Policy Speech by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda to the 180th Session of the Diet
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
On the occasion of the opening of the 180th session of the Diet I would like to present the various challenges facing Japan and the basic policies of the Noda Cabinet.
The Noda Cabinet was inaugurated in September last year, entrusted with the mission of resolving one by one the issues facing us immediately. As this year should be "the First Year for the Rebirth of Japan", I will aim, above everything else, to break away from "the politics that can't decide", with the tendency of putting off the important issues of national policy.
"I firmly believe that it is precisely the responsibility of those in politics vis-a-vis the people to ensure that the ruling and opposition parties conduct thorough discussions based on a relationship of trust and reach decisions to conduct the affairs of state."
This is a phrase from the policy speech of then Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda delivered at this podium four years ago, addressed to both ruling and opposition parties.
Even since then, longstanding issues have been left unresolved, and have even become more serious each year. Meanwhile, the national debt has grown larger and larger. On top of this, the Great East Japan Earthquake has heavily brought new and immediate challenges. Facing this crisis, which can be called a national crisis, we are under pressure to address the issues that we have put off for so long. We must fulfill "our responsibility of politics to the people."
What the Noda Cabinet must do is clear. Our objectives are recovery and reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake, fight against the nuclear power station accident, and the revitalization of the Japanese economy. There is no difference of opinion among the ruling and opposition parties with regard to the setting of these three issues as our main pillars or the policy direction to be promoted by the national government.
The same goes for the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems. At the end of last year, the Government and the ruling parties compiled a draft plan, after thorough discussion within the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which also took into consideration some of the problems raised at the time of the Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP)-New Komeito Party administration. Based on this, I am asking each party and group to join the discussion.
At the very least, I believe there is no gap in terms of the overall direction to rebuild the social security system into a sustainable one. If there are different opinions on specific policy matters, I invite all to discuss them openly.
Fortunately, the issues on Japan's political agenda now do not involve serious conflict over ideologies or interests, as is surfacing in other democratic countries around the world. That we were able to reach an agreement on the third supplementary budget and related legislation during the previous Diet session, despite the initial difference of opinion among the political parties and groups, is evidence of this. Politics moves forward if we politicians sincerely try to reach an agreement and make progress.
What is required now is not to play up minor differences, but to approach politics with a broad perspective, in consideration of the true interest of the people and the future of this country. Politics must be capable of making decisions in a way that does not put off work on important issues.
I am thus calling upon you to squarely discuss the issues facing Japan, to come up with specific proposals through discussion, and to implement these proposals. As members of the Diet representing the entire people of Japan, this is the time for us to fix our eyes upon the big picture rather than political situation.
2. Initiatives Concerning the Three Priorities
Recovery and reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake, fight against the nuclear power station accident, and the revitalization of the Japanese economy - the Noda Cabinet with its reshuffled lineup pledges to continue to make every effort to address these three priorities.
(Let the Sound of Hammer Ring Out as Reconstruction Gets Underway)
Over ten months have passed since that devastating disaster. Throughout these months, the Government has made earnest efforts with the hope of allowing those people who are still having to put up with the inconveniences of living at temporary housing units to feel "warmth," if even a little. It is also our hope to overcome the woes from the disaster as quickly as possible and let the sound of hammering ring out as reconstruction gets underway in the affected areas.
The third supplementary budget and the relevant legislation which were passed at the previous Diet session have laid out the tools for pushing ahead with the reconstruction, including the Reconstruction Agency, reconstruction grants, and a system of special zones for reconstruction. The new agency, which takes up the word "reconstruction" in its name, will continue to support the affected people and ensure the reconstruction of the affected areas. It is testament to the pledge jointly made by the ruling and opposition parties. The Reconstruction Agency will be launched in early February and will be a one-stop agency for carefully compiling the wishes of the communities. As the "control tower" for the entire process, the agency will further speed up reconstruction activities.
