"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] "Keeping Asia open: How to achieve prosperity and stability" - Speech by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Banquet of the 24th International Conference on The Future of Asia

[Date] June 11, 2018
[Source] Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet
[Notes] Provisional Translation
[Full text]

Distinguished participants from all around Asia and from international organizations, honorable leaders, it is a great pleasure to see you here.

Your Excellency Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad of Malaysia, I wish to express my most sincere respect at your determination to lead your country again. While I have the same resolve as you to continue on as a politician for another 30 years, I simply don't have the energy.

And, Your Excellency Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, I am truly delighted at being able to welcome you to Japan three years in a row, including your second consecutive year at the Future of Asia conference.

I imagine that those of you attending this conference each year, including notably the two excellencies I just mentioned, may well have a fairer understanding of the state of the Japanese economy than I do myself, me after all examining it every day and night. So how do Japan's economic conditions look to you?

This year once again, more than 98 percent of the young people seeking employment after newly graduating from secondary schools or universities did indeed find jobs. This is a level entirely unprecedented.

The percentage of women in the workforce now surpasses that of the US for all age groups over age 25. For that and other reasons, there continues to be an urgent need to improve the care available for babies and small children.

These days, young people have become more forthcoming than before while many women have begun working, and the economy has gotten sturdier for sure. That makes this very moment exactly the right time to invest in the future of Japan. And an investment in the future of Japan is at the same time an investment in the future of Asia. That simply has to be the case, to be more precise.

There are three things to be pursued when investing in the future, no matter the era, the country, or the kind of society.

The first of these is investing in people, which is to say enhancing their education.

The second is promoting exchanges among people. Such exchanges will cause various "chemical reactions" to take place as the wisdom and knowledge people possess come into contact with each other.

And the third thing one must pursue is actively setting people and things into motion. That is to enhance "connectivity," as is usually talked about, referring to promoting investments in infrastructure like railroads and ports. And indeed, this needs to be high-quality infrastructure, not simply any infrastructure. I will come back to this point later in my remarks when I talk about a new finance mechanism.

So, with a view to the long term, "investing in the future" is a matter of making investments in three key areas: first, education; second, knowledge exchanges; and third, improvements to connectivity and infrastructure.

Today I would like to introduce to you first a plan to promote education and knowledge exchanges, as well as a new finance proposal associated with strengthening infrastructure.

But before I discuss those areas, there is something else I wish to say, and that is about North Korea. Moreover, for me to touch on North Korea here is not a departure from our main issue. Specifically, it is precisely when Asia is truly at peace that we can look forward to the three elements that I just mentioned, namely education, people to people exchanges, and infrastructure building, being the dividends of that peace.

By taking steps down the path that fosters peace, the rule of law, and freedom, it becomes possible for North Korea to make a deeply meaningful contribution, specifically of bringing about substantial peace dividends for East Asia.

In addition, networks are structures in which the entry of a single new participant yields significant benefits for existing members without them having to work for those benefits.

It is certain that that single "missing link" of North Korea becoming connected will spark rapid advances in the networks connecting the economies and the peoples of countries all around Asia.

North Korea has untouched resources as well as an abundant labor force that is presumably hardworking. There can be no doubt that the effects of North Korea taking steps down the path towards peace, the rule of law, and stability will transcend Asia and extend to the global economy as a whole.

That is why the Japanese government has stated repeatedly that, in accordance with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, we are prepared to settle the unfortunate past and normalize relations as well as provide economic cooperation to North Korea, upon North Korea faithfully implementing relevant UNSC resolutions and comprehensively resolving the abductions, nuclear, and missile issues.

I received a telephone call from President Trump just a little while ago, as he prepares for tomorrow's (June 12) U.S.-North Korea summit meeting.

He gave me a detailed briefing on the state of negotiations currently taking place in Singapore between the U.S. and North Korean working-level coordinators. Mr. Trump said he intends to engage in full and thoroughgoing discussions as national leaders during the summit meeting, which will begin at 9:00 AM local time tomorrow.

I once again asked him to raise the abductions issue with Chairman Kim Jong Un and Mr. Trump responded reassuringly, saying that he would bring the issue up without fail.

