"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] August 3, 2016
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional Translation
[Full text]


PRIME MINISTER ABE: As a result of last month's House of Councillors election, we in the ruling coalition have received a boost from the voices of the public calling for "stability in politics" and have secured the most stable political foundation of the post-war era in the Upper House. Reflecting on the weightiness of that responsibility, we will dedicate ourselves more than ever before to carry out in a thoroughgoing manner the various policies we pledged during the election campaign, while taking on an even greater sense of speed. Going forward, I intend to reliably deliver results. It is for this reason that today I reshuffled my Cabinet.

The utmost priority is the economy. Yesterday, the Cabinet took a decision on powerful economic measures amounting to more than 28 trillion yen in project scope.

We will submit to the extraordinary Diet session this autumn a supplementary budget that will boldly conduct "investments towards the future." We will mobilize a full range of policies to face the risks of the global economy and work to achieve maximum escape velocity to break away from deflation. I will have Minister of Finance Taro Aso and Minister in Charge of Economic Revitalization Nobuteru Ishihara continue their roles as the "engine" of Abenomics.

I have tapped Mr. Hiroshige Seko to be Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. As Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary, he has until now supported the running of our administration led by the Prime Minister's Office. I look forward to him being on the very vanguard in pushing our Growth Strategy forward. I would like him to make use of his experience with diplomacy at the Prime Minister's Office to develop a bold trade strategy that takes the entire globe into consideration. I want him to promote Abenomics assertively to the world.

I have retained Mr. Keiichi Ishii as Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. I would like him to work on preparing a "corridor for vitalizing local regions," keeping his eye fixed on an era in which Japan welcomes 40 million tourists from overseas.

Our local regions are brimming with opportunities for growth, including tourism and agriculture. It will be our local regions that will play the leading role in our future growth. To serve as Minister of State for the Promotion of Overcoming Population Decline and Vitalizing Local Economy in Japan, I have asked Mr. Kouzou Yamamoto, who worked out Abenomics together with me beginning in our days as the opposition party. I would like him to join forces with Minister for Internal Affairs and Communications Sanae Takaichi to draw up a future for the local regions that is brimming with vitality. I have also asked Minister Yamamoto to at the same time take on the role of Minister of State for Regulatory Reform and make the potential held by the local regions bloom widely through thoroughgoing reforms.

Agricultural policy reform is also a matter of urgency. We must carry out structural reforms in every aspect, from production to distribution and processing, in order to carve out a new era of agricultural policy, taking the TPP as a tremendous opportunity. I will have Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Yuji Yamamoto, a reformer who also has Cabinet experience, take the helm in this area.

I have asked Mr. Yosuke Tsuruho to serve as Minister of State for Okinawa and Northern Territories Affairs and Minister of State for Science and Technology Policy. As the Chairman of the LDP Policy Board in the House of Councillors, he has ability fostered through engaging in compiling all sorts of policies, and I want him to advance the promotion of Okinawa and drive Japan's innovation forward.

By putting together economic ministers of great depth who are most acquainted with policy in our party, I will accelerate our Growth Strategy all in one go.

We are aiming to achieve a 600 trillion yen GDP, Japan's largest GDP in the post-war era. We are also working to accomplish the goal of "the desirable birthrate of 1.8," and to reduce to zero the number of people who are forced to leave their jobs for nursing care. Aiming at these three targets, the Abe Cabinet will continue its fight to take on challenges towards the future, raising still higher the flag of enabling all citizens to be dynamically engaged.

The greatest challenge within this will be reforming the working style we have in Japan. We will rectify the problem of working long hours. We will make equal pay for equal work a reality and eradicate from Japan the expression "non-permanent employment." A large number of challenges await us, including raising the minimum wage and providing employment opportunities to the elderly. In this reshuffle I have newly established the post of Minister for Working-style Reform, with Minister for Promoting Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens Katsunobu Kato taking charge of that heavy responsibility. We will convene under Minister Kato a Council to Realize Working-style Reform. I will have the Council work in close cooperation with Minister of Health, Labour and Welfare Yasuhisa Shiozaki to compile by approximately March 2017 a concrete action plan for reforming the working styles we have in Japan. I intend for us to bring that action plan into execution with a sense of speed.

