Countries & Regions
The 9th Japan-Singapore Symposium
Keynote Address Shunichi Suzuki
Parliamentary Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs

March 25, 2013

  • The 9th Japan-Singapore Symposium Keynote Address Shunichi Suzuki Parliamentary Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs 1
H. E. Ms. Grace Fu, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs and Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources of Singapore,
Professor Tommy Koh,
Professor Shotaro Yachi,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
 
1. Significance of the Japan-Singapore Symposium
 
Thank you for the kind introduction. It is my honor to have the opportunity to give a keynote address today at the Japan-Singapore Symposium on behalf of Japan. This symposium, first held in September 1995, is being convened for the ninth time this year. The continued holding of this event is proof of the solid relations between our two countries, as well as of the fact that we have need of one another and place great importance on the roles each other plays. It is no exaggeration to describe this symposium as a valuable asset for both Singapore and Japan.
 
2. Japan’s Role in a Changing Security Environment
 
(Changes in the Security Environment)
 
Firstly, I would like to look back to September 1995, when the first Japan-Singapore Symposium took place. 
 
The Cold War had only recently come to an end. Following the US armed forces’ withdrawal from the Philippines in 1992, we saw moves to identify the ideal form of U.S. engagement in the Asia-Pacific region to ensure peace and stability there. 
 
At that time, there was some recognition of the potential for China’s rise. Chinese per capita GDP stood at just 601 dollars, though, only a tenth of the 6,094 dollars it would reach in 2012. It would not have been easy to foresee the state of today’s China back then. 
 
Things were also different in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Viet Nam had just joined ASEAN two months earlier, and Myanmar, Laos, and Cambodia had yet to become part of the group. In economic terms, the so-called ASEAN 5, including Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Viet Nam, and Thailand, had a combined economy just a quarter the size that it is today. Nobody could have predicted the way in which ASEAN has achieved such rapid economic expansion in recent years, despite the challenge of overcoming the Asian currency crisis and the global financial crisis in the years between then and now. 
 
(Japan’s Role: Active Participation for Regional Peace and Prosperity)
 
Today, however, the stage is very different: we see a rising China, North Korea’s nuclear tests and missile launches, the rebalancing of the United States towards the Asia-Pacific, and a growing presence for ASEAN on the world stage. Some of these issues, like North Korean nuclear and missile development and the situation in the South China Sea, did exist in 1995, but today we are in a different era, when the region’s strategic environment is undergoing considerable, rapid shifts. 
 
What role, then, should Japan play in light of these conditions? 
 
The answer to this question is clearly laid out in the strategic diplomacy of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe—in particular in its diplomatic approach to ASEAN. 
 
Soon after his cabinet’s launch at the end of last year, Prime Minister Abe, as well as Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and Minister of Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida, visited Singapore and other ASEAN countries. The core message delivered during these visits was a clear declaration of Japan’s resolve to play a more active role in ensuring the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region. At that time, we were greatly encouraged by the messages we received from Singapore and the other countries welcoming Japan’s more proactive role on the regional and international community. 
 
(Three Pillars for Japanese Diplomacy)
 
Japan has defined three pillars of the foreign policy on which we will play a more active role in this region. These are strengthening the Japan-U.S. Alliance, deepening our cooperative relations with neighboring countries, and strengthening economic diplomacy as a means to promoting the revitalization of the Japanese economy. On the basis of these three pillars, Japan will move forward with foreign policy that takes a broad and strategic perspective. 
 
(First Pillar: Strengthening the Japan-US Alliance as a Linchpin of Japanese Diplomacy and Security)
 
As the first pillar of Japan’s diplomatic approach, it is indispensable to strengthen the Alliance with the United States—a linchpin of Japanese diplomacy and security—in order to respond to the region’s severe security environments and various threats around the world. Japan will continue cooperating with the United States in wide-ranging areas, and working together to fulfill our roles and responsibilities in the region. 
 
(Second Pillar: Focusing on Relations with Neighboring Countries—Japanese Cooperation with ASEAN)
 
The second pillar of Japan’s foreign policy consists of deepening our relations with neighboring countries and pursuing cooperation from a broad and strategic perspective. As I mentioned just now, in this connection, Japan’s relationship with ASEAN is significantly important. We have traditionally placed great weight on our ties with ASEAN, and this year we mark the 40th year ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation. A Japan-ASEAN Commemorative Summit is scheduled to take place in Japan this December. We hope to elevate the relationship between Japan and ASEAN to a new stage.
 
The fundamental direction for Japan-ASEAN relations is set forth in the five principles of Japan’s ASEAN diplomacy, as announced by Prime Minister Abe in Jakarta this January. These principles are as follows: First, to protect and promote together with ASEAN member states universal values, such as freedom, democracy, and basic human rights. Second, to ensure in cooperation with ASEAN member states that the free and open seas, our most vital common asset, are governed by laws and rules and not by force, and to welcome the United States’ rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region. Third, to further promote trade and investment, including flows of goods, money, people, and services, through various economic partnership networks, for Japan’s economic revitalization and the prosperity of both Japan and ASEAN member states. Fourth, to protect and nurture Asia’s diverse cultural heritages and traditions. And fifth, to promote exchanges among the young generations to further foster mutual understanding. Based on these five principles, Japan aims to move forward together with ASEAN as an equal partner. 
 
(Third Pillar: Enhancing Economic Diplomacy)
 
The third pillar of Japan’s diplomacy is strengthening its economic diplomacy, which is a matter of urgency. An equal partnership between Japan and ASEAN is important from this perspective as well. The typical example of this partnership is the formation of multilayered networks of economic cooperation. The existence of such networks is essential for Japan which is lacking in natural resources and whose national interests lie in maintaining and enhancing free and open trade networks. Last November, the launching of negotiations was declared on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in which the ten ASEAN member states and six other states – Japan, China, Korea, Australia, New Zealand, and India – participate. Furthermore,  Prime Minister Abe recently announced his intention to take part in the negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). We intend to move forward swiftly with the necessary preparations in order to take part in these negotiations at an early date. 
 
(The Importance of Japan-Singapore Ties)
 
As I am sure you are aware, it was the conclusion of the Economic Partnership Agreement with Singapore, a country functioning as a hub of economic activities in the region, which enabled Japan to create such networks together with the ASEAN. For Japan, Singapore represents a gateway to economic activities involving the ASEAN. Enhancing our bilateral economic ties with Singapore has been a way for us to forge closer economic ties with the ASEAN, a key global growth center, and to help revitalize the Japanese economy. 
 
In this way, cooperation and close ties with Singapore have allowed Japan to deepen and strengthen its mutual relationship with ASEAN. I am certain that the Japan-ASEAN relationship, having marked 40th years of friendship and cooperation this year, will continue to become even more important. This will lead to a growing need for stronger ties between Japan and Singapore as well. 
 
3. Conclusion
 
In closing, I will note that this symposium is another prime example of the cooperative ties between our countries. For Japan, Singapore is a most valuable partner, providing constructive views based on its penetrating insight as an ASEAN opinion leader. Through Singapore, Japan is able to grasp ASEAN’s ways of thinking and to present its own views more effectively to ASEAN’s members. 
 
The theme for this year’s symposium is appropriate and significant for both our countries, and we have an assembled group of experts from various fields who are well-equipped to discuss this theme. Let me bring my comments to an end by expressing my heartfelt hope that today’s discussion will produce hints on how we may further enrich not just ties between Japan and Singapore but among Japan and all the members of ASEAN.
 
Thank you very much for your kind attention.