"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 following the 69th Session of the United Nations General Assembly

[Date] September 25, 2014
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional Translation
[Full text]

1. Opening Statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

Here in New York, a little more than two weeks have passed since Mr. Kei Nishikori pushed past the powerful players surrounding him to achieve the distinction of being the first Asian player to advance to a US Open final in tennis. September is also the season when the United Nations General Assembly is held in New York, and political and economic leaders come together from all over the world. New York is truly “the center of the world.” That makes this a golden opportunity to send out the message of Japan’s way of thinking. Having also come here last year, I have come to New York this year as well to take advantage of this timing.

“Is the revival achieved by the Japanese economy for real?” Investors who lead the global economy as well as world-renowned economists from Harvard University and elsewhere are paying very close attention to Japan’s Growth Strategy.

It is Japan’s local areas with their distinctive features that offer opportunities to invest. The Governor of Wakayama Prefecture, the Mayor of Kyoto, the Mayor of Tokamachi, Niigata Prefecture, the Mayor of Mimasaka, Okayama Prefecture, and I together made appeals for Japan’s local regions, which are brimming with points that will appeal to investors.

Saying, “We want you to change the world, starting from Japan,” a significant number of women leaders, notably Ms. Hillary Clinton, have commended Japan greatly and expressed their tremendous expectations towards Japan’s role as it aims to create a society in which women shine. Japan is working to become a country that is once more dynamically engaged on the world’s center stage. I have felt that again very keenly.

Earlier today I called on the world at the United Nations General Assembly, saying, “The world now faces serious crises. Now is the time for us to stand united beneath the flag of the United Nations.”

In the modern day in which people and goods move briskly all throughout the globe, Ebola virus disease is a problem capable of threatening the security of not only Africa but indeed the entire world. Japan will make efforts to the best of its ability, including in providing additional contributions of personnel and leading-edge drug candidates.

For island states in the Pacific, the Caribbean, and elsewhere, global warming is a matter that affects the very existence of those countries.

Within our measures to mitigate climate change, Japan will make contributions to the international community by making the greatest possible use of the world’s most advanced energy conservation technologies and our knowledge in the field of disaster management.

The activities of ISIL, or the so-called “Islamic State,” are a serious threat to international order. We intend to undertake emergency assistance in terms of both humanitarian assistance and assistance to neighboring countries. I also conveyed directly to President Ma'soum of Iraq that Japan intends to support Iraq’s fight against terrorism.

We will continue to undertake vigorous assistance towards ensuring the stability of Ukraine.

Japan is resolved to continue to take on great responsibility regarding global issues such as these, working hand-in-hand with the international community. Under the banner of “Proactive Contribution to Peace,” Japan will work even harder than ever to contribute to world peace and stability.

Next year we will commemorate the 70th anniversary of the U.N. coming into being. In order for the U.N. to be able to respond effectively to global challenges, we must reform the U.N. to reflect the realities of the 21st century. Japan is prepared to take on an appropriate role within that context.

This way of thinking of Japan succeeded in garnering strong support from countries all around the world. During this visit to New York, I have met a great many national leaders again, including President Hollande of France and Prime Minister Abbott of Australia. In each of these summit meetings, we were able to conduct very substantial discussions, as we are all friends able to talk through various issues by proceeding from detailed and concrete discussions immediately upon meeting again. The number of summit meetings that I have held in just over 20 months since taking office is now more than 200. Discussing matters directly with other heads of state and government deepens our mutual understanding and also leads to Japan’s national interests. Going forward, I intend to continue to actively develop my diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map.

At New York’s prestigious Columbia University which I visited during this trip, I understand that the number of U.S. students who have expressed interest in learning about Japan has doubled compared to five years ago. I made a pledge with President Obama during his visit to Japan in April that we would work to double the number of exchange students between Japan and the U.S. by 2020. I am firmly convinced that this will reinforce still further the bonds of friendship within the Japan-U.S. alliance while serving as a force that will drive new development in our bilateral relationship.

