Speeches by the Foreign Minister

January 20, 2020
At the 201st session of the Diet, allow me to outline Japan's foreign policy.

The security environment surrounding Japan is becoming increasingly severe. The balance of power in the international community is changing in an increasingly rapid and complex manner, while cross-border threats are also growing. As a result, no single country can protect peace and security on its own. In light of this, Japan needs to make greater contribution to the peace and stability of the region and the international community by enhancing the international order based on the rule of law, from the perspective of "Proactive Contribution to Peace."

At the same time, the scope of security is rapidly broadening, covering outer space, cyberspace, AI (artificial intelligence), and dual-use technology. We are facing an increasing number of challenges which must not be overlooked from the perspective of security and must be addressed promptly, including responding to new threats and dealing with the leak of critical technologies. Looking at the global economy, protectionism is rising in reaction to globalization, leading to deepening conflicts, including trade frictions. At the same time, the global economy is becoming more and more "data-driven" with the expansion of the cross-border digital economy.

On both the security and economic fronts, Japan should re-establish the international order, by leading new rules-making efforts and various initiatives, into a more stable and sustainable one in light of the rapidly changing international environment. That is the direction in which Japan's diplomacy should move forward.

With what I have just said as the premise, I will pursue "diplomacy with a sense of caring and robustness," with a particular focus on six policy areas, in order to further advance "diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map," which has been promoted by Prime Minister Abe. 

First, Japan will further strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance, the cornerstone of Japan's foreign policy and security, which plays a significant role in contributing to the peace and stability in the region. The visit by President Trump to Japan as the first State Guest in the era of Reiwa demonstrated to the world the unwavering bond between Japan and the United States. I myself visited the United States last week, and had in-depth discussions with Secretary of State Pompeo, on the increasingly tense situation in the Middle East and the issues regarding North Korea.

Japan has been closely cooperating with the United States in responding to various challenges the international community is facing, and the Japan-U.S. Alliance is more robust than ever before. In particular, beginning with the entry into force of the Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement and the Japan-U.S. Digital Trade Agreement on January 1, this year marks the 60th anniversary of the signing and entry into force of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty. On the security front, we will seize this occasion to further enhance the response and deterrence capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance. Moreover, gaining understanding from the local communities is essential for stable stationing of U.S. Forces in Japan, and thus we will continue to do our utmost to mitigate the impact of U.S. Forces on the local communities through such measures as the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko as soon as possible.

Now, I would like to offer a few words on a "Free and Open Indo-Pacific" vision. This vision is spreading, from the United States to Australia and India, as well as ASEAN and Europe. Securing a free and open maritime order based on the rule of law as "public goods" that bring peace and prosperity equally to all countries and people. To execute this mission, Japan will work with like-minded countries and will also contribute to the reinforcement of various regional frameworks.

Second, Japan will tackle outstanding issues of concern regarding North Korea. Provocative actions by North Korea, such as repeated ballistic missile launches, are totally unacceptable. Last week, the Japan-U.S.-ROK Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held. We aim to ensure full implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and realize complete denuclearization of North Korea while coordinating with the international community under the unity between Japan and the United States as well as of Japan, the United States and the ROK. Japan will also continue proactive efforts toward early resolution of the abductions issue, which is the most important issue for the administration. Japan continues to seek to normalize its relations with North Korea through comprehensively resolving outstanding issues of concern, such as the abductions, nuclear and missile issues, as well as settlement of the unfortunate past in accordance with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration.

Third, Japan will devote active efforts to diplomacy with its neighboring countries.

Today, Japan and China share significant responsibilities indispensable to the peace and prosperity of Asia and the world. The two countries can meet the international community's expectations only when both countries fully uphold the responsibilities. Looking ahead to the State Visit to Japan by President Xi Jinping scheduled for this spring, we will further develop exchanges and cooperation in all fields while appropriately addressing pending issues through repeated reciprocal visits. On the other hand, any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea can never be accepted. Japan will deal with the situation in a calm yet resolute manner. Regarding issues concerning the South China Sea, Japan will continue to emphasize the importance of peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law. Japan will also continue to strongly urge China to respond in a positive manner to issues such as the import restrictions on Japanese food products and the detention of Japanese nationals.

On the ROK, the Japan-ROK Summit Meeting was held last month for the first time in many months. At the Summit Meeting, the two leaders reaffirmed coordination between Japan and the ROK as well as between Japan, the United States, and the ROK with respect to issues of North Korea. As for the issue of former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula, which is now the biggest issue in the bilateral relations, Japan continues to urge the ROK to propose a solution on its own responsibility, as Prime Minister Abe explicitly called on President Moon Jae-in. At the same time, Japan will continue consultations between the diplomatic authorities in order to resolve the issue. Takeshima is an inherent part of the territory of Japan both in light of historical facts and based on international law. Japan will deal with the issue in a calm yet resolute manner based on this consistent position.

Regarding the relationship with Russia, in order to resolve the issue of the Northern Territories, which is the main outstanding issue of concern between Japan and Russia, it is necessary to continue close dialogues between the two leaders and between the two Foreign Ministers. In December last year, I visited Russia, and held discussions with Foreign Minister Lavrov at length, commencing full-fledged consultations on a peace treaty. We will also make steady progress in working out further details of the joint economic activities on the four Northern Islands and in implementing humanitarian measures for the former residents of those islands. While continuing to promote cooperation between Japan and Russia in a wide range of areas, including the Eight-point "Cooperation Plan," I will tenaciously negotiate with Russia as the person responsible for the negotiations following the agreement between the two leaders to accelerate the negotiations on a peace treaty, on the basis of the Japan-Soviet Joint Declaration of 1956 under our basic policy of concluding a peace treaty through the resolution of the territorial issue.