The greatest concern among the affected people in rebuilding their lives is job security. By bringing in new investment from Japan and overseas using the system of special zones for reconstruction, for instance, as well as accelerating the restoration of companies damaged by the disaster, the recovery of industry and the employment situation in the affected areas will be promoted.
It is none other than the community members themselves who will draw up a concrete vision for the reconstruction of their hometowns. At no other time than now has the principle of local sovereignty, which calls for community matters to be decided by the communities, been put to the test. I wholeheartedly support an open reconstruction process that is participated in by diverse stakeholders and is based on the autonomy of community members.
On March 11, the one-year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, the Government will hold a memorial service. The greatest service we can render for the souls of the victims is none other than the earliest possible reconstruction of the affected areas. Our ancestors achieved high economic growth from the burning fields at the end of World War II and built up the world's leading energy-conserving nation in the aftermath of the oil shocks. The same challenge is awaiting us in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake. The challenge is not to bring back the old Japan but to create a new Japan. This is the historic mission of Japanese people who are alive at this moment.
Ganbappe, Fukushima (Let's do our best, Fukushima (in the local dialect))!Magenedo, Miyagi (We will not lose, Miyagi)!Ganbappeshi, Iwate (Let's do our best, Iwate)! And Ganbaro, Japan (Let's do our best, Japan)! Let us continue to send a shout-out that has been heard across the country since the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. Let us all Japanese people join hands and together create a page in history titled, "Japan's rebirth through reconstruction," while giving our support to the people faced with daily hardships in the affected areas throughout eastern Japan.
Drawing on the lessons learned from the disaster for the future is also one of the historic missions that we must fulfill. The excuse that the "unexpected" has happened will no longer be accepted. In order to build a sustainable country and communities that withstand all kinds of natural disasters, including tsunami, our disaster management measures as a whole will be reviewed and drastically strengthened.
(Concluding Fights against the Nuclear Power Station Accident and Achieve Fukushima's Rebirth)
Our flight against the accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station is not at all over. The completion of Step 2 at the end of last year is no more than a milestone in the long process leading up to the decommissioning of the reactors. It is from now that we fully embark on the path toward Fukushima's rebirth and the restoration of its beautiful landscape.
The rehabilitation of the living environment is an urgent task for the evacuees to be able to return to their hometowns and live with a sense of reassurance. Efforts will be made to swiftly resume public services, including hospitals and schools. In order to protect children and pregnant women in particular from the effects of radiation, initiatives will be taken to thoroughly decontaminate living spaces, ensure the health management of all community members, and restore confidence in the safety of the food. Also, every effort will be made to achieve fair and smooth compensation payments from the perspective of the affected people. In addition, the intentions of relevant municipalities and community members will be fully grasped, and careful responses will be taken for the review of the restricted area and evacuation zones.
I have visited Fukushima three times since taking office as Prime Minister. The beautiful ridgeline of mountains and the sound of clear rivers and water that flows between the dense set of trees - wherever I go, I feel a sense of nostalgia. It is the beautiful landscape that every Japanese person thinks of when they think of a typical Japanese hometown.
Without the rebirth of Fukushima, there can be no rebirth for Japan. Unless Fukushima is reborn, a vibrant Japan can neither be restored. I hope that my making repeated references to this will lead to all people sharing this notion. In order to translate this hope into concrete action, a special measures bill will be submitted to this Diet session for the Government and communities to promote the rebirth of Fukushima in unison.
(Embarking on Japan's Economic Revival)
Every effort will also be made for the revival of Japan's economy, both for the earthquake-affected areas to make certain progress toward reconstruction as well as for Japan to overcome the long stalemate and pass on prosperity for the future. The revival of a large middle class also requires the entire Japanese economy to regain its energy by achieving both the competitiveness of companies, beginning with small- and medium-sized enterprises, and employment creation. The variety of impediments which have hindered companies' domestic investment and employment creation will be removed, and the foundation of industry and employment will be defended. At the same time, the seeds for growth will be planted for generating new added value, and an environment will be developed for fostering the buds of new industries.