We will also expand the investments we make in young people. I have asked Mr. Hirokazu Matsuno, who has been involved in educational administration for many years, to serve as Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. I wish to build a society in which all children can receive the education they desire, regardless of their families' economic circumstances. I will also have Minister Matsuno move forward immediately to examine in concrete terms, within the formulation of the fiscal 2017 budget, ways to realize scholarships that do not need to be repaid.

We will further accelerate diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map as we look ahead to the future. I will have Mr. Fumio Kishida continue to serve as Minister for Foreign Affairs to take full advantage of his experience and the networks he has built until now. We will press forward in strengthening our relationships with China, the Republic of Korea, and other neighboring countries while also making steady progress in negotiations toward the conclusion of a Japan-Russia Peace Treaty.

Today, North Korea went ahead with a ballistic missile yet again. It appears to have fallen within Japan's exclusive economic zone and is a serious threat to Japan's security. It is intolerable and outrageous. We intend to take resolute responses, acting in close cooperation with the international community, notably the United States and the Republic of Korea. With the security environment becoming increasingly severe, I have tasked Ms. Tomomi Inada, who served for close to two years as the control tower for policymaking within the LDP as the Chair of the party's Policy Research Council, to be in charge of Japan's security policy as Minister of Defense.

We will mitigate the impact of U.S. Forces' facilities and areas on Okinawa while maintaining deterrence. I would like Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga to continue to devote his utmost efforts as Minister in charge of this matter.

This week, the long-awaited Rio Olympics will begin. I look forward to the hard work done by Japan's national team over these past four years being rewarded and delivering excellent results. As the next host country, we will warm up even more in earnest for four years from now. Turning over a new leaf, I have asked Ms. Tamayo Marukawa to be the flagbearer for those efforts as Minister in Charge of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, as she has been elected from a Tokyo constituency and is also highly knowledgeable about environmental policy.

We will absolutely make the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games a success. To demonstrate that determination to the world, I would like to attend the closing ceremony of the Rio Olympics. And, with our eyes fixed on 2020 and beyond, we will carve out Japan's future, notably through the dynamic engagement of all citizens.

We will carry out our responsibilities towards the future. This is the new Cabinet's greatest mission. Time and time again, we will take on challenges working towards the future. We will be absolutely tireless as we continue to take on these challenges going forward. This Cabinet is the "Cabinet that takes on challenges towards the future," with eight ministers receiving their very first portfolio.

Mr. Kouichi Yamamoto, who has assumed the position of Minister of the Environment, was Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment as the Kyoto Protocol was being compiled, and is truly a pro in this area.

Minister for Reconstruction Masahiro Imamura has previously held the positions of Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and State Minister of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries. I want him to take full advantage of that experience to further accelerate the reconstruction of Tohoku, which is one of the most important issues for this administration.

We aim to make Japan the safest country in the world. I would like to entrust Minister [of Justice] Katsutoshi Kaneda with the enforcement of judicial affairs, which will be the foundation for that. Mr. Kaneda brings to this post broad-based administrative experience and is one of the lawmakers with the greatest practical competence in the LDP.

Crisis management is of vital importance. Mr. Jun Matsumoto has experience in this area, having been engaged in disaster response and related areas as Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary during the Aso administration, and I have asked him to take on the responsibilities of Chairperson of the National Public Safety Commission and Minister of State for Disaster Management. I would like him to accelerate the rehabilitation of livelihoods of those who have been affected by the Kumamoto earthquakes.

All of these ministers are assuming a Cabinet position for the very first time, but all of them have been sharpening the skills needed for these posts over many years, having refined policies for the government or the party a great many years. I want them to make use of their abilities to the greatest possible extent in order to tackle the next challenges for the Abe Cabinet.

Next I will talk about personnel appointments within the LDP.

I have decided to replace LDP Secretary-General Sadakazu Tanigaki, who is currently hospitalized, in deference to his wishes. I am truly grateful to Secretary-General Tanigaki for having brought the party together in perfect order under his leadership, regardless of any difficult circumstances that arose. I hope for his full recovery at the earliest possible time and I would like him to once again serve both the LDP and Japan.

I have newly tapped Mr. Toshihiro Nikai as Secretary-General, Mr. Hiroyuki Hosoda as Chairman of the General Council, Mr. Toshimitsu Motegi as Chairman of the Policy Research Council, and Mr. Keiji Furuya as Director-General of the Election Strategy Committee. All of these people are veteran politicians. I believe that in making these appointments I have succeeded in building a thorough structure for continuing to take on challenges boldly within the party as well.

