photo (Foreign Minister Taro Aso)

Policy Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Taro Aso to the 164th Session of the Diet

January 20, 2006


At the beginning of the 164th session of the Diet, I would like to speak about Japan's diplomatic policy.

The concept that supports Japan's diplomacy is the very same one that has guided Japan's progress throughout the post-war period, namely, respect for freedom and democracy, basic human rights and market economy. Moving forward to the future, Japan will continue to engage in diplomacy that affirms these universal values that have been achieved by humankind during the course of history.

Diplomacy is pursued as a means to ensure the peace and safety of Japan and her people, and aims to provide for their happiness. The international community is currently facing a number of issues, and Japan, as a responsible member of that community, will cooperate closely with neighboring countries and international organizations such as the United Nations, based on the Japan-United States alliance and international cooperation, seeking to realize peace and happiness in the world.

(Japan-United States relations)

The relationship with our ally the United States, with which we share common values and interests, is the linchpin of Japan's foreign policy.

In making efforts to cope with the new challenges such as international terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and those relating to human security like the spread of infectious diseases and environmental destruction, the importance of the Japan-U.S. alliance continues to increase today.

Japan and the United States are deeply engaged in coordination and cooperation with many other countries towards the resolution of the various issues facing the world today. Japan will continue to strengthen this "Japan-U.S. alliance in the global context."

At the same time Japan will continue to endeavor to improve the credibility of the Japan-U.S. security arrangements. The so-called Force Posture Realignment is one important means to this end. Based on the Security Consultative Committee Document jointly issued by Japan and the United States in October 2005, Japan will continue to consult with the United States concerning concrete plans, including implementation schedules. It goes without saying that in so doing, maximum efforts will be needed to reduce the burden of United States Forces facilities and bases on local communities, including those in Okinawa Prefecture.

(Relations with neighboring and other countries)

For Japan, past and present, China has been one of the most important nations. In recent years economic relations and people-to-people exchanges between Japan and China have expanded dramatically. Further developing Japan-China relations is one of the fundamental policies of Japan's diplomacy.

Japan welcomes that as China makes peaceful development efforts, both it and neighboring countries can share the fruits of economic development, and that as a major partner both in Asia and in the international community, China will come to embrace universal values common to humanity, such as democracy and human rights, and fulfill an even more responsible role in political and economic aspects.

We Japanese take most seriously the sentiment of Chinese nationals concerning history and we intend to call on the Chinese people to build a relationship with Japan whereby the two countries, without dwelling on past issues, and seeing things in broad perspective, calmly, cultivate each other on the basis of our mature friendship, and a relationship in which a common and fundamental current is our desire to strive together to address the challenges posed by a broad range of global and regional issues.

Last year marked the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea. The state of relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea today owes a great deal to the will and endeavor of our predecessors. The source of our future-oriented, cooperative progress today lies with such people.

It was on such a basis that Japan and the Republic of Korea designated last year the "Japan-Korea Friendship Year 2005" under the slogan, "Together! Toward the Future, Into the World." Although the Friendship Year has drawn to a close, its spirit will remain in our hearts into the future, with mutual interdependence growing between Japan and the Republic of Korea, as the two countries make efforts to address an increasing number of common challenges. At the same time, Japan intends to respond sincerely to various issues related to the past from a humanitarian viewpoint, taking seriously Republic of Korea nationals' sentiments concerning the past.

Looking to the future, Japan will endeavor to further strengthen the friendly and cooperative relationship with both the Republic of Korea and China. This is Japan's unshakable fundamental policy. We must endeavor to draw a bright future between the peoples of Japan and those of China and the Republic of Korea, led by a spirit of reconciliation and collaboration, and starting from the deepened dialogue. To this end, Japan intends to cooperate with both countries to considerably expand exchanges on a variety of levels, including among young people, who will play the central role in the future.

The East Asia Summit, which was held for the first time in December 2005, provided an opportunity for the Leaders of participating countries to confirm their common intentions to achieve peace and happiness through economic prosperity and democracy, with a view to building an East Asian community in the future.

From now, Japan will work to create an East Asian community that is open, shares the universal values like freedom and democracy and conforms to global norms. To that end, Japan must strengthen its strategic relationships with the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and with the democracies of India, Australia and New Zealand.

Among the countries participating in the East Asia Summit, Japan will promote concrete cooperation on issues of common interest and concern encompassing trade and investment, energy, terrorism and infectious diseases. In order to tackle the threat of pandemic influenza, this month Japan co-hosted with the World Health Organization (WHO) a Joint Meeting on Early Response to Potential Influenza Pandemic. In addition, Japan will provide assistance of approximately US$135 million by the end of March to Asian countries to help combat influenza.

