"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 Following the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly and His Visit to Cuba

[Date] September 23, 2016
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional Translation
[Full text]

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

I am visiting Cuba as the first visit for a Japanese Prime Minister, and I recall the magnificent dramatic story that unfolded here in the waters of the Caribbean, in which a solitary old man waits intently for an enormous catch. Annually, more than 10,000 tourists from Japan now visit Cuba, the country literary master Ernest Hemingway loved, attracted by the beautiful sea. In addition, close to 1,500 Japanese descendants are living active lives here even now. Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet some of them.

In Cuba we find white lilies named after José Martí, the “Father of Cuban Independence.” The person who made them take root in the soils of Cuba was a young person who moved here from Japan 85 years ago, and these flowers are loved by the Cuban people even now. As the flowers symbolize, Japanese descendants have overcome many difficulties and won deep trust here in Cuba for over a century through their natural industry. They are truly a bridge between Japan and Cuba. I wish to express my sincere respect to them once more.

During this visit I held summit talks with Chairman of State Council Raul Castro, and we agreed to undertake economic cooperation fully in earnest. Japan will provide its high-quality infrastructure, notably in the medical services field, in response to Cuba’s vigorous growth demand. The public and private sectors will work together to expand investment into Cuba going forward.

Cuba is also a country with significant influence over Non-Aligned Nations. We agreed that in the future, we will work in cooperation to address various issues facing international society as well. I believe this has been a visit that will open up a new page in the 400 years of friendly history between Japan and Cuba.

It was 13 years ago that former Chairman Fidel Castro last visited Japan. At that time, he visited the atomic bombing site of Hiroshima. “Humanity should never repeat the suffering experienced by Hiroshima.” His words on that occasion left a deep impression upon the hearts of us Japanese which remains even now.

Four months ago, President Obama also visited Hiroshima as the first sitting U.S. president to do so. I believe that witnessing the tragedy wrought by the atomic bomb and the realities of an atomic bombing 71 years ago will be a major force towards creating “a world free of nuclear weapons.”As the only country to have suffered the devastation of atomic bombings during war, Japan is determined to build up its efforts in cooperation with Cuba and the rest of the international community, aiming at “a world free of nuclear weapons.”

Trampling those wishes of the international community, this month, North Korea conducted a nuclear test. This is totally unacceptable. It has repeatedly launched ballistic missiles, making this a threat at an unprecedented level.

The international community must act in unity to take resolute responses that did not exist before to address this threat at a new stage and this clear provocation by North Korea. I made an ardent appeal for that at the United Nations General Assembly. At the same time, I appealed vigorously for cooperation from the international community towards the immediate resolution of the abductions issue.

Japan, the U.S., and the Republic of Korea are already working in cooperation and strengthening our appeals to the international community. While in New York, I confirmed with President Obama of the U.S. and Prime Minister May of the UK our strong intention to cooperate closely going forward, working towards the adoption of a new UN Security Council resolution. The G7 is also making efforts. Japan intends to demonstrate leadership as the Presidency of the G7.

Premier Li Keqiang of China and I agreed that Japan and China will cooperate in responding to the North Korean issues. We also held a Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with Russia in which we confirmed our cooperation. We will also further strengthen our cooperation with relevant countries.

The UN Security Council’s ability to take effective measures against this grave threat and its ability to fulfill its roles and responsibilities for world peace and stability are now being put to the test. As a non-permanent member of the Security Council, Japan is determined to make all-out efforts to lead the Council’s response.

There are a great many issues that the United Nations must confront—the situation in Syria, regional conflicts, refugee issues, and moreover climate change and sustainable development. Expectations towards the UN have grown increasingly over the more than 70 years since its founding. The number of member states has also expanded, from 51 to 193.

In such an era, reform of the UN is a matter of urgency. Reform of the Security Council is an urgent matter in particular. Africa, with as many as 54 countries, does not have any permanent representation on the Security Council. It is imperative that we review the current structure of the Security Council, which is nothing more than the legacy of the international situation as it was 70 years ago, and strengthen its functions so that it can face up to various issues around the world. Japan, as the world’s third-largest economy and as a nation that holds substantial responsibility towards the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region, is determined to play that role.

In a summit meeting I held with the leaders of Pacific island nations, which are battling natural disasters caused by extreme weather, great expectations were expressed for leadership by Japan in addressing the climate change issue. I intend for Japan to ratify the Paris Agreement at an early time and reliably carry out that responsibility.

