Abe vows to revive Japanese economy, sees no escalation with China

WASHINGTON Sat Feb 23, 2013 12:09am EST

1 of 8. U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington February 22, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Americans on Friday "I am back and so is Japan" and vowed to get the world's third biggest economy growing again and to do more to bolster security and the rule of law in an Asia roiled by territorial disputes.

Abe had firm words for China in a policy speech to a top Washington think-tank, but also tempered his remarks by saying he had no desire to escalate a row over islets in the East China Sea that Tokyo controls and Beijing claims.

"No nation should make any miscalculation about firmness of our resolve. No one should ever doubt the robustness of the Japan-U.S. alliance," he told the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

"At the same time, I have absolutely no intention to climb up the escalation ladder," Abe said in a speech in English.

After meeting U.S. President Barack Obama on his first trip to Washington since taking office in December in a rare comeback to Japan's top job, he said he told Obama that Tokyo would handle the islands issue "in a calm manner."

"We will continue to do so and we have always done so," he said through a translator, while sitting next to Obama in the White House Oval Office.

Tension surged in 2012, raising fears of an unintended military incident near the islands, known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China. Washington says the islets fall under a U.S.-Japan security pact, but it is eager to avoid a clash in the region.

Abe said he and Obama "agreed that we have to work together to maintain the freedom of the seas and also that we would have to create a region which is governed based not on force but based on an international law."

Abe, whose troubled first term ended after just one year when he abruptly quit in 2007, has vowed to revive Japan's economy with a mix of hyper-easy monetary policy, big spending, and structural reform. The hawkish leader is also boosting Japan's defense spending for the first time in 11 years.

"Japan is not, and will never be, a tier-two country," Abe said in his speech. "So today ... I make a pledge. I will bring back a strong Japan, strong enough to do even more good for the betterment of the world."

'ABENOMICS' TO BOOST TRADE

The Japanese leader stressed that his "Abenomics" recipe would be good for the United States, China and other trading partners.

"Soon, Japan will export more, but it will import more as well," Abe said in the speech. "The U.S. will be the first to benefit, followed by China, India, Indonesia and so on."

Abe said Obama welcomed his economic policy, while Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said the two leaders did not discuss currencies, in a sign that the U.S. does not oppose "Abenomics" despite concern that Japan is weakening its currency to export its way out of recession.

The United States and Japan agreed language during Abe's visit that could set the stage for Tokyo to join negotiations soon on a U.S.-led regional free trade agreement known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In a carefully worded statement following the meeting between Obama and Abe, the two countries reaffirmed that "all goods would be subject to negotiations if Japan joins the talks with the United States and 10 other countries.

At the same time, the statement envisions a possible outcome where the United States could maintain tariffs on Japanese automobiles and Japan could still protect its rice sector.

"Recognizing that both countries have bilateral trade sensitivities, such as certain agricultural products for Japan and certain manufactured products for the United States, the two governments confirm that, as the final outcome will be determined during the negotiations, it is not required to make a prior commitment to unilaterally eliminate all tariffs upon joining the TPP negotiations," the statement said.

Abe repeated that Japan would not provide any aid for North Korea unless it abandoned its nuclear and missile programs and released Japanese citizens abducted decades ago to help train spies.

Pyongyang admitted in 2002 that its agents had kidnapped 13 Japanese in the 1970s and 1980s. Five have been sent home, but Japan wants better information about eight who Pyongyang says are dead and others Tokyo believes were also kidnapped.

Abe also said he hoped to have a meeting with new Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who takes over as president next month, and would dispatch Finance Minister Taro Aso to attend the inauguration of incoming South Korean President Park Geun-hye next week.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason and Doug Palmer; Editing by David Brunnstrom and Paul Simao)

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Comments (12)
Kailim wrote:
(1)Tacit approval of Yen depreciation for more exports to the US earns the US more trade deficits and a state of duplicity in tackling RMB values for easing trade deficits. Smart Obama should know this.

(2)Abe’s hardline stance in disputed islets earns himself no chance in meeting his Chinese counterpart in the near future as he wishes. So he will miss the chance of exporting more to China that is the driving engine for world recovery. He should look at General Motors which sold more cars in China than in the US last year.

(3)If there was no cold war, the US should have handed Diaoyu Islands over to Republic Of China in the 70s. Then there will be no dispute today. The cold war is over long time ago, Mr. Obama.

Feb 22, 2013 10:02pm EST  --  Report as abuse
sae-sho wrote:
“”Japan is not, and will never be, a tier-two country,” Abe said in his speech. “So today … I make a pledge. I will bring back a strong Japan, strong enough to do even more good for the betterment of the world.” ” sorry, can’t stop laughing. this silly person thinks, by force of will , he can reverse the effects of xenophobia and low birth rates maybe he plans to pay the diaspora ungodly sums of money to come home. never hatchie

Feb 22, 2013 11:41pm EST  --  Report as abuse
sae-sho wrote:
zhubajie wrote some hateful things. as a troll for china, i do more than forgive him. “when i was a child ,i thought like a child and acted like a child” i ignore him. buy.(sp intentional)
but look at the bright side, my other mother raised me in japan in the late 50′s, but then in the 00′s brought a broken japanese into my life and destroyed it. there are no perfect people.you can bitch and moan, and say how life and the world is unfair. tell that to dr gu at shanghi u. i taught him everything i know. he took back to china hundreds of vials of “kelly’s special cells” to jump start your bio research programs

Feb 23, 2013 12:05am EST  --  Report as abuse
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