It is my heartfelt wish that through tomorrow's historic summit meeting North Korea will fully recognize the expectations of the international community and take a major step towards the correct path, heading towards the future.

Now I would like to overview for you two new initiatives that the Japanese government has put forth.

I stated earlier that investing in the future starts with investments in people -- in other words, with education. In light of that, we have designed a new education plan. Japan's donor agency, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, commonly called "JICA," and various universities around Japan will join hands to launch a new program.

Beginning this year, 2018, young people with the desire and the ability to shoulder the future of their nations there in their home countries will be selected from around Asia, Africa, Oceania, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East and invited to Japan. To be more precise, we currently expect that government officials in their twenties and thirties will form the main core, with Asian countries accounting for over 60 percent of participants.

The plan is to have those young people take coursework launched through the cooperation of JICA and the participating graduate schools, culminating in the completion of a graduate degree.

About five years from now, we aim to have at any given time approximately 2,000 young people who will shoulder the futures of developing countries studying in Japan.

There will be no costs whatsoever for the participating students, including their daily living expenses. Instead, they will give their all to their studies.

JICA will work in consultation with the various graduate programs to bring distinctive features into the course syllabi.

While this is out of the blue, I would like to ask those at the Nikkei to consider allowing the up-and-coming leaders of Asia who join this program to participate in Future of Asia conferences without charge. This proposal is one I have made without any sort of prior notification, or nemawashi, to you at the Nikkei, but I do hope that you will give it your sincere consideration.

The participants will be able to get these graduate degrees using only English in their studies.

What did Japan do in its shift towards modernization once it encountered the Western Impact? How was Japan able to rise from the ashes after World War II to bring about a period of rapid economic growth? Participants will explore such experiences of Japan through this program.

Japan's modernization is also characterized by experiences of failure that have accompanied its rapid changes. The syllabi will not shut its eyes to those, either.

The name of this program will be the "JICA Program with Universities for Development Studies," which I am told can be abbreviated rather aggressively as "JProUD."

Upon hearing this idea from JICA president Professor Shinichi Kitaoka, I immediately responded that I was very much in favor of it. My intuition told me that if the program goes well, as a project for human resources development, it will be something highly appropriate for Japan's experiences.

As of this year, 2018, it has been exactly 150 years since Japan carried out major regime reforms, opening its doors to the world.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration.

One hundred and fifty years ago, the world was a much harsher place than it is today. It was an era in which countries caught off guard could easily be trampled on by the superpowers of the time. In that era, what did Japan clad itself in when it went out to face the world? It clad itself in education.

Four years after the Meiji Restoration began, everything -- and I do mean everything, from the system of land ownership, the class system, and the calendar to hairstyles -- was undergoing changes. However, right in the midst of this, the very people who started these reforms, a total of 107 of them, absented themselves from Japan all at once.

They were what would today be our government's leading ministers, top government officials, scholars, and prodigies from all around the nation, all suddenly absenting themselves from the country. Over a year and nine months, they called upon one major power of the era and then the next, visiting the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and more, in order to make observations.

For the government that was quite literally right in the midst of implementing immense reforms, it was a leaders' large-group "study abroad" tour, the likes of which had never been seen before in world history and probably never will be again.

Moreover, during that time those who stayed behind in Japan did not plot any usurpation of power from those overseas on this mission. That was because they all shared the same aims. So now we see. Our ancestors who launched the Meiji Restoration knew the importance of education profoundly, to the very core of their being.

Thanks to such forebears as these, Japan was able to jump into the rough waves of modernization entirely of its own accord.

That is what came to my mind as I listened to Professor Kitaoka speak.

At the same time, my mind was also filled with the memory of questions I have often been asked by the leaders of countries I recently visited and leaders I invited to Japan.

These are questions about how Japan struck a balance between its traditions and modernization. Many a time have I been asked how I explain those experiences.

I believe that our new education plan provides an excellent opportunity for the students coming to Japan to find for themselves the answer to that question.

At the same time, the Japanese scholars and students surrounding these foreign participants will be driven to introspection about who exactly they themselves are.

