Speeches by the Foreign Minister

January 20, 2017
At the 193rd session of the Diet, I wish to outline my thinking on the basic orientation of Japan's foreign policy.


This year, 2017, is a year with the potential for diverse changes. Currently, a tendency toward protectionism and inward-looking sentiment is growing, and the international order based on the rule of law is becoming exposed to challenges. A midst of such a state of affairs, in the United States, the ally of Japan, President-elect Mr. Trump is being inaugurated on this very day, representing a first transition in the U.S. administration in eight years. France, Iran, and the Republic of Korea (ROK) will hold presidential elections, and Germany and the Netherlands will hold parliamentary elections. The National Congress of the Communist Party of China, held every five years, is scheduled for this year. In addition, the negotiations on the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union are scheduled to begin. There is an increasing sense of uncertainty within the international community.

Japan has realized stable politics and diplomacy during the past four years, and enhanced its presence in the international community. In view of Japan’s leading role in discussions within the international community, inter alia, as the Presidency of the G7 last year, many countries are expecting Japan to act as a leader in promoting the stability and prosperity of the world. Working as a force for stability in the international community, and in cooperation with nations with which we share a common set of values, Japan has to lead the international community, so that this year with the potential for changes will become a year in which progress is made in protecting and promoting Japan's national interests, which will lead to the peace and prosperity of the world.

The Three Pillars of Japan's Foreign Policy

This year, we will continue to strongly promote Japanese diplomacy focused on the three pillars: strengthening the Japan-U.S. Alliance, enhancing our relations with neighboring countries, and strengthening economic diplomacy as means of driving the growth of the Japanese economy.

The first pillar is strengthening the Japan-U.S. Alliance.
Our policy of positioning the Japan-U.S. Alliance as the linchpin of Japan's diplomacy remains unchanged. Japan and the United States have shared interests in the stability of the Asia-Pacific region, which is the driving force of the world economy. At the end of last year, Prime Minister Abe visited Pearl Harbor, and demonstrated the value of reconciliation between Japan and United States to the international community. With the recognition that strengthening the Japan-U.S. Alliance with the basis of continuous cooperation throughout 71 years of post-war history is the key to the regional peace and prosperity, we will further strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance, building a close relationship with the new Trump administration, while contributing to the peace and prosperity of the region and the world.

To further enhance the deterrence of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, the government will make sufficient explanations to obtain the Diet approval of a new Japan-U.S. Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA), while further advancing concrete cooperation under the New Guidelines and the Legislation for Peace and Security. Understanding of local communities is a prerequisite to the stable stationing of U.S. Forces in Japan. The return of a major portion of the Northern Training Area was realized. The Agreement on Cooperation with regard to the Implementation Practices relating to the Civilian Component of the U.S. Armed Forces in Japan, Supplementary to the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement was signed. We will continue to strive for mitigating impact on Okinawa through such efforts as those to relocate the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko as soon as possible.

Aiming at strengthening the U.S.-centered network of alliances, we are seeking to reinforce Japan-U.S.-Australia, Japan-U.S.-India, and Japan-Australia-India cooperation.

The second pillar is enhancing relations with neighboring countries.
Relations with China constitute one of Japan's most important bilateral relationships. It is important that the two countries build cooperative ties in the region and the international community in accordance with the “mutually beneficial relations based on the concept of common strategic interests.” Through my visit to China last spring and a series of meetings between the two leaders, Japan and China have exchanged the common recognition to expand and strengthen the positive aspects of Japan-China relations and, while properly dealing with pending issues, both sides share the view to strive to fully improve the overall Japan-China relations during 2017, which marks the 45th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China. I myself will sustain my efforts aimed at continuing to strengthen dialogue, cooperation and exchanges in diverse fields and thereby promote the stable development and progress of Japan-China relations.
In the East China Sea, China continues to intrude into Japanese territorial waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands and unilaterally develop natural resources. Japan will continue to take a resolute and calm approach to the situation while firmly maintaining its position.

The ROK is Japan’s most important neighbor, with which we share strategic interests. On the other hand, it is extremely regrettable that a comfort women statue was newly installed on the sidewalk in front of the Consulate-General of Japan in Busan at the end of last year. We will continue to strongly urge the ROK side to promote the responsible implementation by both sides of the agreement on the issue of comfort women at the end of 2015.
As regards Takeshima, which is an inherent part of the territory of Japan, we will continue to make steady efforts by clearly conveying our position.
It is important that Japan and the ROK endeavor to promote mutual communication at diverse levels in a wide range of fields including security so that, based on mutual trust, the countries can move ahead in developing a new era of future-oriented Japan-ROK relations.

