"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe following the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit

[Date] December 14, 2013
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional Translation
[Full text]

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now begin the press conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Prime Minister Abe will first deliver an opening statement, after which we will open the floor to questions from the press.

Mr. Prime Minister, your opening statement please.

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

PRIME MINISTER ABE: The atmosphere in ASEAN countries, with people who are always smiling as well as thoughtful of others, forward-looking and diligent, makes us Japanese people feel as if we have returned to the place we grew up. In the ASEAN countries that I have visited until now, wherever I went, children greeted me with friendly smiles.

A large number of ASEAN tourists also visit Japan. This year the number of tourists from Thailand and Viet Nam increased by 70 and 50 per cent respectively compared to last year. I believe this is the result of us having successfully conveyed our spirit of hospitality to them.

The people of ASEAN spared no effort in kindly offering assistance to us in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake. Even now, I cannot forget the hearty message of encouragement that young Indonesians sang for us in Japanese: “Bloom proudly, o Japan, bloom in the heart of the world.”

Amidst the horrific typhoon damage that struck the Philippines, a medical team from Japan and some 1,200 members of our Self-Defense Forces have been providing emergency assistance. We show kind consideration to each other and help each other in times of need. This is the quintessential way of thinking and acting for the people of both Japan and ASEAN.

Japanese companies have actively invested in the countries of ASEAN over the course of many, many years and expanded our trade with each other. This stems entirely from the fact that in those countries there were ASEAN people who were brimming with ambition and very hardworking. And, just as Japan successfully achieved rapid economic growth to develop into an economic powerhouse, so too has ASEAN now become the world’s growth center, overflowing with vitality.

We Japanese and the people of ASEAN are cut from the same cloth, and we have woven a history of friendship, hand-in-hand. From ancient times a great many people have freely traversed the sea lanes stretching north to south, from the South China Sea to the East China Sea. I consider it to be a historical inevitability that Japan and ASEAN would become true partners and an inseparable community surrounded by a single sea.

It is precisely because we are partners that various issues also arise. However, it is exactly because such issues exist between Japan and ASEAN that we have promoted dialogue and through that dialogue successfully identified paths towards their resolution. The start of this was the ASEAN-Japan Forum on Synthetic Rubber launched 40 years ago. We advance together and prosper together as we build up the dialogue between us. Japan and ASEAN have deepened our friendship in just this way over these 40 years. I consider today’s ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit to have been a superb start to the next 40 years, during which time this partnership will evolve still further. I wish to express my sincere appreciation to His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei Darussalam for having so graciously served as the Co-chair of this summit.

In Cambodia, a maternal and child health center that is also called the “Japan Hospital” has reduced the infant mortality rate by half. Japanese women are saving the lives of a large number of children and mothers. This kind of cooperation in the field of health care raises the standard of living of the people of ASEAN. Japan also possesses advanced disaster response technologies. The experience of Japan, a country which has overcome such limitations as energy shortages and pollution, can surely be utilized more fully to benefit the people of ASEAN. Japan and ASEAN are partners advancing together who strive to bring about better lives for our people.

I understand that in Myanmar, sushi has recently become very popular. In just this past year, more than 50 Japanese restaurants have opened their doors, one after another. We are now in an age in which dark beer from Lao PDR was awarded a gold medal in a Japanese contest and will be exported to Japan.

We recently succeeded in reaching substantive agreement on rules for investments and services under the ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEP). We will create an economic area between Japan and ASEAN in which not only trade in goods but also trade in services and investments circulate freely. Japan and ASEAN are partners working toward prosperity. Together, we will achieve prosperity.

Together we advance; together we prosper. For that reason, Japan and ASEAN must together maintain peace. Without freedom of the seas and freedom of the skies, we can look forward to neither an interchange of people nor vibrant trade. The principles of dispute settlement based on international law and the rule of law are what form the foundation of progress and of prosperity. That is precisely why Japan and ASEAN must be partners for peace and stability.

During this summit, I proposed that we hold a forum for the defense ministers of Japan and the ASEAN member countries to hold consultations, and we decided that we would move forward on this proposal. We will advance our cooperation in the areas of disaster response and responses to cyberspace issues and enhance our political and security-related dialogues in order to maintain regional peace and stability, which are areas of mutual interest. Under the banner of “proactive contributor to peace,” Japan will play an even more proactive role in maintaining regional peace and stability than in the past.

