Speeches by the Foreign Minister

February 28, 2024

Mr. SASAE Kenichiro, President of the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA),
Distinguished participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am Yoko Kamikawa, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan.

It is a great pleasure to be invited to speak to you today on the occasion of the 5th Tokyo Global Dialogue, held by the Japan Institute of International Affairs, one of the leading think tanks in the field of diplomacy and security in Japan.

For about five months since assuming the position of Minister for Foreign Affairs last September, I have travelled domestically and internationally a total of 12 times and visited 23 countries/region. One of the most impressive moments was my visit to Israel and Palestine as the Foreign Minister of the G7 Presidency immediately after the deterioration of the situation. I met with the families of the victims and was heartbroken to hear the sentiments of those who suddenly had their beloved family members taken away. I also visited Ukraine at the beginning of this year and held a Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Kiev during an air raid. I have heard that the theme of this year's Tokyo Global Dialogue is A World in Turmoil. It is with this experience in mind that I feel indeed that the world is in the midst of a time of great change.

I believe that there are three major issues that need to be addressed through diplomacy in order to bring stability to an international community in turmoil.

First, how to maintain and strengthen the free and open international order based on the rule of law. Second, how to manage the intensifying competition between nations and defend peace. Third, how to protect individuals and human dignity, especially of vulnerable people, including women and children, from the effects of conflict and global challenges.
Today, I would like to share my thoughts on these three issues.

Free and open international order based on the rule of law

(1) Significance

The free and open international order based on the rule of law brought many benefits to the international community during the post-Cold War era. In addition to defending individual freedom, it provided the basis for peace and prosperity in the international community, and many developing countries have achieved economic growth under this stable order.
Maintaining and strengthening this order is becoming increasingly important today as we reach a turning point in history. In particular, relatively less powerful and more vulnerable countries and peoples need the rule of law.

(2) Assisting Ukraine

In recent years, however, this order has been under serious challenge. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine for over two years now has posed a blatant challenge to this order and shaken its very foundation. The future of the free and open international order based on the rule of law depends on how we confront Russia’s challenge. We must reaffirm this, now that Ukraine is facing a major predicament in the face of a prolonged aggression.

Russia’s aggression against Ukraine is not a problem that is confined to Europe. As Prime Minister Kishida has stated many times "Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow," and Japan will never accept this aggression, which is a unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force. This is why Japan reiterates its firm commitment to support Ukraine.

On the occasion of the two-year anniversary of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, the G7 Leaders’ Video Conference was held on the 25th of this month and a statement was issued by the G7 leaders. Also, at the G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting held last week in Brazil, which was also attended by Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, I stressed that Russia's aggression against Ukraine is a great challenge to the rule of law, which each country should uphold, and that Russia must stop its aggression and achieve a just and lasting peace in Ukraine as soon as possible.

I myself visited Ukraine in January and saw with my own eyes the fresh scars of this aggression. I reaffirmed my conviction that such a challenge must never be accepted and conveyed my unwavering support for Ukraine.

On the 19th of this month, Japan held the Japan-Ukraine Conference for Promotion of Economic Growth and Reconstruction in Tokyo. At this conference, we successfully launched cooperation with a total of 56 cooperation documents as an outcome, announcing measures to promote investment needed by Ukraine, as well as a commitment to focus on seven areas, ranging from emergency recovery assistance to the phases of economic reconstruction and industrial enhancement.

We also discussed Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) as an underlying topic in the reconstruction and recovery process, from the perspective of protecting women and children, who are particularly vulnerable in wartime, and promoting women's participation in humanitarian assistance and reconstruction. The public and private sectors will continue to support Ukraine's self-sustaining development and reconstruction.

(3) Engagement with the Global South

At a time when the future of the free and open international order based on the rule of law is at a crossroads, we need more countries in the international community to endorse and actively support this order.

To this end, it is important to work with developing and emerging countries in the Global South, which have become increasingly influential in recent years. These countries have diverse historical backgrounds and values and the world in which their influence is growing will also become more diverse.

Therefore, the task of strengthening the free and open international order in this new world will not be an easy one. Alongside a firm commitment to our own values, we need to have imagination and humility to better understand one another. In other words, an attitude of co-creation is required.

In this respect, Japan stands in a unique position among advanced democracies. Over the years, Japan has conducted a finetuned diplomacy that values the diversity of its partner countries, respecting their cultural and historical backgrounds, and listening carefully to their voices as equals. In my own diplomatic activities, I have witnessed firsthand the high level of trust and expectations placed on Japan by countries in the Global South.

