"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

[Date] September 25, 2015
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional Translation
[Full text]

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

The current ordinary session of the Diet is scheduled to end the day after tomorrow. Each of the bills introduced during the session with the aim of breaking through the rigid bedrock-like regulations that have for many long years been holding back Japan’s growth have been enacted. These include the first agricultural cooperative reforms in 60 years, healthcare system reforms focused on the needs of patients, and electricity and gas business liberalization. Bills aimed at administrative reform, empowering women in the workplace, and revitalizing education have also been enacted. This latest ordinary session of the Diet, which at eight months has been the longest of the post-war era, was an historic one, involving the most drastic reforms since the end of World War II.

The Legislation for Peace and Security was also approved during the current session of the Diet. The tragedy of war must never again be repeated. The legislation will fortify our pledge to never again wage war—a pledge we have maintained over the 70 years since the end of World War II. I believe we have now constructed a strong foundation to this end.

Whether we like it or not, the security environment surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly severe. North Korea possesses several hundred ballistic missiles with a range that covers most of Japan’s territory, and their development of nuclear weapons fitted to those missiles is becoming an ever more serious issue. The threat of terrorism is also spreading throughout the world. We need to think of ways we can pass on a peaceful Japan to our children. Making robust preparations enabling us to seamlessly respond to any situation, ensuring that the Japan-U.S. Alliance fully functions in the situation that Japan finds itself threatened, and clearly demonstrating this to the world, and preemptively preventing war to ensure regional peace and stability— these are the core issues the Legislation for Peace and Security addresses.

During more than 200 hours of deliberations in both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors, we were able to share our sense of crisis about the severe reality of Japan’s situation with opposition parties such as the Japan Innovation Party, the Assembly to Energize Japan, the Party for Future Generations, and the New Renaissance Party, and they in turn submitted their own concrete counterproposals. Instead of being merely an “opposition of resistance,” they acted as a responsible opposition, looking squarely at the reality and clearly proclaiming their own policies and positions. As Members of the Diet with a mandate from their electorate, they demonstrated an extremely sincere attitude toward this matter, and I would like to express my heartfelt respect to them.

Following intense policy consultations, the Assembly to Energize Japan, the Party for Future Generations, and the New Renaissance Party assented to the Peace and Security Legislation. The agreement was predicated on the strengthening of democratic controls over the mobilization of the Self Defense Forces, including the requirement of prior Diet approval. This is a framework in which a democratically elected government making its decision with the comprehensive involvement of the parliament consisting of representatives of the people.

Neither I, nor any other Japanese citizen wish for war. There is no doubt about that. I would like to remark once again that, in Japan—a world-class model of a democratic nation—referring to such a bill as a “war bill” is baseless, fearmongering and entirely irresponsible.

If it truly were a “war bill,” there would surely have been vocal opposition to it from around the world. We are however receiving messages of support for the legislation from a large number of countries. We have received strong support from countries in Southeast Asia such as the Philippines, which was a battlefield in World War II and countries with which we once fought such as the U.S. and European ones. I believe that these supports prove that the legislation is not a “war bill” but a bill aimed at deterring war and contributing to peace and security of the world.

The Government intends to continue working to carefully explain the legislation in order to gain the greater understanding of the public.

We will resolutely protect the lives and peaceful livelihoods of the Japanese people in any situation. To achieve this, it is vital that we strengthen the foundations of our national security while also striving harder than ever to push forward with peaceful diplomacy.

As early as tomorrow, I will be heading to New York to attend the U.N. General Assembly. The world constantly faces a range of challenges, not least the issue of Syrian refugees currently streaming into Europe. In times such as these, I would like to declare my strong determination to see that Japan contributes to global peace and prosperity. The U.N. General Assembly provides an ideal opportunity for heads of state from around the world to gather. I would like to hold as many summit meetings as I can while there. In autumn, I also hope to hold Japan’s first trilateral summit meeting in three years with China and the Republic of Korea. The Government will work harder than ever to enhance relations with neighboring countries such as China, the Republic of Korea, and Russia. We intend to work on proactively pursuing diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map.

By the time I arrive back in Japan, it will be October. I would like to make a fresh start with the three new arrows to tackle the structural issues behind Japan’s low birth rate and aging population, and help achieve an era in which each and every one of Japan’s 100 million citizens can take on active roles. In order to make a completely fresh start, first of all I would like to begin putting in place a new administration. After returning to Japan, I intend to carry out a cabinet reshuffle. To be better able to roll up our sleeves and focus properly on making it possible for each and every one of one hundred million-plus citizens to dynamically engage in society, I intend to create a new ministerial post to oversee the initiative.

Abenomics is about to enter its second stage, and we will now truly go on the offensive. I would like to request the continued support and cooperation of the public for these initiatives.

I will end my opening statement here.


REPORTER: My name is Abiru from Sankei Shimbun, one of the media agencies coordinating the press club.