The FY2012 budget that includes a great many projects for the rebirth of Japan is the first step toward economic revival. I will strive to realize its early passage along with the fourth supplementary budget. Furthermore, in order to overcome the historic yen appreciation and long-standing deflation, the Government will further strengthen its ties with the Bank of Japan that undertakes monetary policy and seamlessly undertake economic and fiscal management.
With the future of the world economy remaining uncertain, it is a momentous challenge for Japan, now with a declining population, to realize robust economic growth. However, that is all the more why we must calmly examine the Japanese economy's potential and draw up a clear vision for embarking on this challenge among diverse stakeholders. To this end, the Council on National Strategy and Policy will speed up the implementation of the New Growth Strategy. In addition, the Strategy for Rebirth of Japan, which will set forth a concrete roadmap toward new growth, will be formulated by the middle of the year and steadily implemented jointly by the public and private sectors.
The numerous frontiers across Japan are awaiting our challenge. Women hold the greatest potential to move Japan forward. This notion is not limited to the idea that women will supplement the declining labor force. Women's participation in a variety of social settings and the demonstration of their capabilities are a critical key to increasing the diversity of society as a whole and restoring a vibrant Japan. It is my hope that women, the force for Japan's rebirth, will further shine in society.
Such sectors as agriculture, energy and the environment, and health and nursing care, generate new demand and hold significant potential as the growing industries of the 21st century. The recently established basic policy and action plan for the revitalization of the food, agriculture, forestry, and fishery industries will be steadily implemented based on the responsibility of the Government as a whole. Innovations in these sectors will also be promoted. The ocean, the basis for Japan's existence as a maritime state and a treasure-trove of resources, and space, which holds infinite possibilities, are frontiers concerning all of mankind that the Government will pursue wholeheartedly. The measures for strengthening investment in the development of human resources who will take on the challenge, as well as measures for collecting the wisdom of industry-government-academia and turning these domestic and overseas frontiers from dreams into reality to make them a force for the rebirth of Japan will be represented as a national vision.
One of the frontiers is also Okinawa, which holds significant potential as a gateway to the Asia-Pacific and which this year will mark the 40th year anniversary of its return to Japan. In order to draw upon Okinawa's potential to its fullest extent, the FY2012 budget will establish a block grant that does not limit its uses and gives significant leeway. Also, bearing in mind the wishes of the people in Okinawa, two bills concerning Okinawa's promotion from FY2012 and beyond will be submitted to this Diet session.
In order to revive the economy, the reestablishment of Japan's energy policy is critical. This requires a holistic examination of various aspects, including the policy's impact on the economy, environmental conservation, and security, all the while ensuring first and foremost the safety and security of the people. As fossil fuel prices rise, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced, and in the mid- to long-term, dependence on nuclear power must be reduced to the maximum extent, all the while avoiding the creation of a tight electricity supply and demand. In effect, an extremely complex equation must be solved. While seeking the opinions of a wide range of people from all groups, the energy policy will be reviewed from zero with a view to creating a vision for mid- to long-term energy composition that the people can be reassured with. By the summer, a new strategy and plan will be compiled. The policy will also present a framework for the electric power system that will support the new energy composition and future domestic measures concerning global warming.
The cause of the nuclear power station accident will also be thoroughly ascertained, and based on the lessons learned, a new administrative organization concerning nuclear safety will be established. An organization that will deal with nuclear safety and security regulations will be newly established as an external agency under the Ministry of the Environment. Furthermore, a bill for installing a rigorous regulatory framework will be submitted to this Diet session, and efforts will be made to restore the confidence in nuclear safety administration that has been lost and to reinforce its functions.
3. Advancing Political and Administrative Reforms Together with the Comprehensive Reform of Social Security and Taxation Systems
(Strong Resolve for Political and Administrative Reform)
Undertaking the actions we call on others to take. This is what is expected of individuals that oversee political affairs and administration. There is a sense of national pride that they must portray to our country's citizens, no matter what kind of policy challenge they undertake.
