"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 the Middle East

[Place] Jerusalem, Israel
[Date] January 20, 2015
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional Translation
[Full text]

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Abe:

First, a video has been distributed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) warning that Japanese nationals will be killed. Making threats in this way in exchange for human lives is an abhorrent act of terrorism towards which I feel strong indignation. I strongly urge that no harm be inflicted upon the two Japanese and that they be released immediately.

I have just instructed the entire Government of Japan to take all possible measures in response, from the perspective of respect for human life. Going forward, we will continue to act in cooperation with the international community and contribute even further to bring about regional peace and stability. This policy is an unshakeable one and there will be no changes to this policy.

From now, I am immediately dispatching Mr. [Yasuhide] Nakayama, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, to Jordan, where he will cooperate with the Government of Jordan and gather information. In addition, he will remain in this region and respond to this matter acting as the head of the Local Response Headquarters. I have now also tasked Ambassador [Shigeo] Matsutomi with gathering information from the Government of Israel. From now, I myself will also hold discussions with Dr. [Mahmoud] Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority. I will immediately change my schedule for today and devote my utmost efforts to addressing this situation. I have also instructed Chief Cabinet Secretary [Yoshihide] Suga by telephone to likewise dedicate all his efforts to responding to this situation.

Extremism is now a major threat to the international community. The terrorist incident that occurred in France resulted in 17 victims, including four Jews. I wish to extend once more my heartfelt condolences to the victims and their families. Despicable acts of terrorism are unforgivable for any reason. Japan resolutely condemns them. Japan will act hand-in-hand with the international community going forward. Islamic society continues to fight terrorism, working to fight extremism, which has become a serious threat to the international community. I wish to express my sincere respect to King Abdullah of Jordan, who stands at the fore of these efforts.

Japan too will make contributions to the greatest possible extent in non-military fields, including assistance for refugees from Iraq and Syria. The assistance of 200 million U.S. dollars that Japan announced during this trip is humanitarian assistance intended to provide food, medical services and other support to help those who have lost their homes and become displaced persons within the region. I consider this truly to be the most necessary assistance for those who are displaced.

Extremism and Islamic society are in the first place entirely separate things. I must state this fact unambiguously.

"The best way is in the middle."

Just as this Middle Eastern saying tells us, this region has since ancient times carved out a history from time immemorial with various religions and races coexisting.For each side to accept and respect the other - I believe it is exactly this tolerance that will bring peace and stability as well as further prosperity to this region.

The realization of peace in the Middle East continues to be an unsolved issue even now. During this trip, I was able to speak frankly with Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu regarding this matter as well. After this, I will visit Palestine, where I intend to have candid discussions with President Abbas as well. Neither side will allow the situation to escalate any further. I believe that having a spirit of tolerance will serve as the first step towards a resolution.

In the past, a Japanese diplomat named Chiune Sugihara followed his conscience to issue visas to as many as 6,000 Jews in order for them to pass into Japan. I understand that the people of Japan's port town of Tsuruga joined together in welcoming them upon their arrival after a long journey.

I believe that even when the times and society change, only the spirit of tolerance in people's hearts persists, never changing.

It is for that reason as well that we must nip poverty and other elements of discord while still in the bud. Japan wishes to play an active role in building a prosperous society where all people can live without anxiety in this region.

In 2006, Japan proposed the "Corridor for Peace and Prosperity" initiative. This is an initiative to build a processing center for agricultural products in Palestine and create the foundation for Palestine's self-reliance through the cooperation of Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and Japan. Its construction is moving forward steadily. In the future, we will also advance cooperation in developing tourism resources, thereby supporting the economic self-reliance of the people of Palestine.

This year as well, I will continue to press forward with active diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map. Since the end of World War II, Japan, consistently walking the path of a peace-loving nation, has built a free and democratic country, respecting fundamental human rights and placing value on the rule of law. Taking to heart that path we have walked, in the future, we will contribute still further to nation-building and to fostering human capacity and play a role that only Japan can play. We will also create a world that is more peaceful and prosperous. I intend to develop this kind of diplomacy on a worldwide stage.

I will end my opening statement here.

Questions and answers

REPORTER (ONO, JIJI PRESS): I would like to ask about the warning that Japanese will be killed. The Islamic State side issued this warning citing as its grounds the 200 million U.S. dollars in assistance that you announced the other day in Cairo. How do you view this reaction by the Islamic State, which appears to be challenging your policies in this way? And, you stated just now your determination not to change this policy [of promoting] regional stability and peace, but will this contribution of 200 million U.S. dollars be carried out as scheduled?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I already explained this a few moments ago, but the 200 million U.S. dollars of assistance can truly be called the most necessary assistance for those who are displaced. It can be considered support to sustain the very lives of those displaced. We will provide in a thoroughgoing manner medical, food, and other services which are essential for the people of the region and for the displaced. I consider this to be Japan's responsibility. We will reliably provide this assistance, which is also held in very high regard by the international community. This position of ours will not change even in the slightest. At any rate, the important point is restoring calmness, restoring peace and stability to the region, and that the people of this region will build a society in which all people can live in peace, without anxiety. Towards that end, Japan will continue into the future to provide active support in non-military fields.

