"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] New Year's Press Conference by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

[Date] January 5, 2015
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional translation
[Full text]

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Happy New Year to everyone.

I just paid a visit to Ise Jingu shrine. As always, I have a truly sobering feeling when I encounter the dignified atmosphere of the shrine precincts.

I renewed my determination to reliably live up to the trust I received from the public during last month's general election.

Last year, three researchers from Japan, Dr. Akasaki, Dr. Amano, and Dr. Nakamura, were awarded the Nobel Prize. This was truly wonderful news. Thanks to LED lighting, which achieves dramatic energy savings, children in Africa are able to study even at night. A technology that originated in Japan and was cultivated in Japan is working to change the world. You can do it if only you try. These three Nobel laureates have given great encouragement to us Japanese.

The Japanese people lost confidence in themselves because of deflation that dragged on for 15 years. But nothing will change if, out of pessimism, we come to a halt. We must once again look up, face forward, and carve out a new era. We will revive the Japanese economy without fail. To do so, we must advance bold reforms that go beyond those that have come before.

I will tackle head on the reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake, rebuilding education, reforming social security, and putting our diplomacy and security back on the right footing, as well as vitalizing local regions and creating a society in which all women shine. All of these are the most drastic reforms since the end of World War II. And yet, no matter how challenging the path ahead may be, I am determined to accomplish these reforms together with you, the public, keeping my eyes fixed firmly on our children's future.

I intend to make 2015 a year in which we dramatically advance all sorts of reforms. I intend to make the ordinary Diet session that begins this month the "Diet to carry out reforms."

This year we mark the milestone of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, a war in which a great number of our ancestors lost their lives anxious about the fate of their homeland and wishing for the happiness of their families. The peace we enjoy in the present day was built upon the precious sacrifices we made. The path Japan has taken as a peace-loving nation will remain unchanged. Against the backdrop of a dramatically changing international situation, we will make this into a path which we follow even more tenaciously. We will defend fully and resolutely the lives and happy daily lives of the Japanese people by developing the new security legislation making this possible.

Over these 70 years, Japan has earnestly built up a free and democratic nation while feeling deep remorse regarding World War II. We have also made our greatest possible contributions in order to bring about the peace and development of our friends in Asia and around the world. Taking pride in this, as we head towards the 80th, 90th, and 100th anniversaries to come, Japan must make still greater contributions towards world peace and stability under the flag of "Proactive Contribution to Peace." In this milestone anniversary year, I intend to send out to the world the message of our clear resolve regarding this.

At this very moment, Maritime Self Defense Force personnel are at work in the waters off Indonesia, having given up their New Year's holidays to search for the Air Asia aircraft that crashed. Self-Defense Forces personnel are also engaged in peacekeeping operations to assist South Sudan in becoming self-reliant and also upholding world peace while protecting ships from around the world from pirates in the Gulf of Aden, a major sea artery. I wish to express my sincere respect for the members of the SDF, who carry out their duties with a strong sense of mission and responsibility.

This year is the "year of the sheep" in the Oriental zodiac. The character used to write "sheep" is also one of the characters used to write the word "future". I understand that this character originally had the meaning of leaves and branches growing thickly on a tree, with the fruit on the tree finally coming to take on a nice taste. The seed of Abenomics that we have sown has, over the past two years, grown to become a great tree, and we are about to enter the season for it to bear fruit. However, it is still in the process of growing.

During the 2014 general election, I traveled all throughout the country and I was able to listen directly to a truly wide variety of voices, including the voices of people living in Japan's local regions and people working at small- and medium-sized enterprises and micro enterprises. I believe I must make Abenomics grow further, into a mighty tree heavily laden with fruit, by transitioning into execution at an early time the economic countermeasures that we compiled at the end of 2014 and responding assiduously to this variety of sentiments.

By tackling economic issues as my foremost priority this year as well, I hope to have as many people as possible in every corner of the nation taste the fruits of Abenomics. Keeping in mind the original meaning of the character for "sheep," such a result would be entirely fitting for 2015, the "year of the sheep."