In Okinawa, soccer players Mr. Wan Zack Haikal, a member of the Malaysia national football team, and his compatriot Mr. Nazirul Naim have been very successful. Meanwhile, a Japanese team is now making a name for itself in Singapore’s soccer league. We have decided that next spring, young soccer players from all around ASEAN will gather in Japan to boost friendship through exchange matches with the children of Japan.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will be Games held by not only Japan but also Asia. Taking this opportunity, I intend to make use of the JENESYS 2.0 framework and other means to deepen sports exchanges between the youth of Japan and of ASEAN still further.

Beginning this year, Kamen Rider has joined the ranks of heroes of the children of Indonesia. We are now in an era in which the children of ASEAN are riveted with fascination at Doraemon’s 4th dimensional pocket. The children of Japan and ASEAN will together participate in exchanges through sports and enjoy the same kinds of culture. I look forward to the children who were raised as heart-to-heart partners becoming adults and carving out the next 40 years of ASEAN-Japan friendship and cooperation. What will ASEAN-Japan relations look like 40 years into the future? Today, here at this summit, we made a start on a new ASEAN-Japan partnership, namely of a community that continues to advance together and prosper together, and a peaceful community in which people, goods, and services circulate even more freely than they do now. I believe that this summit succeeded in paving the way for the adults in Japan and ASEAN 40 years from now to feel that way.

I will end my opening statement here.


CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now open the floor to questions from the press. Please raise your hand if you would like to ask a question. When you are called on, please first state your name and affiliation before asking your question. Please make your questions concise, as we would like to take questions from as many people as possible.

I will start with someone from the Japanese press. Please go ahead.

REPORTER (NAKATA, MAINICHI SHIMBUN): I am Nakata, with the Mainichi Shimbun. Thank you for taking my question.

I would like to inquire about the “Proactive Contribution to Peace” that you have been advocating. I understand that at today’s summit meeting, the leaders of the ASEAN nations voiced support for this “Proactive Contribution to Peace.” Please tell us what specifically the other leaders said about this matter.

Related to that, I would like to know approximately when you aim to present your conclusions regarding changes in the interpretation of the Constitution that would allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense.

That is all from me.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: As I mentioned in my opening statement, at today’s summit meeting, the leaders of the various ASEAN countries voiced a considerable amount of welcome and expectations towards Japan’s security policies based on a “Proactive Contribution to Peace.” There were also some leaders who declared clearly that they support the “Proactive Contribution to Peace” that Japan is working to advance. This can also be found stated specifically in the Joint Statement

Next week we are scheduled to release the National Security Strategy, which will indicate in concrete terms the content of our “Proactive Contribution to Peace.” I also intend to explain this Strategy thoroughly to other countries and further deepen their understanding of it.

The matter of the right to collective self defense is currently being examined by the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security. The government is now awaiting the conclusion of the Panel’s discussions, including the submission of a report.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Now let us invite a foreign correspondent. Please raise your hand and upon my appointment, please identify yourself with your name and the company you belong to. Be advised to make your questions succinct, please.

REPORTER (LIES, REUTERS NEWS AGENCY): Elaine Lies, Reuters News Agency.

The ASEAN countries are booming economically right now. They are repeating the economic miracle of Japan in the 1960’s. But there are a lot of tensions in the region right now. Is there concern among the ASEAN leaders and the Japanese government that money that could be used to build the economies will be diverted to defense spending? And what is the level of that concern? Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: In order for ASEAN, which has now become the growth center of the world, to develop still further, it is essential to have free and safe seas and skies ruled by law and not force. In contrast to this, at present we see attempts to alter the status quo in the East China Sea and the South China Sea through unilateral actions, as well as attempts to put restrictions on the international aviation order, which is based on freedom of overflight. It would be in no one’s interest for tensions to rise in this region. We are strongly concerned about such moves. I believe that in all likelihood a large number of the leaders of the ASEAN countries share that concern.

At today’s summit, Japan and ASEAN agreed to strengthen our cooperation in order to ensure freedom of navigation, freedom of overflight, and civil aviation safety. Japan and ASEAN are determined to make even further contributions to regional peace and stability as partners for peace and stability in order to be partners for prosperity.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next I would again like to take a question from the Japanese press. Please go ahead.

REPORTER (MATSUMOTO, TBS TELEVISION): I am Matsumoto, with TBS Television.  Thank you for taking my question.

I believe that the situation in North Korea is one of the factors for concern in terms of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, so I would like to inquire about that.

North Korea announced that it has executed Jang Sung-taek, the second in command who had been the guardian of Kim Jong-un, First Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea. I would like to know your reaction to this and also what the response of the Government of Japan will be.