The extraordinary session of the Diet finally begins next week. During this trip, I made an appeal about the many virtues of Japan’s food and tourism in New York, which is central to the global economy and to world culture. I also sent out the message of Japan’s strong determination towards creating “a society in which women shine.” Japan still enjoys great potential, and I felt that keenly once more through this trip.

I also had the opportunity to explain Abenomics, which is now evolving, directly to the world’s leading investors and business executives. Japan will carry out structural reform and I felt great expectations towards that.

As the global economy faces various risks, including the UK exit from the EU and emerging economies now stalling, we will accelerate Abenomics still further by mobilizing a full range of policies including a supplementary budget and the TPP Agreement and work to achieve maximum escape velocity to break away from deflation. The extraordinary Diet session will be the “Diet to Accelerate Abenomics.” We will continue to place the utmost priority on the economy going forward, and I will make all-out efforts towards that goal.

Questions and Answers

REPORTER (HARA, NHK): I would like to inquire about the North Korea situation. Mr. Prime Minister, just now you have again emphasized your intention to lead discussions at the UN Security Council, but North Korea is pressing forward with missile and nuclear development paying no attention whatsoever to the UN Security Council resolutions so far. In concrete terms, what kind of response do you think will be necessary in order to change North Korea’s attitude? Also, are there prospects for being able to get China’s active cooperation? In conjunction with that, is there any room for considering holding a dialogue with North Korea in the future?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: North Korea’s recent nuclear test is a threat at a new stage. I believe that responses to it must also be completely different from those we have taken so far.

We must make North Korea thoroughly understand that if it continues its nuclear and missile development in this way, it will become increasingly isolated from the international community and unable to carve out a future. It is necessary for us to adopt a UN Security Council resolution severely restricting the flow of people, goods, and capital to North Korea as well as to resolutely take Japan’s own independent measures.

The role of China is extremely important. I think we can say that China will truly be the key to putting these new sanctions into effectual execution.

Taking the opportunity at the UN General Assembly, I strongly called on Premier Li Keqiang directly for cooperation on North Korean issues. Going forward, I intend for us to continue to urge China at various levels to play an active role.

There is no point in having dialogue with North Korea purely for the sake of dialogue. It will be necessary to apply intense pressure so that North Korea responds to dialogue in an earnest manner. We intend to address this adhering to the principles of “dialogue and pressure” and “action for action.”

REPORTER (ACANDA, CUBAN INSTITUTE OF RADIO AND TELEVISION): Good morning, Mr. Prime Minister. I am Julio Acanda, a reporter with the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television. A favorable environment currently exists between our two countries, Japan and Cuba, regarding for example high-level political dialogue, trade relations, cooperative relations, cultural relations, and political relations, as well as in other ways. Recently there have been numerous examples, but in your view, in what kinds of new fields and elements can we deepen the relations between our countries further?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I am truly delighted to have had the opportunity to visit this beautiful nation of Cuba as the first Japanese Prime Minister ever to do so, together with my wife. Taking this visit as an opportunity, I wish to develop Japan-Cuba relations vigorously.

As Cuba moves forward in modernizing its economy and society and improves its relations with the United States, it is now the focus of attention from all around the world. Japan will contribute to the development of Cuba through both public and private sector efforts. We have taken the decision to establish a JICA office in Cuba in order to promote full-scale economic cooperation here, beginning with such areas as medical services, agriculture, and education.

Japanese companies will be a reliable partner for Cuba’s development. As improvements are made to Cuba’s investment climate, I intend to promote the advance of Japanese companies into the Cuban market as well as new investment here, working hand in hand with Chairman Raul Castro.

Our bilateral relations go beyond the economic realm. In the field of tourism, Japanese travelers to Cuba have surged in recent years, rising to almost 20,000 visitors this year. I firmly believe that if my visit to Cuba is covered widely by the media in Japan, interest among Japanese will rise further and a large number of Japanese will come visit this beautiful country.

In the area of people-to-people exchanges, Japan’s Waseda University and Tokyo University of Foreign Studies have signed cooperation agreements with the University of Havana. These will form the foundations for future exchanges of students and faculty, and I am truly gratified at this.

As for the field of sports, baseball is tremendously popular in both our countries. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, baseball will again be adopted as an official event. I hope that it will be the Cuban and Japanese national teams battling it out for the gold medal in the finals. Many Japanese know Mr. Hector Mendoza of the Yomiuri Giants and Mr. Alfredo Despaigne of the Chiba Lotte Marines as great professional baseball players in Japan.

Yesterday I spoke with Chairman Raul Castro about again expanding our cooperation in such varied fields as these. I would like for the two of us to work steadily, hand in hand, to develop Japan-Cuba relations across a variety of fields.

