Address by Mr. Shintaro Ito,
State Secretary for Foreign Affairs
at the Mont Pelerin Society General Meeting 2008

September 12, 2008
Tokyo, Japan

(photo) (photo)



Distinguished participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to extend my sincere congratulations on the holding of the Mont Pelerin Society's annual General Meeting here in Tokyo. It is an honor to be invited to join you at this meeting and have the opportunity to address you. Today, speaking in my capacity as the State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, I would like to give you an overview of Japan's foreign policy -- its basic principles and issues we now face -- and then share with you my thoughts on the direction in which the world and Japan should be heading in the 21st century.

1. Japan's Foreign Policy: Basic Principles and Issues

Let me start by saying the Japan-U.S. alliance and international cooperation are the cornerstone of Japan's foreign policy, and Japan is actively engaged in addressing global challenges in close cooperation with the countries of Asia, the United Nations, and other partners.

The Japan-U.S. Alliance and Proactive Asian Diplomacy

The Japan-U.S. alliance has provided the foundation for not only the security of Japan but also stability and prosperity in Asia through promoting regional security, free trade, free access to resources and energy, and a shift toward democracy, acting as a stabilizer for both Asia and the globe. Japan will continue to reinforce Japan-U.S. relations across a wide range of fields, including people-to-people exchanges. Furthermore, it is in the common interests of both nations for Japan to further deepen its relations with the other countries of Asia based on a strong Japan-U.S. alliance and help establish an Asia that is stable, open, and prosperous. Japan has been working to establish a virtuous circle between the strengthening of the Japan-U.S. alliance and proactive diplomacy toward Asia by creating a synergy between the two. I would like to add here that Japan and Europe are strategic partners with a leading role in fostering the stability and prosperity of the international community, sharing fundamental values such as democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.

The Asian Situation and Japan's Efforts

Let me now touch upon the Asian situation and Japan's efforts in that context. As the Cold War architecture largely disappeared and globalization takes hold, Asia has grown into a major economic zone, comparable to those of Europe and North America, backed by market economies and international cooperation. Asia's economies are becoming more closely intertwined, with the intra-Asian trade ratio among the 16 member states of the East Asia Summit plus Taiwan and Hong Kong reaching 58% in 2006, exceeding NAFTA's rate of 42% and closing in on the EU's rate of 66%. Moreover, accompanying this economic development, Asia has enjoyed growth of the middle class and maturation of civil society as well as an increase in the number of countries in which leaders are elected through a democratic process. Democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights are also enshrined as guiding principles in the ASEAN Charter adopted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in November last year. While it is true that human rights issues remain a cause of concern in Myanmar, North Korea, and some other countries, the expansion of democracy is a positive distinction of present-day Asia.

Japan is the first modern nation in Asia and a regional pioneer of economic growth and has been providing support for nation-building in Asian countries as a regional core. In the future as well, Japan will be actively taking a leading role in advancing regional stability and prosperity. Japan will also be seeking a new direction regarding what is really meant by "development." I will come back to this later on in my speech.

It is also very important that Asia's emerging countries play a constructive role towards regional stability and prosperity.

Old world politics based on a "zero-sum game" characterized by imperialism and economic blocs is no longer in play. Instead, it is critical that we act cooperatively, striving for what might be called a "positive sum."

This way of thinking is also the basis upon which Japan considers China's development to be an opportunity for both Japan and the international community. The leaders of Japan and China recognize a common responsibility toward Asia's stability and development, and they have agreed to promote actively and comprehensively a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests to forge together a bright future for Asia and the world. At the same time, with regard to the breakdown of China's defense expenditures and the modernization of its military forces, Japan will continue to urge China to ensure transparency and to act so as to eliminate the concerns of its neighbors. We will also continue to call on China to engage in international coordination in its external assistance and act in accordance with international norms, as well as undertake effective enforcement in the protection of intellectual property rights. We hope that through such actions China will contribute further to the region and the international community. Japan has also reached agreement with India, another rising Asian power, with whom Japan shares fundamental values and strategic interests, that we will work together to advance positively an Asian dynamism.

Elements of instability such as the Korean peninsula situation and Cross-Strait relations are still found in Asia, but Japan has been tenaciously engaged in these issues in close cooperation with other relevant countries. In particular, towards North Korea, Japan continues to strongly demand the early return to Japan of abductees, as well as the abandonment of its nuclear programs through the Six-Party Talks. We aim to normalize Japan-North Korea relations through comprehensive resolution of the outstanding issues of concern including the abduction, nuclear and missile issues.

2. Efforts towards Global Challenges

Ladies and gentlemen,

Another sphere of Japan's foreign policy I would like to highlight is our efforts towards the resolution of global challenges. I would like to give you an overview of Japan's efforts towards peace in the international community as well as Japan's efforts to tackle climate change from the perspective of realizing sustainable development.