In the previous Diet session we were unable to reach a consensus on concrete measures for cutting overall governmental expenditures and securing non-tax revenue. This is truly unfortunate, as there is little difference in how the ruling and opposition parties think about these issues. I would again like to ask for the opposition parties' cooperation in the Diet so that we can reach a speedy consensus on the bill concerning the roughly 8% decrease in the salaries of national civil servants as well as on the postal reform bill.
The eradication of wasteful administrative spending is an issue that requires constant dedication. I myself have exerted every effort toward ensuring responsible fiscal management during the past two administrations. Nevertheless, there are citizens that argue that efforts being made to cut wasteful spending are still not enough. I intend to tackle the issue of administrative reform with unwavering resolve.
I will start with the reform of independent administrative organizations. We will push forward a reform that includes reducing the number of organizations by nearly 40% through bold consolidations and the optimization of functions. Next is the reform of special accounts. Here, I will advance a reform that, among other things, abolishes the Social Infrastructure Development Special Account and generally halves the number of accounts overall. I will soon submit a bill related to these reforms to the Diet and exert every effort to seeing it pass. Moreover, doing everything in my power to secure non-tax revenues, I will reduce the number of national civil servant housing units by 25% over the ensuing five years, and advance the sale of government assets. While steadily pushing forward efforts to incorporate the views of national citizens and carry out government revitalization that allows no sanctuary, I will continue to advance reform of the civil servant system.
I will also be steadily crystallizing an effective local sovereignty reform in order to streamline administrative services and cut wasteful spending by the national government. The FY2012 budget increases the amount of the total for block grants and dramatically improves their usability. Furthermore, aiming for the abolishment of ministerial branch offices in principle, I will be designing a concrete system and will submit the necessary bill to the Diet during the current session. With regard to post offices, which support local communities as basic social infrastructure, I will work to realize a postal reform that allows post offices to provide three services (postal service, banking service, and life insurance service) in a unified manner and that will boost convenience for users during this Diet session.
This cannot be achieved by the administration alone. It is vital that politicians, more than anyone, put themselves on the line and serve as a model. In addition to rectifying the difference in weight attached to a vote, which the Supreme Court has indicated is in violation of the Constitution, the DPJ is making preparations to submit a bill to the Diet that reduces the number of seats in the House of Representatives. I will take the lead to ensure that the ruling and opposition parties engage in open discussion and that a consensus is reached to undertake actions in this Diet session.
(The Significance of the Comprehensive Reform of Social Security and Taxation Systems)
Working in parallel with political and administrative reforms, there is one more challenge that must be overcome for the sake of citizens, and for the sake of our nation's future. That is the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems.
The baby boomer generation is undergoing a transition from the "support side" to the "supported side" of the population. Our population composition was once one where a single elderly person enjoyed the support of a large number of working people like everyone helping to toss someone into the air. This has now transitioned into composition where there are three working people for each elderly person, much like the "knights and horses" game in which one teammate rides atop the backs of three fellow players, and in the future this is to steadily change to a situation where there is one working person for each elderly person like a piggyback ride. Unless we do something, future generations will not be able to bear the burden. We can no longer procrastinate with regard to reform.
Past administrations always faced difficulty when it came to formulating the budget, forcing them to make ends meet by exercising diverse ingenuity. However, amidst a situation where the Japanese population is aging at the fastest pace in the world and the natural increase in social security costs is to be a trillion yen per year, we can no longer simply "treat the symptoms," as we have done in the past.
Of course, the comprehensive reform is not carried out for the purpose of simply balancing financial resources and benefits; rather, it is in order to fulfill the sincere hopes of citizens that social security be sustainable and reliable.
There is a gradually spreading fear that once unemployment or illness separates one from the middle-class, he or she will never be able to return. Unless something is done, people may cower away from taking risk and challenging themselves in new frontiers. I will not allow Japan to become a society that leaves elderly people dying alone. We must respond to the grievous cries of deprivation of our working generations and children.
