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The government is determined to push structural reforms forward on various policy fronts in 2003 to achieve a long-desired economic recovery, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said in a New Year’s Day statement.

“This year, the government will strive to place reforms on a steady path, including the acceleration of bad-loan disposal, the revitalization of industries and the battle against deflation,” Koizumi said in the statement.

In pursuing the goal, the prime minister said he is seeking public understanding for a potential increase in bankruptcies and unemployment in the short term, triggered by the disposal of banks’ bad assets.

Nevertheless, he emphasized that “Japan’s potential strength is immense,” citing the accomplishments of two Nobel laureates — Masatoshi Koshiba, cowinner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in physics, and Koichi Tanaka, cowinner of the year’s chemistry award.

“Mr. Koshiba and Mr. Tanaka told me there are many Japanese researchers who deserve to receive the Nobel Prize,” Koizumi said.

On Japan’s foreign policy in the new year, Koizumi said Tokyo will make concerted efforts with the international community to deal with a wide array of diplomatic issues. As for talks on establishing diplomatic ties with North Korea, he said Tokyo will continue to urge Pyongyang to launch a full-scale investigation into the North’s abductions of Japanese nationals.

Japan will also closely cooperate with the United States and South Korea in deterring North Korea’s attempts to develop nuclear arms, Koizumi said, adding this is key to ensuring a stable security situation in Northeast Asia.

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