As I conclude my opening statement, I would like to extend my best wishes for 2015 to be a wonderful year for the people of Japan.

I will end my opening statement here.


CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We will now open the floor to questions from the press.

Please first state your name and affiliation before asking your question.

I would like to begin with a representative of the Cabinet Press Club.

Yes, please go ahead.

REPORTER (KASHIWAGI, TBS): I am Kashiwagi, with TBS Television. Thank you for taking my question.

The year 2015 will be the year that puts to the test the ability of people to feel the turnaround of the economy as a result of Abenomics. At the same time, there are a large number of challenging issues facing the ordinary Diet session for which public opinion is divided.

Mr. Prime Minister, how do you intend to solicit the public's understanding about restarting operations at nuclear power plants, developing security legislation including allowing the exercise of the right of collective self-defense, and bringing concrete shape to constitutional revisions, matters about which the public holds a conservative attitude towards risk-taking?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: All of the topics mentioned in your question just now were ones we took up within the pledges made by the Liberal Democratic Party, and our views on them are set forth clearly.

Furthermore, we have been explaining our views regarding the topics you mentioned in interviews conducted with various media organizations and in the party leaders' debates.

We bear the responsibility of carrying out those matters about which we made promises and pledges as a party over the course of the election campaign. What political party will set forth what kinds of policy pledges? What does each party intend to carry out over the course of its term of office, and what will it actually carry out over that term? An election puts these to the test.

The outcome was that we came to once again hold the reins of government. Concerning the exact topics you brought up just now, I believe that we must reliably carry out what we promised within our policy pledges.

At the same time, we must press forward still further in our efforts to gain the understanding of the public. I intend to thoroughly and carefully explain our stances on these matters, including through the debates in the Diet.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next, I will take a question from a correspondent representing the local Correspondents' Club for the Mie Prefectural Government. Please give your name and affiliation before asking your question.

Yes, please go ahead.

REPORTER (KANAZAWA, ASAHI SHIMBUN): I am Kanazawa with the Asahi Shimbun.

My question is about Abenomics.

As you also touched on in your opening statement just now, you have stated that you will make the turnaround of the economy felt in every corner of the nation. In Mie Prefecture, primary industry in particular is conducted on a large scale, while depopulation has been underway in the southern part. I would like you to talk about countermeasures to assist these kinds of local areas.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: At the end of 2014, we compiled a long-term vision for maintaining the size of the population at roughly 100 million people 50 years from now, as well as a comprehensive strategy that incorporated national goals and the fundamental direction of policies and measures for the next five years and a menu of concrete policy options. From now, we will enter the stage in which we bring concrete shape to these and begin executing them. What we want to concentrate on first is identifying local regions' resources. No matter what region of Japan you visit, you will most certainly find a variety of appealing resources. We want to have people all over Japan as well as people around the world come to know those products and tourism resources characteristic of each local area and provide thoroughgoing support to expand their markets.

This identification of local regions' resources will create jobs even in hilly and mountainous areas. I believe that predominantly, local regions' resources include agriculture, fisheries, and other kinds of primary industry, or processed goods derived from agriculture, forestry, and fisheries products to a large extent. But as I mentioned earlier, unfortunately, even though local regions have excellent resources, the fact is that they usually lack the ability to communicate that information to the entire country, or they lack the tools to send that message out internationally. I would like to provide assistance for properly sending that message out to the entire country or internationally one more time. We will submit a bill to the next ordinary session of the Diet in order to promote the development of these kinds of local specialty products and the cultivation of markets for them.

In addition, within the economic countermeasures compiled at the end of 2014, we incorporated the establishment of subsidies to spark consumption in local areas, such as product coupons with premium or merchandise certificates for local specialties. We also incorporated the development of a mechanism for having specialists from urban districts active within regional small- and medium-sized enterprises. Within local areas, we intend to provide assistance for developing or pioneering new products, assistance for communicating information about these products to a broader audience, and assistance for finding the human resources capable of doing these.