Since the DPJ took over the administration, we have aimed to create a society where people draw purpose for living from mutual support with others under the basic principle of "putting the lives of the people first." It is vital that the functions of social security be enhanced so as to create a society where people care for each other and where all people have "a place where they belong and a role to play."
It has been pointed out that, compared to other advanced nations, Japan's assistance for its working generation is lacking. The foremost example is assistance for raising children. While making full use of the capabilities of women in our society, we must also expedite the construction of a comprehensive New System for Children and Child-rearing in order to create a society where individuals feel comfortable giving birth and raising children. It is urgent that we strengthen the safety net of the working population, which is the "supporting side" of our population, including the aforementioned system, and convert our social security system to one that covers all generations of citizens, from children to elderly people.
It is said that there is a rising number of youth that have lost hope in a better tomorrow. Perhaps one cause of this is how Japanese society has continued to force debt on future generations, while growing insensitive to what it is doing. It is impossible for youth to firmly believe in a better tomorrow as long as they live in a society that continues to increase their future debt. It is no exaggeration to say that the first step to restoring hope for society as a whole rides on the success of this comprehensive reform.
Based on these circumstances and awareness, the Government and ruling parties have compiled a draft plan that includes raising the consumption tax rate in a phased manner to 8% from April 2014 and to 10% from October 2015, under the condition that we first turn the economy around. Consumption tax revenues following the increase would be allotted in their entirety, excluding the current local consumption tax, to social security costs, thus being returned in full to citizens. By no means will these revenues be used to further bloat government expenditures.
This reform will be carried out with the objective of presenting society with greater warmth. In carrying out the increase in consumption tax, we must pay most consideration to low-income earners. As such, we will enhance countermeasures for low-income earners by enhancing the functions of social security. At the same time, we will implement a detailed succession of measures that includes the introduction of a social security and taxation number system where each citizen has his or her own identification number, and we will pay consideration to providing benefits with tax reductions. Furthermore, we will increase the maximum tax rate on income tax by 5%, and as such work to address disparities and restore income redistribution functions through the taxation system as well.
As global financial markets continue to dominate, once "national credibility" is lost it can not be undone. This is manifestly apparent in the current situation in Europe. This comprehensive reform is also imperative because it creates a robust fiscal structure that is not swayed by the power of financial markets.
(Request for Dialogue with the Aim of Crystallizing Reforms)
The comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems is a major reform that must be advanced in a truly comprehensive manner together with the revitalization of the economy and political and administrative reforms. Moving forward I will hold discussion with each party and parliamentary group and compile outlines for the reform, and then submit the related bills to the Diet by the end of this fiscal year, which is the deadline stipulated in the law enacted during the time of the LDP-New Komeito coalition government.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, in their first policy speeches of the year, past prime ministers have stood on this platform and consistently asserted the necessity for a reform that would realize a sustainable social security system.
"In order to put in place a sustainable social security system, the financial burden needs to be commensurate with the level of benefits to be received." "We will take necessary legal measures by fiscal 2011, on the premise that economic recovery would be achieved by that time, in order to undertake in stages and without delay fundamental reform of the tax system, including that of the consumption tax." "The foregoing is to make the social security system one that provides peace of mind-one that does not pass the requisite burden on to posterity."
These are not my words. These are the words of former Prime Minister Taro Aso when he stood here and gave his policy speech three years ago. My aims are the same. I hope more than anything that people will think beyond the scope of their positions and engage in discussion on the draft plan for the sake of all citizens and for the future of our country.
It is also vital that we exert efforts to explaining the significance and concrete details of the reform in an easy-to-understand manner so as to obtain the understanding and cooperation of citizens. I and the related ministers will lead in concentrating all efforts on disseminating information to the people of Japan. Moreover, we will work closely with related individuals in local governments, where they interact with residents on the front line of social security.
