"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 Abe during his Visit to Europe

[Place] Brussels
[Date] May 7, 2014
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional Translation
[Full text]

1.Opening statement



During this mission, I have visited six European nations which share with us fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, the rule of law, and human rights, and which also have major influence in shaping international opinion.

Focusing on the economy and security, I gained the understanding of the leaders of each of these nations regarding my policies and also successfully reached agreement with them on the further deepening of our cooperative relations.

In the aspects of language and history, Europe enjoys deep-rooted ties with a wide range of regions around the world such as Latin America and Africa.

Europe is a powerful partner as I advance my “diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map.”

During this visit, we reached agreement that, in addition to Spain, Japan can also participate in Portugal’s global network.

(The economy)

In London, I was given the opportunity to make a speech in the City—where I also visited last year—regarding the progress of Abenomics over the past year. The City is a hub for corporate executives and investors from around the world.

I believe that I was able to send out a message to the world about my determination to continue forcefully advancing reforms.

The governors of Mie and Hiroshima prefectures and the mayors of Kobe and Fukuoka also visited London. Together, we made an appeal with a view to bringing more investment into Japan.

During this visit to Europe, concrete projects also made progress in such fields as railways and energy.

Agreement was also reached on developing business in Asia and Africa cooperatively with the countries of Europe, which have a vast network around the world.

Quality-focused small- and medium-sized manufacturers from Okayama, Fukui, and elsewhere also accompanied me on this visit, and we held an exchange seminar together with German SMEs.

A large number of Parisians, including President [Francois] Hollande, also had the opportunity to realize for themselves the superb taste of washoku, traditional Japanese cuisine.

Now, Japan has acquired a major opportunity to break free from prolonged deflation. In every country, strong interest was shown in the revitalization of the Japanese economy and the improvement of the employment situation.

Through eight summit meetings, I keenly realized once more that Abenomics is held in high regard by the international community, and that the world is paying close attention to movements in the Japanese economy.

We must never be afraid of reform.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Japan’s accession to the OECD. In this memorable year, Japan served as the chair country of the OECD’s Ministerial Council Meeting. In Paris, I delivered the keynote speech at this Ministerial Council Meeting of the OECD, sending out a forceful message to the world regarding the economic and financial policies Japan is now advancing and Japan’s contributions to the global economy.

I declared my determination to accelerate negotiations on economic partnership agreements (EPAs) with our economic partners around the world. In particular, we must deepen still further our partnership with Europe, with which we share fundamental values.

Towards that end, I put forward that we must conclude an EPA between Japan and the EU at the earliest possible time, and this proposal of mine was positively received and appreciated. I believe this visit to Europe will provide significant momentum towards accelerating negotiations.


The international situation is shifting dramatically, and in both East Asia and Europe the security environment is becoming increasing severe.

Japan and Europe are called on to respond cooperatively now in particular.

At the North Atlantic Council of NATO, which I attended for the first time in seven years, I delivered a speech on Japan’s “Proactive Contribution to Peace.” The national representatives in attendance expressed their high regard and support for this, one after another.

With the United Kingdom, we agreed to hold Joint Foreign and Defense Ministerial Consultations, also known as “2+2 Meetings.” Furthermore, with France, we reached agreement on strengthening bilateral cooperation in the area of security, including cooperation in defense equipment.

I also used this opportunity to hold direct and candid exchanges of views with other leaders regarding the situation in Ukraine. Next month, the G7 summit is scheduled to take place here in Brussels. G7 cooperation is becoming increasingly important.

The G7 should act as one in clearly setting forth the fundamental line that the elections at the end of this month are to bring forth a legitimate president. At the same time, we must ensure dialogue with Russia.

For Japan, the Ukraine issue is not “someone else’s problem,” unrelated to us. It is a matter that also involves Asia. “We cannot accept changes to the status quo by force or coercion.”

It was highly significant that I was able to confirm with all countries once again the principles of the rule of law and freedom of the seas.

This visit to Europe enabled me to become firmly convinced that the diplomatic and security policies Japan is pursuing are correct.

(In conclusion)

During this trip, I was able to meet with a large number of women who are actively engaged in society here in Europe, including Chancellor [Angela] Merkel as well as various ministers and business executives.

I wish to invite women who are dynamically engaged within the international community to Japan in September.

I am certain that it will become a major trigger in bringing about a “society in which women shine.”

I received warm-hearted hospitality in every place I visited during this visit to Europe. I wish to take this opportunity to extend my sincere appreciation for this.

