"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 His Visit to the Philippines, Australia, Indonesia and Viet Nam

[Date] January 16, 2017
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional Translation
[Full text]

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

The fifth year of diplomacy for the Abe administration has started with Asia and the Pacific.

I will conduct active diplomacy while placing solid emphasis on this region and taking a panoramic perspective of the world map. Looking back, the very first country I visited upon becoming prime minister was Viet Nam.

Now, after four years, I have returned to Hanoi. As I begin my remarks, I wish to express my heartfelt thanks to the people of Viet Nam who have extended such a warm welcome to me, as they did during my previous visit.

This year, Viet Nam is serving as the chair of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and I look forward to visiting Viet Nam once again this autumn.

The magnificent Red River flows directly past Hanoi. Its waters empty into the South China Sea and traverse the East China Sea to connect with the waters of Tokyo Bay. Nothing obstructs their free comings and goings anywhere along the way.

Japan and Viet Nam are neighboring countries connected by the “free seas." I also visited the Philippines, Indonesia, and Australia during this trip. All of these nations share the “open seas" of the Pacific Ocean and are important neighboring countries that share fundamental values.

The principles of maritime safety and freedom of navigation are extremely important, and the rule of law must be firmly upheld in order to ensure those principles. This recognition was agreed upon completely in each nation I visited.

Japan will support the strengthening of the maritime law enforcement capabilities of Viet Nam and the Philippines through the provision of patrol vessels and other equipment. President Joko Widodo of Indonesia and I reached agreement on pressing forward with cooperation to improve maritime safety and promote the development of remote islands.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia and I agreed to strengthen our security and defense cooperation, including through a new framework on the reciprocal provision of supplies and services in the area of defense. We also confirmed the importance of cooperation among countries that share fundamental values and strategic interests: Japan and Australia, as well as the U.S., and India.

On the solid basis of the Japan-U.S. alliance, we will make unwavering the peace and prosperity of this region that stretches from Asia to the Pacific Rim and still beyond to the Indian Ocean, linked with Japan by the seas. To achieve this, Japan is determined to shoulder a major role and responsibilities as a member of the region, under its “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy."

Taking these vast oceans as their stage, a great many people have come and gone freely since ages past and have lived together and prospered together.

Many Japanese too have crossed these seas harboring hopes for the future. Kyosaburo Ota, who dedicated himself to pioneering the cultivation of Davao in the Philippines, was one of them.

He arrived in Davao a little more than a century ago as a young man only 29 years old filled with great aspirations. He succeeded in cultivating “Manila hemp" through his natural industry and great efforts, never shrinking back, come storms or droughts. He also worked hard to build hospitals, roads, and ports in order for Japanese and Filipinos to live together and prosper together.

Davao is also the hometown of President Rodrigo Duterte. During my recent visit, through the president's invitation, we visited there together. Many people welcomed us, Japanese flags in hand. I was truly moved at this. I was also invited to Mr. Duterte's private residence, where we spoke our minds freely in a genuinely candid exchange of views regarding the further development of our bilateral relations as well as issues for the Asia-Pacific region overall.

President Duterte serves as the chair of ASEAN this year. I intend for Japan to contribute to the further integration, development, and stability of a free and open ASEAN, working hand-in-hand with President Duterte.

This year, ASEAN will observe an important milestone, the 50th anniversary of its founding.

ASEAN will continue to grow significantly and be even more energetic going forward as a growth center of the world.

The ASEAN nations that I visited during this trip have achieved between 30 and 50 percent higher per capita domestic incomes over the past decade, while developed nations were mired in low growth. The Hanoi cityscape has also changed dramatically compared to four years ago.

Japan will contribute to meeting rapidly-growing Asia's massive demand for infrastructure, including the construction of railroads, ports, and electrical power stations, as well as irrigation and flood control, by leveraging the trust it enjoys, its track record to date, and its sophisticated technological prowess.

A manufacturer of metal dies headquartered in Mie prefecture that branched out into the Philippines 20 years ago has for many years been engaged in fostering human resources there. I understand that now even sophisticated dies can be manufactured entirely by the local staff. Four years ago, it founded a joint venture company in Indonesia as well and it is now working to improve the technical skills of young Indonesians, just as it did in the Philippines.

