Speeches by the Foreign Minister

Foreign Policy Speech by Foreign Minister Kono to the 196th Session of the Diet

January 22, 2018
Japanese

Allow me to outline Japan's foreign policy at this 196th session of the Diet. In this foreign policy speech, I would like to explain the basic approach regarding how I will conduct foreign policy this year as Foreign Minister.

Over the past six months or so since assuming office as Foreign Minister, I have made 13 overseas trips and visited a total of 30 countries. First of all, I would like to present my view on the current situation of the world based on my experiences during these visits.

Amid the growing presence of various emerging countries, protectionism is rising even in countries that have been enjoying the benefits of free trade. Such an inward-looking tendency is becoming conspicuous in Europe as well. Moreover, the international order based on fundamental values, such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, which have underpinned the stability and prosperity of the world, including Japan, is being challenged as terrorism and violent extremism have started to become rampant across national borders. The security environment surrounding Japan is facing extremely severe conditions.

Therefore we have entered an era in which Japan and various other countries must take on greater responsibilities and roles than before in order to maintain the existing international order and from the perspective of free trade, national security, and the preservation of the global environment.

Values which humankind has created in the modern age, including freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, require that governments and peoples make various efforts to establish and maintain them. In order to ensure that those values take root in the international community, we must lend a necessary helping hand.

That is exactly why Japan needs to continue to provide necessary support as much as possible even within its severe financial constraints. Japan will actively offer support to other countries' efforts to build institutions concerning various matters, including elections, parliamentary affairs, laws, justice, security, tax collection and immigration control.

In this multipolar age, Japan aims to develop and prosper together with the world while taking on appropriate responsibilities and roles.

Now, the urgent agenda that I must first take up today is the issue of North Korea. North Korea's nuclear and missile development is totally unacceptable. In the past two years, North Korea forcefully conducted three nuclear tests and launched as many as 40 ballistic missiles, including those with an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) range that can reach the East Coast of the United States. The current situation concerning North Korea poses an unprecedented, grave and imminent threat not only to Japan but also to the entire international community.

Under these circumstances, as North Korea continues its nuclear and missile development, it is essential to continue increasing pressure on North Korea. The United Nations Security Council's ministerial-level meeting on the North Korean issue held last December, which I chaired, sent out a unified message that a nuclear-armed North Korea will never be accepted by the international community and that the full implementation of U.N. Security Council resolutions by all U.N. Member States is indispensable. Subsequently, the Security Council unanimously adopted a new resolution with strengthened sanctions. This demonstrates the strong will of the international community.

Some claim that it is necessary to have dialogue with North Korea as soon as possible. However, dialogue without pressure would not make North Korea, which has proclaimed the completion of its nuclear armament, move toward denuclearization. We will never engage in dialogue that would accept North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons in exchange for a temporary easing of the tension.

In order to make North Korea to move toward denuclearization, we need to convince North Korea that there is no bright future ahead for the current North Korean regime if it continues its nuclear and missile development. That is exactly why we have been closely working with the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) and have strengthened cooperation with China and Russia, paving a path for the international community to be united in continuing its efforts to exert pressure on North Korea through economic sanctions.

Japan will continue to make its utmost efforts to maintain the solidarity of the international community.

Furthermore, the abductions issue is a top priority for the Abe cabinet. It is indispensable to call on North Korea to implement the agreement in Stockholm and urge it to make a decision toward the early resolution of the abductions issue through leveraging the international community's pressure on North Korea.

As we are facing various diplomatic challenges that shake the international order, such as the issue of North Korea, Japan will strengthen its efforts especially in the following six priority areas under the banner of "Proactive Contribution to Peace" based on the principle of international cooperation.

First, it goes without saying that in order to ensure the peace and security of Japan, including addressing the North Korean issue, the top priority is to strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance and to promote the networking of allies and friendly nations.

Soon after taking office, I visited the United States to attend the Japan-U.S. "2+2" meeting, where we confirmed that we would further enhance the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance. At the time of President Trump's visit to Japan in November last year, the two leaders demonstrated to the world the unwavering ties of the Japan-U.S. Alliance that plays a leading role for the peace and prosperity of this region and the international community. I will also closely cooperate with the U.S. Secretary of State to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance. We are also determined to strive to mitigate the impact on the local communities of Okinawa, including by the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Futenma to Henoko as soon as possible.  Meanwhile, we will further promote support for internationalization of Okinawa which will lead to its further growth by utilizing the assets of the U.S. Forces facilities, for example by establishing an elementary school which provides education in English.

On the economic front, we will deepen the Japan-U.S. economic relationship through the Japan-U.S. Economic Dialogue. At the same time, we will work with the United States to take the initiative in establishing high-standard trade and investment rules throughout the Asia-Pacific region, make continuous efforts to create a fair and effective economic order and lead robust growth of the region and the world.