2. Questions and answers

REPORTER (KAWANO, NHK): Mr. Prime Minister, you stated that you received a high degree of support for Japan’s “Proactive Contribution to Peace” during this visit to Europe, but I would like to ask about three points regarding the right to collective self-defense. You stated that upon receiving the submission of the report of the Advisory Panel [on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security], [the government] will “indicate the direction of discussions,” but what does “the direction of discussions” refer to, concretely speaking? Also, does the government intend to set forth its views immediately after receiving the submission of the Advisory Panel report? And, with regard to the timing of a Cabinet decision, you have said that taking such a decision may require some time. Is it your view that you will not necessarily be insistent on having a Cabinet decision during the current session of the Diet?

PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: Through this visit, I have been able to deepen with the leaders of each European country and each organization our common recognition of the security environment surrounding Japan and Europe. Against that backdrop, I believe that there have been statements of wide-reaching support for my determination to commit strongly to world peace and prosperity under the banner of “Proactive Contribution to Peace,” as well as statements of expectations towards Japan putting that into practice.

Europe, which shares with us the fundamental values of democracy, the rule of law, and so on, is an important partner as Japan puts its “Proactive Contribution to Peace” into practice. Through this visit to Europe, our cooperation in the field of security advanced concretely not only within Japan’s bilateral relations but also with NATO and the EU, which work to uphold the security of the region as a whole.

For example, we agreed on concrete areas for cooperation that included cooperation with the EU’s activities to foster peace and stability in such places as Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; joint exercises with NATO and the EU to combat piracy off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden; and cooperation with the U.K. and France regarding defense equipment and technology. I intend to make these areas of agreement into momentum as I continue to advance cooperation with Europe in the field of security.

As for the right to collective self-defense, the Advisory Panel on Reconstruction of the Legal Basis for Security is now wrapping up its discussions. The Panel is scheduled to submit its report this month, during the week of the 12th.

Once that report has been submitted, the government intends to set forth its fundamental direction regarding how it will proceed with its examination of reconstructing the legal basis for security, taking the content of the report also into account.

Given that, we will examine the way forward, based also on the views of the Cabinet Legislation Bureau and of course through consultations with the ruling parties. As I already stated in response to questions raised in the Diet, I believe that in the case of any changes made to the interpretation of the Constitution, we will take a Cabinet decision and have the Diet discuss the matter, but there is no pre-set deadline. First of all I would like to have thorough discussions within the ruling parties.

REPORTER (MCMANUS, AFP): Prime Minister, AFP. I’d like to ask you a question about Russia, please. Prime Minister, Japan has its own territorial disputes with Russia that date back many years, yet Russia is also a major trading partner, presenting the same sort of problems of the need for a cooperative relationship and possibly an adversarial relationship. I’d like to know what conclusions Japan draws from the current crisis in Ukraine for handling relations with Moscow and does Japan find any common cause with Europe on how to proceed with Moscow? Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: Japan can never accept attempts to change the status quo with force in the background, such as Russia’s attempt to annex Crimea. I consider this to be not an issue of the single region of Ukraine, but rather an extremely important issue for the international community as a whole, including East Asia.

In the recent Statement of G7 Leaders, we agreed to take prompt action to impose addition sanctions against Russia. Following the additional punitive measures by the United States, the EU, and others, Japan also decided to stop for the time being the issuance of visas to enter Japan to a total of 23 individuals who are considered to have contributed to the violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

We strongly expect Russia to fulfill the Geneva agreement sincerely and to contribute to the peaceful and diplomatic resolution of issues. I intend for Japan to play its role in close cooperation with the G7 and the countries of Europe.

At the same time, it is necessary for the Ukraine issue to be resolved in a peaceful manner through dialogue. Japan intends to make contributions towards the resolution of this issue while maintaining a dialogue with Russia.

REPORTER (KUWABARA, SANKEI SHIMBUN): Mr. Prime Minister, as you also mentioned in your opening statement, during this overseas mission you explained to each European leader the situation in East Asia in which tensions are rising, and you also mentioned China’s military expansion in yesterday’s speech at NATO. Through Mr. [Masahiko] Komura, vice president of the Liberal Democratic Party, who visited China the other day, you conveyed to that same China your wish to hold a summit meeting with President Xi Jiping on the sidelines of the Beijing APEC meeting in November. I would like to hear your intentions in doing this.

However, the Chinese side considers the causes of deteriorating relations to be mainly on the Japanese side, and it is pressuring the Japanese side to make concessions regarding the issues of the Senkaku Islands and the interpretation of history. I believe that it would be difficult to consent to such demands from the Chinese side, but I would like to ask what kind of concrete actions you will take towards bringing about a summit meeting.

PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: As I have been saying until now, between Japan and China, we should build up our dialogue and exchanges in various fields and at various levels and have that lead to dialogue at a higher political level. I understand that this approach of mine was conveyed to the Chinese side during the visit to China of the Japan-China Friendship Parliamentarians’ Union, headed by Mr. Komura, vice president of the Liberal Democratic Party.