I think that Japan's graduate schools too will be forced to undergo some changes.

Should they be lacking in their English-language teaching materials, they will need to enhance them.

Will Japan's graduate schools be able to raise the quality of their lectures to respond to the strong sense of mission of these young people who will shoulder the futures of their home nations? Will they be able to carry out a self-transformation to become venues for open learning? I think this will certainly prove to be a valuable stimulus for Japan's institutions of higher education.

That is to say, when one person interacts with another, a "chemical reaction" takes place between the knowledge they each hold.

I of course am quite certain that such a chemical reaction will arise between the students in this program. They wish to make their home countries better. There is no question that students with such eager desires and students from Japan will be stimulated as they interact with each other.

We can say, then, that each triggers changes in the other.

Investing in the future of Asia can therefore be restated as investing in the future of Japan. The converse is also true. The education program to be newly launched will serve as a good illustration of this.

Ladies and gentlemen, next year, in 2019, Japan will host the G20 summit and its associated meetings.

In that regard, what I wish to announce proudly to you is that we are working to respond in a new way to the demand for infrastructure development extending over the "confluence of the two seas," namely the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Towards that end, the Japanese government will launch a new financial framework within JBIC, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

This is a framework that will make it possible to provide funds of approximately 50 billion US dollars in total from Japan's public and private sectors over the next three years.

We hope that this will serve to assist in the building of high-quality infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific region.

High-quality infrastructure is something that in fact becomes comparatively inexpensive when we consider the costs over the lifetime of the infrastructure, which are separate from the initial costs.

High-quality infrastructure should also attract more foreign direct investment into the country building such infrastructure. It should also increase employment, help grow education opportunities for the workers, attract even more FDI and as a result make the loans easy to pay back. Infrastructure that stimulates self-sustaining cycles in this way is high-quality infrastructure.

The knowledge that infrastructure stimulates self-sustaining cycles for development is something drawn from Japan's own developmental path.

From 1953, eight years after the end of the Second World War, Japan began borrowing funds from the World Bank. In total, we borrowed 860 million US dollars. This would be in the neighborhood of 60 billion US dollars, were it in today's money.

Japan fully committed these funds to building the infrastructure that served as the foundation for our rapid growth, using the funds to construct the Tokaido Shinkansen, or bullet train, raise massive hydroelectric dams, and build expressways.

It was in July 1990 that at long last we made our final repayment to the World Bank.

This period from when we began taking loans until all repayments were finished is the Japanese experience from around the time I was born until I reached my mid-thirties.

The Tokaido Shinkansen has had not a single fatality caused by train operations since its very first run in October 1964, and it continues to operate with an average delay of less than 30 seconds from its scheduled running times.

The infrastructure made by Japan during that era has fostered the habit of mind among people to value such projects.

It has given rise to know-how and technological progress. We wish to spread materially the same kind of experiences far and wide all around the Indo-Pacific.

First of all, we have hammered out a new framework for funding. As we head towards 2019, we will actively lay out Japan's thinking on this. I would also very much like for the young leaders we invite to Japan under the new study in Japan program to learn about the experiences Japan has had with the World Bank and the like.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have been hard at work over the years expanding the horizons of Japan's diplomacy.

I have deepened our relations with Australia and India, always respecting the unity and centrality of the nations of ASEAN. I have also reinforced Japan's diplomatic and security relations with France and the UK as each of them returns to its identity as a maritime nation. At the same time, I have sketched out a conception for the future together with President Putin of Russia over the course of our 21 summit meetings to date.

This year and next year, Japan-China relations will reach new heights, as you will see.

What serves as the foundation is Japan's relationship with the United States. In light of this, I held thoroughgoing talks with President Trump even last week.

All of this has been for the future of Japan. By extension, it has also been for the future of Asia.

This is because I want the young people of Japan and the rest of Asia who will live their lives in the future to enjoy freedom, peace, the rule of law, and prosperity.

Today, I shared with you some aspects of the new plans for what the Japanese government is aiming to do to help that become a reality.

Thank you very much for listening.