Japan-Russia Relations

Address by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the 4th Eastern Economic Forum Plenary Session

September 12, 2018
Japanese

Mr. Brilev, thank you for your kind introduction.

President Vladimir Putin, President Xi Jinping, President Khaltmaa Battulga, and Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, it is truly a pleasure to be able to meet you here. Let me begin my remarks by extending my sincere thanks to President Putin, who invited us all here.

I must say all three addresses thus far were at times truly grand in their mindset and provided various kinds of food for thought. They left a deep impression on me and have prompted me to consider Japan’s identity and what kind of country Japan is.

What comes to mind is what I call “a dot connector.”

Points unconnected to anything, or human resources, goods, or capital unconnected to each other. Japan takes those isolated dots and links them, thereby creating added value.

On one occasion, it might be the Yamal Peninsula and Kamchatka, for instance. These may be two points on a plane.

Or these could be an artificial satellite and someone’s house in Siberia, in three-dimensional space. What materializes is connectivity -- LNG, in the first case, and Internet access, in the second.

Across the landscape of Eurasia, across the seascape of the Indo-Pacific, where we find Japan, and across outer space and cyber space, under which all of us fall, connectivity is evolving, bringing forth new linkages and new connections. We are living in an age in which added value arises from bringing things together.

My hope for Japan in the coming years is for us to be a magnificent dot connector. In this role we will foster associations between points that have never come together before and link knowledge with other, heretofore unconnected knowledge, all on the basis of fair and aboveboard rules.

President Putin, this is precisely why we can look forward to great synergy arising through Japan and Russia cooperating with each other. Later in these remarks I will emphasize this point.

From now, I would like to use the first half of my time to discuss the future. I will focus here only on the future.

Next year, you will see in Japan the succession to the Imperial throne. You will also see the G20 Osaka Summit convene, a meeting to which I will be inviting President Putin and President Xi.

After we bid farewell to summer, the curtain will open on the Rugby World Cup. The opening match on September 20 at Tokyo Stadium pits the host nation Japan against an opponent I’d like to introduce to you here, and that is Russia. Let us each put up a good hearty fight.

And just after that, the year 2020 is the year of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. Young people from all around the world will gather in Tokyo to hold a festival celebrating both sports and peace.

Your excellencies here on the stage, and ladies and gentlemen in the audience today, Japan now stands at a historic turning point.

Here at this historic juncture, I am determined to build peace and prosperity in the East Asia of the 21st century.

First, I will address Japan’s relations with China.

During my first administration, I visited China immediately after taking office as prime minister, and put forth the approach of a “mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests.” China’s People’s Daily called that visit an “ice breaking trip.”

However, at the inauguration of my second administration upon becoming prime minister again, Japan-China relations were in a state of real difficulty that could even be called the worst relationship we had had since the end of the war.

Wanting somehow to improve Japan’s ties with China, I have worked hard at this over the years. The reason is that Japan and China share great responsibility for the peace and prosperity of this region and indeed the entire world.

The countries of Asia also have expectations for Japan and China to stably develop friendly relations. We will live up to those expectations, develop our cooperative relations across the entire spectrum of fields, and contribute to the peace and prosperity of the region and the world. That is my conviction.

The meeting I held with President Xi Jinping at the Da Nang APEC meeting in November last year was a superb opportunity that became a “new start” for Japan-China relations.

In May this year, Premier Li Keqiang, visiting Japan on the first such visit for a Chinese premier in eight years, said that Japan-China relations have returned to their “normal path” and I agree with him entirely.

Earlier today, President Xi and I succeeded in holding highly significant talks regarding Japan-China relations and the various issues that we face together.

In response to China’s gracious invitation, I intend to visit China this year, the year in which we commemorate the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and China.

After that, I very much wish to invite President Xi to Japan. Through this exchange of visits at the leaders' level, I hope to raise Japan-China relations to a new stage. I am firmly determined in this regard.

If we are to make the peace and prosperity of this region in the 21st century something firm, we cannot skirt around North Korean issues.

In Singapore in June a historic summit took place between the United States of America and North Korea. I endorse this summit as a forward-looking step towards the resolution of the abductions, nuclear, and missile issues.

While President Donald Trump engaged in confidence building with Chairman Kim Jong-un, he also shared with him the bright future that would emerge through denuclearization and urged Chairman Kim to take action. In so doing, he adopted a new approach that no one else had tried before.

Through President Trump’s decisive judgment, the relations between North Korea and the international community are now poised to move forward significantly. I very much hope that North Korea seizes this opportunity.

My own belief is that no nation is blessed with as much potential as North Korea to change its future into one of hope. North Korea enjoys copper, gold, iron ore, and abundant mineral resources. Its population of 25 million will no doubt become one of the world’s leading hardworking labor forces.

Today, let all of us gathered here pledge to continue talking to North Korea in a single voice so that it is able to walk the path of a future filled with hope. Let us mutually confirm that we will engage with North Korea with an attitude that does not waver.

What should we do to make that a reality? It is an absolute imperative that we achieve the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, whatever it takes. On this point, President Putin, President Xi, and I are all in complete agreement. I have great expectations that the Inter-Korean Summit that will be held in Pyongyang in the near future will lead to concrete actions towards the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Between Japan and North Korea lies the abductions issue. This too must be resolved. Within that context, I am determined for us to take steps towards settling the unfortunate past with North Korea and normalizing our relations.