Here today, I would like to touch upon specific ways in which we can cooperate with these countries.

(4) Promotion of the rule of law

First, we will work to promote the rule of law at both international and each country’s domestic levels. International law, including the UN Charter, is a common principle to which all nations, including those in the Global South, are committed, and is the basis for peace and prosperity even in these changing times. At the G7 Hiroshima Summit, G7 leaders and leaders from invited countries, including those from the Global South, shared their recognition of the importance of the rule of law and the principles of the UN Charter.

One important aspect of achieving an international community in which international law is observed in good faith is to enhance the role of international courts.

Earlier this year, I visited the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, the capital of international law, and the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg to convey my strong support for the role these courts play and to offer Japan's full support. First, Japan will work together with like-minded countries to encourage countries that have not made declarations of the acceptance of ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction or have not ratified the ICC Rome Statute to do so.

Furthermore, we will continue our efforts to promote the rule of law within each country through careful dialogue. Japan has supported the development of legal systems in Asia and Africa. Taking advantage of this experience, we will further examine how to strengthen cooperation with Africa in the area of the rule of law through this year's TICAD Ministerial Meeting among others. We will also seize the opportunity of PALM10 (the 10th Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting)to contribute to strengthening maritime law enforcement capacity.

In addition, in order to promote the rule of law at both international and each country’s domestic levels, it is essential to foster human resources in these fields, and we will further enhance our efforts to contribute to the training of personnel. As Minister for Foreign Affairs, I intend to comprehensively pursue diplomacy for strengthening the rule of law in the international community based on a co-creation approach.

(5) Promoting a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)” based on the rule of law

Second, we will continue to work vigorously to promote a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)” based on the rule of law. The vision of FOIP, which Japan has consistently advocated, is to ensure peace, stability, and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and the world as a whole by maintaining and strengthening the international order in the Indo-Pacific region. The vision of FOIP is shared by many countries and regions, including ASEAN, India, the United States, and Europe, and as our FOIP, we are presenting an optimistic and robust future to the world. This vision is inclusive, open, and diversity-oriented, and the door to cooperation is always open.

In working with the Global South, FOIP provides the foundation and vision for cooperation. As indicated in the new plan for FOIP announced by Prime Minister Kishida in Delhi last March, Japan will further expand practical cooperation that will benefit the Global South under the vision of FOIP in areas such as the rule of law, cooperation to enhance resilience and sustainability, connectivity, and maritime security.

In particular, I would like to emphasize here the importance of the sea in FOIP's vision. The sea is what connects us all in terms of trade, the movement of people, and the environment. It gives us possibilities and a future. To this end, the rule of law must be established also at sea. This perspective was emphasized during my recent visit to the Pacific Island countries, and in the Latin American Diplomacy Initiative that I announced during my recent visit to Latin America. The horizon of Japan’s diplomacy stretches far beyond these countries as far as Africa.

In the vast Indo-Pacific region, Japan will continue to make concrete efforts to promote the rule of law.

(6) Enhancing global governance

Third, we will work to strengthen global governance. In order to ensure the free and open international order based on the rule of law for the future, it is essential that each country participate in governance with a sense of responsibility. Brazil, which holds the G20 Presidency this year, has also set global governance reform as a priority issue, and I myself explained at the G20 Foreign Ministers' Meeting last week that in tackling global governance reform, it is necessary to return to the starting point of human dignity and promote people-centered international cooperation based on the concept of human security.

We must accelerate our efforts to strengthen functions of the United Nations so that it can fulfill its original role in addressing the urgent and serious challenges of the current international community in the face of a growing number of issues that must be addressed beyond national boundaries, such as conflicts, poverty, and global challenges. In particular, the UN Security Council has the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. Japan as a member of the Security Council, will work vigorously to ensure that the Council can continue to fulfill its original responsibilities as it should.

From this viewpoint, Japan, as President of the Security Council next month, will lead discussions on issues facing the international community. On March 18, we will hold a ministerial meeting on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation towards the realization of a world without nuclear weapons.

Japan is currently advancing realistic and practical efforts towards a world without nuclear weapons.

We have decided to establish the Japan Chair for a world without nuclear weapons, which was announced in address by Prime Minister Kishida at the UN General Assembly last year, in research institutes and think tanks in the United States, Europe and Asia.

