Speeches by the Foreign Minister

Foreign Policy Speech by Foreign Minister Kono to the 198th Session of the Diet

January 28, 2019
Japanese

At the 198th session of the Diet, allow me to outline Japan's foreign policy. This is my second foreign policy speech. The six pillars that I explained in my foreign policy speech last year will continue to be the centerpiece of Japan's foreign policy.

First, in order to ensure the peace and security of Japan, we will further fortify the Japan-U.S. relations and enhance the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance. We will also do our utmost to mitigate the impact of U.S. forces on local communities through measures such as the relocation of Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko as soon as possible. At the same time, we will promote support for internationalization, which will lead to further growth of Okinawa. Moreover, we will promote English language education with the support of the United States.

In addition, we will enhance cooperation with countries which share common values, including freedom, democracy, basic human rights, the rule of law and respect for international laws. We will promote the networking of allies and partners through frameworks of cooperation with countries sharing strategic interests, including India, Australia, the EU and major European countries, as well as through frameworks of regional cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region, including ASEAN.

Second, we will enhance relationships with neighboring countries while taking into consideration the security environment around Japan.
Regarding the relationship with Russia, following the agreement between the two leaders to accelerate the negotiations on a peace treaty on the basis of the 1956 Joint Declaration of Japan and the USSR, I will persistently negotiate with Russia as the person responsible for the negotiations based on our basic policy of resolving the territorial issue and concluding a peace treaty.

It is extremely important for Japan to build a stable relationship with China from a broad perspective. We will not only strengthen the two countries' economic relationship but also deepen people-to-people exchange and strengthen the relationship of trust through high-level exchange including visits between our leaders. Meanwhile, 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.

The international community will never accept nuclear-armed North Korea. We will show the current North Korea regime that North Korea is well-placed to shape a brighter future for itself if it resolves the nuclear and missile issues and takes the right path.  We will maintain international solidarity among the international community until the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles by North Korea and continue efforts toward the early resolution of the abductions issue.

As for the relationship with the Republic of Korea (ROK), Japan will strongly demand the ROK to firmly honor its international commitments, including the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the Republic of Korea and the Japan-ROK agreement concerning the issue of comfort women. In addition, with regard to Takeshima, which is an inherent part of the territory of Japan, Japan will firmly convey its position to the ROK and make persevering efforts.

Third, Japan will firmly uphold the rules-based multilateral trading system centered on the World Trade Organization (WTO) and act as a standard-bearer of reform efforts. Japan will also vigorously conduct economic diplomacy, including such activities as: supporting Japanese companies' overseas expansion through joint efforts by the public and private sectors; promoting resource diplomacy, including the utilization of renewable energy; promoting in-bound tourism; taking countermeasures against reputational damage to products produced in Japan; taking countermeasures against overseas cases of infringement of intellectual property owned by Japanese companies; and making sustainable use of living resources, including whales. This year, Japan will host the G20 summit and exert leadership in promoting global economic growth as the G20 presidency.

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

The United Nations Security Council no longer 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. As a first step, we aim to start formal negotiations toward the reform.

For Japan, the only country to have ever suffered atomic bombings during war, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation is an important issue. In order to realize a world free of nuclear weapons, Japan will play the leading role in concrete and practical measures for nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation by building a bridge between countries with different positions, such as between nuclear-weapon States and non-nuclear-weapon States, through  maintaining and strengthening  the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and holding  meetings of the Group of Eminent Persons for Substantive Advancement of Nuclear Disarmament.

At a time when it has become an urgent task to deal with global issues, we will promote activities to realize a society in which "no one will be left behind" based on the concept of "human security," which has been advocated under Japan's leadership toward achieving the sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Climate change is one of the most important issues. As the impact of climate change extends all the way, even to the Arctic region, it is important to examine the mechanisms of environmental changes and understand their impacts. Japan will firmly take actions to deal with the impacts of climate change, including steadily implementing the Paris Agreement, taking advantage of its own knowledge and technology.

In addition, Japan will implement measures to reduce marine plastic litter and to promote Universal Health Coverage (UHC). Looking ahead to the G20 Osaka Summit, Japan will exert leadership in addressing these issues.

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. Japan will enhance cooperation with relevant countries with respect to counter-terrorism measures and promote moderation. We will also make every possible effort to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals abroad.