REPORTER (ISHIMATSU, ASAHI SHIMBUN): I would like to ask about the extraordinary Diet session that will convene immediately after you return to Japan. Just now you positioned it as the “Diet to Accelerate Abenomics,” but with regard to the TPP Agreement, opposition to the TPP is intensifying in the United States, notably from Ms. Hillary Clinton, with whom you met in New York. What kind of engagement are you thinking of, to broaden understanding of the TPP Agreement both within Japan and overseas, until the Agreement finally comes into force?

You have been saying for some time that in the extraordinary Diet session you will have the Diet take up full-scale discussions on amending the Constitution. Please discuss your aim in reshuffling the executives within the LDP responsible for the issue of constitutional reform. And, now that new Democratic Party President Renho has taken office as party president, how do you plan to call anew for the Democratic Party to enter into consultations?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Through the TPP, an economic zone encompassing 40 percent of global GDP will come into being. It will be a free and fair economic zone governed by 21st-century rules.This Agreement will present major opportunities, for example to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with technologies, as well as to farmers. SMEs will be protected by thoroughgoing rules. SMEs have been worried until now that their technologies might get stolen, or that as SMEs they would suffer losses because of changes to various laws and ordinances, for example new tax systems and so on. However, as SMEs will be properly protected by new rules, I think we can say that SMEs and micro enterprises will now also be able to advance in overseas markets, making use of their strengths. In addition, Japan’s farmers have until now made delicious and safe food items through their serious and diligent work. The TPP will open up markets in which this added value is properly appreciated.

There is a misunderstanding that “liberalization enriches only major corporations and the wealthy.” We will firmly dispel that misunderstanding. And there is a need to clear up that misunderstanding at an international scale. We need to explain that it is not the case that the global economy will create a small number of the strong and countless numbers of the weak. We must explain that will not occur if we hammer out proper measures.

At the East Asia Summit I spoke with both Prime Minister Turnbull of Australia and the Prime Minister of New Zealand. Also, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Prime Minister Lee of Singapore, and I also agreed we will reliably advance the ratification of the TPP Agreement going forward. Through setting forth measures for us to stand up to international competition while also explaining such matters thoroughly, I intend for the public to gain the understanding that young people, and in fact many people, can indeed find their hope in tomorrow, and I wish to carve out the future together with them.

In addition, the leaders of all 12 TPP nations confirmed last November that they would aim for the Agreement’s early entry into force. President Obama is making his utmost efforts for passage through Congress within 2015. U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and I also agreed during our talks in New York the day before yesterday that Japan and the U.S. would both continue our efforts towards the TPP’s early entry into force. Obtaining the approval of the Japanese Diet would provide momentum for the TPP’s early entry into force and I intend to make all-out efforts to obtain approval of the TPP and get the related bills passed during the extraordinary Diet session.

In addition, a new executive team has been inaugurated within the Democratic Party. Party President Renho has herself also said that the party will offer counterproposals. I look forward to the Democratic Party not simply opposing our proposals, but rather putting forward counterproposals and deepening discussions going forward, which will lead to constructive discussions.

As for the Constitution, a new structure within the LDP on the issues has been set up through consultations with the party. Amending the Constitution is a principle of the LDP. At the same time, constitutional reform is proposed by the Diet and ultimately determined through a referendum by the public. It is truly the people who will make the decision. This is different from general legislation. In the case of general legislation, a bill passed by both the House of Representatives and the House of Councillors will take the form of law, but in the case of the Constitution, it is the Diet that proposes the amendment and it is the people themselves who make the decision. In that sense, I feel it is necessary to deepen national discussions going forward. I expect each of the various people in charge of this matter within the LDP to intensify their efforts. I intend to put in place the necessary structure within the party to make that possible.

REPORTER (IRAMSY, GRANMA): What sort of effect will the United States’ economic embargo against Cuba have on Japan-Cuba relations?

PRIME MINISTER ABE: There was a time when economic relations between Japan and Cuba naturally faced restrictions because of the debt problem. The measures announced during this visit to reduce the debt mark the end of such an era.

The infrastructure demand in Cuba is immense, notably in the fields of transportation and energy. Its education level is high and public safety is also quite good. Cuba is in a position where it could become a hub linking North America and Europe. For these reasons, Cuba is also an extremely attractive investment destination for Japan.

Alongside the relaxation of U.S. economic sanctions on Cuba and efforts on the Cuban side to prepare the investment climate here, I look forward to trade and investment with Japanese companies also advancing more and more.