Japan and China are leading nations having a major responsibility towards the peace and stability of both the region and the international community. While there are various outstanding issues between us, there has been no change in my position that we should return to the starting point of a “mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests” and work to improve our relations taking a broad perspective. I am always saying that we should have candid discussions without any conditions attached on either side. My door for dialogue is always open. I would like very much for China to embrace the same stance.

REPORTER (FIDLER, WALL STREET JOURNAL): I’m Stephen Fidler from the Wall Street Journal. Prime Minister, as you know, events in Ukraine have renewed the focus in Europe and in the Group of 7 on the issue of energy security. As European countries seek to replenish their natural gas stocks ahead of the next winter, the question of energy prices is also important.

As you know, also, Japan’s increased purchases of natural gas following the closure of Japan’s nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster have increased Japan’s use of fossil fuels, and increased world prices therefore for natural gas. That’s why Japan’s nuclear plants are relevant to Europe and to the rest of the world. I wonder when we can expect a reopening of Japan’s nuclear power plants, and could it happen this year?

PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: I consider the diversification of energy sources to be absolutely important for strengthening the energy security of both Japan and the globe.

In Japan, our degree of reliance on fossil fuels within our electricity supply is now higher than it was at the time of the first Oil Shock. The reality is that it is 88 per cent at present.

We will press forward in bringing about a society that thoroughly conserves energy and advance the introduction of renewable energies to the greatest extent possible while reducing our degree of reliance on nuclear power by the amount we are able to. This forms our basic policy. However, when we consider the actual state of affairs that I just described, we cannot declare “we have now stopped using nuclear power” in a facile manner.

With regard to nuclear power, a major premise is that we ensure safety, taking into account the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident. Under that premise, the independent Nuclear Regulation Authority is undertaking scientific and technical examinations on the basis of the most stringent level of regulatory standards anywhere in the world. This is a completely independent review. We will move forward in restarting the operations of those nuclear power plants that have been recognized as having conformed to these standards. At that time, the national government will stand at the forefront as we make efforts to gain the understanding and cooperation of persons concerned in the local government of the host community.

It is imperative that we move this process forward in a very careful manner, and no decisions have been taken on a target date for the restart of operations.

REPORTER (KASHIMA, FUJI TELEVISION NETWORK): Mr. Prime Minister, during this overseas mission you appealed to each of the national leaders regarding direct investment in Japan. Has there been any response to this?

Related to that, Minister [of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy Akira] Amari has indicated that he will clearly specify a lowering of the effective corporate tax rate from next fiscal year within the basic policy to be compiled this June. Do you share the same view regarding this direction, from the viewpoint of ushering in investment?

PRIME MINISTER SHINZO ABE: Foreign direct investment into Japan is extremely important for Japan’s employment and growth, and it is an important pillar of my growth strategy. I believe that we must make Japan’s investment climate attractive in order to make movement towards investing in Japan into something fully-fledged. Japan aims to be “the easiest country worldwide in which to do business.” Towards that end, I intend to advance regulatory reform, corporate tax reform, and the reinforcement of corporate governance, while the government listens directly to the voices of overseas business executives.

Moreover, I intend to expand efforts by myself and relevant ministers to promote investment to Japan at the very highest levels. From that standpoint, both I and other ministers have headed out on overseas missions, making use of these consecutive national holidays. During this visit to Europe as well, I encouraged investment through my summit meetings with other national leaders and through exchanges of views with private-sector companies. In the midst of economic reforms, the European side places emphasis on cooperation with Japan. I felt an eagerness to invest in Japan.

I intend for our diplomatic establishments abroad also to join in collective efforts, in addition to JETRO, to identify projects for investing in Japan by foreign companies. It is necessary to engage in these efforts as an all-hands operation, so to speak.

I am firmly convinced that through these efforts, the putting into practice of the goal to double the amount of direct investment in Japan by 2020 will most certainly become a plus for both employment and Japan’s growth.

Moreover, with regard to lowering the corporate tax, the basic policy of the Abe Cabinet is for Japan to grow through robust competitiveness in the context of the global economy. If we do not properly advance our policies and prevail against the competition, we will not be able to safeguard employment or continue to grow.

In light of these standpoints, I believe we must press forward still further in reforming the corporate tax, as I also stated in my keynote speech at the OECD. The government and the ruling parties have already begun examining this. From the perspective of prevailing in international competition as well as from the perspective of fiscal reconstruction, we will also undertake discussions within the LDP Research Commission on the Tax System on matters including the best direction for the effective corporate tax rate and the taxation base.

I intend to deepen discussions on this matter thoroughly and advance our examination of it so that we can reform the tax structure, orienting it towards growth.