With regard to issues surrounding North Korea, allow me to first emphasize that the resolution of these issues is essential not only for the creation of regional peace and stability, but also for the maintenance of an international non-proliferation regime.

It is Japan's policy to aim towards the normalization of relations on the basis of the settlement of issues of the past and outstanding issues of concern between Japan and North Korea, such as the abduction, nuclear and missile issues on the basis of the Pyongyang Declaration. At the same time, there will be no normalization of relations without the comprehensive resolution of the outstanding issues, including the abduction issue. As agreed at the recent Governmental Consultations between Japan and North Korea, comprehensive consultations will begin in the near future on outstanding issues of concern including the abduction issue, security and normalization of relations. In these consultations, Japan will press North Korea to make a sincere response, based on our policy of "dialogue and pressure", to resolve the various issues of concern including the abduction issue. At the same time, through the Six-Party Talks, Japan seeks for a peaceful resolution to the nuclear issue.

Next, with regard to Japan's relations with the Russian Federation, differences of position remain between Japan and Russia on the biggest outstanding issue, namely that of the Northern Territories. Based also on the results of the summit meeting held on the occasion of President Vladimir Putin's visit to Japan in November 2005, Japan will tenaciously continue negotiations with Russia, on the basis of agreements concluded and documents signed to date between Japan and Russia and with the broad support of the people of Japan. It is imperative that the issue of the attribution of the Four Islands, which are an integral part of the sovereign territory of Japan, be resolved, and that the solution of the issue lead to the conclusion of a peace treaty in the near term.

This year, Russia will host the G8 Summit for the first time. Given this opportunity, Japan will continue to pursue even more vigorous dialogues with Russia. Japan intends to deepen cooperation in accordance with the "Japan-Russia Action Plan", and endeavor to create a forward-looking relationship with Russia.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Basic Treaty of Friendship and Co-operation between Japan and Australia. 2006 has been designated as the "Australia-Japan Year of Exchange" and commemorative events and programs will be implemented in both countries. In addition, Japan will host the Fourth Japan-Pacific Islands Forum Summit Meeting in Okinawa this year. Therefore, year 2006 will be just like "a year for the Pacific" and Japan has to take this opportunity to deepen understanding with the countries in the region and work to achieve further exchange and cooperation.

For Japan's safety and prosperity, we will also strengthen our relations with Europe and with Latin America and the Caribbean, among other regions.

(Promoting reforms as a means to enhance the functions of the United Nations)

Last year Japan expended efforts towards realizing reform of the United Nations, in particular that of the Security Council. These efforts were based upon Japan's determination to make the United Nations an organization that could better respond to the challenges facing the international community.

Although the road to permanent membership on the Security Council may be a winding and treacherous one, our campaign triggered substantive discussions on Security Council reform among all the member states of the United Nations. As a result, the "Outcome Document" adopted by the Summit Meeting of the United Nations in September 2005 acknowledged that early reform of the Security Council was an essential element of the overall effort to reform the United Nations.

As Security Council reform thus enters its second stage, this year also marks the 50th anniversary of Japan's accession to the United Nations. Building upon achievements so far and addressing remaining challenges, Japan will maintain mutual trust among the G4, and advance consultations with the United States. Japan will also direct its efforts to dialogue with neighboring countries, including China and the Republic of Korea.

Japan views the reform of the United Nations in a comprehensive manner, and believes that the United Nations must be strengthened to address various challenges such as development, human rights and peace-building. To this end, Japan has played, and will continue to play, an active role. Moreover, Japan presses for administrative and budgetary reform of the United Nations, including the review of mandates to enhance transparency and accountability in all operations of the Organization, and a review of the scale of assessments so that the status and responsibilities of member states are duly taken into account.

(Contribution to peace and prosperity in the international community)

This year is Japan's second year as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. Over the course of last year, Japan has made a significant contribution to revitalizing the work of the Security Council Working Group on Peacekeeping Operations as the Group's Chair. Japan has also played a constructive role in building consensus among the Security Council members so that the Security Council can fulfill a leading role in various regions of the world in which peace and stability must be established. This year Japan will vigorously continue these activities commensurate with its status as a member of the Security Council.

Specifically, Japan will engage in PKO and international election monitoring activities, as well as peace consolidation activities in regions such as the Middle East and Africa. The Peacebuilding Commission, an initiative supported by Japan, is about to be inaugurated at the United Nations. Taking advantage of the launch of this Commission, Japan would like to consider, in cooperation with the international community, measures to develop in Asia human resources with expertise, who will be capable of taking on activities in the areas of peacekeeping, peace-building, and prevention of recurrence of conflict.