I too must break the shell of mutual distrust, take a step forward, and ultimately meet with Chairman Kim Jong-un. At present, nothing has been decided regarding a Japan-North Korea summit meeting, but if we are going to hold one, then I am resolved it must be a meeting that contributes to the resolution of the abductions issue.

What is essential for lasting peace and prosperity in the Northeast Asia region is for the leaders of the region, including the five of us who are here today, to take steps all heading towards the same direction. I will spare no efforts towards that end. I make that pledge here today.

Next, allow me to address Japan’s relations with Russia.

For Japan, as we lay the foundation for the peace and prosperity of this region in the 21st century, our relations with Russia hold unlimited potential.

Over the long stretch of more than 70 years since the end of World War II, Japan and Russia have yet to conclude a peace treaty between them. President Putin and I agree in our belief that this is an abnormal state of affairs.

In December 2016, I welcomed President Putin to my hometown of Nagato. There, the two of us discussed in great depth the future of Japan-Russia relations. We decided to launch consultations on the special system for engaging in joint economic activities on the Four Northern Islands, and pledged to make it possible for former island residents to freely visit grave sites. There in Nagato we also shared an earnest determination towards resolving the issue of the peace treaty.

Ladies and gentlemen, these promises we made in Nagato are now steadily coming to be carried out.

Japan-Russia relations are beginning to advance at a degree of acceleration never seen before. The plans for bilateral cooperation that President Putin and I pledged to undertake now number more than 150. Of these, more than half are already actually underway or truly right on the verge of being launched.

I have a video for you to see what I have just said.

How does that strike you? You might have noticed a single common thread running through those projects, connecting them all. Bringing the eight-point cooperation plan into realization will enable you to feel in a tangible way “improvements in Russians’ quality of life.”

Russia and Japan are now about to produce conclusive evidence to the people of Russia, and by extension, to the entire world.

It will be evidence that when Russia and Japan join hands, Russian people become healthier, Russian cities become more comfortable, and Russian small- and medium-sized enterprises become dramatically more efficient.

By cooperating with Japan, Russia’s underground resources will reach cities around the globe with even greater efficiency.

Through Japan-Russia cooperation, here, Vladivostok, and locations all around Far East Russia will become gateways where human resources, goods, and capital come together.

Japan and Russia are now truly poised to produce tremendous amounts of evidence, and yes, the dream of “digital Russia” will come to bear fruit even sooner.

While the potential Japan and Russia enjoy is found only rarely in other bilateral relations, there is one obstacle that remains even now, hindering this potential from coming into full bloom. And to repeat myself, ladies and gentlemen, that is nothing other than the fact that our two countries have yet to conclude a peace treaty.

It was May 25 earlier this year at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum that in my remarks I urged the audience to imagine.

I called on them to hope and imagine how the world will look when a lasting stability comes to take hold between Japan and Russia.

At that time, we will have established a pillar of peace in a major corner of the northern and eastern hemispheres. That will be promising indeed as a substantial pillar that underpins the region and also the world.

The Arctic Ocean to the Bering Sea, the North Pacific, and the Sea of Japan will together form a major, arterial sea road of peace and prosperity.

The islands that used to be a source of conflict will have found bright potential as a logistics hub, transforming into a symbol of Japan-Russia cooperation. The Sea of Japan will also most likely change dramatically as a highway sending goods back and forth.

And beyond that is the arrival on the world stage of a huge region brimming with peace, prosperity, and dynamism, governed by free and fair rules, that connects to China, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, and the countries of the Indo-Pacific region.

President Putin, here, with this sizable audience as our witnesses, let us once again confirm with each other our intention to make this a reality.

Let us walk forward together mindful of the questions, “If we don’t do it now, then when?” and “If we do not do it, then who will?”

We are both fully aware that it will not be easy. However, we have a duty to future generations. We have the duty to completely clear away from Northeast Asia the postwar scenes and change the future to one truly filled with hope.

Ladies and gentlemen, no longer can we allow our children to be troubled endlessly under the same standstill in Japan-Russia relations that troubled our generations.

Several achievements in the video you just watched are really just like a preview to the great undertakings we will be able to achieve if both our countries put our minds to resolving this issue. Let us make the potential that we hold bloom more fully.

The meeting President Putin and I just held was our 22nd. We will keep taking advantage of various opportunities and continue to engage in talks again and again.

I urge you all to support our steps towards concluding a peace treaty. I ask for a hearty round of applause from everyone here in support of this. Thank you very much.

In 2020, the face of Tokyo will have become entirely renewed for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Not only will self-driving cars run through the streets, but quite possibly, they will also transform into vehicles that fly and take to the skies.

In Japan now the curtain is about to be raised on a new era, thanks to Japan’s new generation and thanks also to the people from all around the world that visit Japan.

I appeal to young Russians in as loud a voice as I can muster. Come to Japan to live, to learn, and to work, and help build a new Japan, together with the Japanese.

The future is another word for hope. Bringing up young people able to have that wholehearted conviction is the weightiest responsibility held by all those leading a nation.

I want the young generation about to be born in Japan, hand in hand with the youth of Russia, of China, of the Republic of Korea, and of Mongolia, to bring even greater peace and prosperity to Asia and the world and become the driving force that before long gives rise to an era truly filled with hope. I look forward to this kind of future each and every day without fail. I am prepared to work hard, giving everything I have got, in the future as well.

I will see you all again. Thank you very much.