Speech by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the North Atlantic Council
"Japan and NATO: Toward Further Collaboration"
January 12, 2007
Mr. Secretary General, Thank you for your warm welcome.
Your Excellencies the Ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen.
It is with great pleasure and a profound sense of history that I come here as the first Japanese Prime Minister to address the North Atlantic Council, being also the first Japanese head of government born after the Second World War.
At the outset, allow me to state something that is self-evident: Japan is ready to carry out what is required of it on the international level. And, in so doing, Japan must identify the best possible synergies with like-minded partners around the globe.
My congratulations are due for the success of the summit in Riga. I welcome the commitment of NATO leaders to enhance links with non-NATO democracies, such as Japan.
Japan and NATO are partners. We have in common such fundamental values as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. It is only natural that we cooperate in protecting and promoting those values. My government is committed to reinforcing the stability and prosperity of the world based on the fundamental values I have just mentioned. For its part, NATO is widening the circle of freedom through an expansion of membership and partnerships.
Japan and NATO share a common sense of responsibility towards global challenges. We now need to work together more than ever in sharing our capabilities, as we work to consolidate peace in the face of conflict.
Over the past decade, Japan has undertaken peace cooperation activities in diverse places including Cambodia, Mozambique, East Timor, the Indian Ocean and Iraq. We have also conducted disaster relief efforts in Pakistan, working side by side with NATO forces.
Since becoming Prime Minister, I have made clear to the Japanese people that my government will develop and carry out a proactive foreign policy, and that Japan should play a meaningful role on the global stage. In this approach, Japan is eager to collaborate with NATO, building on a common sense of trust.
Just three days ago, I elevated the Japan Defense Agency to a ministry on a par with other central ministries. The new Ministry of Defense is ready to fulfill its duties and accord international peace cooperation activities high priority alongside national defense.
Now, my administration is discussing the best form of international peace cooperation, including a general legal framework for participation of Japan Self-Defense Forces and civil personnel.
While adhering to the principles of the Constitution, Japanese will no longer shy away from carrying out overseas activities involving the SDF, if it is for the sake of international peace and stability. It is in this spirit that Japan has engaged in SDF operations in Iraq and in the Indian Ocean.
In spite of our vigorous efforts, there are certain places where we have yet to reach our goals. Deep in my heart I will always think of those family members who have lost their loved ones while performing their missions. Concerning Afghanistan, I for one recognize the imminent challenges of the task at hand, and I am aware of the obstacles that must be overcome.
Still, I will continue to convey to my fellow Japanese citizens a very simple message: Japan is investing in the future of Afghanistan because its stability is vital to Japan and the world.
In the Indian Ocean, Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels have been providing fuel to countries participating in Operation Enduring Freedom, including nine NATO member states.
Japan has donated 1.1 billion US dollars for reconstruction assistance. We have provided Kaboul, Kandahar and Bamian, to name a few, with hundreds of classrooms. We do this because we know that every school we rebuild is another ray of hope for the children of Afghanistan.
The International Security Assistance Force and Japan have combined resources to reintegrate into civilian life 60,000 former Afghan soldiers. Every father who returns home as a result is a beacon of hope for Afghan families.
Our next task is to dismantle the illegal militias of more than 125,000 fighters.
I fully agree with much of what the NATO Riga Summit has declared, and share your opinion that there can be no security in Afghanistan without development. I also share your view on the need to enhance collaboration between NATO and its partners, including Japan.
On this basis, I would like to reaffirm Japan's solid commitment to Afghanistan.
First, we will implement further assistance equivalent to 300 million US dollars to complete our commitment made at the London Conference. This is to support the Afghan National Development Strategy, in areas such as road and airport construction as well as agricultural development.
Second, we will enhance assistance in the area of security. Working closely with NATO, we will carry out vigorously the Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups. We will also put emphasis on capacity building for the Afghan police forces.
Third, we will intensify cooperation with NATO's Provincial Reconstruction Teams' humanitarian activities. My government highly commends the important role that PRTs are playing in remote areas of Afghanistan. Japan will further explore deeper synergies between our assistance activities and those led by PRTs in such areas as basic education, as well as medical and health care. For this purpose, Japan will actively take part in the Contact Group on Afghanistan, whose establishment was proposed at the Riga summit.
