Aso Cabinet E-mail Magazine No.14 (January 15, 2009)
"To all new adults"
This past Monday was Coming-of-Age Day. I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to all the 1.33 million people who came of age.
You are the ones who will determine the future of this country. Strongly believing that the future is bright, I want you to devote your best efforts to all of your endeavors. I, too, will exert my utmost efforts, contributing to the building of a society that properly reflects your spirit and drive.
"A new era in Japan-ROK relations"
During this past holiday, I visited the Republic of Korea (ROK) and met with President Lee Myung-bak. President Lee and I have already had five occasions to meet in the little less than four months since the end of last September when I assumed the office of Primer Minister. Never before have the leaders of Japan and the ROK met so frequently and deepened our cooperation across such a broad range of areas.
The ROK is an important neighbor that shares fundamental values with Japan, such as freedom, democracy, and basic human rights. The Public Opinion Survey on Diplomacy shows that nearly 60 percent of Japanese people feel an affinity for the ROK. That this number is on the rise is proof of the fact that Japan and the ROK are becoming "countries close and intimate," despite the existence of various issues.
We have firmly established high-profile "summit shuttle diplomacy."
Before meeting President Lee, I met the participants of the Japan- Korea Camp. Fifty high school students from each country stayed together, with Japanese and Korean students mixing to form teams of about 10 members. These teams create and present business plans based on market research.
I believe that their experience in overcoming linguistic barriers and working together will be extremely useful in the future. Such experience is a valuable asset, not just for the participants, but for Japan and the ROK as well.
For its part, the government will take further steps to promote exchanges between young people, who will take on the future of both countries. These steps include doubling the quota for the Working Holiday Programme, which allows young people to engage in work while enjoying a holiday in a different culture, increasing it from 3,600 to 7,200 people.
Leaders of the Japanese business community, including those from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), who accompanied me on this visit also had an opportunity to exchange views with the President and leaders of the Korean business community. I am convinced of the importance of building a multilayered bilateral relationship, by enhancing exchanges and cooperation not only between governments but also among young people and industry sectors of the two countries.
We are not limited to a bilateral relationship; a new era in Japan-ROK relations where both countries cooperate in the international community is being ushered in. President Lee and I agreed to hold working-level consultations on development cooperation for countries including Afghanistan. We also agreed to cooperate closely on the issue of North Korea and international economic and financial issues.
There are expectations for the Asian region to be a growth center of the world in the midst of the global economic crisis. For the global economy, too, it is crucial for the leading countries of Japan and the ROK to strengthen future-oriented cooperation and to support the growth of the Asian region.
"Economic countermeasures: a three-stage rocket advances"
Upon my return home, Diet deliberations awaited. I have been giving my all in terms of both domestic policies and diplomacy.
The second fiscal 2008 supplementary budget passed in the House of Representatives this week. This budget will allow, among other things, an additional 21 trillion yen for countermeasures against cash-flow problems faced by SMEs, 1000-yen highway tolls on Saturdays and Sundays, provision of a fixed-sum stipend, support to make workers regular employees, and free maternity check-ups.
It is a budget to defend people's daily lives and revitalize the Japanese economy. It is the second-stage rocket, following the first fiscal 2008 supplemental budget. I hope the House of Councillors will reach a conclusion in a prompt manner, with the thorough understanding of the importance of the budget.
I will soon submit the fiscal 2009 budget, the third-stage rocket,
to the Diet. In the United States, too, President-elect Obama is
calling for the implementation of drastic policies. I will proceed
with measures in a seamless manner so as to make Japan the first
country in the world to extract itself from recession.
* Profile of the Prime Minister
<1ch> Prime Minister
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