Foreign Policy

Policy speech by Foreign Minister Kishida at JIIA Forum


Japan’s Diplomacy in 2016

January 19, 2016
Japanese

  • Japan’s Diplomacy in 2016 (Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida) 1
  • Japan’s Diplomacy in 2016 (Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida) 2

Distinguished guests, I am Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs. First of all, I would like to express my appreciation to you for taking the time to join me here. I would also like to thank the Japan Institute of International Affairs for arranging this occasion.

The end of last year marked the 3rd year since I took office as Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Abe Cabinet. In diplomacy, “strategy” and “principles” are important. Since the inauguration of the Abe Cabinet in late 2012, I have visited 41 countries, spearheading Japanese diplomacy under the banner of “Proactive Contribution to Peace” based on the principle of international cooperation. So far, I have held more than 250 meetings with Foreign Ministers from 104 countries. Adding meetings with other dignitaries such as Presidents, Prime Ministers, and members of royal families, I have held more than 590 meetings altogether. In meetings with heads of state and government and foreign ministers of various countries, I stressed Japan’s approach of consistently placing emphasis on basic values including freedom and democracy, the rule of law and peaceful settlement of disputes through dialogue. I have the sense that Japan’s presence in the international stage has significantly grown through such efforts in the increasingly severe global environment.

This year, Japan is blessed with a golden opportunity to make a powerful stride in its diplomacy. For one, Japan holds the G7 Presidency. The G7 Summit will be held in Japan for the first time in eight years. Moreover, starting this year, Japan is serving as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for 11th time, the highest count in the world. It is often said that results are what matters in politics - that is also true to diplomacy. I am determined to ensure that Japan will play a leading role in pursuing peace and prosperity in the international community by making the most of these opportunities.

That is where we are now. In my speech today, I will focus on major challenges for Japan’s diplomacy on which I place particular emphasis this year.

1. Ensuring the peace and prosperity of Asia
A proverb has it that people who seek to grow a tall tree must solidify the roots. If Japan is to vigorously conduct its diplomacy globally, it must first develop robust relationships with its neighboring countries. While the relationship with our neighbors including Russia, India, Australia and ASEAN countries is obviously important, in this speech today, I will particularly talk about the enhancement of the relations with the Republic of Korea (ROK) and China.

【ROK】
Late last year, Japan achieved significant progress in its relationship with the ROK. I visited Seoul to have a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se, and at a joint press conference, we were able to announce a historic agreement that the issue of comfort women, an outstanding issue between the two countries for many years, is “resolved finally and irreversibly.” What I would like to stress is that this agreement is not just about resolving the issue of comfort women. In fact, this agreement is of strategic significance given its potential influence on the peace and security of Northeast Asia, including the issues of North Korea.

The road to this agreement was far from smooth. Last year alone, I had as many as six meetings with Minister Yun. At times, we engaged in tough exchanges. However, as we expanded cooperation wherever possible while making our own case respectively, we gradually came to better understand each other and developed a relationship of trust. In March, Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held, followed by the Japan-China-ROK Summit Meeting in November for the first time in three and a half years. On that occasion, the first Japan-ROK summit meeting between Prime Minister Abe and President Park Geun-hye was held.

During the course of these bilateral consultations, both sides were facing a difficult domestic circumstances. This was indeed a major decision for Prime Minister Abe. At the same time, I would like to express my sincere respect to President Park for making such a courageous decision, with her eyes looking ahead toward the future of Japan and the ROK. I also thank President Park and Minister Yun for making positive efforts to implement the agreement.

In Japan, too, there is harsh criticism against the agreement. Even so, I am convinced that we Japanese, across generations, must squarely face the history of the past. The Government of Japan is firmly committed to making sincere efforts to implement the agreement. At the same time, I strongly hope that future generations of Japan and the ROK will have the courage and creativity to jointly start a new chapter of cooperation.

It is true that there are various difficult challenges between Japan and the ROK precisely because we are neighboring countries. However, the range of areas where both countries should cooperate with each other is expanding, from the economy, the environment, and maritime security to outer space and cyber space. In response to the fourth nuclear test conducted by North Korea, Japan and the ROK have been already closely working together. Both countries are allies of the United States, and are partners who share strategic interests in ensuring regional peace and security. That is why I am ready to strengthen partnership between Japan and the ROK as well as among Japan, the United States and the ROK by promptly promoting various forms of security cooperation, including a Japan-ROK Security of Information Agreement and a Japan-ROK ACSA (Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement). As to the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Foreign Ministers’ Meeting this year, I am hoping to hold it here in Japan as soon as possible under my chairmanship.