Efforts towards Peace in the International Community

First, Japan's efforts towards peace in the international community. Japan has been contributing to peace and development around the world through its ODA as well as through its active participation in peacekeeping operations and other international peace activities. The international community's fight against terrorism is still being waged, and Japan is determined to continue to fulfill its responsibilities. Regarding Afghanistan, Japan has been engaged in refueling operations and other security and counter-terrorism measures in tandem with humanitarian and reconstruction assistance. As you may know, a young Japanese gentleman, Mr. Kazuya Ito -- with whom I happen to share a surname -- was killed in Afghanistan recently. Mr. Ito participated in NGO activities because of his high aspirations to help the people of Afghanistan. This tragic incident will never stop Japan from working hard toward the reconstruction and security of Afghanistan. In addition, with regard to peacebuilding, Japan will continue to promote not only financial cooperation but also personnel contributions and human resource development.

Efforts to Mitigate Climate Change

Now, Japan's efforts to mitigate climate change. The issue of climate change is one that requires urgent, concerted efforts by all humankind. As the chair of the recent G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit, Japan has aspired to have concrete agreement reached regarding this issue. Ultimately, the G8 members, including the U.S., agreed to seek to share with all Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and adopt the long-term goal of "achieving at least 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050." The Major Economies Leaders' Meeting, or the "MEM," including China and India, also agreed to support having a shared long-term goal. Japan will continue to take the initiative from now, including following up on these agreements, towards the creation of an effective framework in which all major economies participate in a responsible way. I am proud to tell you that Japan's primary energy consumption per unit of GDP stands at only one-third of the global average. That's how energy efficient we are. Utilizing the high quality environmental technology Japan has developed as a major power in energy conservation, Japan will support developing countries' emissions reduction efforts, while also actively extending the hand of assistance to developing countries suffering severe adverse impacts as a result of climate change.

3. Towards the Creation of New "Values"

Ladies and gentlemen,

Before I close I would like to share with you my thoughts on directions that the world and Japan should take here in the 21st century, from a more philosophical point of view.

Some people say the 20th century was the era in which capitalism and the market economy together emerged in triumph. But I don't think it's so simple. If we examine the state of the world in the present day, we instead find that various circumstances are emerging that make it difficult to produce such a view. Whatever idea or institution one might discuss, if created by human beings, then there is no such thing as complete perfection, and it is destined that as time goes on, obsolescence will set in. Such imperfection and obsolescence can be seen in the emergence of growing economic disparities and poverty, in environmental issues, notably climate change, and, indeed, in the regional conflicts that have been recurring since the end of the Cold War. Environmental problems in particular adversely affect the economically disadvantaged more seriously, giving rise to a negative chain of events, locking in and intensifying existing economic disparities and poverty all the more. Japan and the entire international community are now pressed to find responses to these situations. Another point I would like to raise is the loss of spiritual wealth. The culture, society, and values of each country are now exposed to the menaces of greed and monetary obsession, putting the economy above everything else, accelerated by the current trend of globalization. Within such a context, are we not being robbed of our spiritual wealth? I think that we need such a perspective as we contemplate the course of the international community and Japan's role. Without such a perspective, even ODA that aims to eradicate poverty is likely to meet criticism that such ODA is rather enforcing an approach in which the economy supercedes all else, or spreading a new kind of colonialism.

Japan goes beyond national security, stressing the concept of human security, which puts emphasis on the protection and the empowerment of individuals and communities, and the importance of the role of civil society along with the nation state and international organizations. This is an attempt to identify and respond to the problems resulting from capitalism and the market economy. For example, when we consider assistance for the health sector in Africa, we work not only to protect individuals' health, but also to strengthen a public health system to build capacities of individuals and the local community, aiming to provide assistance that is well rooted locally. That is how we see it from the perspective of human security.

Coming back to the evolution of humankind's thoughts and institutions, in the international community of the 21st century, it seems that a paradigm shift is necessary for us to make further progress. That is, what is needed is for us to stop and look back to come up with a fresh way of thinking, institution, or governing system to serve in place of the capitalism or communism of the 20th century. Political scientist David Easton stated that politics is the "authoritative allocation of values," and in this context, it is crucial to determine what "values" are. I personally hold that politics in the present day should imply the creation of a new value system that brings happiness to the "greatest common denominator" among people, and I myself intend to work towards the creation of just such a system.

In the novel Takasebune -- "The Boat on the Takase River -- one of his most prominent works published in 1916, novelist Mori Ogai took up the theme of the necessity of Chisoku no Kyouchi or knowing when one has enough, or the notion that "He who knows he has enough is truly happy." It is hard to describe this in English but fairly close to what it means would be a state of mind in which one is content or satisfied with what one already has. In this novel I sense two messages. One is that the world will perish if we become fixated on expanding production, not knowing whether we have enough. The other message is that the international community of the future cannot possibly take shape if a nation uses other nations only to its advantage. I would argue that the proposition for nation states of the 21st century involves a battle over neither territory nor ideology, but rather over our own inner greed or insatiability. In other words, it is a battle within ourselves -- within our own nation. Here, I would like to stress that Japan, since ancient times, has developed unique ideas and institutions integrating things that had originally contained contradictory elements, whether in political or social institutions or religion. In particular, Japan realized the prosperity of the present by applying the tools of Western social systems to its Oriental base in attaining national transformation with relatively little social and human cost as evidenced by the outcomes of the Meiji Restoration in the late 19th century. Today I am honored with the presence of so many distinguished members of the international intellectual community. It will be a privilege for me to aim towards a horizon of new values together with you, sharing concerns about the future of the global community.

Thank you.

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