Fourth, we will play a greater role in the fight against narcotics and terrorism by reinforcing the border control capabilities of the Afghan government, in collaboration with Germany, the U.S. and the EU.
In today's world, situations on one side of the globe can easily be tied to developments on the other. It is on this basis that we have strong concern about the situations in countries such as Iran, Sudan, Afghanistan and Iraq, just to name a few. I believe it is also the reason your organization took up the issue of North Korea's nuclear test, which is closely related to Iran's nuclear issue.
The North Korean regime has launched ballistic missiles and brazenly declared that it conducted a nuclear test. Moreover, it has also abducted a number of innocent citizens from Japan, including a then 13-year-old schoolgirl.
North Korea's nuclear test poses a grave threat not only to the peace and security of Japan but also to that of East Asia and the entire international community. It is also a serious challenge to the nonproliferation regime. In a word, it is totally unacceptable.
I believe that this recognition is shared worldwide: The United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1718 in response to Pyongyang's audacious act. This Resolution lists measures which all Member States must carry out vis-à-vis North Korea. In order to urge North Korea to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs, all countries must implement the Resolution in a concerted manner.
At the last session of the Six Party Talks, North Korea showed no intention to discard its nuclear ambitions and refused to enter into substantive discussions. Therefore, the need for implementing the Resolution is now greater than ever.
Japan has taken strict measures both on our own initiative and in accordance with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions. As a result of such measures, Japan now prohibits or severely limits exchanges or transactions with North Korea in terms of trade, financial transactions, transportation and movement of persons. I urge NATO member countries also to take concrete measures without delay.
The issue of abductions by North Korea is a grave violation of basic human rights and must also be addressed jointly by the international community. From this viewpoint, I welcome the adoption of the Resolution on the Situation of Human Rights in North Korea at the UN General Assembly. We successfully cooperated with NATO member countries towards its adoption, and I would like to express my appreciation for this. Some North Korean defectors and abductees have testified to having seen some victims of abduction from European countries. I request all NATO member countries to urge North Korea to take sincere steps towards the resolution of this issue.
In a couple of days, I will be traveling to the Philippines to attend the second East Asia Summit. The Asian region is undergoing dynamic change, and Japan is committed to playing a proactive role in promoting regional growth and stability.
In East Asia, China presents great opportunities to us all. We fully recognize the responsible role to be played in the region by China. I agreed with the Chinese leaders during my visit there in October that our nations must establish a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests.
We must understand, however, that there are some uncertainties surrounding China, such as its increasing defense expenditures and continued lack of transparency. We need to pay close attention to the future of this nation. And we should continue to have dialogue with the Chinese government for increased responsibility it can share with us, to improve the regional security environment. Partners sharing fundamental values should enhance cooperation to this end.
Japan and NATO should now move on to a new phase of cooperation. Under my leadership, the Government of Japan has already started laying the groundwork for enhanced future relations with NATO. There is ample room for us to combine our knowledge and experience to help in areas such as peace building, reconstruction and disaster relief.
Indeed, members of my cabinet and their staff are looking forward to meeting with their NATO counterparts on a regular basis. They are also eager to actively participate in NATO consultation meetings on specific areas of common interest. I believe that the next round of Japan-NATO high level consultations expected in March in Tokyo will be a good opportunity to work out our plans for further cooperation.
I would like to conclude by reminding all of you of our duty toward future generations. We have to elevate democracy in places where it is emerging; consolidate respect for human rights where it is suppressed; and offer hope for a brighter future in situations where people are yielding to despair.
Our aim is to create a safer world where every individual can live with pride. To make this goal a reality, we need to be dynamic, and never fear casting off the shackles of dogma that we have long taken for granted. My country is ready to meet the world's rising expectations for our enhanced role in the international community.
My core vision for a future Japan is "a beautiful country" that is open to the world and ready to face the challenges that come our way. Under my guidance, Japan will continue to advance a program of reforms and initiatives to achieve this vision.
The work that lies ahead is simply too large to allow Japan and NATO the luxury of taking different tracks. Building on our past efforts, we must work together to ensure a peaceful and secure future.
Thank you very much for your kind attention.
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