On the basis of this powerful lineup, the Abe Cabinet will look properly at the future and move forward dynamically along this path.

I ask for the understanding and support of the public as we get our duties underway.

I will end my opening remarks here.


REPORTER (FUIJIKAWA, TV ASAHI): I am Fujikawa, with TV Asahi.

I would like to ask you about your Cabinet reshuffle and the leadership of the party. What role do you expect to be played by Mr. Toshihiro Nikai, who has just assumed the post of Secretary-General? Some within the LDP take the view that your appointment of Mr. Nikai might be a way to prepare the environment for an extension of your term as party President. What are your views on extending your term as LDP President?

In addition, Mr. Shigeru Ishiba, who is regarded as a potential future candidate for Prime Minister, has left your Cabinet. What impact do you think this will have on running the administration going forward?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: It has taken 27 years for the LDP to regain a single-party majority in the House of Councillors. Trust that has once been lost cannot be so easily regained for more than a quarter century. All members of the LDP must ponder this very thoroughly. I believe that going forward we must live up to expectations on the basis of this sense of responsibility, that we have been entrusted with our role by the Japanese people.

If we do not live up to this trust bestowed upon us through this election by reliably putting forward as results the policies that we appealed for during the campaign, then we will again lose the trust of the people all at once.

I maintain that this sense of responsibility does not change in the slightest whether one has a position in the Cabinet or not. We must move forward in unison under that approach, working to bring our policies into realization. I believe that Mr. Ishiba shares that very same feeling. Mr. Ishiba achieved great results as the Minister of State for the Promotion of Overcoming Population Decline and Vitalizing Local Economy. I would like once more to offer my appreciation and express my respect to him. I am confident that within the party he will continue to work in cooperation with us, firmly joining hands with us.

The LDP has from the very beginning gained vibrancy from discussions in which a large number of diverse views are set against each other in a very emphatic and vigorous way. However, once our stance takes shape, and once we reach a conclusion, everyone stands united going forward. This is how we have carried out our responsibilities as a ruling party. I believe it is because everyone shares that pride that we were able to emerge victorious in two House of Representatives elections and a House of Councillors election after the LDP had fallen to become an opposition party.

As LDP General Council Chairman, Secretary-General Nikai was charged with bringing such discussions towards a conclusion. I believe he is the person with the most-honed political skills in the LDP -- a veteran in this area. I would like him to demonstrate leadership as Secretary-General, bringing with him these insights he has gained through responsibly compiling various viewpoints within the party.

I still have two years remaining in my term of office and there are still a great many issues to tackle. I therefore intend to give my utmost to carrying out the duties of this job. I have not given any thought whatsoever to extending my term of office.

REPORTER (UCHIDA, ASAHI SHIMBUN):I am Uchida with the Asahi Shimbun.

I would like to ask about amending the Constitution.

Mr. Prime Minister, you have expressed your view to have discussions on amending the Constitution concentrated in the Commissions on the Constitution of Japan within the Diet. Do you have any intention to enter into concrete discussions on this beginning with the next extraordinary session of the Diet?

Also, you have stated that you would like to realize amendments to the Constitution while you are in office. From proposing the amendments to holding the national referendum, what sort of general timeline do you intend to have as you approach this?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: We can say that amending the Constitution has been a principle of the LDP ever since the party was founded. Naturally, as the President of the LDP, it is only fitting that I devote my all-out efforts to bringing that about, and I bear responsibility for taking on the challenge of this difficult task, just as successive LDP presidents have done until now. Therefore, I of course wish to accomplish this within my term of office, and I believe that successive LDP presidents felt exactly the same way. However, it is a fact that it is not such an easy thing to achieve. I think I am called on to move forward little by little in light of the actual political situation, mindful of this fact.

Amending the Constitution differs from other kinds of legislation in that it is proposed through the approval of two-thirds of the legislators in each House. That is the role that the Diet is to play. Its role is to make the proposal. The decision itself is made by receiving majority approval in a national referendum. It is not something that can be done by the ruling parties agreeing to it. Therefore, it is not the case that an amendment can be realized even if the requisite number [of supporting legislators] is gained through an election. I believe that what is important is being able to garner the support of the majority in a national referendum.

Therefore, I think that first of all, the matter of what provisions will be changed in what way is something that should be compiled at the conclusion of national discussions. First of all, within the quiet setting of the Commissions on the Constitution of Japan , regardless of legislators' party affiliation, no thought should be given to the political situation. Rather than the political situation, I would like for legislators to deepen their discussions keeping their eyes fixed firmly on the future of Japan. And then I look forward to that leading into national discussions.

