Foreign Minister Gemba's Speech on Japan's Diplomacy in the Future
at "A Talk with Foreign Minister Gemba"

April 5, 2012


  • Photo: Foreign Minister Gemba's Speech on Japan's Diplomacy in the Future at A Talk with Foreign Minister Gemba (Overview)
  • Photo: Foreign Minister Gemba's Speech on Japan's Diplomacy in the Future at A Talk with Foreign Minister Gemba (Overview)

On March 17, "A Talk with Minister for Foreign Affairs Koichiro Gemba" was held in Nagoya City with about 200 citizens attending.

In a keynote speech on the theme of "Japanese Diplomacy in the Future," Minister Gemba briefed on specific outcomes and challenges of the "substantive diplomacy" which he has promoted since assuming the post of foreign minister in September last year, reviewing visits to foreign countries and meetings with dignitaries. In his first public speech since the one year period of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Minister Gemba referred to the promotion of diplomacy that takes advantage of Japanese values such as tenacious resilience, politeness, humbleness and patience shown by Japanese people during the disaster.

In an ensuing question-and-answer session, Minister Gemba replied directly to questions from the audience on issues such as the abductions of Japanese nationals by North Korea and Japan-China relations.

The following is a summary of the talk:

1. Japan's geopolitical position; Japan as seafaring nation

Japan has more than 6,800 islands, with a land area measuring 380,000 square kilometers. If we take the Exclusive Economic Zone into account in addition to our territorial waters, Japan becomes the world's sixth largest country with a combined area of 4.47 million square kilometers.

Japan is located at the westernmost end of the Asia-Pacific region or at the easternmost end of Asia. If we are to think about Japan, we will first have to look straight at Japan's geopolitical position. I always have been saying, ever since first having said so at my inaugural press conference, that we should build an affluent and stable order backed by democratic values in the Asia-Pacific region. I think it is the role of our diplomacy to maximize the chance of growth in this region while minimizing risk.

2. National security

(North Korea)

Regrettably, it is my understanding that the security environment is becoming increasingly severe. Yesterday, for example, there was an announcement that North Korea would launch a "satellite".

Again, I renewed my conviction that we would have to cooperate with the U.S. and the Republic of Korea as well as China and Russia to call for North Korea's self-restraint. There are two U.N. Security Council resolutions which ban launches with the use of ballistic missile technology. Even though North Korea calls it a satellite launch, it will clearly use ballistic missile technology and thus constitute violation of the U.N. Security Council resolutions.


The development of China presents a good opportunity to Japan. We are making efforts to build Mutually Beneficial Relationship Based on Common Strategic Interests or a win-win relationship with China. Since this year marks the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China, we would like to make various people-to-people and cultural exchanges with China. China and Japan are economic partners. After all, we are the second and third largest economies in terms of GDP. We have to build a mutually beneficial relationship but, on the other hand, as reported recently, China has been increasing its defense budget by double-digit percentages. China's defense budget is growing remarkably fast but without announcing details of spending, making many people nervous.


Since Japan and Russia have developed a relationship of trust, we now hope to proactively deepen the bilateral relationship, including the territorial issue, and continue negotiations toward the solution of the territorial issue. In the Far East, however, Russia is very actively engaging in military exercises. When we think about the issue of security, it is naturally the first and foremost role of politics to secure the safety of our people. It is important to be constantly on the alert.

(Japan-U.S. Alliance)

From the viewpoint of keeping a power balance between sovereign states, our country must make further efforts to improve our defense capabilities by ourselves. I am one of the persons who firmly feel that we need more emergency deployment capabilities, in particular toward southwest.

I always think that we need to deepen the Japan-U.S. Alliance. Regrettably, however, the prevailing view was that Japan-U.S. issues boiled down to the Futemma issue which remained somewhat in a stalemate. I told U.S. Secretary of State Clinton during the Japan-U.S. foreign ministers' meeting, in late December last year, that Japan had difficulties getting the full understanding of the people of Okinawa about relocation of the Futemma Air Station to Henoko, while the U.S. had difficulties in its congressional relations, and that both sides ought to try our ingenuity at overcoming these difficulties.

Previously, the relocation of the Marines from Okinawa to Guam, and resulting land returns south of Kadena, and the relocation of the Futemma Air Station to Henoko were all contained in the package. Having learned that under the current situation, the stalemate would remain unchanged, it was decided that the two issues would be delinked. We will first deal with mitigating the impact on Okinawa. The security environment is changing, as you can see. We will have to be able to properly respond to the change and we will also let the Japan-U.S. Alliance evolve into an alliance truly suitable for the 21st century, which will encompass, for example, missile defense, extended deterrence, space, cyberspace, the division of roles between the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. Forces. We would like to show a comprehensive Japan-U.S. Alliance in the 21st century which will include not only security but also economic, cultural and people-to-people exchanges.