The starting point for bonds of friendship between two nations is the exchange of young people who will shoulder the responsibilities of the next generation. Now, with more and more attention being paid to Japan, I very much wish for Japan’s young people also to play increasingly active roles in the world. Japan intends to provide vigorous support for this.

I have renewed my resolve for Japan to bring the entire spectrum of its potential—its local regions, its women, and its youth—into full bloom on the world stage.

Japan’s young “samurai,” pro baseball player Mr. Masahiro Tanaka, carried off a superb return to the lineup this week. His teammate Mr. Derek Jeter sent an encouraging shout-out to Mr. Tanaka, saying, “I look forward to him continuing to play magnificently for the Yankees, again next year and for a great many years to come.” There is no doubt in my mind that this past year, which Mr. Tanaka spent with Mr. Jeter as his superb team Captain, became nourishment for Mr. Tanaka’s further growth.

I would like to extend my thanks to the people of New York for welcoming me during this visit. I also wish to express my sincere respect to Mr. Jeter, who will be retiring this year, for his long years of marvelous play on the field.

2. Questions and Answers

REPORTER (HARA, NHK): Mr. Prime Minister, you are seeking to bring about a summit meeting with President Xi Jinping of China on the sidelines of the APEC summit in November, but the Chinese side is demanding that Japan recognize the existence of a territorial dispute over the Senkaku Islands, and also that you not visit Yasukuni Shrine. How do you intend to respond to these issues? In addition, President Park Geun-hye of the Republic of Korea is pressing the Japan side to resolve the comfort women issue and there are similar opinions to be found within international opinion. What are your views regarding the approach being taken by the ROK? Also, are you now considering steps to remedy this situation?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I intend to improve our relations with China and the ROK going forward. China and the ROK are both important neighboring countries for Japan. It is precisely because we are neighboring countries that various issues arise. I believe that it is exactly because we face such issues that the leaders of our countries should have discussions without any preconditions attached.

The APEC summit will convene in Beijing in November. I think we can say that the peaceful development of China is an opportunity for Japan and also for the world. I think it would be beneficial to have a Japan-China bilateral summit meeting during my visit to Beijing for the APEC meeting, and towards that end I consider it necessary for both countries to continue to make unostentatious efforts.

With regard to the ROK as well, a Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting is taking place here in New York at roughly this very moment. I believe that in the future it will be beneficial if we are able to hold summit talks on the occasion of various international meetings.

REPORTER (GLADSTONE, NEW YORK TIMES): Mr. Prime Minister, I’m Rick Gladstone from The New York Times and my question is about the U.S. military base on Okinawa and the plans to build a new one. We’ve seen evidence recently that bore samplings have been taken near Henoko for possibly filling in for a new runway for a base, and that suggests that you are moving forward for construction maybe sometime soon. So, my question, sir, is, are you willing to go forward with construction of this new base despite what we expect to be very emotional opposition from local residents? And, if you are, would you do so before the Okinawa governors’ race in November? Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: What is most important is that we absolutely must not have Futenma Air Station permanently located as it is now, truly in the very heart of a built-up area and surrounded by residences, schools, and the like. This is the major premise and I believe we can say that this is a recognition shared by both the national government and the local people.

As for the return of the Futenma Air Station, its relocation to Henoko is the sole solution upon which Japan and the U.S. reached agreement. This solution was reconfirmed during last year’s Japan-U.S. “2+2 Meeting” (between the Foreign and Defense Ministers of both countries), and President Obama and I also agreed on the necessity of the early relocation of the Air Station during our summit meeting this year.

For relocating the Air Station to Henoko, it was necessary to obtain the consent of the Governor of Okinawa to reclaim [the public water area]. Having obtained that, from August this year, construction has already begun on the work in the offshore waters that will be necessary for relocating the base. We intend to continue to press forward with the construction, with a view towards returning the Futenma Air Station expeditiously.

With regard to alleviating Okinawa’s military base burden, both the basic principle and basic approach of the Abe government is that “we will do everything we are able.”