REPORTER (NIR, CHANNEL NEWS 2, ISRAEL): Regarding the situation, I wonder if you could be more clear: [Will] you consider paying the ransom, and will you negotiate with ISIS in order to release the hostages? Regarding your visit here, will Japan consider any initiatives to drive the parties to initiate peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: With regard to this matter, in addition to what I stated a few minutes ago, I have just instructed my Chief Cabinet Secretary to make utmost efforts in responding to the situation, prioritizing human life above all else. In Tokyo, we immediately established a Response Office at the Prime Minister's Office and set up an Emergency Response Headquarters at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well. Just a little while ago an inter-ministry director general-level liaison meeting was convened by Mr. [Shotaro] Yachi, Secretary General of the National Security Secretariat, and Mr. [Yasuhiko] Nishimura, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary for Crisis Management. A meeting of relevant Cabinet Ministers is also now being convened under Deputy Prime Minister Aso, in his capacity as Acting Prime Minister.

Moreover, from now I will be dispatching to Jordan Mr. Nakayama, State Minister for Foreign Affairs, and we are requesting the cooperation of the Government of Jordan. I intend for the entire Japanese government to continue to make its utmost efforts, with me at the helm, giving human life the highest priority.

At any rate, I believe it is necessary for the international community to take a response which resolutely does not yield to terrorism, and that it is essential for us to act in cooperation in our efforts.

Moreover, regarding the Middle East peace process, I am seriously concerned about the chain of violence and distrust that has been ongoing since this past summer. I consider it important not to allow the situation to escalate any further.

During this visit, I held meaningful exchanges of views with Prime Minister Netanyahu over an extended period, through both our summit meeting and a dinner. Today, I will visit Palestine and wish to hold a meaningful exchange of views with President Abbas as well. Japan has been making contributions to support the Middle East peace process through our engagement with both Israel and Palestine.

For example, for the past 18 years, we have worked towards confidence building by inviting to Japan young men and women from both Israel and Palestine who will shoulder the responsibility of the future of the Middle East peace process. During this visit, an alumni event was held for the participants of "Youth Invitation Program from Israel and the Palestinian Territories" and I feel that we succeeded in deepening the bonds of friendship among those who will be responsible for peace in the future.

In addition, we have been promoting a "Corridor for Peace and Prosperity" to develop the Jordan Valley, an undertaking conducted independently by Japan through the engagement of Israel, Palestine, and Jordan.

Moreover, since Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit to Japan in May 2014, our relations have been making rapid progress focused on economic fields. During this visit, I was accompanied by a high-level business mission, and I believe that we succeeded in having spirited discussions with the Israeli side. In our relations with Israel into the future, I intend for us to continue our efforts to reach agreement on an investment treaty within 2015 and I would like for us to advance our cooperation in the fields of information and communications and industrial technology. At any rate, during this visit, I wish to urge both Israel and Palestine each to make efforts going forward towards discussions on the Middle East peace process. In the future, I also intend to continue efforts for confidence building, through which those discussions will move forward.

REPORTER (FURUYA, NIPPON TV): Mr. Prime Minister, it is expected that security legislation will be the most important topic during the ordinary Diet session that will convene at the end of January, and you said to King Abdullah of Jordan that the legislation is still in fact being worked on. When do you expect to resume consultations between the ruling parties, which hold the key [to finalizing the bill]? Some within Komeito believe that geographical restrictions should be imposed upon the right of collective self-defense. It could perhaps be argued that a broader geographical range increases the likelihood of Japan becoming embroiled in terrorist incidents or wars. What are your thoughts on that point?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: On the basis of the recent Cabinet Decision, the government is now moving forward vigorously in its work to promptly develop this security legislation.

Moreover, within their new agreement for a coalition government, the LDP and Komeito reconfirmed that they will work to pass security-related bills expeditiously.

The government intends to continue to hold discussions with the ruling parties once the office in charge has conducted an adequate examination of the matter, but I would like to refrain from commenting from the government's standpoint regarding consultations between the ruling parties themselves.

With regard to the exercise of the right of collective self-defense, the "new three criteria" are the criteria for decision-making. This is in keeping with what I have discussed at the Diet and elsewhere multiple times. I consider the dispatch of armed units to the territory, territorial waters, or airspace of another nation—in other words, overseas deployment—for the purpose of the exercise of force to be, as a general rule, impermissible under the Constitution. There has been no change whatsoever in this way of thinking.

While we are now in the process of considering how to develop this legislation, in concrete terms, whatever that outcome might be, I consider it to be important to develop security legislation that enables a seamless response under any circumstances.

REPORTER (BAKER, REUTERS): In the past in these circumstances, we have seen third countries in the region paying ransoms to have hostages released. In your view, would that be an acceptable way of resolving the situation, or would that be giving in to terrorism?

And, if I may, also, on a separate matter, we've seen a very large fall in oil prices this year. I wonder if you could give me a sense of what impact you expect that to have on the Japanese economy—whether you expect it to be broadly positive or if it also raises concerns about inflation.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: First of all, with regard to the incident now unfolding, we are prioritizing human life above all as we work to collect information while also engaging in cooperation with various other countries. I intend for us to continue to dedicate our full efforts to resolving this issue as we secure the safety of human life. At any rate, I believe that the international community must never yield to terrorism.

As for the drop in crude oil prices, it is imparting a positive impact on the Japanese economy as the fall in import prices boosts corporate earnings, wages, and real household income, among other benefits.

However, as the exchange rate is now moving towards a weaker yen, the lower price of crude oil has not yet spilled over into the prices of other fuels and the like, and for this and other reasons, in terms of import prices overall, the impact is still limited, and we expect that these positive impacts will emerge in the future. It is also possible that there will be negative effects on the economy as a result of the economic slowdown in oil-producing countries and the attendant fluctuations in international financial and capital markets. In any case, I consider it necessary for us to continue to watch crude oil prices carefully.