Speech by H.E. Mr. Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, at the 19th International Conference on "The Future of Asia"
At the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo

May 23, 2013

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Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen,
My name is Fumio Kishida, Japan's Minister for Foreign Affairs. Thank you so much for inviting me today to this renowned conference on "The Future of Asia." The theme this year is "Asia's Search for Steps toward Stronger Ties and Integration." I think it is very timely for us to discuss the future of Asia, which is growing in importance at a time of global turbulence. In January, after being appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs, I visited the Philippines, Singapore and Brunei--all member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)--as well as Australia, and I realized the powerful growth of the region. Witnessing the bustling towns of these countries, I felt the dynamism of Asia at firsthand and, at its heart, the energy of young people. During the trip, one leader told me, "Japan needs to be more confident." As I perform my duties as Minister for Foreign Affairs, I keep this advice firmly in mind.
Since then, I have visited a number of countries. At every meeting, I felt strongly that Asia is drawing global attention for its rapid economic growth and is becoming a central part of the world. In January-March, Japan scored an annual economic growth of 3.5% in real terms. Since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office last December, stock prices have soared by 50%. Both are signs that the Japanese economy is reviving. As Asia attracts more and more attention from other parts of the world, I feel even higher expectations for the roles for Japan to play in Asia and the world.
For Japan, Asia, especially the ASEAN member states are closely related, both culturally and historically. As you know, this year Japan and ASEAN mark the 40th anniversary of formal ties. I am filled with deep emotions as I look back on 40 years in which the two sides have together followed a path toward stability and prosperity.
Let us look at the current situation of Asia.
First, Asia and ASEAN in particular, has achieved remarkable growth in recent years. I have visited Vietnam many times as part of bilateral exchanges of lawmakers, and when I traveled to Hanoi three years ago, I was struck by the sight of the city, which was totally different from 10 years before. In 2012, the whole ASEAN region registered economic growth of 5.7%; growth of 5.5% is projected for this year. Economic growth is rapidly expanding the middle class in ASEAN, which has a population of 600 million. As a global growth center, Asia is leading development in the world. In 2011, ASEAN's gross domestic product accounted for 3.1% of global GDP, about six times the share in 1990. The importance of ASEAN is growing day by day.
In Asia, the maturity of society is also deepening in line with economic development. Among ASEAN member states, some have achieved wealth and mature democracies, while others are making steady progress toward achieving these. I believe Japan and the rest of Asia need to establish new relationships that reflect this new environment.
In the Mekong region, the security environment has improved remarkably thanks to social stability and end of conflicts. On the other hand, the reality is that East Asia faces a host of challenges, such as North Korea's nuclear and missile development and maritime disputes, which need to be overcome so that peace and stability are firmly established in the greater Asian region. Obviously we need to make efforts to improve this unstable security environment.
Recognizing such changes in Asia, Prime Minister Abe announced the Five Principles of Japan's ASEAN Diplomacy when he visited Jakarta in January. In order to further strengthen relations between Japan and other Asian countries for a new era, Japan is resolved to make diplomatic efforts in all areas, including politics, security, the economy, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges. Specifically, Japan will promote (1) cooperation for the further prosperity of Asia, which has become the center of the global economy; (2) cooperation in strengthening prosperity and maturity of the societies in Asia; (3) cooperation to ensure peace and security in Asia; and (4) people-to-people and cultural exchanges.
Let me begin firstly by discussing the first of these, which is cooperation for prosperity. The prosperity of Asia depends on the success of rule-making that covers the whole region. In working towards the ultimate goal of creating a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), Japan will promote trade negotiations, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the trilateral FTA with China and the Republic of Korea (ROK), and play a leading role in making high-level rules on trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific. Japan also plans to devote its efforts to raising the capabilities of engineering students and to nurturing small and medium-sized enterprises that are the bases for economic development.
Regarding the second point of cooperation, it is important to narrow the disparities that exist within the region, so that the whole of ASEAN could become a prosperous and mature society. Japan aims to mobilize both the public and private sectors of the region to strengthen connectivity and to deepen economic cooperation among the region, while at the same time making efforts to narrow the gaps within ASEAN. In addition, Japan will assist the establishment of the ASEAN community in 2015 and continue to promote cooperation with the rapidly growing Mekong region.
Alongside the countries that lead economic growth, Japan hopes to build on its experience as the forerunner in growth to expand the horizons of cooperation so that it covers not only traditional areas, such as support for infrastructure construction and human resource development, but also environmental protection, health and hygiene, the establishment of social security systems as well as disaster management. In particular, Japan has formulated a "Strategy on Global Health Diplomacy" and clarified global health as a priority for Japan's diplomacy. The aim is to contribute to promoting Universal Health Coverage, so that all people of the world, including Asia, are able to receive basic health care services. These challenges transcend national boundaries and measures to address them will be increasingly important.