(Network Diplomacy)

We now talk about what we call network diplomacy. In rulemaking in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan intends to take a leading role. There are various frameworks in the Asia-Pacific region such as the East Asian Summit (EAS), ASEAN, ASEAN+3. ASEAN+6, and APEC. Making use of these frameworks, Japan is making efforts vigorously. Take maritime rules, for example; we are proposing to make the Asia-Pacific a region that observes international law and to establish new rules firmly based on democratic values.

It is absolutely indispensable to get China involved in this sort of network. I think it is necessary to have something like a strategic balance, or strategic stability, among Japan, the U.S. and China. I am proposing to have a dialogue among these three countries.


Japan is also pursuing diplomacy with features of its own. I visited Myanmar in December last year. When it was under a military dictatorship, the countries of Europe and America did not even give a glance at Myanmar. Japan, however, always was keeping in touch with the country, though on a shoestring scale, but consciously. Despite being in Asia, Japan has flexibly accepted and absorbed Western values while taking the lead in Asia. I believe that there should be Japan's own unique way to contribute to or work on certain issues. I instructed a review of Japan's aid policy to support the democratization and national reconciliation of Myanmar. I met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, too. When I met with President Thein Sein, I told him that he had to make sure to protect the political freedom of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

(Human security)

Japan has the unique concept of human security. It calls for paying due respect to the dignity of every human being and developing a society in which each individual is given a chance to exercise his or her capabilities to a maximum extent. This concept constitutes one of basic principles of our assistance to other countries. I had a very productive conversation with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and was convinced more than ever that Japan must follow this concept in providing assistance to countries like Myanmar.


President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan told me there was one country he could trust, and that was Japan. Every time I think of diplomacy, or as the Minister for Foreign Affairs, I always keep two things in mind. One is that diplomacy must be pursued based on realism. This is extremely important. The other is that "diplomacy becomes more trustworthy and effective in the long run when it is conducted with honesty and good faith rather than when pushed in hard bargaining". This is what Sir Harold Nicolson describes in his famous book "Diplomacy." I think President Karzai trusts Japan because he sees both honesty and good faith in the way Japan conducts its diplomacy.

3. Efforts for prosperity

(Diplomacy toward Africa)

Japan will host the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) next year in Yokohama. I plan to go to Morocco in early May to attend the TICAD IV Ministerial Follow-up Meeting. Whenever I meet my African counterparts, they tell me that while realism is important for diplomacy, they find a silver lining in Japanese diplomacy conducted so far with honesty and good faith. I really feel this. I believe Japan must make use of good points of its diplomacy.


As Japan's economic condition continues to deteriorate, some people ask why the government has to help other countries while its own citizens are in difficult situations. However, official development assistance (ODA) is the most important diplomatic tool for Japan. Unfortunately, our ODA budget has been halved during the past 14 years. It is true that there are other means of helping developing countries like providing them with various sorts of expertise, technology and initiative. But, realistically speaking, ODA is quite effective. Since I was appointed as Minister for Foreign Affairs, I have asked Prime Minister Noda a couple of times to reverse this trend of cutting the ODA budget. I have made the same request to the Minister of Finance. Through these efforts, I have succeeded in raising the budget, though only by a small amount. If Japan can continue increasing ODA, its presence in the international community will be elevated and what has been accumulated through diplomacy, as described before, will be utilized more effectively.

(Full-cast Diplomacy)

Recently, I often refer to "full-cast diplomacy". I think the day has come when we pursue diplomacy together with citizens, big businesses, small-and-medium sized enterprises, NGOs and NPOs, who are interested in foreign affairs. That's why I call it full-cast diplomacy. Before I became foreign minister, I engineered a sweeping reform of the NGO/NPO system as Minister for National Policy. The reform has made it possible for NGO/NPO to deduct donations not only from income but also from tax itself, thus allowing them to collect donations far more easily. I hope more and more NGOs/NPOs will be set up and participate in diplomacy.


There are many arguments for and against Japan's participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. In short, I am convinced that TPP constitutes our major strategy. A nation's economic growth is determined by per capita productivity and the size of its labor force. With its population dwindling, Japan's economy is supposed to shrink. Indeed, during the past 20 years, Japan recorded negative growth of 0.5% per year on the average. This makes it all the more incumbent upon Japan to pay more attention to the vitality of growing economies in the Asia-Pacific region. There are 3.5 billion people in Asia and 4 billion in the entire Asia-Pacific region. Within the next 10 years, an estimated 1 billion people will newly join the middle class, with huge purchasing power. I believe that we should not miss the opportunity of taking advantage of the vitality of these people. In my opinion, the future success of Japan will depend on the creation of a new system in which profits earned from overseas markets and from exports are returned to Japan to create new employment opportunities, invest in production facilities and develop new technologies. I think this is one of Japan's future success patterns.