4. Foreign and Security Policy to Open the Asia-Pacific Century
(The Asia-Pacific Century and Japan's Role in it)
We are transitioning from the Atlantic century to the Asia-Pacific century. The structure of the world that existed since the Industrial Revolution has changed, and we are thus now living in an era with the center of world history dynamically shifting. Times of change in history always bring with them opportunities and risks.
What opportunities are brought about by the Asia-Pacific century? It goes without saying, but this region, as the center of world growth, will lead the development of the global economy. Encouraging strong regional growth in this regions and winning over the enormous demand for infrastructure and gigantic purchasing power of the new middle class will bring greater wealth and vigor for Japan. The rebirth of Japan cannot occur without a wealthy and stable Asia-Pacific region.
Then what risks are born from the Asia-Pacific century? In the process of change with regard to the conventional order of the world, regional instability is increasing, and the security horizon is becoming unclear. With many countries seeing changes in leadership this year, we must keep a constant vigil on the security environment surrounding Japan. Many of the issues we see throughout this region are also factors that could hinder stable growth - issues such as developing financial markets, environmental pollution, food and energy shortages, and aging, which in particular is a problem other countries are also closing in after Japan. Japanese technology and knowledge are drawing the rapt attention of the world as they are suited to finding solutions for these problems. Japan should lead the world in resolving these issues. For there cannot be a wealthy and stable Asia-Pacific region without the contribution of Japan.
Japan is, thankfully, a maritime state that serves as an axis for both Asia and the Pacific Ocean region. We must utilize this geopolitical blessing which places us in an important historical position to the greatest extent possible, making a contribution that can enable us to enjoy a stable and prosperous Asia-Pacific region. This is a matter that concerns the entire globe, and at the same time, our greatest strategic goal in order to realize Japan's national interests.
I believe that in order to realize stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region, while setting the Japan-US Alliance as our cornerstone and utilizing frameworks participated in by a wide-range of countries and regions, the foundation of our diplomacy is continued efforts to play a proactive role in the creation of order and rules in this region.
I am not referring to only the liberalization of trade and investments or issues concerning the overcoming of energy and environmental limitations on the economic side of matters. I am also speaking of security-side issues, such as terrorism countermeasures, non-proliferation measures for weapons of mass destruction, the securing of freedom of maritime navigation, as well as peacekeeping and conflict prevention. Furthermore, we must not forget themes on which we should deepen regional dialogue, including the confirmation of our shared values, such as freedom, democracy, and the rule of law. Within the highly diverse Asia-Pacific region, Japan will continue to take the initiative to make proposals for common principles and concrete rules, and joining hands with other countries who share our aspirations, we will proceed strategically toward regional stability and prosperity.
The first and most important strategic activity for this will be our efforts to take the lead in realizing a free-trade area in the Asia-Pacific region, what is known as the FTAAP concept, and to create rules for free trade and investment through high-level economic partnerships. Moving forward with Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) and Japan-Australia negotiations, and aiming toward the early start of negotiations for wide-area economic partnerships centering on the Japan-China-ROK relationship or ASEAN, we will continue to advance consultations with relevant countries toward participating in negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, or TPP. At the same time, we will aim for the early start of negotiations on a Japan-European Union (EU) economic partnership agreement (EPA) as well.
(Strengthening Bilateral Relations with Neighboring Countries)
As we promote these initiatives, it is at the same time important for Japan to strengthen its bilateral relationships with neighboring countries, in order to enhance its diplomatic foundation. I have already held talks separately with the state leaders of not only the United States and China but also the ROK, Russia, India, Australia, and other major countries. I have built personal relationships of trust with them, and thereby promoted bilateral relationships with their countries. I will continue to strengthen these relationships while seeking to resolve the pending issues with each country, such as the Northern Territories issue.
In particular, the Japan-US Alliance, in addition to being the cornerstone of Japanese diplomacy and national security, is public goods essential for the stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region and the world. We need to develop and deepen this into an alliance befitting the 21st century. Concerning the relocation of Futenma Air Station as well, I will do my utmost to reduce the burden on Okinawa based on the Japan-US agreement, while continuing to listen earnestly to the opinions of the people of Okinawa and seeking their understanding by providing sincere explanations.