Let me proceed to the third priority for Japan's diplomacy which is cooperation for regional peace. The security environment in the Asia-Pacific region has become increasingly difficult in recent years. To bring a bright future to Asia and maintain peace and prosperity in the region, action is needed to deal with events that render the achievement of these goals uncertain and to support efforts for peace.
Foremost among regional concerns is North Korea. North Korea’s nuclear and missile development in defiance of strong opposition by the international community is a serious threat to regional peace and stability. Through coordination with countries such as the United States and the ROK, Japan will maintain the policy of "dialogue and pressure" towards the comprehensive resolution of outstanding issues of concern, including the abductions, nuclear, and missile issues.
The ROK is an important neighbor for Japan, which shares fundamental values and interests. In light of the current security environment in East Asia, it is important to deepen and develop the Japan-ROK relationship not only for both countries but also for stability of the region. Though difficult issues can sometimes arise between neighboring countries, Japan intends to manage the bilateral relationship from a broader perspective, foster collaborative projects, and promote dialogue and cooperation, including political levels.
Tensions are rising in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. It is evident that an "open and stable sea" is in the common interest not only of this region but also the international community. Maintaining the existing order through the rule of law, rather than by force, and ensuring safe and free navigation are essential to regional peace and prosperity.
At the same time, we cannot discuss Asia without referring to China. As you know, the Japan-China relationship is one of the most important relations for Japan. It goes without saying the enormous impact that Japan-China relations have on this region and, by extension, the world, as well as the two countries' heavy responsibility for the stability and prosperity of the region and the world. In this context, Japan will maintain the stance of working to prevent individual issues from undermining overall relations from the viewpoint of "Mutual Beneficial Relationship Based on Common Strategic Interests." Japan and China continue working-level consultations such as the trilateral FTA among Japan, China and ROK, and director-general-level talks between the Japanese and Chinese defense authorities. Japan believes it important that such consultations lead to dialogue at a wide range of levels, including at the political level. Japan and China share responsibility for peace and prosperity in the international community, and Japan always keeps the door to dialogue open.
Japan also considers it essential for regional stability to continue strong support for Myanmar's steady efforts towards democracy and for the Mindanao peace process in the Philippines.
On the fourth priority, I would like to emphasize that it is very important to promote people-to-people exchanges and cultural exchanges as Japan and the rest of Asia move forward to a new stage.
Today, the speed of information and telecommunications has risen exponentially, and the Internet allows us to obtain information about other countries instantaneously and to get to know people from all over the world. Even so, deeper mutual understanding and relationships of trust are fostered by reciprocal visits to each other's countries, tasting local specialties and gaining hands-on experiences of diverse and rich cultures. Invigorating such exchanges and strengthening cooperation in tourism and culture--as well as in education, which serves as the foundation of a prosperous society--will together contribute to protecting diverse cultures and traditions in Asia and handing these down to the next generation. Based on such beliefs, Japan plans to undertake the following projects.
First, to help invigorate people-to-people exchanges, Japan will further relax visa requirements for tourists from ASEAN member states. It is our hope that more people from ASEAN member states will visit Japan and directly experience the richness and beauty of the country's four seasons.
For some people in Asia, adoration towards Japanese anime and advanced technologies has triggered their interest in Japanese culture and language. I am pleased that Japanese language is now introduced as a part of the education systems of several ASEAN member states. Language is an extremely important tool for gaining a profound understanding of foreign culture. Hence, I launched a panel of experts on the promotion of Japanese language abroad, and the panel is currently discussing specific measures.
In addition, as a policy to expand cultural exchanges in Asia, Japan plans to advance policy dialogue on culture and art, promote cooperation on protecting cultural heritage as well as training human resources for the development of cultural industries.
Furthermore Japan will make strong efforts to facilitate exchanges of youths who carry the future of Asia by encouraging organic coordination of policy measures such as "JENESYS 2.0," a youth exchange program announced by Prime Minister Abe in January, and the "300,000 Foreign Students Plan." It is also our hope that the Olympic and Paralympic Games will come to Tokyo in 2020 and many youths visit to see Japan that has recovered vigorously from the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Riding on the Light Rail Transmit (LRT) system in Manila during my visit to the Philippines in January, I felt that Japanese technologies are imbedded in the daily lives of local people. With Japan and the rest of Asia entering a new era, I believe it will not be long before Japanese magnetic levitation railway technology links major Southeast Asian cities with Myanmar, where peace is firmly established, and making day trips among young Asians are common. What Asia is today was probably unthinkable 40 years ago.
In times of crisis, we have always helped each other, such as during the Asian economic crisis of 1997 and the earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in 2004. The warm assistance Japan received from you in the aftermath of the 2011 disaster is one episode in the history of mutual support. The future of Asia will continue to be the future of Japan, and the future of Japan will be the future of Asia.
On the occasion of the 40th year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation, we aspire to deepen our cooperation with you and further promote under the catchphrase for the 40th anniversary, "Thoughts Connected, Future Connected" in order to carry relations between Japan and the rest of Asia forward to a new era.
Thank you very much for your attention.