Also through next month’s meeting at the UN Security Council, building on the results at the G7 Hiroshima Summit in May last year, including “G7 Leaders' Hiroshima Vision on Nuclear Disarmament,” we will aim to accelerate substantive discussions between Nuclear-Weapon and Non-Nuclear-Weapon States, with the participation of Nuclear-Weapon States.

We also intend to hold an ambassador-level open meeting on peacebuilding and conflict prevention, taking into account the perspectives of women and youth, and to listen to the voices of the Global South which is currently facing difficulties.

We will never give up on Security Council reform, even though it is not an easy task. We will continue the efforts of the G4, which is a framework with Brazil, India, and Germany, and further pursue a Security Council that is more relevant to the new era, while supporting better representation of Africa.

Management of interstate competition and maintenance of peace

(1) Significance

I have so far talked about maintaining and developing the international order, and now I would like to turn to the issue of how to manage the increasingly fierce competition among nations and preserve peace. Japan is now facing the most severe security environment since the end of World War II. As Japan's Minister for Foreign Affairs, it is my most important responsibility to protect Japan's land, sea and air space, as well as the lives and property of its citizens.

Today’s world, and particularly the Indo-Pacific region, has been facing a historical shift in the balance of power in recent years. As you are aware, but there are many destabilizing factors and risks in the region surrounding our country, including North Korea's nuclear and missile activities, unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force in the East and South China Seas, tensions across the Taiwan Strait, and Russian military activities.

Under these circumstances, an important responsibility for Japan in the Indo-Pacific region is to make a positive contribution to building a stable balance of power in the region. This will deter any unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force, thereby preventing war in the region and preserving the peace of today. As the international community enters a period of transition, the importance of preserving the peace that our nation has enjoyed to date cannot be overemphasized.

(2) Japan-U.S. Alliance

As Prime Minister KISHIDA mentioned earlier, first of all, unity between Japan and the United States is essential. The Japan-U.S. alliance plays an indispensable role not only for the security of Japan, but also for the realization of peace and stability in the international community, including the Indo-Pacific region. For the U.S. commitment to the region to be maintained and strengthened, broadened and deepened cooperation between Japan and the U.S. at a concrete level in the Indo-Pacific region is of vital importance.

In this regard, under the KISHIDA administration, the Japan-U.S. alliance has been strengthened as never before under the strong leadership of our Prime Minister. As Minister for Foreign Affairs, I will make every effort to ensure the success of Prime Minister KISHIDA's official visit to the U.S. in April.

(3) Cooperation with like-minded countries

In addition to Japan-U.S. solidarity, it is important to build and expand a multilayered network of allies and like-minded countries, including the G7, QUAD (Japan-Australia-India-U.S.), Japan-U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK), Japan-U.S.-Australia and Japan-U.S.-Philippines, and to further strengthen cooperation with partners, including ASEAN, Australia, India, the ROK and Europe.

India is one of our most important partners with whom we share values and strategic interests. With India, our Self-Defense Forces now conduct joint training exercises in all types of military operations: land, sea, and air. Last January, the first joint fighter exercise between Japan and India was conducted. We would also like to further promote cooperation in the area of defense equipment. Under the “Special Strategic and Global Partnership”, Japan and India will cooperate to fulfill our responsibilities for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region and the world.

The Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA), which Japan concluded with Australia and with the United Kingdom is also very significant as it broadens the scope of Japan's security policy. Going forward, we will also emphasize cooperation with the Philippines, which, like Japan, is a maritime nation and a U.S. ally. In addition to making steady progress in Japan-Philippines and Japan-U.S.-Philippines cooperation, we hope to finalize the RAA negotiations with the Philippines as soon as possible.

In November last year, at the Japan-Philippines Summit Meeting, Japan decided to provide a coastal radar system as the first cooperation programme under the newly established Official Security Assistance (OSA). Through OSA, we will create a desirable security environment for Japan and actively contribute to maintaining and strengthening peace and security in the region and the world.

(4) China

When it comes to maintaining peace in the Indo-Pacific region, China is an indispensable factor that cannot be disregarded. While there are various potentials between Japan and China, there are also many challenges and concerns as I have already mentioned today. Peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait is also important.

At the same time, both Japan and China have major responsibilities for the peace and prosperity of the region as well as the international community. It is important to comprehensively promoting a “Mutually Beneficial Relationship Based on Common Strategic Interests”, and through the efforts of both sides build a “constructive and stable relationship” which consists of asserting what needs to be asserted, and responsible behavior, while maintaining a firm dialogue , including on various issues of concern, and cooperating on matters of common challenges.