There have been a series of criticisms by constitutional scholars that this latest security-related legislation is unconstitutional, and the national discourse on the legislation, including the mass media discourse, has been divided in two camps. In various opinion polls after the approval of the legislation, more than half of the public responded that there hasn’t yet been sufficient deliberation in the parliament. How do you view these facts?

Emotionally-charged words have been swirling around on the Internet and at demonstrations, and as you pointed out just now, negative labeling and misinformation are also noticeable. What reconciliatory steps will you take to re-unite the two camps? And how will you explain the issue to the public to gain the understanding and acceptance of the majority? If you have any specific measures in mind I would like you to outline them.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: The Legislation for Peace and Security is essential for protecting the lives and peaceful livelihoods of the Japanese people. I am sure that the approval of the bill enables us to pass on to our children a peaceful, stable, and prosperous Japan despite our increasingly severe security environment.

During the course of the deliberations in the parliament, the opposition parties also submitted a number of counterproposals, and I believe we were able to engage in in-depth discussion. As a result of sincere negotiations, we reached an agreement to strengthen democratic controls, thereby receiving the assent of the three opposition parties. I believe we were able to reach a wider consensus through that process. This was a meaningful aspect of the approval of this bill. It was the result of being able, during the more than 200 hours of extensive deliberations, to share our concerns with the members of the opposition.

On the other hand, I find it highly disappointing that some irresponsibly labeled the bill as a “war bill”, and suggested that there would be a return to military conscription. The legislation is designed to protect the lives and the peaceful livelihoods of Japanese citizens. Debate about national security should focus on how best to protect the people with thorough analysis of international affairs. As Diet members, I believe we must strictly refrain from simplistic labelling and irresponsible debate. It was highly disappointing that some engaged in debate in such an irresponsible manner.

If it had in fact been a “war bill”, we would have received criticisms from around the world. Did we hear such rumblings of criticism? Not at all. On the contrary, many countries expressed their support and understanding. I can say that we received overwhelming support. I believe this also proves that criticism of the bill as a “war bill” was simply a labeling. That is how I see the situation.

Going forward, I myself, as well as the cabinet members, will continue to strive for the understanding of the public at every level. I would also like to work to remove the baseless labels stuck on the legislation.

There was a similar situation when the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty was revised in the past or the time when the Peacekeeping Operations legislation was enacted. Public understanding of the situation increased as time went on. In the same way, with the passing of time, public understanding of the importance and meaning of this legislation will also duly increase. I am convinced of this.

REPORTER: My name is Nishigaki from Fuji Television, one of the media agencies coordinating the press club.

I have a question about diplomatic policy. One year has now passed since the negotiations with North Korea and the start of the fresh investigation, but we have yet to receive any reports regarding abductees. Please tell us what the current situation is and what the future prospects are.

I also have questions regarding relations with Russia. I have heard that a summit meeting is scheduled in New York, and that President Putin is to visit Japan this year. What is your policy concerning relations with Russia, and how do relations currently stand?

I apologize, but I have one more question. You are scheduled to hold a summit meeting with both China and the Republic of Korea. What are the prospects for diplomacy with these two countries?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: The Abe administration is approaching the abduction issue with a strong determination to ensure that it is resolved. It is truly regrettable that the abductees have yet to be repatriated one year on from the start of the investigation. In August, the Minister for Foreign Affairs made a strong appeal to the North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong for the resolution of the abduction issue.

Sanctions are effective twice—both at the time when they are imposed and when they are lifted. What is important is how we utilize them to bring this issue toward an ultimate resolution. I intend to devote all of my energy to solving the abduction issue by finding the most effective way of drawing out concrete actions from North Korea based on the policies of “dialogue and pressure” and “action for action.”

Regarding diplomacy with neighboring countries, as I mentioned in my opening statement, I would like to put more effort than ever before into improving relations with Russia, China, and the Republic of Korea.

The harsh reality is that the issue of the Northern Territories that stands between Japan and Russia means that even close to 70 years after the end of World War II, we have yet to conclude a peace treaty. Intensive discussions were held at the Japan-Russia foreign ministerial conference that took place recently. Negotiations towards the conclusion of a peace treaty, which had virtually come to a halt, have now been restarted. The Northern Territories issue cannot be solved without discussions between the heads of state. So far, I have met with President Putin ten times. President Putin and I are also scheduled to hold talks at the U.N. General Assembly, and I would like to discuss the Northern Territories issue directly with him. I would like President Putin’s visit to Japan to be realized at the best possible juncture, and the specific itinerary of his visit will be decided by comprehensively taking into account a variety of factors.

With regard to relations with China and the Republic of Korea, I have been endeavoring to hold a trilateral summit among Japan, China, and the Republic of Korea at the earliest opportunity. I hope it will take place this autumn. While the agenda for such a summit has yet to be set, I would like to hold meaningful discussions with the other two leaders regarding regional peace and prosperity.

When the trilateral summit is held, I would like to also hold bilateral Japan-ROK and Japan-China summits with President Park and Premier Li respectively. As we are neighboring countries we do have some difficult problems and issues. And that is exactly why I think we ought to hold such discussions at the leadership level.