Rather than merely bring Japan's technologies into a country, we cultivate human resources in that nation and make the technologies firmly established there. This is how Japan does business.

During this trip, I have been accompanied by a private-sector economic mission comprising top-level business executives from a total of 76 companies in construction, engineering, physical distribution, trading, and other fields that have spread their roots to conduct business in the various countries I visited.

Some members of this mission are from companies working hard to succeed in local areas of Japan, including Yamagata, Fukushima, Toyama, and Hiroshima. From local areas to overseas, to Asia. Asia's growth represents a significant opportunity for Japan's local areas as well.

The three nations of Viet Nam, the Philippines, and Indonesia that I visited on this trip have a combined population more than three times as large as Japan's, reaching 450 million people. That immense number of people will rapidly become prosperous going forward. I would like to connect that vitality pervading this region to Japan's growth, for us to prosper together into the future.

The foundation for that is free trade. We must build a free and fair market grounded in rules.

During this visit, we once more achieved confirmation that we would work toward the early entry into force of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, which can be called the standard for creating such a market. Taking the success of the TPP as a cornerstone, from here on we will aim for an even bigger, higher quality, and more ambitious agreement, such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Japan intends to always continue to be a flag bearer for free-trade systems.

Twenty-four young Asians currently work at Sodegaura Satsukidai Hospital in Chiba prefecture.

The presence of these ever-enthusiastic young people who give their best to whatever they do offers new vitality at places providing medical and nursing care in Japan, which is ahead of the rest of the world in confronting the challenge of a graying society.

One of them, a Vietnamese worker named Ha, said, “After returning to Viet Nam, I would like to pass on to the people who come after me what I learned in Japan."

Even Asia, where uplifting feelings abound, is forecast to face a graying society as a major challenge in the near future. Japan will utilize its sophisticated medical technologies and its know-how and experiences in nursing care to contribute towards the resolution of these future issues going forward. I also believe that exchanges among young people, who will shoulder the future of this region, will serve as a major engine for this.

Together, we will join hands; together, we will carve out the future.

Japan is determined to continue to demonstrate strong leadership going forward to bring about the peace and prosperity in this region.

I will end my opening statement here.

Questions and Answers

REPORTER (ISHIKAWA, NHK): President-elect Donald Trump will take office in the United States this week. I believe that in the round of visits you just completed, you shared with each national leader the recognition that the commitment of the United States is absolutely critical for the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. The perspective on Mr. Trump's Asia policy is still unclear. In light of that, how do you intend to link the results of this round of visits to your upcoming strategy toward the United States, in terms of both the economy and security matters? Also, you have said that you would like to hold a Japan-U.S. summit with Mr. Trump very soon after his new administration begins. I would also like to know what the prospects are, including for the dates of a summit meeting with Mr. Trump.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: I already held talks with President-elect Trump this past November, earlier than any other world leader. During the trip I just completed, I held candid exchanges of views with the leaders of Viet Nam, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Australia, and we agreed that we would continue to cooperate closely going forward, under an approach which regards the commitment of the United States as indispensable for promoting the peace and prosperity of the region.

In terms of security, it is imperative to adhere to the fundamental principles of settling international disputes by peaceful means, not using force or coercion in trying to drive claims, the rule of law, and freedom of navigation. As for the economy, it is essential to build a free and fair market appropriate for the 21st century. For that reason, I intend for Japan to act in close cooperation with the United States, the nations of ASEAN, Australia, India, and other nations that share our fundamental values and also share our strategic interests.

President-elect Trump is scheduled to assume office on January 20th. While arranging a summit meeting will take place only after his administration takes office, I would like to meet with Mr. Trump and hold a bilateral summit at the earliest possible time after he begins his term.