We will also promote the networking of allies and friendly nations through frameworks of cooperation with countries sharing strategic interests, including in Japan-U.S.-ROK, Japan-U.S.-Australia, Japan-U.S.-India, Japan-Australia-India, and Japan-U.S.-Australia-India formats, frameworks of regional cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region, including ASEAN, and through strategic dialogue with major European countries, including the United Kingdom and France.

Second, we will also enhance cooperative relationships with neighboring countries.

First, it is extremely important to build a stable relationship with China. The Japan-China relationship is one of the most important bilateral relationships for both countries. At the same time, China and Japan, which are the world's second and third largest economic powers, respectively, share the responsibility to work shoulder to shoulder to address regional and global issues, including the North Korea issue. This year, which marks the 40th anniversary of the conclusion of the Japan-China Treaty of Peace and Friendship, between Japan and the People's Republic of China, presents a good opportunity for both Japan and China to deepen the exchanges and strengthen their relationship of trust. From a broad perspective in accordance with the concept of "mutually beneficial relations based on common strategic interests," Japan intends to realize mutual visits by the two countries' leaders, promote people-to-people exchanges and strengthen the economic relationship while discussing various bilateral issues. We will also encourage China to make steady and constructive efforts to improve the bilateral relationship.

From this perspective, any unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea can never be accepted. Japan will continue to take a calm and resolute approach to the situation and hold discussions with China in order to make the East China Sea a "Sea of Peace, Cooperation and Friendship."

As the threat from North Korea has grown stronger than ever, there are growing needs for Japan and the ROK to closely coordinate and cooperate together in addressing the issue. Since this year marks the 20th anniversary of the Japan-Republic of Korea Joint Declaration, it is important for the two countries to build a future-oriented relationship by appropriately managing difficult issues and strengthening trust and friendship that the two countries have developed for many years.

The Japan-ROK agreement on the comfort women issue is a promise between the two countries that confirmed the "Final and irreversible" resolution of the comfort women issue. It is an international and universal principle to observe such an agreement. As Japan has implemented all measures pledged under the Japan-ROK agreement in a sincere manner, we will continue to strongly urge the ROK to steadily implement the agreement in a responsible manner. With regards to Takeshima, which is an inherent part of the territory of Japan, Japan will firmly convey its position and make persevering efforts.

Regarding the relationship with Russia, it is important to continue close dialogue not only between the two leaders but also between the two foreign ministers in order to resolve the issue of the Northern Territories, the main outstanding issue of concern between Japan and Russia. We will implement initiatives to realize joint economic activities on the Four Northern Islands based on the agreements between the two leaders. We will also implement humanitarian measures for the former island residents. We will continue to persistently negotiate with Russia based on our basic policy of resolving the issue of attribution of the Four Northern Islands and concluding a peace treaty.

Concerning the relationship with ASEAN, Japan will make increased efforts to enhance the connectivity of the region on such occasions as the Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting that will be held in Japan this year. With Pacific island countries, Japan will strengthen partnership through dialogue forums such as the Eighth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting that will be held in Fukushima in May this year.

Third, Japan will play a more active role as a standard-bearer of free trade.

In the postwar period, Japan has achieved today's prosperity as the greatest beneficiary of the free trade system. However, in recent years, while the presence of emerging countries is growing, a protectionism and inward-looking tendency has become conspicuous in countries that have led free trade until today, as they are confronted with the negative aspects of globalization, such as the disparity and refugee issues. However, Japan remains unwavering in its belief that what assures the prosperity of the international community, including Japan, is the free and open international economic system. While dealing with various issues arising from globalization in cooperation with other countries, Japan will continue to exert leadership and promote economic diplomacy as a standard-bearer of free trade.

The recent agreement in principle reached on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) at the ministerial level and the finalization of the negotiation of the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) represent significant achievements of such efforts. Japan will continue to devote maximum efforts toward an early signing and entry into force of these agreements. In addition, Japan will promote various EPA negotiations, such as a high quality Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and will also make efforts to maintain and enhance the multilateral trade system with the WTO at its center.

We will also promote the growth of the Japanese economy while supporting the Japanese business' overseas expansion through joint efforts by the public and private sectors. With respect to the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the EU, we will continue to request that the United Kingdom and the EU ensure transparency and predictability in order to minimize the impacts on the Japanese business operating in Europe. Moreover, we will devote efforts to energy and resource diplomacy as well as to promotion of in-bound tourism through such measures as strategic relaxation of visa requirements.

In 2019, Japan will host the G20 Summit. The entire government will work together for preparations of the Summit in order to provide leadership in the global economy as the G20 presidency from December this year.

Fourth, Japan will make more active contributions than before to the resolution of global issues.

More than 70 years after the establishment of the United Nations, the number of Member States has increased from 51 at the time of the establishment to 193. Amid the significant changes in the global political and economic situations, we can no longer say that the Security Council reflects the realities of the 21st century. Reforming the Security Council is an urgent matter not only for Japan but also for the international community.

For the past two years, as a member of the Security Council, Japan has taken leadership in international discussions, including on the issue of North Korea.  We will continue efforts to realize the reform of the Security Council, including to gain Japan's permanent membership in the Security Council, so that the international community can deal with the growing number of global issues.

