By Tatsuhiko Tamura in Sofia
During an informal meeting with the traveling press corps in Sofia, Bulgaria on the morning of Jan. 15 (late afternoon in Japan), Prime Minister Shinzo Abe criticized the ROK government, saying that its unilateral demand for additional measures with regard to the Japan-ROK agreement on the comfort women issue was absolutely unacceptable. The following is the summary of his remarks to members of the press:
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presidential election
I stated previously that I will make a decision when the cicadas start chirping, but at this point, they have not even appeared on the ground at all, so I have not given this any thought yet. I must start thinking when the snow melts, the plants begin sprouting, and the earth turns green.
My first job is to make good on each of the pledges we made during the House of Representatives election. The LDP has a wealth of talents. Regardless of whether they are currently members of the cabinet or not, they should work for realizing the party’s pledges in the Diet and then announce their candidacy.
The LDP has outstanding members in all age brackets. The prime minister of Estonia is 39 years old. I hope that young people will accumulate experience, accomplishments, and knowledge in preparation for leadership in the future.
Japan-ROK relations, PyeongChang Olympics
It is an international and universal principle that the ROK should adhere to the Japan-ROK agreement as an agreement between states even after a change of administration (in the ROK). State-to-state relations will not be possible if this principle is disregarded. Based on this principle, the ROK’s unilateral demand for further measures is absolutely unacceptable.
We have fulfilled everything we promised in good faith. We will continue to ask the ROK to do the same. The comfort women issue has been resolved finally and irreversibly. That was the purpose of the agreement.
I will consider whether to go to the PyeongChang Olympics depending on the Diet schedules. The regular Diet session opening on Jan. 22 is the first session to be convened after the Lower House election. I need to make full preparations for this. While the Diet is in session, passing the FY18 budget as soon as possible will be the most important economic stimulation measure. I need to make utmost efforts for this. I will think about the Olympics depending on how it goes.
The Diet decides on the schedule of the referendum, so this also needs to be discussed at the Commissions on the Constitution. I expect there will also be discussion on how this should be conducted and the people will also have their opinions. I think the deliberations will take all this into account.
New era name
The announcement of the new era name will follow the exact procedures for the announcement of the Heisei era name, including the fact that this was done by (then) Chief Cabinet Secretary Keizo Obuchi. While we have not decided on when the announcement will be made, we also need to think about the impact of this on the people’s life. We would like the new era name to be one that will be broadly accepted by the people and one that will become deeply ingrained in the Japanese people’s life.
East European visit
I was the first Japanese prime minister to visit all the countries I just visited this time. In the Baltic states and Bulgaria, I was told that they will never forget Japan’s assistance during their democratization process. They are truly grateful to Japan.
I could feel that these countries are eager to deepen economic ties and strengthen diplomatic and security cooperation with Japan at a time the Japan-EU economic partnership agreement (EPA) is about to be signed and take effect. I hope that this visit will produce concrete results for the companies that participated in the economic mission.