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Abe says Japan will play leading global role in ‘challenging’ 2016

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his resolve Friday for Japan to play a leading role globally in the “challenging” year of 2016, as the country plans to host a Group of Seven summit in May, a trilateral summit with China and South Korea and return to the U.N. Security Council as a nonpermanent member.

“This year will be one in which Japan will shine on the global stage and demonstrate its leadership,” Abe said in a New Year’s address.

A Japanese-led Africa development conference called the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, or TICAD, is also set to be held in 2016.

Abe said 2016 will be the year to begin realizing his government’s new goals, including the expansion of Japan’s nominal gross domestic product to ¥600 trillion ($5 trillion) from ¥490 trillion by around 2020 and raising the fertility rate from 1.4 to 1.8 by around 2025 to tackle the country’s declining birthrate and graying population.

“We will face whatever challenges occur. We will make this year a year to face the future boldly,” he said.

On controversial security legislation enacted in September, Abe said the laws will allow “thorough preparations for any situation and prevent wars” and that they “have built the foundation of a peaceful Japan that the generations of our children and grandchildren can inherit.”

In a major shift in Japan’s postwar security policy, the legislation, aiming to expand the scope of the Self-Defense Forces’ activities abroad, was enacted amid strong public opposition.

The new laws will also, in a limited way, allow Japan to exercise the right to collective self-defense — or coming to the aid of the United States and other friendly nations under armed attack, even if Japan itself is not attacked.

Abe also expressed confidence about the effects of Abenomics — the economic policies his government has implemented since its launch in December 2012.

“Japan is no longer in deflation. We were able to bring about this situation in three years,” he said.

The prime minister also said he would accelerate efforts to reconstruct areas hit by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

Citing a Japanese proverb to the effect that even if a castle is built by consistent efforts over time it can still easily collapse, Abe said, “The government is kept in check by the watchful eyes of the public at all times. I will need to bear this in mind and steer my administration even more attentively.”

In an another attempt to appeal Japan globally, Abe is planning to attend the World Economic Forum meeting in late January in Switzerland and deliver a speech, a government source said Thursday.

With his intention to take part in the so-called annual Davos forum meeting of world business and political leaders beginning Jan. 20 in the Swiss resort, the government may seek some changes to his schedule in the Diet convening Monday, the source said.

Abe has envisioned delivering his policy speech on Jan. 22 at the regular Diet session, but the event could be moved to somewhere around Jan. 25 should he travel abroad, according to the source.

In his speech, Abe hopes to pitch his economic policy drives and measures to cope with Japan’s declining birthrate and graying population, the source said.

The prime minister previously attended the Davos forum meeting in January 2014.