People-Centered Diplomacy

(1) Significance

As important as the two major tasks I have mentioned so far, namely, maintaining and strengthening the free and open international order based on the rule of law and managing competition between nations, is how to protect people, especially those who are most vulnerable. Especially with the current rapid increase in the number of migrants and refugees forced to flee their homes due to conflicts and climate change, it is also important to shed light on the existence of people who are not under state protection.

Japan has always promoted human-centered international cooperation based on the concept of human security, which focuses on each individual.

In order to lead the international community toward cooperation and away from division and confrontation, Japan has appealed to the international community to aim for a world where human dignity is protected. Human dignity is exactly the ideal that all countries can respect and strive for together, overcoming differences in values and regimes.

(2) Middle East (Israel/Palestine Situation)

When we think about the current international society and consider the issue of protecting individual people and respecting human dignity, the first thing that comes to mind may be the situation surrounding Israel and Palestine. More than four months have passed since the brutal terror attack by Hamas and others occurred on October 7 of last year, and fighting began in the Gaza Strip. However, despite calls from the international community, even now, the release of many hostages has not been achieved, and the humanitarian situation in the area has become even more difficult as the fighting drags on.

Japan unequivocally condemns the terror attacks by Hamas and others that have claimed many precious lives, and we will continue to call for the immediate release of the hostages. At the same time, we must prevent further loss of innocent lives in Gaza at all costs. Vulnerable people such as children, women (including pregnant women and nursing mothers), and the elderly, are exposed to the conflict. Japan will continue its efforts to save as many lives as possible. Japan calls on all the parties concerned to act immediately from a humanitarian viewpoint in order to ensure a conductive environment for sufficient humanitarian assistance activities as well as to lead to the release of the remaining hostages, therefore resulting in the realization of a sustainable ceasefire.

In addition, in order to prevent a recurrence of the current tragedy, now is the time for Japan to actively contribute, in cooperation with relevant countries, toward the realization of the two-state solution that the international community has consistently supported.

(3) Sustainable Finance

The SDGs, with their commitment to Leave No One Behind, also resonate with Japan's foreign policy, which has focused on individual people. Toward the Summit of the Future to be held in September this year, it is time for Japan to take on the new challenges of building a sustainable society with a renewed focus on the SDGs and the goals of the Paris Agreement. As Minister for Foreign Affairs, I intend to take on the unprecedented challenges of involving all stakeholders and to open up new horizons for Japanese diplomacy.

As a specific initiative, I will work on the leveraging of ODA to mobilize funds beyond the boundaries of the public and private sectors in order to meet the enormous financial needs required to build a sustainable society. I am pleased to announce the first meeting of the Advisory Panel on New Financing for Development on the 1st of March, which will be held under my leadership. Under this process, I will receive recommendations on how new ODA ought to be, and quickly finalize concrete measures for bold mobilization of funds for development.

(4) WPS

Another new challenge for Japan’s diplomacy is to promote Women, Peace and Security (WPS) as one of its major foreign policy issues and to link it to concrete initiatives. Based on the WPS approach, focusing on women and girls who are vulnerable in times of conflict and disaster is to shed a light on the individual "person" and to embody the SDGs which is based on the principle of " Leave No One Behind”, as well as "human dignity”.

It is with this strong desire that I myself have consistently worked to promote WPS. While utilizing the newly established task force within the Ministry, we will focus on WPS in our assistance to Ukraine and the Middle East and will use every tool at our disposal to promote WPS in our diplomacy. As I discussed with the President of Panama and the Foreign Minister of Mexico during my visit to Latin America, I would like to incorporate WPS in our migration measures, and will continue to work with regional countries and international organizations in this regard.


Ladies and gentlemen, today I have shared with you my views on three issues that must be addressed in order to bring stability to a changing international community. Maintaining and strengthening the free and open international order based on the rule of law, managing competition between nations, and efforts to protect people, including the most vulnerable, are precisely ideas that are in line with the Strategic Annual Report 2023 just released by the Japan Institute of International Affairs.

As Minister for Foreign Affairs, I place great importance on listening to the voices of people and conducting diplomacy that is understood and supported by people. Therefore, I will listen carefully to the discussions that you will have here today, and as Minister for Foreign Affairs, I will translate them into concrete actions in Japanese diplomacy.

I would like to reflect together with you about today's theme, how to build stable international security and cooperation in a world in turmoil. I look forward to fruitful discussions at this Tokyo Global Dialogue, which brings together the wisdom of the world.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.

Back to Speeches by the Foreign Minister