Opening Remarks by Mr. Hirofumi Nakasone
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan
At the Symposium on Multilateral Approaches to Peace and Security

(photo) Foreign Minister Nakasone

1 December 2008

Distinguished Panelists,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you very much for attending our symposium today.

It is our great pleasure to welcome to this event a number of eminent international panelists with diverse expertise joining us from Ethiopia, which is the seat of the African Union, and New York. I am also pleased to have present Japanese guests including JICA President Madam Ogata, several renowned scholars and a prominent journalist. I would like to express my deep appreciation for your willingness to participate in this symposium at such a busy time of year.

(Looking back on the year 2008)

The year 2008 is nearing its end, with only one more month to go. Looking back on the year, I cannot help but feel that there has never been a time when international collaboration was more essential. Considering the recent price rises for food and oil and the current financial crisis, it is clear that we are no longer able to respond to such issues without international collaboration.

We can say the same about matters of international peace and security. The contemporary world faces a number of problems which cannot be solved by individual states and regions alone. In Afghanistan, the international community must maintain its strong commitment to the stabilization and reconstruction efforts. The world community must also make concerted efforts in addressing such issues as the challenges in Africa, anti-terrorism measures, and non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Against this backdrop, Japan has made a variety of efforts throughout the past year to promote collaboration among the international community. First, we hosted the G8 Hokkaido-Toyako Summit as the chair country and made endeavors to reach agreements on such topics as the world economy, the environment and climate change, development and Africa, and political issues including non-proliferation and peacebuilding. In addition, as part of our efforts for the consolidation of peace in Africa, we convened the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV), extended assistance to peacekeeping centers in Africa, and dispatched Self-Defense Forces personnel to the United Nations Mission in Sudan. At the United Nations, we have been fulfilling the duties of chair of the Peacebuilding Commission and promoting wider understanding of and support for the Commission's work.

Japan is determined to continue such activities for peace and security in the future. First, we will make maximum efforts to ensure the extension of the Replenishment Support Special Measures Law for the refueling activities in the Indian Ocean. As concerns the issue of piracy off the coast of Somalia, we regard this as an urgent matter from the point of view of ensuring the safety of sea lanes as well as of protecting the lives and assets of our nationals, and will undertake serious consideration as to the appropriate measures to be taken. We are resolved to make all possible efforts and to implement the necessary measures in a steadfast and proactive manner in response to such issues.

(Determination as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2009)

In the forthcoming year 2009, Japan will join the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member. In the face of various regional conflicts as well as increasingly diverse and complex issues relating to international peace and security, the Security Council has been continuously holding consultations and taking actions, leading to the ever-growing importance of its role. After attending the Ministerial APEC Ministerial Meeting held recently in Peru, I also visited the Latin American country of Colombia. With regard to Colombia, you may have had the impression some years ago that the society was characterized by battles with rebel groups, terrorism, drugs, and landmines, far from a situation of peace and security. However, due to the unwavering determination and strong leadership of President Uribe, who was inaugurated in 2002, the security situation in Colombia has improved significantly, particularly in urban areas, and the economy has been making positive developments. In light of the improved security situation, I was able to visit the country, which was the first opportunity for a Japanese Foreign Minister to do so in twenty-three years.

In the case of Colombia, the determination of the leaders was critically important. In order to restore peace and security, we cannot overemphasize the significance of the efforts of the countries concerned. At the same time, the role that the UN Security Council can play continues to be considerable. Under the given circumstances, Japan, recently elected to serve as a member of the Council with the high expectation of UN Member States, is determined to make necessary and appropriate contributions.

First, as a Council member elected from the Asian Group, we will make active efforts to address regional issues in Asia. You may recall that Japan played a leading role in the Council's response to North Korea's launching of missiles and its announcement that it had conducted nuclear tests. With regard to Afghanistan and Timor-Leste, we intend to lead the discussions in the Council, as we did during the last term of our Council membership. We will not restrict our activities to matters in the Asian region but will make further active efforts in addressing issues of grave concern for the wider international peace and security, such as the Middle East peace process, conflicts in Africa, terrorism, non-proliferation, and peacebuilding.

In that connection, if circumstances permit, I will be leaving for Norway tomorrow to attend a ceremony for the signing of a convention on cluster bombs, which is a cause for serious humanitarian concern in the area of conventional arms. It is a significant treaty to call for the abolition of the use of these weapons, which continue to bring about damage in the lives of civilians even in the post-conflict situation. In addition, I recently requested Mr. Minorikawa, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, to conduct a field visit that begins tomorrow, in an effort to contribute towards the stabilization of the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. These are just some examples of activities which demonstrate Japan's willingness to play a vigorous role in the area of international peace and security.

With this resolve, we will work diligently during the next two years of Security Council membership in order to meet the expectations of the international community and make the case for the value of our contribution.

(Resolve to achieve Security Council reform)

As I stated at the outset, the issues of international peace and security in the 21st century require closer collaboration among the international community. The UN Security Council, for its part, must change in order to better manage these issues. Intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform are expected to be initiated by the end of February next year. In that light, I take this opportunity to reiterate our resolve for the early realization of the reform of the Security Council and Japan's joining in its permanent membership.

Let me conclude my remarks by expressing my sincere hope for a lively discussion among panelists and audience in today's symposium.

Thank you very much for listening.

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