Speech by H.E. Mr. Koichiro Gemba, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, on the Occasion of the 18th International Conference on the Future of Asia:
Building a "High-Quality Society" through Network Diplomacy

May 24, 2012
(at the Imperial Hotel)

(Japanese)

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Koichiro Gemba. Thank you for inviting me to the 18th International Conference on the Future of Asia today.

The goal of this conference is linked with that of the diplomacy I have been pursing since I assumed the post of Minister for Foreign Affairs.

That is to build a prosperous and stable order underpinned by democratic values in the Asia-Pacific region.

Today, I would like to focus on two important pillars on which such an order can be built. Because of time restraints, I may have to speak a little fast, but please bear with me. One of the two important pillars is "Network Diplomacy". The other is building "High-Quality Society" by enhancement of the middle class. I have often used the term "Network Diplomacy" to explain the kind of diplomacy I have been promoting.

In the context of the Asia-Pacific region, I promote "Network Diplomacy" as an attempt to interweave a range of bilateral and multilateral agreements to build the kind of order I mentioned earlier – a prosperous and stable order based on democratic values. I gather that such networks are steadily growing. These are networks designed to bring more prosperity and security to the people of Asia.

It is expected that the Asia-Pacific region will continue to drive the global economy. As you know, however, the region faces a variety of risks. They are not limited to political and security risks which are often noted. Legal and institutional infrastructures, for example, in the financial sector; emerging gaps that increase social unrest; and vulnerable infrastructures are also one of the risks that the region is confronted with. All these risks may hinder growth in the Asia-Pacific region. Clearly, minimizing these risks and maximizing growth opportunities in the region is essential in order to further contribute to the global economy.

To that end, it is no doubt necessary to enhance and expand the Japan-U.S. alliance, which is a public good for the region. Further, I have long been an advocate for the strategic Japan-U.S.-China talks. Regarding the realignment of U.S. forces stationed in Japan, the governments of Japan and the U.S. decided last month to delink the relocation of Futenma Air Station from other components and move forward where possible. This decision not only provides a solution to one difficult aspect of the realignment package; it also represents a significant step towards a deepened alliance where Japan-U.S. cooperation can be further enhanced in other areas.

Meanwhile, only pursuing quantitative economic growth is insufficient for people to achieve prosperity and happiness. A society in which wealth and privilege are unevenly distributed is ultimately undependable in terms of sustainable stability. An environment is needed where people's rights are respected and people can fulfill their potential, be it between countries or within countries. Building a democratic "High-Quality Society" where no one is marginalized is an important task to be addressed by each of us who live in the 21st century.

A "High-Quality Society" cannot be made possible without a functioning democracy and narrowing the gaps, which are underpinned by a prosperous, stable, and strong middle class that I mentioned at the outset. By beefing up its middle class, Japan was able to achieve such a high level of stability and prosperity after WWII.

Japan intends to work closely with other Asian countries to build such societies. Network diplomacy that I have been advocating will help such efforts, which may be construed as an attempt to realize "human security" in Asia. Human security – a concept Japan has been promoting--is designed to respect the dignity of individuals and enable them to fulfill their fullest potential.

Let me emphasize again that deepening and expanding a "High-Quality Society" in Asia is an important goal of Japan's network diplomacy.

ASEAN has been making great contribution and efforts towards building such prosperous "High-Quality Society". As you know, over the past 45 years, the five original member states of ASEAN have achieved economic growth at a rate more than double that of the world average as a whole and their presence as a center of regional economic growth is solid. Infant mortality has decreased significantly over the past two decades, from 62% to 24% [per 1,000 live births], indicating that living standards have improved dramatically. Backed by such progress, ASEAN's international status has grown and many of multilateral cooperation frameworks in the region, such as the East Asia Summit (EAS) and ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), have emerged and developed centering on ASEAN.

Many of the ASEAN member states achieved an economic take-off in the 1990s onwards. Development gaps do exist among its member states. What is noteworthy, however, is that ASEAN has made considerable efforts to address a number of challenges arising from these gaps. Such effort is typically seen in its attempt to enhance physical, institutional, and people-to-people connectivity.

Japan has long been a strong supporter for such initiative of ASEAN. A case in point is the Fukuda Doctrine, a concept put forward by former Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda. My predecessors also worked to deepen relations with ASEAN. Such efforts have not been made at the government level alone; solid trusting relationships are being formed at the business-to-business and people-to-people levels as well. I believe that societies ASEAN countries pursue and the society Japan pursues have much in common. Japan will continue to do its utmost to build "High-Quality Society" hand in hand with ASEAN.

Speaking of ASEAN Connectivity, Japan hosted the Fourth Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting in April in Tokyo. The leaders determined the policy of enhancing connectivity in the Mekong region, including Myanmar. This opened up the possibility that the land corridor will be extended to the Indian Ocean and even further to South Asia, a rapidly growing region. Japan will continue to support ASEAN's effort to narrow developing gap and further fulfill its economic potential.