Fourth, we must address the increasingly tense situation in the Middle East. The peace and stability in the region is vital to the peace and prosperity of the international community, including Japan. As Japan depends on the Middle East for around 90% of its crude oil imports, it is extremely important to ensure the safety of navigation in the waters in the Middle East region, which is a main supplier of energy in the world. Implementing the three pillars of the government's policy that was recently decided, Japan is going to utilize a vessel and aircraft of the Self-Defense Forces to strengthen its information gathering posture, implement thorough measures for ensuring safety of navigation, including close information-sharing with relevant stakeholders, and make further diplomatic efforts toward easing tensions and stabilizing the situation in the Middle East.  Japan is an ally of the United States while traditionally maintaining friendly relations with Middle Eastern countries including Iran. As one of the three pillars of the government's recently decided policy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue further diplomatic efforts toward the peace and stability in the Middle East.

Fifth, we will further advance economic diplomacy in which Japan will lead efforts to establish new common rules.

As protectionist sentiments spread worldwide, it has become all the more important for Japan to expand a free and fair economic area in order to promote free trade. Japan has vigorously pursued economic partnership agreements (EPAs) including TPP11 and the Japan-EU EPA, and the Japan-U.S. Trade Agreement as well. With respect to Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Japan will aim for the signing of the agreement by the end of this year. With the United Kingdom, which is about to leave the EU, Japan also aims to promptly start trade negotiations. At the same time, Japan will lead efforts to reform the World Trade Organization (WTO) ahead of the WTO Ministerial Conference in June this year, so that the organization, which is the basis of the multilateral trading system, can adequately address new challenges faced by the global economy. Furthermore, building upon the Japan-U.S. Digital Trade Agreement, we will cooperate with relevant countries and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and others to promote the development of international rules on data flow and digital economy under the "Osaka Track," which Japan launched on the margin of the G20 Summit last year under Japan’s  G20 presidency.

Another important mission is to steadily implement and promote the initiatives launched at the G20 Osaka Summit: the "G20 Principles for Quality Infrastructure Investment"; the "Osaka Blue Ocean Vision"; and the "G20 AI Principles." Japan will demonstrate its leadership globally to ensure that these forward-looking visions and principles take hold and are put into practice.

Meanwhile, many countries and regions have recently eased or lifted their import restrictions on Japanese food products. Japan, taking a whole-of-government approach, will further call for lifting of remaining restrictions. We will also continue efforts, including the protection of intellectual property, to support Japanese companies' business expansion abroad and to promote foreign direct investment in Japan.

The sixth point is about how Japan addresses global issues.

2020 is the starting year of the "Decade of Action" toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Actions must be taken in wide-ranging areas, including education, health, human rights, refugees and displaced persons, women, disaster risk reduction, climate change, and marine plastic litter. Under the SDGs Implementation Guiding Principles, revised at the end of last year, we will accelerate concrete activities based on the principle of human security. We will also explore ways of covering the funding gap and strive to make active and strategic use of ODA (official development assistance).

We cannot discuss growth and development without mentioning the potential of Africa. In light of the outcomes of last year's TICAD7 (the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development), Japan strongly supports African-led development efforts and promote business and investment in Africa by Japanese private companies, in order to take in the vitality of rapidly growing Africa.

At the center of the multilateral problem-solving framework lies the United Nations. This year, which marks the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, we are resolved to push ahead with the UN Security Council (UNSC) reform in a way that reflects the realities of the international community in the 21st century, including Japan’s entry as a permanent member. To make further contributions to peace and security of the international community, Japan is running for the UNSC non-permanent membership for the term starting in 2023. We will also continue efforts to ensure that more and more competent Japanese nationals can work successfully for the United Nations and other international organizations. UN peacekeeping operations and the fight against terrorism are also important policy areas. In particular, Japan will make every possible effort to ensure the success of the 14th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, also known as the Kyoto Congress, to be held in April.

Furthermore, the Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, which takes place every five years, is scheduled to be held this year. Japan will make active contributions to international discussions toward a successful outcome at the conference.

So far, I have described Japan's policies focusing on six areas, but it goes without saying that my most important responsibilities as Foreign Minister include ensuring the safety of and providing support to Japanese nationals living or travelling abroad as well as strengthening collaboration with communities of Japanese immigrants and their descendants around the world.

The 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, which are global festivals of peace, are expected to attract many foreign dignitaries and tourists to Japan. This will be a golden opportunity to showcase what Japan has to offer to the world, including its rich cultural and culinary offerings, beautiful nature, advanced technology, and the hospitality of our people. Under the "Host Town Initiative," we will promote exchanges between the participating countries/regions and local communities and residents in Japan and demonstrate to the international community the remarkable progress of reconstruction of the disaster-stricken areas.

In order for Japan to pursue "diplomacy with a sense of caring and robustness" and make steady achievements in addressing individual policy challenges, it is essential to further strengthen its foreign policy implementation apparatus. From this viewpoint, we will strive to bolster our comprehensive diplomatic capacity, including human resources and information-gathering and analytical capabilities. At the same time, we will redouble our efforts to promote public diplomacy to gain understanding and support of the international community on Japan's policies and initiatives.

Each time I talk with my foreign counterparts, I strongly feel that expectations for Japan are increasing and Japan's global presence is growing, as Japan has been pursuing a consistent, stable diplomacy under Prime Minister Abe amid the increasingly complex and uncertain international situation. I am determined to exert initiative in resolving problems with a sense of responsibility and a sense of mission by translating Japan's growing global presence into coordinating capacity in the international arena.

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