REPORTER: My name is Sugita from Kyodo News.

Prime Minister, with regard to what you mentioned in your opening statement about making it possible for all one hundred million-plus citizens to dynamically engage in society, and what you mentioned at yesterday’s press conference regarding reducing the number of people who leave employment to provide nursing care to zero, and your target of raising GDP to 600 trillion yen—you have set ambitious goals, but the specific paths you intend to take to achieve those goals remain somewhat unclear. Could you please explain what policies you intend to use to achieve the goals, and by when you expect to achieve them?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Yesterday I said that we would start working on creating a society with all one hundred million-plus citizens dynamically engaged, beginning by tackling head-on the structural issues behind Japan’s low birth rate and aging population. To achieve this, I set the specific targets of raising GDP to 600 trillion yen, raising the desired birthrate (hypothetical birthrate which would be achieved if the people’s desires regarding marriage and child-rearing were to be realized) to 1.8, and reducing the number of people who leave employment to provide nursing care to zero. These are all challenging issues.

I am fully aware that these goals cannot be achieved overnight. Deflation has continued for 20 years, and the Japanese public has lost its confidence. I think people decided that overcoming the low birth rate and aging population issue is impossible and had given up on it from the beginning.

However, we cannot leave these issues unresolved. If we don’t start somewhere, we won’t be able to trace out, or bring about, a bright future, and when our party won back the reins of government, or rather, when I became the party leader three years ago, we set the major goal of overcoming deflation. After 15 years of continuous deflation, there were some who thought that we ought to operate on the assumption that deflation would continue. However, first of all, I announced the goal, and the steps we needed to take to achieve that goal. At the time, a considerable number of people told me it wasn’t possible. However, we have actually managed to reach a stage where we are no longer experiencing deflation. At the time, some people were even saying that wages and bonuses would never rise again, but I’m certain that if politicians make decisions and firmly indicate the goals and how best to meet them, then we can achieve them, or we can make progress in achieving them.

We have now regained the confidence to be able to grow again. Now is the time for us to look at these issues that have been left untouched for many long years, and set concrete goals and establish a clear vision aimed at tackling them. Yesterday, I explained my fundamental idea of proceeding with strong determination and taking all possible measures to grapple with the issues, and next month when the new cabinet is inaugurated, I intend for us to roll up our sleeves and establish a framework within which to address the challenge of making it possible for all one hundred million-plus citizens to dynamically engage in society.

In addition to appointing new ministers, under their leadership, I intend to set up a national council to enrich national debate and help us take a diverse range of measures. We need to set our sights to a major turning point, and this is of course 2020, the year that Japan hosts the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It is also the year that members of the baby-boom generation will reach the age of 75 or over. We will move forward with a new nation-building process with our sights set on 2020 and beyond.

Based on perspectives such as these, under the new cabinet, a plan will be created aiming to make it possible for each of Japan’s one hundred million-plus citizens to actively engage in society.

REPORTER: My name is Landers from the Wall Street Journal.

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Etsuro Honda, Special Advisor to the Cabinet stated that economy-boosting measures worth approximately three trillion yen would be preferable. Do you consider three trillion to be excessive, insufficient, or just right? Thank you very much.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Following the change of government, the three arrows policies have led to definite improvements in the business environment including employment and income. We are now close to being able to overcome deflation. Looking at current business performance, although certain sectors are lagging, there is a continuing slow recovery trend. It is in these circumstances that I set the major target of increasing nominal GDP to 600 trillion yen during the course of Abenomics 2.0. By continuing to give top priority to the economy and proceeding with a solid growth strategy, we will further increase employment and pay, as well as expand consumption. Although I am not currently considering formulating an economic package funded by a supplementary budget, I will continue to closely watch economic trends and use responsive economic and fiscal management to take all necessary measures.

REPORTER: My name is Hara from NHK.

This will overlap somewhat with a previous question, but what policy do you place the most importance on for the purposes of achieving the target of raising GDP to 600 trillion yen and achieving future growth? Also, TPP is a pillar of the growth strategy, but negotiations continue to make little progress. Considering next year’s U.S. presidential elections, by what time do you consider it desirable to conclude the agreement?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: First of all, in order to achieve the 600 trillion yen GDP target, we must break free from deflation and attain robust economic growth. We will bring about a productivity revolution by boldly stimulating corporate investment in human resources and IT. I would also like to carry out reforms to encourage more diverse working styles in order to increase participation in the workplace by women and the elderly. I also intend to carry out bold corporate governance reform, regulatory reform, and institutional reform to tie the highest ever level of corporate earnings to increased proactive capital investment, recruitment, incomes, and consumption.

I would also like to vigorously move ahead with encouraging the inflow into Japan of investment and human resources, while also expanding Japan’s global economic sphere through TPP and other such measures. Regarding TPP, a TPP ministerial meeting will be held in Atlanta on September 30. The final stage of negotiations is always the most difficult part, but I would like to make this ministerial meeting the final one, and we believe that all of the other participating nations are also attending the meeting with the same idea in mind.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Thank you very much.