the academic spheres. Rather, education must aim to foster the development of decent individuals imbued with creativity. Further, the social environment of our children must support their robust development.
I expect to receive an interim report sometime this summer from the newly established National Commission for Educational Reform. After that, I hope to hear from wide sectors of society as I advance educational reform and build it into a national people's movement.
Responding to environmental issues is another important element in the creation of a nation of beauty. Many of the diverse environmental issues that we face stem from a socio-economy that has developed on the basis of mass production, mass consumption and the massive generation of waste. A fundamental resolution of such challenges will require us to reconsider our lifestyles and the modalities of our society and recreate it as a recycling society with a low impact on our environment. The Government and ruling parties will work together to consider what we must do and will submit legislation to this Session of the Diet to create a basic framework to address the tasks at hand.
Our beautiful land is an irreplaceable asset of our nation. We must preserve the natural beauty and traditions of our regions while increasing the autonomy and independence of local governments to create attractive local communities imbued with individual appeal.
Furthermore, as expectations rise for the agricultural sector and rural areas to further develop diverse functionality, such as the preservation of the natural environment, and to ensure a stable food supply, under the purview of the Headquarters on the Promotion of Policies for Food, Agriculture and Rural Areas, which was established at the end of last month headed by the Prime Minister, a range of measures will be effected, beginning with measures to achieve our targets in terms of self-sufficiency in our food supply.
(A Nation That Engenders The Trust Of The World)
Our third task is to be a nation that engenders the trust of the world. To this end we must thoroughly fulfill the responsibility and play the role that the international community expects of Japan.
We are rapidly approaching the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit, whose venue former Prime Minister Obuchi decided upon after a soul-searching process in which he examined all possible elements. At this Summit I intend to convey a powerful message from Okinawa as to what each and every nation, and indeed, the international community as a whole must do to ensure that all the people of the world can enjoy greater peace and prosperity, have greater peace of mind, and live in a more stable world in the 21st century. With the cooperation of the people of Okinawa Prefecture and the local governments, including Nago City, I shall do my utmost to ensure the success of the Summit. I am also determined to concentrate all my efforts on resolving the issues faced by Okinawa, including measures to promote the economy of Okinawa and the transfer and handover of Futenma Air Base.
As Minister for Foreign Affairs Shintaro Abe once raised the banner of "Creative Diplomacy" to show the way our foreign policy ought to be. This expressed an active approach to diplomacy incorporating creativity in order to defend our national interests.
From such a perspective, while maintaining the relationship with the United States as the cornerstone of Japan's foreign policy, it is vital that we make even further diplomatic efforts toward the realization of peace in Asia, centered particularly in Northeast Asia. I intend to further develop our relations with the People's Republic of China based on the Joint Communique of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People's Republic of China. I am also resolved to further advance the relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea characterized by a positive inclination toward the future, which were opened by former Prime Minister Obuchi and President Kim Dae Jung. On Japan-North Korea relations, in close cooperation with the Republic of Korea and the United States, I will channel unceasing effort towards the normalization negotiations that were reopened after a seven-and-a-half-year lapse. In that process I intend to devote my fullest efforts towards the resolution of the various concerns that exist between Japan and North Korea, including humanitarian and security issues.
This Cabinet will carry forward the unaltered policy of advancing the relations between Japan and the Russian Federation across the full spectrum, including the peace treaty negotiations. At the end of this month I will visit Russia to meet with President-elect Vladimir Putin, with whom I will have a frank exchange on the future development of relations between our nations.
I will make efforts to build close relations of trust with the other G8 leaders before the Summit.
We must recognize that as we strive to strengthen the foundation of our own national security, contributing to the maintenance of international security is an important task for Japan to cast itself as a nation that engenders the trust of the world. With the understanding of the Japanese people, I intend to further advance Japan's cooperation for United Nations peace activities. Regarding the Contingency Law, while fully taking into account the stance recently expressed by the ruling parties to call on the Government to initiate deliberations on the enactment of legislation, I intend now to give consideration as to how the Government will respond.
Stated otherwise, our approach to effecting a rebirth of Japan amounts to a bold challenge to the tasks envisioned with the Three Party Coalition Agreement to achieve a rebirth of the Japanese economy and undertake sweeping structural reform. Indeed, the path which leads to a shining 21st century cannot be traversed without tackling this challenge. It is my determination to realize that goal under powerful political leadership. Moreover, the Government will thoroughly implement administrative reform through decentralization and carrying out the reorganization of central government ministries and agencies slated for January 2001.
Structural reform of this nature will sometimes involve hardship. Still, I am unwavering in my resolve to move forward, hand-in-hand with the Japanese people, sharing any hardship that may await us. Hence, borne forth under the credo of "Government that steps with the people and is trusted by the people," I resolve to use all of my strength to overcome the current difficulties we face and assume all of the responsibilities for what may ensue.
In this I humbly ask for the support and cooperation of the people of Japan and the members of the Diet.