Disaster management is another important field for cooperation. We experienced 3/11 while Thailand had tremendous floods. A great earthquake occurred off Sumatra in 2004. ASEAN is now a key player in the global supply chain. In this sense, it is important more than ever that ASEAN gain the resilient capacity of disaster management. For its part, Japan intends to provide assistance in the form of, say, an Disaster management Network for ASEAN Region. Japan also intends to share its experience and expertise in this area with other Asian countries on such occasions as a World Ministerial Conference on Disaster Reduction to be held this year in Sendai.

Free market economy and democracy are two sides of the same coin. In this context, ASEAN has made significant efforts to establish democracy in the member states. The Bali Democracy Forum at the initiative of Indonesia is meaningful in that it represents regional ownership in promoting and consolidating democracy in Asia. As a matter of fact, support for the democratization process in Egypt is extended within the framework of this forum. In that sense, this initiative in Asia contributes to building "High-Quality Society" around the world.

The term democratization reminds me of Myanmar. I visited Myanmar last December, and this April, we welcomed President Thein Sein to Japan. Japan expressed its intention to extend support to help solidify the process of democratization and national reconciliation in Myanmar. It is more important than ever to build a society where each and every one of the people of Myanmar feels that the nation will enjoy prosperity as the process progresses. Japan will continue to support Myanmar's reform efforts.

Needless to say, democracy is an essential prerequisite for building a "High-Quality Society" where individuals can achieve happiness. It is also crucial for social stability. Japan will continue to proactively support Asian countries in their efforts towards democratization as exemplified by these efforts.

Also, Japan intends to back up efforts to boost the middle class towards building "High-Quality Society" in Asia. In fact, I'm planning to work out a strategy to that end by this autumn. In the meantime, let me quickly share with you the four pillars of this strategy.

The first pillar is economic partnership. It is important that each country revitalize trade and tap into other countries' markets to complement its domestic demand. It is in this context that Japan intends to lead the process of establishing rules for free trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region through high-level economic partnerships. And as you know, Japan has already entered into consultations towards participating in the TPP negotiations with the countries concerned. Japan will also start negotiations on a Japan-China-ROK FTA within this year. I would like to think of these as two sides of the same coin. Ultimately, Japan hopes to realize the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP), which will involve the ASEAN countries as well as India.

The second pillar is assistance in infrastructure development. Infrastructure development is important for promoting growth and improving social quality in Asian countries. ODA provides an important tool for infrastructure development. I intend to make the most of ODA with an optimal combination of its modalities: ODA loans, grant aid, and technical cooperation projects, under public-private sector partnership.

The third pillar is definitely the provision of state-of-the-art technology. Recently, I co-chaired the East Asia Low Carbon Growth Partnership Dialogue. This experience reminded me that Japan should take the initiative in creating a low-carbon growth model. To that end, Japan will work to support human resources development, promote advanced environmental technology, and build a regional network. In this context, it is worth noting that Japanese small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in local areas have excellent technologies – a fact known in Japan but not so in other Asian countries. I'm thinking of taking advantage of these technologies and promoting them through ODA. Such efforts in environmental and other fields will help the people of Asia to build quality societies.

The fourth pillar is enhancement of intellectual dialogues. For delivering the kind of assistance I just mentioned, I believe that, in addition to policy dialogues between governments, intellectual dialogue in the business world, academia, and civil society like this conference, plays a more important role than most of you may imagine.

In promoting all these activities in the Asia-Pacific, a region full of diversity, I hope to make good use of Japanese values, notably the diligence, politeness, and patience of the Japanese people. It is no exaggeration to say that flexible assimilation of other cultures while respecting age-old traditions is part of Japanese culture and history. This is a Japanese virtue. It is important to cherish cultures, traditions, and values deep-rooted in this diverse region. I believe that Japan – which has its roots in Asian values and at the same time has flexibly assimilated western values – has a unique role to play in this region.

We are more than happy if Japan's experience is of some use for other countries. A good example of Japan's cooperation in education comes from the Malaysia-Japan International Institute of Technology (MJIIT), which opened last September and will hold an opening ceremony next month. This joint project represents the culmination of Malaysia's 30-year history of its Look East Policy. Japan provided ODA loans, teaching personnel, and other forms of assistance for the project. Expectations are high that MJIIT will develop as a center of Japanese-type engineering education in the region.

The importance of the "All-Japan" approach is greater than ever in practicing the policy that I have touched upon in the Asia-Pacific, notably the ASEAN region. I believe that the public at large has an important role to play in diplomacy. In fact, I have been an advocate of "Full-Cast Diplomacy," which involves a wide range of actors – the government, local authorities, NGOs, SMEs, and individuals, who work together and create synergy in diplomacy. This also represents a first step towards a "High-Quality Society. I intend to put this concept into action with broad-based participation.

In conclusion, it is my hope that Japan and the Asia-Pacific will work together to achieve prosperity and build "High-Quality Society" bolstered by a strong middle class. I'm confident that Japan has rich and long experience in both pursing democracy and stability at home and respecting partners in delivering international cooperation. Japan will continue with its sustained and empathetic assistance while respecting local cultures, traditions, and values. I ask for your cooperation.

Thank you.


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