REPORTER (PHAM QUYNH TRUNG, TUOI TRE): You have just held Japan-Viet Nam summit talks. I would like to know your thoughts on the future of Japan-Viet Nam relations, the role that Viet Nam plays, and what you are expecting of Viet Nam in order to foster cooperation with Japan in the area of security and to enhance regional prosperity. Also, I believe this is your first visit to Hanoi in four years, and I would like to hear your impressions of the city.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: It has indeed been four years since I was last here, and looking out at the city from the car I felt Hanoi is really developing and vibrant. I was also very moved to see so many people waving at me.

I place tremendous importance on Japan's relationship with Viet Nam. I chose Viet Nam to be part of my first overseas itinerary this year. Four years ago, Viet Nam was the very first country I visited upon becoming prime minister.

Moreover, this spring, Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress are scheduled to visit Viet Nam. We can say that this is the foremost event symbolizing the close relationship between our two countries. I am confident that through the visit of Their Majesties, the friendly relationship between our two countries will deepen even further.

Looking at the long term, Japan will cooperate going forward toward the development of Viet Nam through both its public and private sectors, centering on the development of quality infrastructure. We also intend to cooperate actively toward developing Viet Nam's human resources, who will be the driving force of the coming years. This is symbolized in Vietnam-Japan University, which opened in 2016.

This year Viet Nam is serving as the chair of APEC. Japan will provide all-out cooperation so that the November APEC summit meeting under Viet Nam's leadership is a major success.

Viet Nam is an important partner for Japan that shares with us fundamental values, including the rule of law. Japan intends to act in greater cooperation with Viet Nam going forward in order to promote the peace and prosperity of the region and the development of a free and open international order.

My wife and I have truly been delighted at the opportunity during this trip to visit Viet Nam, a country I like very much. I am also a great fan of Vietnamese cuisine and I am looking forward immensely to tonight's banquet.

REPORTER (TAKAHASHI, ASAHI SHIMBUN): I would like to ask about amending the Constitution. Mr. Prime Minister, at a party function marking the first work day of 2017, you said, “What kind of constitution is a constitution fitting for the new era? This year, we will deepen our discussions and propose the shape and form such a constitution would take." Democratic Party President Renho also takes the stance of welcoming discussions. Looking ahead to the end of your term as president of the Liberal Democratic Party in autumn of 2018, I would like to hear your thoughts on the schedule until a proposal is produced as well as on the points in the Constitution that would be amended.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Constitution of Japan coming into force. The head of the main opposition party has also said that she wishes to engage in discussions at the Commissions on the Constitution in the Diet on what type of constitution is appropriate for the new era, so I look forward to the discussions deepening and a concrete form emerging.

REPORTER (BUI THI THEN, DAN TRI): Mr. Prime Minister, I have visited your home prefecture of Yamaguchi and it is truly an honor to have this opportunity to ask you a question. You held a Japan-Viet Nam bilateral summit. Please explain in greater detail the capacity building and the cooperation you will provide to Viet Nam in the area of maritime security, including the provision of the patrol vessels.

PRIME MINISTER ABE: Thank you very much for visiting my home prefecture, Yamaguchi. I very much hope that you visit there again. Yamaguchi boasts some wonderful culinary delights as well as stunning scenery.

During this visit, based on the request of the Viet Nam side, it was decided that Japan would provide Viet Nam with six new patrol vessels. Japan wishes to continue to provide support to the capacity building of the Viet Nam Coast Guard while also giving concrete shape to the cooperation between our two countries' maritime law enforcement entities.

Moreover, in the Philippines, Australia, and Indonesia, all of which I visited during this trip, I reached agreement with the other leaders that, taking maritime areas as our central focus, we would push forward further in capacity building and mutual cooperation for law enforcement entities, as well as cooperation in the security and defense fields.

The peoples of Asia have since ancient times lived prosperous lives through freely traversing the seas. I consider the peace and prosperity of this region in the present day also to be contingent on upholding and fostering “free and open seas" going forward.

We will act in cooperation with Viet Nam and other countries in the region with a view to ensuring that freedom of navigation, the rule of law, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and other fundamental principles become established in an unshakable manner.

I am firmly convinced that by making these principles unshakable, the region will prosper and people will come to lead increasingly affluent lives.