The trilateral cooperation process among Japan, China and the ROK has important significance. Following the Japan-China-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held last August, Japan, as a chair, will host the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit meeting at an appropriate time this year.

North Korea’s nuclear test and repeated ballistic missile launches represent a new level of threat, and are totally unacceptable. While cooperating closely with the United States, the ROK and other countries concerned, Japan will take firm responses including through ensuring the effectiveness of the United Nations Security Council resolution, which enhance restrictions on the movement of persons, goods and funds to North Korea, and steadily implementing autonomous measures. Furthermore, we will play a leading role in Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation and further advance existing efforts such as Japan-U.S. and Japan-U.S.-ROK security cooperation to address the threat of North Korea.
The abductions issue is one of the most important issues for the administration. Under the principle of “dialogue and pressure” and “action for action”, we are determined to put every effort into realizing the return of all abductees at the earliest possible date and fulfilling their long-cherished wish to be reunited with their families, including through urging North Korea to implement the agreement in Stockholm.

Russian President Putin’s visit to Japan last December was an important step toward concluding a peace treaty. We will seek to further promote Japan-Russia relations in a manner that serves the national interests of Japan while sustaining political dialogue.
With regard to the issue of the Northern Territories, the main matter of concern between Japan and Russia, it was agreed at the recent summit meeting that both sides will begin discussion regarding joint economic activity under a special system for the Four Northern Islands, and agreement was reached regarding the improvement of procedures for enabling former island residents to more-freely visit their birthplaces. Based on the “New Approach” concept we will continue tenaciously negotiating toward resolving the attribution of the Four Northern Islands and concluding a peace treaty.
Toward a peaceful resolution of the situation in Ukraine, Japan will continue to play a constructive role while valuing solidarity with the G7 members and others.

ASEAN will celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding this year. Further integration of ASEAN, and its prosperity and stability is extremely important for peace and stability of the region. While supporting ASEAN’s centrality and unity, we will seek to further deepen our relations with ASEAN as well as with individual ASEAN member states.

Based on the results of Prime Minister Abe's recent visit to Australia, we intend to further deepen our Special Strategic Partnership with Australia. As regards India, we are seeking to deepen Japan-India relations by building on the results of Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Japan to achieve an even greater surge of progress on the “new era in Japan-India relations”. We are working through the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM) process to further strengthen our relations with Pacific island countries.

We will further reinforce its multilayered cooperative relations with Europe while utilizing regional frameworks such as the European Union (EU) and NATO. In particular, we will promote cooperation with the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy in the areas of security and defense. Countries in Central Asia and the Caucasus constitute a strategically important hub for stability in Eurasia, and we will further expand our cooperative ties with these countries in a variety of areas. We will also expand cooperation with Latin American and Caribbean countries.

The third pillar is promoting economic diplomacy as a means of driving the growth of the Japanese economy.
Free trade is a key source of global economic growth, and Japan will continue to be a leader in promoting free trade including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Concerning the negotiations over the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), we are making our utmost efforts to realize an agreement on fundamental elements of the negotiations as early as possible. We are also promoting negotiations on other EPAs such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Japan-China-ROK Free Trade Agreement, aiming at creating high quality agreements.
We are working together with our diplomatic missions to support the overseas activities of Japanese enterprises. We will also vigorously advance joint initiatives between the public and private sectors, such as those designed to promote exports of quality infrastructure, increase foreign tourists to Japan and expand inward investment.
With regard to the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the EU, Japan will continue to make approaches to both the United Kingdom and the EU in order to minimize the impacts on the world economy and the activities of Japanese companies.

Further Contribution towards Solving of Global Issues

This year is Japan’s second year as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Japan will make further contributions to the peace and stability of the international community by taking steps such as dispatching personnel to the UN PKO in South Sudan.

Furthermore, in order to promote comprehensive Security Council reforms, as a member of the G4, Japan will closely cooperate with other reform-oriented countries and continue to work towards an early realization of the reform.