(Export of Package-type Infrastructure)

In the past, Japan tended to implement overseas development projects on a piecemeal basis such as bridge or road construction. Now, public- and private-sector efforts are under way to undertake package-type infrastructure export in which skilled people, know-how and operating manuals are also combined with hardware to promote infrastructure-related exports. Coupled with effective utilization of ODA, these efforts are expected to boost the water supply and sewage market alone to an estimated 45.5 trillion yen, electric cars to 12.4 trillion yen, renewable energy to 18 trillion yen and the smart grid to 23.5 trillion yen in 2015. I hope to establish a new system in which Japan takes advantage of these markets and proceeds from them are recirculated to Japan.

(Support for SMEs)

I believe many small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) are seeking to boost operations outside Japan in an effort to bring home what is earned overseas and thus protect jobs at their domestic factories. But they often lack know-how, proficiency in English and other resources to do so. I think that it is where the Ministry of Foreign Affairs may extend full support to SMEs intending to move into markets abroad. Technologies possessed by SMEs are amazing. We hope to sell these technologies abroad in partnership with SMEs, utilizing ODA. We expect to assist SMEs by matching them with their foreign counterparts needing their technologies.

4. Beyond "Cool Japan": Promotion of diplomacy based on Japanese values

Kosupure (costume play or cosplay), manga and anime are promoted as examples of "Cool Japan." But they are only a doorway to Japan. I hope they will lead to studying the Japanese language or learning Japanese values such as the seriousness and politeness that underlie Japanese smaller businesses and local businesses as well as the patience and perseverance demonstrated by people in the Tohoku region when it was hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. We wish to communicate to the world these values that form the basis of Japanese technology. The real substance of strategy makes itself felt when we face challenges. So, we should take advantage of that disaster to spread to the world our state-of-the-art models. We will resolve problems before anyone else and hold it up before the world. It will be a great contribution to the world. In a sense, doing so will also be a Japanese value. With the spirit to propagate Japanese values to the rest of the world, I am conducting diplomacy and doing my best to perform my duties as Japan's foreign minister.

(Diplomatic Establishments Abroad)

Japan has embassies in 134 of the 194 countries in the world. To enhance Japan's diplomatic capacity, I would like to increase the number of diplomatic establishments abroad, embassies in particular, while keeping in mind the balance between embassies and consulates general. I am also mindful of the fact that China has 30 more embassies than Japan does. Taking this and other factors into consideration, I would like to conduct really fruitful, substantive, result-oriented diplomacy – I call it substantive diplomacy – one step at a time. I hope to accumulate such diplomacy and meet the Japanese people's expectations.

5. Questions and Answers

Question: Will international politics be multipolar in the future? If so, which countries and regions will Japan regard as most important?

Minister Gemba: The largest difference from the past is the growing presence and power of emerging economies. It is important to cooperate with them in international fora, especially at the United Nations. It is important for Japan to urge those countries including China to become responsible partners. How to achieve this will be an important task for Japan.

Question: With regard to the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea, the negotiations with North Korea seem to be slow and difficult. What is your view?

Minister Gemba: The issue is an extremely important one, involving the sovereign rights of Japan. We must work for the return of all abductees as soon as possible. We are working in accordance with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration. Ultimately, we need dialogue. But, dialogue needs to be conducted at the right time and in the right manner.

Question: What is your view on the Senkaku Islands and Takeshima?

Minister Gemba: Needless to say, the Senkaku Islands are integral parts of Japan's sovereign territory. The Senkaku Islands are now under the valid control of Japan, and there is no doubt that the Senkaku Islands are clearly an inherent territory of Japan, in light of historical facts and based upon international law. Therefore, Japan's position is that there exists no issue of territorial sovereignty to be resolved concerning the Senkaku Islands.

In 2008, Japan and China concurred on joint development in the northern region of the East China Sea and on Japanese corporate participation in the development of Shirakaba Oil and Gas Field. We are calling on China to start negotiation for an international agreement. I would like to reinforce such efforts. As discussed in foreign ministerial meetings and also at summit meetings between Japan and China, we are about to create a mechanism for nurturing trust between the two countries' maritime authorities, in particular a consultative body comprising high working-level officials of the two governments.

With the Republic of Korea, there is the issue of Takeshima. Takeshima is also an inherent part of the territory of Japan, but it is illegally occupied by the Republic of Korea on absolutely no basis in international law. As for the territorial issue, it is important for Japan to firmly secure its position. However, we should always deal with the issue calmly from a broad perspective. We should also be mindful for this issue not to have a critically negative impact on our bilateral relations.

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