Since 1994, Japan has submitted a draft resolution on nuclear disarmament to the General Assembly of the United Nations every year. Last year the resolution was adopted with greater support than ever before, which reminds me of the importance of the role Japan should play in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation. Efforts must also be made towards a peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue.

Japan has played a substantive role in the fight against international terrorism. In the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, with the support of the international community, the important stage of building a government structure has now come to an end. This is a desirable development, but international efforts to eliminate and control the threat presented by terrorism are still ongoing in Afghanistan and the surrounding area. In the previous extraordinary session of the Diet, the period of the Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law was extended. Japan intends to continue its support for nation building in Afghanistan.

The reconstruction of Iraq is also only partially complete. Last year Japan extended for a further year the terms of the Basic Plan concerning the dispatch of Self-Defense Force personnel to Iraq. The development in the political process in Iraq is currently in the final critical phase. The implementation of the National Assembly election in December 2005 without any confusion was the very great progress in the political process. Japan will continue to spare no effort in assistance for the people of Iraq to build their own nation.

The success of the Middle East peace process is essential for Japan in our efforts to achieve peace and stability in the region, from which more than 80 percent of Japan's petroleum is imported. Taking advantage of its position in the Middle East as being trusted by both Israelis and Arabs, Japan will make efforts to realize coexistence and co-prosperity of the Israelis and Palestinians and to build confidence through promoting the regional cooperation.

(Enhancing the safety and prosperity of Japan and the Japanese people)

With regard to economic foreign policy, nothing is more important than to establish global rules. Based on the results of the Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Hong Kong in December 2005, Japan will contribute actively to the negotiations, with a view to completing the Doha Round by the end of this year.

Under the framework of the WTO, maintaining and strengthening the credibility of the multilateral trading system remains one of Japan's priorities. On the other hand, for developing countries it is a reality that unless they strengthen their capacity in three different phases of trade, "Produce", "Sell" and "Buy", they will not be fully integrated into the global trading system. As one of our actions to tackle this issue, Japan announced a "New Development Initiative for Trade" prior to the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference. Japan will endeavor to steadily implement this initiative. In addition, it goes without saying that high priority is given to supporting the activities of Japanese companies around the world in Japan's diplomatic activities.

At the end of 2005, the Leaders of Japan and Malaysia signed the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). Japan intends that this agreement will give further impetus to efforts to strengthen economic partnership in global terms, focusing on East Asia.

With the memory of the tsunami that devastated countries in Asia still fresh in our minds, Japan will advance measures that bring peace of mind to the overseas activities of Japanese nationals. Efforts must be made to create a structure that will be able to respond rapidly and accurately to a large-scale emergency situation.

(Strategic, comprehensive and flexible utilization of ODA)

Official development assistance (ODA) is an important means of accomplishing strategic diplomacy. It is necessary to improve Japan's bilateral relations and the international environment surrounding us, utilizing ODA in a strategic, comprehensive and flexible manner, based on foreign policy . The government will review and further reinforce the current system whereby under the leadership of the Prime Minister ODA is implemented with the Minister of Foreign Affairs in the center of coordination.

From now, Japan will continue to place emphasis on the importance of ODA, using it to aid people suffering in poverty, promoting self-help efforts, and providing support to developing countries in their fight against terrorism, which can also be born from poverty, thus endeavoring to enhance global security. As has been seen in Japan's assistance to the earthquake-struck region of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Japan will also utilize ODA to provide assistance in disaster relief and reconstruction.

Last year, in an international commitment, Japan pledged to double its ODA to Africa in the course of three years, and to increase its ODA volume by US$10 billion in aggregate over the course of five years. The government will work steadily to implement these pledges.

(Enhancing functions and capabilities of gathering and analyzing external information and information transmission)

Finally, I would like to touch upon the significance of words in diplomacy.

Japan is currently in the midst of efforts to fundamentally improve information gathering and analysis capabilities. Given that information is expressed in the form of words, we must ensure that we have a quick ear to gather accurate information as well as a brain to pierce its essence.

At the same time, the statements and information emanating from Japan are increasingly carrying more weight. The tenets and beliefs that Japan should transmit to the world cannot be viewed as such until they are first given voice through language and words.

I close my policy speech with the pledge to continue to make every effort to expound the aims of Japan's diplomacy and ensure that these aims are transmitted at home and overseas. I humbly ask for your support in this endeavor.

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