Last month we completed the relocation to Iwakuni Air Base in Yamaguchi Prefecture for all 15 of the KC-130 aircraft for aerial refueling that had been deployed to Futenma Air Station. I intend for us to continue to advance various policies through the government working together as one in order to alleviate the military base burden in a tangible way while staying faithful to the feelings of the people of Okinawa.

REPORTER (KURAMOTO, KYODO): I would like to ask about Japan-Russia relations. On the 24th, the government imposed additional economic sanctions against Russia in light of the situation in Ukraine. Mr. Prime Minister, from the perspective of resolving the Northern Territories issue, you have also been placing emphasis on urging the Russian side through dialogue and involvement with them. Are you still examining having a visit by President Putin to Japan this autumn, as you agreed during the Japan-Russia summit meeting? Or, will you seek a summit meeting on the sidelines of the November APEC summit? I would like to hear your strategy for dealing with this matter.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I have held summit meetings with President Putin five times over the year and nine months since I took office. Just the other day, on the 21st, which was my birthday, I received a telephone call from President Putin and we had a telephone dialogue. We agreed that we would continue dialogue between our two countries into the future.

As for the situation surrounding Ukraine, Japan takes the basic stance that changes to the status quo by force or coercion are totally unacceptable, and we will respond to the matter placing importance on cooperation with the other countries of the G7. The additional measures announced on the 24th are one part of that. At the same time, I consider dialogue to be important in order to urge Russia to act as responsible nation.

I will continue to advance Japan-Russia relations in a manner that contributes to Japan’s national interests. We will also make use of opportunities at multilateral international meetings, including the possibility of a summit meeting on the sidelines of APEC in Beijing in November.

While I intend to continue to aim to bring about a visit by President Putin to Japan, nothing has been finalized regarding the dates for his visit. I intend for us to examine the matter by considering various factors in an integrated manner.

REPORTER (PENNINGTON, ASSOCIATED PRESS): Matthew Pennington from the Associated Press. Prime Minister, does Japan support the military action being taken by the United States and other nations against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq? And, could you foresee sometime in the future where Japan itself may lend military assistance to such an operation by allies of Japan?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Japan is deeply concerned about the situation, in which attacks by ISIL have resulted in effective control being taken over cities in Iraq and Syria and have brought about a large number of victims. We strongly condemn the attacks by armed groups.

Japan supports the fight against ISIL being undertaken by the United States and other members of the international community. As for the recent air strikes in Syria by the U.S. and others, we understand that these were measures that were unavoidable in order to prevent further deterioration of the situation, in the context of the Syrian government being unable to control the activities of the armed groups. Japan intends to carry out assistance to the extent possible through cooperation with international organizations, in the form of non-military contributions, including assistance to refugees and humanitarian assistance to neighboring countries.

REPORTER (TAKEUCHI, NIPPON TELEVISION NETWORK): The other day, [Foreign] Minister Kishida announced that next week a meeting will be held between the diplomatic authorities of Japan and North Korea. At that meeting, Japan will receive an explanation of the status of progress on the investigation into all Japanese abductees. Originally, it was anticipated that there would be communication regarding the results of this investigation at some time between late summer and early autumn. In your view, by when should the first report be delivered? You yourself also accepted the fact that there has been some delay beyond the initially scheduled timing for this report, but do you have any intention to once again impose the economic sanctions that were lifted, in light of this situation?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: The Japanese side’s stance is that North Korea should conduct its investigation promptly and in good faith and expeditiously report the results to us.

It was from this perspective that the Japanese side proposed holding the meeting on the 29th in Shenyang between the diplomatic authorities of Japan and North Korea.

At this meeting, we will strongly urge the North Korean side to conduct its investigation promptly and expeditiously report the results to us. We also intend to listen carefully to the current state of the investigation being conducted by North Korea’s Special Investigation Committee and assess the situation. There has been no change to our stance of dialogue and pressure.

I am resolved that my mission will not be complete until the day comes that the families of all the abductees are able to embrace their loved ones in their own arms. I intend to continue to respond to this matter on the basis of that resolve.