REPORTER (LANDERS, WALL STREET JOURNAL):I am Landers, with the Wall Street Journal.

Last week, the Bank of Japan postponed large-scale monetary easing. I think that among foreign investors, there is an increasingly widely-held sentiment that we can no longer expect further support for the economy from the Bank of Japan. What sort of impact do you think that this will have on the Japanese economy?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I think that specific monetary policy techniques should be left to the Bank of Japan, and I place my trust in the ability of Governor Haruhiko Kuroda. In addition, I am aware that Governor Kuroda has made remarks that the limit of current monetary policy has by no means been reached and that the Bank will carry out the policies that are the most appropriate at any given time.

The government believes that the Bank of Japan will continue to advance towards the 2 percent price stability target and properly take policy measures to achieve price stability.

Yesterday, the government took a decision on economic measures under which we boldly undertake "investment for the future." Going forward, the government and the Bank of Japan will continue to work side by side in mobilizing all sorts of policies and do our very utmost to pull out of deflation.

REPORTER (SEKIGUCHI, TOKYO SHIMBUN):I am Sekiguchi with the Tokyo Shimbun. I would like to ask about the recent Tokyo gubernatorial election.

Ms. Yuriko Koike, who served as Minister of Defense in the first Abe administration, has assumed office as the Governor of Tokyo, having defeated the candidate backed by the LDP and Komeito. How do you regard the election results, in which the LDP was divided, and how do you intend to work with the Tokyo Metropolitan administration of Governor Koike?

Governor Koike is calling for adjustments to the cost of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which could potentially swell. How will the national government respond to that?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: We absolutely must make a success of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, which are now only four years off. We will make these Olympic and Paralympic Games into Games in which children can have dreams and hopes, just as the 1964 Olympic and Paralympic Games did. I consider that to be our responsibility.

As we work to carry out this shared responsibility, Tokyo is the host city, and I believe it is necessary for the Organizing Committee, the government, and various related entities to work in solid cooperation and build up discussions going forward about the budget and other matters, placing Tokyo at the core.

In addition, I believe that we must naturally give thorough contemplation to the will of the people that was expressed in the recent Tokyo gubernatorial election, and do so within the LDP as well. I intend for the national government to dedicate its all-out efforts with Minister Marukawa, the minister in charge of preparations for the Games, leading the way, working side by side with the Tokyo Metropolitan government and the people of Tokyo.

REPORTER (HARA, NHK):I am Hara, with NHK. I would like to ask about reforming ways of working.

With regard to these reforms to working styles, what sort of rough timeline do you have regarding what kinds of results you wish to achieve in concrete terms and by when?

Also, with regard to making equal pay for equal work a reality, some have pointed out that this will be a burden on small- and medium-sized enterprises. How do you intend to respond to this point?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I believe we must build such a society in which people can work in ways that are compatible with such circumstances as child-rearing and nursing care. I believe that we will be able to generate vitality by having that kind of society. I consider "working-style reform" to be the most important key in opening up the path to a society in which all citizens are dynamically engaged, in which all people are able to feel their purpose in life.

We will sever the practice of working long hours, ensure equal treatment regardless of the form of employment one has, and also ensure equal pay for equal work.

As for the timeline for this, we will compile a concrete action plan by approximately March 2017. In the future, for each issue, I intend for us to consolidate a course forward in concrete terms, beginning with what that can be addressed immediately, and for matters requiring legal amendment, we will submit legislative bills one after another over time. For example, with regard to equal pay for equal work, we will draw up guidelines by roughly the end of 2016. After that we will examine revising relevant laws and submit bills to the Diet at an early time. We need to hold discussions over a wide range of areas other than equal pay for equal work and rectifying long working hours, such as encouraging employment by the elderly and promoting telework arrangements.

As for the impact it will have on companies, regarding equal pay for equal work, I intend to press forward on this by discussing the matter extensively with industrial circles, giving in-depth consideration to employment practices. At the same time, as for the minimum wage, we must engage in exhaustive assistance towards micro-, small and medium enterprises, including in terms of the budget. In other words, I believe that the national government must provide assistance going forward so that micro-, small and medium enterprises are also able to cope with the "working-style reform" we are now promoting as well as an increase in the minimum wage.