In order to enhance Japan's presence in the international community, it is also important to increase the number of Japanese nationals working in the international arena. We will make active efforts to encourage the employment and promotion of more Japanese staff at international organizations.

For Japan, the only country to have ever suffered atomic bombings in war, nuclear disarmament is an important issue. Furthermore, for Japan as a country exposed to the immediate nuclear threat from North Korea, this issue is extremely important from the viewpoint of how to ensure the peace of the international community and the security of Japan. In order to realize a world free of nuclear weapons, Japan will serve as a bridge between countries with different positions, such as between nuclear-weapon states and non-nuclear-weapon states, by such efforts as holding eminent persons' meetings and maintaining and enhancing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Japan will play a leading role in promoting pragmatic and practical efforts on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. 

In order to realize peace and stability of the world, we must also deal with the issue of development. Based on our Development Cooperation Charter, we will proactively and strategically utilize ODA through joint efforts by the public and private sectors in order to contribute to the peace, stability, and prosperity of the international community and in doing so, also secure Japan's national interests. Japan will further promote efforts both at home and abroad to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Climate change is one of the most important global issues. In December last year, I participated in the One Planet Summit and shared Japan's position to work on this issue even more proactively. We will resolutely deal with the impact of climate change, including by contributing to rule-making under the Paris Agreement and steadily implementing the Agreement. We will make efforts to secure the future of our precious planet Earth.

We must not forget the issue of terrorism. Although the areas controlled by ISIL in Iraq and Syria have shrunk considerably, the threat of terrorism and violent extremism has spread worldwide including in Asia due to the return of foreign terrorist fighters to their home countries and their relocation to third countries. We will further strengthen intelligence collection through the International Counter-Terrorism Intelligence Collection Unit, which has been established under the Foreign Minister, enhance cooperation with relevant countries on counter-terrorism measures and promote moderation. At the same time, we will strengthen safety measures for people involved in international cooperation projects and make every possible effort to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals abroad, including Japanese corporate employees and travelers.

Japan will exert leadership in order to make active contributions to the resolution of these various global issues.

Fifth, I will fundamentally enhance the policy regarding the Middle East.

Middle Eastern countries are confronted with serious problems because of the complex interweaving issues including the conflicts in the Arab region that are rooted in historical backgrounds, including Israel and Palestine, and issues related to energy resources such as crude oil and natural gas coupled with the spread of violent extremism.

Peace and stability in the Middle East is directly linked with the peace and economic prosperity of the world, including Japan. Therefore, I intend not only to enhance Japan's economic relationships with Middle Eastern countries but also to strengthen its political engagement in this region. From the religious and ethnic viewpoints, Japan is in a neutral position. Japan has not left any negative footprint in the history of the Middle East. Moreover, Japan has a strong alliance with the United States, which has significant influence in the Middle East. There is a role that can be played by Japan exactly because of these advantages.

In the Japan-Arab Political Dialogue in September last year, I announced the "Kono Four Principles," which make clear how Japan should work with the Middle East. The four principles are "intellectual and human contribution," "investment in people," "enduring efforts" and "enhancing political efforts." Under these principles, Japan will strengthen not only economic but also political involvement in the Middle East and play a greater role in order to achieve peace and stability in the region.

Sixth, we will steadily promote the "Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy."

A free and open maritime order based on the rule of law is a cornerstone for stability and prosperity of the international community. In particular, the Indo-Pacific region, which extends from the Asia-Pacific through the Indian Ocean to the Middle East and Africa, is the core of global development where more than half of the global population resides. I am sure that maintaining and strengthening a free and open maritime order of the Indo-Pacific region as a "global commons" will bring stability and prosperity equally to all countries in this region.

I have explained this strategy directly to the foreign ministers of relevant countries on numerous occasions and gained their support. We will promote this strategy in practice based on three pillars. As the first pillar, we will ensure that such principles as the freedom of navigation and the rule of law spread and take root. Second, we will pursue economic prosperity by improving connectivity including through the development of quality infrastructure in accordance with international standards. Third, we will ensure peace and stability by supporting the development of maritime law enforcement capabilities.

In order to achieve steady progress in these six priority areas, we must strengthen the foundation of diplomatic activities and turn the Ministry of Foreign Affairs into an organization with enduring strength and agility. From that viewpoint, we will work to enhance our comprehensive diplomatic capabilities.

While strengthening our structure, we will promote Japan's policies and initiatives as well as its diverse attractiveness in a strategic manner, and will also strongly exert efforts to encourage more foreign people to have a friendly view of Japan and become familiar with the country.

In order to increase Japan's influence in the world, it is becoming increasingly important to harness all of Japan's resources and potentials, including Japanese nationals working at international organizations, Japanese companies operating abroad, and diverse attractiveness of Japanese culture. Collaboration with communities of Japanese immigrants and descendants, across the world is also important. Based on this recognition, I will contribute to the peace and stability of the world while firmly protecting Japan's national interests and peace.

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