【China】
Next, I will talk about China. In the past several years, the relationship between Japan and China had been particularly tense. However, since the Japan-China summit meeting held in November 2014, I believe the relationship has been basically heading toward improvement. I have had six meetings with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi and engaged in frank exchange of opinions with him. Throughout these experiences, I have been thinking of how the relationship between Japan and China should be like in a new era.

China is the world’s second largest economy and Japan is the third largest. The two countries have considerable influence on and bear responsibility for the peace and prosperity of Asia and the world. Some people say that Japan may have the feeling of nervousness about China’s continuing development. However, I heartily welcome China’s development. Japan’s development would be inconceivable without China, and without Japan, China’s development would be inconceivable as well. Cooperating with each other for long-term peace and friendship is the only option available for both Japan and China.

Moreover, there are common interests between Japan and China. For Japan, China is the largest trading partner, and for China, Japan is the second largest trading partner. In China, there are approximately 23,000 Japanese companies, making Japan the largest source of foreign companies operating in China and they create a large amount of employment in China. Clearly, the economic relationship between the two countries is extremely close. There is a wide range of potential areas of cooperation, including energy conservation, the environment, countermeasures against an aging society and low birth rate, tourism and disaster management. In addition, it is extremely important for the international community that China carry out sound reforms, respect global standards and ensure transparency.

At the same time, the relationship between Japan and China faces serious and new difficulties. In particular, the recent unilateral attempts by China to change the status quo in the South China Sea and the East China Sea have become an issue of concern for the region and the international community. While it is natural to protect sovereignty and territorial integrity, the respect for and maintenance of international order based on the universally recognized principles, such as open seas and the rule of law, is a basic principle of diplomacy for Japan as a trade-oriented nation.

As such, the relationship between Japan and China faces new possibilities and emerging challenges. Therefore, what is needed is to ensure a more constructive and creative response by both sides than ever before. Engaging in dialogue precisely because there are issues to address is the consistent position of the Abe Cabinet. At the Japan-China summit meeting held in Seoul in November last year, the two leaders agreed to resume mutual visits by Foreign Ministers.

I would like to promote the relationship between the two countries while continuously engaging in dialogue with Minister Wang, not only looking ahead to the occasion of the Japan-China High-Level Economic Dialogue to be held early this year, but also taking into account the possibility of my visit to China toward spring this year.

In Taiwan, the presidential election was held on January 16, and Dr. Tsai Ing-wen was elected. We believe that the smooth implementation of the election demonstrates how mature Taiwan’s democracy is. Japan supports a stable cross-strait relationship through dialogue and intends to promote further cooperation and exchange with Taiwan based on the Joint Communique of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People’s Republic of China.

【North Korea】
Now I touch upon North Korea. North Korea is the most serious destabilizing factor that could disrupt peace and stability in the region. It poses a grave, direct threat to Japan’s national security. North Korea’s fourth nuclear test on January 6 violates United Nations Security Council resolutions, and Japan firmly condemns it. I already talked over the phone with Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se of the ROK as well as the foreign ministers of all G7 countries and Russia and reaffirmed our close cooperation.

As a member of the Security Council, Japan, together with the United States, is playing a leading role in the negotiations on a draft resolution in order to ensure a firm response by the Security Council against this provocative action by North Korea. There should be a strong resolution that includes new sanctions against North Korea. Particularly important is the role of China, which has strong leverage over North Korea. I will urge China to fulfill its responsibility as a permanent member of the Security Council and respond fully to the expectation from the international community. Japan will continue to closely cooperate with other members of the Security Council and countries concerned.

Japan will resolutely deal with North Korea in order to achieve a comprehensive resolution of outstanding issues of concern, such as the abductions, nuclear and missile issues, under the basic policy of “dialogue and pressure” and “action for action.” From this perspective, Japan is considering its response such as stricter sanction measures of its own. Japan will never compromise on the issues of the North Korea’s nuclear and missile issues, which are directly related to Japan’s national security.

At the same time, the abductions issue is a top priority for Japan. Instead of closing the door of dialogue, we will patiently urge North Korea to faithfully and promptly resolve this issue to realize the return of abductees to Japan as quickly as possible.

【Japan-U.S. Alliance】
Under these circumstances, I believe the Japan-U.S. Alliance is becoming ever more important. After the recent nuclear test conducted by North Korea, I immediately contacted Ambassador Kennedy and Secretary of State Kerry and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the security of Japan and the peace of Asia. It will be crucial for the security of Japan as well as the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region and beyond that Japan and the United States put into practice their security and defense cooperation based on the new Defense Guidelines and the “Legislation for Peace and Security.”