President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima last May reinvigorated the international momentum towards “a world free of nuclear weapons.” As the only country to have ever suffered atomic bombings in war, Japan will continue to take the lead in international efforts aimed at promoting disarmament and non-proliferation such as the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and will work towards the realization of a world free of nuclear weapons, by calling for cooperation between nuclear-weapon States and non-nuclear-weapon States, and through building up practical and concrete measures. With regard to the negotiations on a treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, in line with the view that I have just described, I believe that it is vital to articulate our position on the matter. Either way, this matter will be considered by the entire government.

Based on the Development Cooperation Charter, we will proactively and strategically utilize Official Development Assistance (ODA) through joint efforts by the public and private sectors in order to contribute to the peace, stability and prosperity of the international community, thereby securing Japan's national interests.

Under the concept of human security, Japan will steadily implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Implementation Guiding Principles.

Based on the outcomes of the Sixth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI), Japan will support African countries through measures under public-private partnerships.

With regard to the Paris Agreement on climate change, Japan will contribute to the development of rules that make reduction of the greenhouse gas emission of each nation more transparent, so that all countries will attain effective greenhouse gas reductions.

We will continue actively to send messages on our efforts to promote women’s empowerment, to address the issues of refugees and displaced persons, and to further utilize science and technology in diplomacy.

Regarding the sustainable use of marine living resources, including cetaceans, we will make further efforts to gain the understanding and support of the international community toward Japan’s policies.

Peace and security/Strengthening the Rule of Law

The security environment in the Asia-Pacific region has become increasingly severe. We will continue to secure the lives and peaceful livelihood of our people in any circumstances, and to contribute even more proactively to the peace, stability and prosperity of the region and the international community under the policy of “Proactive Contributions to Peace” based on the principle of international cooperation, and under the Legislation for Peace and Security.

Unilateral changes of the status quo in the South China Sea are issues of common concern for the international community. Japan will continue to collaborate with states concerned, and advocate for the importance for all states involved in issues regarding the South China Sea to make efforts toward peaceful resolutions of conflicts in accordance with international law. Japan will work toward maintaining and developing "Open and Stable Seas" based on the "Three Principles of the Rule of Law at Sea."

Towards the stability in the Middle East, Japan will tackle the root of the problems in the region and encourage states in the region to play a constructive role for stability.

Against the threat of the expansion of terrorism and violent extremism we will strengthen international cooperation particularly in the field of border security control in Asia as well as the creation of moderate societies, and pursue a comprehensive policy against terrorism and violent extremism by steps such as the collection of intelligence through International Counter-Terrorism Intelligence Collection Units.

In line with the report compiled after the July 2016 terrorist attack in Dhaka, we will continue to strengthen the measures to protect the safety of those working on overseas aid projects. We will also reinforce safety measures for Japanese companies operating overseas including small-to-medium-size enterprises, and Japanese nationals overseas including students studying abroad.

We will actively participate in international rule-making to enhance the rule of law in outer space and cyberspace and in efforts of the international community regarding Arctic, while strengthening further cooperation with countries concerned.

Enhancing Comprehensive Diplomatic Capacity and Strategic Dissemination of Information

We will continue to bolster our comprehensive diplomatic capacity, including aiming at materializing an apparatus for executing foreign policies comparable to other major countries. We will strategically convey Japan’s basic policies and its diverse attractiveness including by making use of the Japan Houses, which are to be opened in three locations around the world this year. We will also strongly promote the development of the basis of Japanophiles and Japan-hands. Japan is full of local attractions. I am determined to lead by myself in promoting the attractiveness of regional areas of Japan ‘from local areas to the world’, so that we can welcome many foreign tourists and attract inward investment ‘from the world to local areas.’


For the past four years, the Government of Japan has perceived the severe security environment surrounding Japan in a level-headed manner, and has endeavored to enhance security preparedness, inter alia, by enacting the Legislation for Peace and Security and the Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets. At the same time, the government has attached high importance to the balance in diplomacy, as shown in the efforts for reconciliation including President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima, Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Pearl Harbor and the agreement between Japan and ROK on the issue of comfort women in the year before last, as well as effort to actively address global issues such as nuclear disarmament, disaster risk reduction and the promotion of the empowerment of women. Such well-balanced diplomacy is vital to gain understanding of the people of Japan. We will continue to promote diplomacy, while making every effort to provide thorough conscientious explanations.

I ask for the understanding and cooperation of all Diet members and people of Japan.

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