Yesterday (the 2nd) I learned of the tunnel collapse incident that occurred in Yamanashi Prefecture. My heart aches hearing about the tragic state of affairs at the accident site. I offer my sincere prayers for the repose of the souls of those who lost their lives in this accident and extend my heartfelt sympathy to those who were injured and to those who suffered damages.
I gave instructions regarding three points, specifically (1) to provide all possible assistance in rendering emergency and rescue services to the affected people, (2) to obtain a full accounting of the cause of the accident at an early time and take thorough measures to prevent recurrence, and (3) to proceed with a sincere response towards the people affected through establishing consultation services and other measures.
What will be required of us going forward is for us also to put stress on countermeasures to aging infrastructure and other aspects of its "operation and maintenance" and, after establishing a priority order through careful investigations, push forward with investments necessary truly to protect life. This is of an entirely different nature from a policy of continuing to construct new roads and facilities and continuing to increase public works giving only gross amounts, under the pretext of a plan to "make the nation's infrastructure more resilient."
Over the past twenty years since the bursting of the economic bubble, Japan continued its pork-barrel spending in the form of wasteful public works, but through that the Japanese economy did not regain its dynamism. Instead, only the national debt expanded. We must not repeat such folly.
To use the Bank of Japan as if it were a magic "money mallet" [traditionally used by the god of wealth] to build up debt and transfer it over to public works is also entirely absurd. Regrettably, there is no "magic wand" that will make the problems facing the Japanese economy all disappear in an instant. What I consider to be most important is to soundly advance steady measures in which we ascertain new growth areas that will generate demand and plant seeds in those areas, then nurture them to become great.
On the 1st, North Korea announced that it would once again launch a missile that it claims is a "man-made satellite." In response, I convened a meeting of the relevant Cabinet ministers that night at very short notice and gave instructions to (1) take all possible measures to gather and analyze information, (2) strongly urge North Korea to exercise restraint and refrain from conducting the launch, in coordination with countries concerned, and (3) take all possible measures to ensure the safety and security of the Japanese people, including fully preparing for contingencies.
We must not allow a vacuum to form in our foreign and security policy even if the House of Representatives has been dissolved. A situation has emerged in which we feel that very acutely. It is utterly meaningless merely to repeat strong statements. We will convey accurate information to the public in a swift manner and decisively safeguard the peace of mind and the safety of the Japanese people. That sums up our approach.
I believe that the person in the position of managing the steering of the nation must be more than anything else a "realist." That person must move forward on the things that must be done in a solemn manner, consistently taking a broad perspective. He must resolutely state the things that should be said in a level-headed manner. I have pushed forward consistent measures on the basis of that overriding principle. In the future, I will continue to advance a pragmatic foreign and security policy as a peaceful nation, while taking all possible crisis management measures.
Will we push the reforms that have been advanced until now even farther forward, or will we turn back? The critical moment at which we will decide Japan's future course is imminent.
Whether we look at social security, economic policy, energy policy, foreign and security policy, or political reform, in each of these areas, the differences between the policies of the Noda Cabinet and the policies pursued by "old politics" are clear.
There are some forces that present a case for extreme arguments like abolishing the minimum wage system or other types of "almighty market" fundamentalism. There are also groups with alliances that seem to have linked together completely different thinking regarding important policy areas in a highly strained manner. I believe it is impossible to delegate the steering of this country to these groups.
Through the recent change of government, the shape of social security has been completely transformed. We have prevented the disintegration of medical settings, reduced the number of "nursing care refugees,"(*1) and outlined a course forward for the issue of "disappearing pensions."(*2) In keeping with the philosophy of "children first," we also boldly expanded support for children and child-rearing.
Through economic policies that placed foremost emphasis on creating employment, we also carved out a path to break away from deflation.
We also have been working to move forward finally towards reducing the number of Diet members and other political reforms through what I introduced during the Party Leaders' Debate.
I will continue to dedicate myself body and soul to appealing for as many people as possible to support the record of achievements of the Noda Cabinet, which has advanced this kind of pragmatic reform in a down-to-earth manner, and the direction of the policies we wish to advance in the future.
(*1) People unable to receive nursing care at either a facility or their homes.
(*2) An issue in which computerization and other issues led to difficulties in matching some contributors with their historical pension contributions in full.