TUNNEL VISION

Turkey 2014 | DIPLOMACY & POLITICS | GUEST SPEAKER

Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, on the long-standing relationship between Japan and Turkey, the 90th anniversary celebrations, and the Marmaray project.

Shinzo Abe
BIOGRAPHY
Shinzo Abe was elected Prime Minister in 2012, marking his second tenure since the 2005 election. Upon graduation from the Department of Political Science at the Seikei University Faculty of Law, he initially worked at Kobe Steel, Ltd., although his distinguished political career began in 1982 with his appointment as Executive Assistant to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Other senior positions held have included Director of Social Affairs Division, President of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and Chief Cabinet Secretary.

I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations as you celebrate the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey. The Turkish people have made every effort to strike a good balance between history and the challenges of modernization, while valuing their traditions. We who come from a country with long-established traditions on the eastern edge of Asia understand well the great efforts of you who stand at the western edge. May Turkey and its people enjoy everlasting greatness and good fortune.

Today, on this propitious day marking the 90th anniversary of the founding of the Republic, you have finally realized the dream of a century and a half of connecting by railway the strait that separates Asia and Europe, a dream that you have held on to steadfastly since the first plans were drawn up in 1860. I really wish to congratulate you heartily on achieving this. When I met Prime Minister Erdoğan in May 2013, Tokyo and Istanbul were vying with each other to host the Olympic Games. At that time, we promised each other that no matter which side was victorious, we would be the first to congratulate the winning side.

On September 7, 2013, in Buenos Aires, when the decision was made for Tokyo to host the Games, Prime Minister Erdoğan came straight to me before anyone else with a congratulatory embrace. I was profoundly impressed by the courage and friendship he demonstrated at that time. It is now my turn to congratulate you, Mr. Erdoğan. In May of 2013, he leaned forward and told me how important the Marmaray Project was and what a long-cherished wish its completion has been for Turkey. He urged me to come to the opening ceremony, and I consider it an honor to be able to fulfill the promise I made to Prime Minister Erdoğan.

I understand that there is not a single precedent anywhere of constructing an immersed tube tunnel at a depth of approximately 60 meters. I have also heard that even the experts had said that construction would be “close to impossible" due to the strong currents affecting water flow, depending on the depth of the water.

A man named Mr. Fumio Koyama of the Taisei Corporation is one of the people who directed the construction of the tunnel. When asked what the secret for success was, despite these hurdles, he answered, “Never giving up." He said, “Our staunch determination was both the first step and the last step toward our success." I think Mr. Koyama's words really say it all about how difficult the construction has been.

For Turkey and Japan, and all those who have been involved in this construction project, the world is applauding your creation. I would like to express my appreciation once more for Turkey selecting Japan and Japanese companies to be its partner in this historic major undertaking that will be passed down over the generations and remain on the map forevermore.

Let us next share a dream in which Shinkansen “bullet trains" depart Tokyo for Istanbul and connect Istanbul to London. Turkey, which has now achieved a robust economy, and Japan are partners in the G20. In May of 2013, our two countries pledged as strategic partners to deepen our dialogue, and of course our diplomatic cooperation, but also in security and economic matters, and to work together for the sake of the world. Turkey and Japan, which are working to bring peace and stability to the world, are the two wings that support the vastness of Asia from East and West. This image has recurred to me time and again as I set foot in the great city of Istanbul that connects East and West on this day on which you have realized the dream held for 150 years.

Bringing peace to Asia, as well as prosperity. Turkey and Japan are the two wings that will make Asia soar.