Prime Minister NODA's BLOG

Yesterday, I made an appearance on a TBS news program in a forum for exchanging opinions with young people. I was quite impressed at the participating young people’s high level of awareness of issues, from intergenerational fairness to modalities for social security, ways of moving forward with reconstruction from the earthquake disaster, and the ideal state of politics, among others.

Through the younger generation actually participating in politics and giving a voice to they themselves as young people while also speaking on behalf of the still younger generation not able to vote and future generations that have yet to be born, “politics investing a great deal of thought in the future” should come to be realized. Since some indicated they want me to “enter more actively into young people’s circles,” I would like to come up with more ways to convey issue awareness and policies in an easily understood manner, in my own personal style.

Some also pointed out that I am “unpretentious in how I look and conduct myself.” However, it is not in my nature to irresponsibly initiate something that is difficult to bring to fruition or go for a performance that is nothing more than for show, and these are certainly not things one should seek to do. It will be impossible to remove the mistrust in politics unless we bring about, one by one, policies that should rightfully be promoted, without putting them off. This is something that I have been stating consistently until now.

Policies in various fields have been moving forward in recent days as well.

Most notably, summit diplomacy is a policy area that has meaning only to the degree that I am engaged in it, and thus I have been spending a significant amount of energy on it.

Over just this past month, a number of national leaders have visited Japan, including Prime Minister Harper of Canada, Prime Minister Monti of Italy, and Prime Minister Cameron of the UK, and we have held very fruitful talks.

In addition, this past weekend, I welcomed the five leaders of the Mekong Region countries and hosted a summit meeting with them. I served as the chair of the summit and compiled a new vision for future cooperative relations with this region.

The countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam, all located in the watershed of the Mekong river, comprise a region in which Japan has thus far built up steady and enduring contributions in the areas of infrastructure development and the cultivation of human resources. By quite simply supporting these countries that are now poised to set out on the path to full-fledged economic development, we should be able to foster great potential for Japan.

Above all, our relations with Myanmar present an extremely important diplomatic issue regarding which Japan’s diplomatic position is being called into question. I firmly believe that in order to encourage efforts towards democratization and national reconciliation as well as economic reforms in Myanmar, there is a role that Japan can play precisely because it is Japan.

At the welcome dinner held at the State Guest House, I carried off a small surprise. That day was in fact the 67th birthday of President Thein Sein of Myanmar. Prime Minister Thongsing of Lao PDR and Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia also have their birthdays in April. During the “koto” (Japanese musical instrument) performance that was part of the hospitality, all of a sudden, a cake was brought forth as the song “Happy Birthday” was performed, and I extended my best wishes. I felt that these ‘efforts’ were worthwhile in that we succeeded in deepening relations among us leaders in a genial atmosphere.

But our advances have not only been in diplomacy. Regarding the issue of the wide-area disposal of disaster-related debris, which has become the issue symbolizing reconstruction from the great earthquake disaster, as the result of my formal request, 17 prefectures and five government-designated municipalities have newly announced that they will accept debris, making 26 prefectures and 13 government-designated municipalities in total when combined with the local authorities that either are already conducting debris disposal or have announced their intention to do so. I am most grateful to them. To the local authorities that continue to harbor unease regarding the safety of disposing of the debris, I will provide data confirmed by third parties generated from preceding examples and give explanations in a careful manner.

As I stated during yesterday’s TV program, we are launching a new project through which debris will be reused in a way that can be useful for disaster prevention in local areas. This is an effort by which safe debris such as chunks of concrete will be separated out and then reused to make embankments upon which trees will be planted to form disaster-prevention forests along approximately 140 kilometers of coastline from Aomori to Chiba.

By planting not only pine trees but also broadleaf trees, I hope to make these into something like “guardian forests” (found in the inner precincts of shrines), which enjoy a variety of vegetation. Calling this the “Project for Kizuna (Friendship Bonds) and Renewal through Greenery,” we plan to embark upon work on 50km this fiscal year as a start, taking advantage of the assistance of companies, NPOs, and volunteers.

With regard to the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems, we have reached an agreement with the LDP and the New Komeito Party that the annual remuneration for Diet members be reduced by 2.7 million yen per legislator for a period of two years. Upon receiving the approval of the Diet, next week I will visit Washington, DC. I intend to deepen my discussions with President Obama regarding various matters in the Japan-U.S. bilateral relationship as well as the establishment of order in the Asia-Pacific region and global issues. While there are various matters at hand, I will move forward on them in a steady and consistent way, one step at a time.

Yoshihiko Noda
Prime Minister of Japan
April 24, 2012

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