Also, I would like you to address what impacts you think this will have on Japan-North Korea relations and the abduction issue.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Japan is cooperating closely with relevant countries regarding the moves taking place in North Korea, including the incident that you mentioned just now. We have worked to gather information as we watch the situation carefully in a level-headed manner, maintaining a high level of vigilance.

Yesterday, the 13th, after receiving a report related to this incident, all the relevant ministries and agencies gathered immediately under the direction of the Chief Cabinet Secretary and ascertained the situation. We will continue to take all possible means to respond to the situation.

I intend for us to conduct a thorough analysis of what changes this incident has the potential to cause while gathering information.

I will refrain from commenting in specific terms on the impact of this incident on Japan-North Korea relations or the abduction situation, but based on our policy of dialogue and pressure and on the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, Japan will continue to work towards the comprehensive resolution of outstanding issues of concern including the abduction, nuclear, and missile issues.

In the summit meeting just concluded, the ASEAN countries expressed their views that they should each cooperate in order to bring about peace and stability on the Korean peninsula and the resolution of the abduction issue.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: So again, let me turn to a foreign correspondent. Please.

REPORTER (ONG, THE STRAITS TIMES): Andrea Ong with The Straits Times in Singapore.

Earlier this week, The Straits Times chose you and President Xi Jinping from China as the joint winners of the “Asian of the Year” award in recognition of your domestic reforms and diplomacy in the ASEAN region. But at the same time, this award also represents the huge responsibility that both you and President Xi bear in maintaining stability in Asia. So, may I have your comments on winning the award? And, at the same time, in light of what you discussed with the ASEAN leaders at the summit today, are we likely to see Japan-China relations improve next year? And, will you consider making the first move to open dialogue with China? Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I am very moved to have been awarded the very prestigious “Asian of the Year” award. I believe that my feelings towards ASEAN and Japan’s contributions received recognition, and I also feel that Japan’s revival and the Japanese economy’s return to a strong economy—what I call “Japan is back!”—were well-received.

Ever since taking office, I have been developing strategic diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the terrestrial globe. ASEAN has unfailingly been at the heart of this diplomacy as a special partner. As proof of this, I have visited ASEAN five times since taking office. I started by visiting Viet Nam in January, and by the time I visited Lao PDR last month, I had visited all 10 ASEAN countries and interacted with the people of ASEAN. In every country without exception, I perceived tremendous expectations towards Japan contributing to the peace and prosperity of the region and the world.

At this summit as well, the leaders of the various countries expressed their great expectations towards the role that Japan should play, and this reinforced my desire to contribute together with ASEAN to regional and global prosperity.

As for Japan-China relations, the door for dialogue is always open on my side. I believe we should return to the starting point of a "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests,” by which, even if issues arise, we control the situation so that it does not impact our relationship as a whole. It is precisely because issues exist that the leaders should have candid discussions with each other, is it not? I very much hope that the Chinese side adopts the same approach.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: I will take one last question. Mr. Matsuyama, please.

REPORTER (MATSUYAMA, FUJI TELEVISION NETWORK): I am Matsuyama with the Fuji Television Network.

At this summit meeting, you confirmed the safety of aviation and freedom of navigation within the region. However, at the same time, there are differences in countries’ responses concerning the submission of flight plans for civilian aircraft with regard to the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) established by China. Japan is calling for voluntary restraint, saying that it is not necessary to submit flight plans for civilian aircraft, while the United States, the Republic of Korea (ROK), and others have indicated that they accept civilian aircraft to submit flight plans.

Mr. Prime Minister, do you intend to urge the U.S., the ROK, and other countries to adopt a similar response, consistent with Japan’s, regarding the submission of flight plans for civilian aircraft?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Japan’s stance on the ADIZ in the East China Sea established by China is that it unduly violates the principle of freedom of flight in international airspace, which is a general principle under international law. We call on China to revoke all measures which unduly violate such general principles. As for responses related to Japan’s civilian aircraft, Japan has no intention of changing the government’s policy of operating under the rules that have existed until now.

In any case, it is a given that the safety of civilian aircraft must be ensured. The United States government is deeply concerned about the establishment of the ADIZ by China and it has been very clear in its stance that it will not accept the demands from China regarding flights within that airspace. In addition, the ROK has stated that it considers these measures by China to be deeply regrettable. The government of Japan will continue to urge China to revoke all measures that infringe the freedom of flight in international airspace.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: I would like to end today’s press conference here. Thank you very much.