2. G7
【Terrorism and Support for the Stabilization of the Middle East】
The next topic is the G7. In April, I will host in Hiroshima the meeting of Foreign Ministers representing G7 members sharing the same values. On that occasion, I will lead an intensive discussion focusing on major challenges the international community faces, such as terrorism, the Middle East, refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, as well as the issues of North Korea and maritime security.

Japan resolutely condemns acts of terrorism which take the lives of innocent citizens, for such acts pose a challenge to peace and prosperity, which are universal values of mankind. To prevent terrorism, it is of utmost importance that the international community be united and collectively tackle the issue.

To strengthen counter-terrorism measures, Japan is supporting countries concerned for their development of legal frameworks, capacity building of law enforcement agencies and measures to prevent the entry of terrorists, including border control. In order to eliminate financial sources of terrorism, Japan will also devote its efforts to cooperation with the international community including information exchanges. I will make the utmost efforts to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals and diplomatic establishments overseas. Also in light of the importance of intelligence in countering terrorism, in December last year, our Government established the Counter Terrorism Unit under the Foreign Ministry and is building and strengthening intelligence cooperation with various countries.

Japan will assist creating societies resilient to radicalization. To restore a tolerant and stable society in the Middle East based on the philosophy of “the best way is to go in the middle,” Japan will actively provide support from mid- to long-term perspectives. We will also accept students and trainees from the Middle East and send Japanese experts to the region. Through such people-to-people exchange, we will enhance mutual understanding with the region.

In the Middle East, the destabilization of Syria in particularly has created another major international challenge, generating more than 11 million of IDPs and refugees. Japan will devote efforts particularly to humanitarian assistance for those people such as the provision of food and water and education, and stabilization of areas liberated from the rule of terrorism. From this perspective, Japan has already been providing assistance amounting USD 810 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees and IDPs and to surrounding countries. Furthermore, pending the approval of the Diet for the necessary budget, I am hereby announcing a plan that Japan will provide additional aid worth USD 350 million for the stabilization of Syria and Iraq.

【Iran】
Regarding the Iranian nuclear issues, we saw a great progress last weekend, on January 17th, which marked the “Implementation Day.” For ensuring the stability of the Middle East and strengthening the international non-proliferation regime, it is essential that the final agreement will continue to be observed. Seizing this opportunity of significant progress, Japan will further strengthen the historically friendly relationship with Iran including our economic ties. Japan will also exert efforts to realize the peace and stability of the Middle East through cooperation for the steady implementation of the final agreement. Japan will support the implementation of the final agreement and its verification in close cooperation with IAEA led by Director General Yukiya Amano.

【Nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation】
Concerning the issues of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, I, as a politician from Hiroshima that suffered from the atomic bombing, would like to lead discussions at the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Hiroshima in my capacity as the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the only country in the world that suffered from the use of the atomic bombs.

From my experiences in the past three years, I am convinced that cooperation between nuclear weapon states and non-nuclear weapon states is essential in order to achieve progress toward “a world free of nuclear weapons.” To that end, it is important to steadily implement realistic and practical measures on which both sides can cooperate while making as a catalyst a clear understanding of humanitarian consequences of the use of nuclear weapons. This is precisely the shortest path to “a world free of nuclear weapons.”

What I would like to achieve is to send out a strong message as the G7 in our efforts to address the aforementioned issues that the international community faces.

3. Contributions to the peace and prosperity of the international community
Finally, from the perspective of implementing the policy of “Proactive Contribution to Peace”, I would like to reiterate Japan’s resolve to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which was adopted by the United Nations last year. This new agenda has set the ambitious goal of eradicating poverty all over the world and realizing a sustainable world by 2030.

Japan is already starting concrete initiatives to realize the goal of this new agenda in various fields. In pursuit of quality growth, for example, Japan, including both the public and private sectors, will promote quality infrastructure investment, which forms the basis of such growth, in regions like Asia, Africa and Latin America in coordination with the strategic use of ODA. Japan will also work to develop human resources in industries by taking advantage of Japan’s strength in its high level of education and technological prowess. In the field of healthcare, Japan aims to promote countermeasures against infectious diseases, such as Ebola hemorrhagic fever, and universal health coverage based on the concept of “human security.”

At TICAD VI to be held in Kenya this year, for the first time in Africa, we are hoping to announce assistance programs focusing on these aspects while respecting African countries’ ownership.

4. Conclusion
Tonight, I laid out the main items of Japan’s Diplomacy in 2016. This year, as I mentioned at the outset, Japan is blessed with golden opportunities, including G7 Presidency and the membership of the UN Security Council. As Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, I will strive to ensure that Japan exercises its leadership in tackling various global challenges while strengthening relationships with neighboring countries, as a basis for Japan’s diplomacy.

Thank you for your kind attention.