It is also important to prepare an environment in which people can live prosperous lives with peace of mind, regardless of the local area in which they live. In hilly and mountainous areas, which are facing declining populations, we would like to arrange hubs that are thoroughly sufficient, even if small. This would mean bringing together in a certain area medical, nursing, and welfare services, shops, physical distribution services, and other such daily life services. We would also enrich that area's functions as a community hub for culture, sports, lifelong learning, and so on, in a way that is well-tailored to the actual circumstances of the community, within the bonds that tie the local area together.

The important point is that it is not the national government—Kasumigaseki, as it were—that will decide various things going forward. Instead, all throughout it will be the local regions that consider their approach, take action, and initiate changes. The national government will undertake efforts based on the ideas generated by the local regions and provide support by making use of a full spectrum of measures, including in terms of budgets and human resources. Within that system, I would like for the various local regions to work to outdo each other in harnessing wisdom and to accelerate the vitalization of local economies.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Now I will take another question from a representative of the Cabinet Press Club. Please state your name and affiliation. 

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

I would like to ask about Asian diplomacy.

Mr. Prime Minister, you have thus far expressed your intention to release a future-oriented statement this year, the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Both China and the Republic of Korea are paying close attention to how this would succeed to the Murayama Statement regarding colonial rule and aggression. Will the new statement display continuity, such as by adhering to the expressions used in the Murayama Statement? Also, how do you intend to approach the timeline for this going forward, such as seeking the opinions of eminent persons?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: As I have been saying all along, the Abe Cabinet upholds the position on the recognition outlined by the previous administrations in its entirety, including the Murayama Statement. Moreover, we will uphold this position.

Over the 70 years since the end of World War II, Japan has built up a free and democratic nation that upholds human rights and respects the rule of law, has advanced along the path of a peace-loving nation, and has made major contributions to the peace, development, democratization, and so on, of the Asia-Pacific region and the world.

As we come to this milestone of the 70th anniversary since the end of the war, I intend to consolidate wisdom when considering what the Abe administration can send out as a message to the world concerning Japan's remorse over World War II, the path we have walked since the war as a peace-loving nation, and how Japan will contribute further to benefit the Asia-Pacific region and the world, and then incorporate that into a new statement.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: Next, I will again take a question from a correspondent representing the local Correspondents' Club for the Mie Prefectural Government. Yes, please go ahead.

REPORTER: This relates further to the vitalization of local economies that you mentioned just now, but it has been announced that the Regional Vitalization Special Zones will be established by spring. Please discuss the criteria for selecting the locations to serve as special zones as well as the assistance measures to be provided to the local areas that are chosen.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: In the local regions, we will designate the Regional Vitalization Special Zones within the National Strategic Special Zones. This will allow motivated regions which have ideas different from those that are standard nationally to bring about the vitalization of local region free from regulatory restraints. This would include, for example, making use of support for industries unique to local areas, centering particularly on the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries industries or on tourism, and also include field-testing future-oriented new technologies. By approximately spring of this year, we intend to designate several local regions that have proposed bold regulatory reforms and concrete undertakings as reform hubs that will serve as models for the entire country. Today, we have the honor of being joined by Mr. [Eikei] Suzuki, Governor [of Mie Prefecture] and [Mr. Kenichi Suzuki,] Mayor of the City of Ise, so I very much look forward to hearing any ideas.

At the same time, the actual circumstances in local areas are different from those found in large cities, so even when a local area has motivation and ideas, the fact is that the hurdles to be cleared in realizing a National Strategic Special Zone, such as the administrative workload, are quite high. For that reason, we are working to thoroughly simplify, for example, the application forms for drafting a project proposal and the necessary meetings. It has been pointed out numerous times that until now, there were too documents to be compiled or there were too many meetings to attend. We will go ahead and simplify the process, in light of those comments.

In addition, we will dispatch specialized human resources who will mesh together the wishes of the head of the local government, the business operators, and the regulatory reform and also handle the coordination with the national government in making the project operational. By providing this kind of assistance, the national government intends to provide full-scale support.

CABINET PUBLIC AFFAIRS SECRETARY: We have now reached the end of our scheduled time, so I would like to bring the New Year's press conference by Prime Minister Abe to a close.

Thank you very much for your cooperation.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Thank you very much.