In addition, we cannot speak of the stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region without China playing a constructive role in it. I have confirmed many times with its state leaders about the policy to deepen the mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests between Japan and China. The next step for us is to enhance the content of this relationship further and deepen cooperation for creating a stable regional order. Taking the opportunity of the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations, I will seek to deepen the mutually beneficial relationship through dialogues and interactions at various levels, starting with people-to-people exchanges and tourism promotion.
Concerning the future development in North Korea, I will be calmly assessing the change of situation following the death of Chairman Kim Jong-Il of the National Defense Commission of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea at the end of last year. While working closely with relevant countries, I will continue to thoroughly prepare for contingencies by strengthening information gathering. The abduction issue is a critical issue that concerns the sovereignty of Japan, and it is a universal issue as it infringes on basic human rights. The Government will unite in its efforts for the return of all abductees to Japan as early as possible. Concerning Japan-North Korea relations, I will continue making efforts to normalize diplomatic relations, in line with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, by comprehensively resolving a range of pending issues, including nuclear and missile issues, and by settling the unfortunate past between the two countries.
I share a deep sense of concern with the international community over the Iranian nuclear issue. With the basic stance of seeking a peaceful and diplomatic solution, I will respond appropriately to this issue by working in concert with other countries while also taking into consideration the impacts on the crude oil market and the Japanese economy in a comprehensive manner.
I will also ensure thorough action with regard to the consumer affairs administration. For crisis management, I will always remain vigilant and thoroughly prepared against contingencies that may threaten the lives, health, and the property of the people, such as terrorist and cyber attacks, large-scale natural disasters, major accidents or incidents inside and outside Japan.
(Creating a Better Future for Humanity)
Beyond stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan will make active contributions toward the creation of a better future for the entirety of humanity. In doing so, we will not only fulfill our obligations to the international community, but will also place the foundation stone for the creation of a country with pride, one in which the people feel joy at having been born into Japan.
A few days ago we sent an engineering unit of the Self-Defense Force (SDF) to South Sudan to work as part of a United Nations peacekeeping operation. The personnel of the SDF who are putting their sweat into work to meet the expectations of the international community and local area and to build infrastructure in Africa should definitely serve as one aspect of the pride of the Japanese people. In addition to making this kind of contribution overseas, we will also contribute to the creation of a safer future for humanity through work on such issues as disarmament, non-proliferation, and climate change. And through the strategic use of Official Development Assistance (ODA), we will also make efforts contributing to the creation of a more prosperous future for humanity.
I love this country, and I want to protect it. I want to take this beautiful homeland of ours into the future. I would exert any effort to appeal for the true benefit of Japan.
This year is a crucial time for Japan, but on the other side of the trials that lay before us we can definitely see a Japan with hope and pride.
This country does not only belong to those of us who live in it today. There are also the generations who will continue to be born forever into the future; they are also people we must protect. Our ancestors who built, protected, and led this country to prosperity thought deeply about the future direction of this land. We now take up the long, long sash of history, and must someday pass it on to the coming generations.
There are now certain issues which can no longer be put off for the future of Japan. I do not believe I will be applauded for my work on these matters. But even so, the great reforms which I spoke of earlier must be carried out.
My fellow Diet members, you are representatives of the people. Are we not forgetting the mindset with which we first developed our aspirations? We must not give in to the temptation to put off difficult issues. We must not think only of the next election. Being a "statesman" means thinking of the next generation. Within this period of national difficulty, those of us endowed with responsibility over the state must fulfill the mission given to us as "political reformers."
Let us change politics. In order to empower the people to overcome difficulty and pave a path toward the future for Japan, do we not now need, more than ever, grand politics and politics that makes decisions? The future of Japan now depends on the conscience of us politicians.
I close my policy speech by requesting the understanding and cooperation of the ruling parties, including the People's New Party (PNP), each political party and group, and my fellow citizens.