Fifth, we will continue to enhance our policy towards the Middle East. Peace and stability in the Middle East is directly linked to the peace and economic prosperity of the world, including Japan. Therefore, Japan needs to strengthen its political involvement in the Middle East. From religious and ethnic viewpoints, Japan maintains a neutral position and 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. Japan has its original role exactly because of these advantages. Japan has come to be recognized as one of the significant players in the Middle East and Japan will play a further active role in order to promote peace and stability in the Middle East under the "Kono Four Principles"-"intellectual and human contribution," "investment in people," "enduring efforts" and "enhancing political efforts"-which indicates Japan's basic principle when dealing with the Middle East.

Sixth, we will continue efforts to realize a "free and open Indo-Pacific." The free and open maritime order based on the rule of law and the safety of sea lanes constitute a cornerstone for stability and prosperity of the international community. Therefore, we will closely cooperate with related countries including ASEAN countries, the United States, Australia, India and New Zealand, in taking concrete actions to ensure that the freedom of navigation and the rule of law spread and take root, to enhance connectivity through the development of quality infrastructure in accordance with international standards, and to provide capacity building assistance in the field of maritime security.

This time, in addition to the matters I already mentioned, I would like to offer my thoughts on several other issues.

Japan will never conduct diplomacy backed by military power. On the other hand, the amount of official development assistance (ODA), which is a major pillar of Japan's diplomacy, has declined to around half of the peak level. We have entered an era when Japan's diplomatic capabilities based on wisdom and idea are tested. To enhance those true and raw diplomatic capabilities, it is essential to strengthen the foundation of diplomatic activities. To that end, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must attract and recruit talents and develop their skills. At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, women account for around 30% of all staff and around half of new recruits for next fiscal year. In addition, around 60% of all staff, equivalent to around 3,500 people, work at diplomatic missions abroad. Staff in various circumstances, including those whose spouses have jobs and those whose family members need nursing care, are active in their workplaces. However, as the workload at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is growing dramatically, overtime working hours for some staff are at a very serious level, as I stated on several occasions. If this situation continues, it may become difficult for the ministry to attract talents. Therefore, it is necessary to make further efforts to develop systems that enable each staff member to regularly spend time with his/her families and use paid leave for childcare or for other purposes and holidays to devote himself/herself to childcare and nursing care, thereby achieving a sustainable family-work balance. I would like to seek the understanding of the members of the legislative branch on this situation. Furthermore, in order to ensure diversity at the ministry, we also strive to develop an environment that enables people with disability to work actively by doing our utmost to promote recruiting of people with disability.

Of course, I have grave responsibilities to fulfill as the Foreign Minister. It is essential to conduct top-level lobbying to win international support for Japan concerning matters such as the United Nations Security Council non-permanent membership election, the election of judges of the International Court of Justice, the full implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions related to North Korea, and the reform of the United Nations. Many international meetings are increasingly becoming occasions where various national interests to clash, in order to have Japan's positions reflected in the international discussions, it is essential to cooperate and coordinate with other countries before and after the meetings. Since I took office as Foreign Minister, I have visited 63 countries and regions, including nine countries which no Japanese Foreign Minister had ever visited, amounting to 94 trips to foreign countries and regions in total. With the spirit of "no country shall be left behind," I will continue to dedicate myself whole-heartedly to performing my duties as Foreign Minister. To that end, it is necessary to improve the efficiency of official overseas visits by the Foreign Minister and simplify relevant logistical procedures.

Washoku (Japanese food), which was inscribed on the list of intangible cultural heritage of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2013, is now emerging as a major diplomatic advantage for Japan. Indeed, in many countries, presidents and prime ministers eagerly visit Japanese ambassadors' official residents to enjoy washoku. To further promote this trend, it is important to continue to have good cooks in place at the official residences.

The greatest diplomatic task for Japan is to continue to defend the international order based on fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, basic human rights, the rule of law and respect for international laws, against challenges from various quarters.

I believe that if a country achieves economic development, its people will begin to seek democracy as the next step. However, steps towards democratization are lagging behind in comparison with economic development around the world. We must firmly fight against attempts to create an order that challenges the international order based on fundamental values.

On the other hand, if a country aims to democratize, there are various paths that can be followed. I am sure that the ideal path and pace of democratization differ from country to country. Japan aims to support the democratization that suits the circumstances of each country, rather than trying to impose democracy. At the G7 Summit and other international forums, Japan will make sure to speak on behalf of Asian countries aiming for democratization at their own pace under the international order based on fundamental values.

Recent years have also shown trends by some countries controlling and censoring activities in cyberspace. In defense against excessive control and censorship, Japan safeguards a "free, fair and secure cyberspace" based on an international multi-stakeholder initiative that encourages wide participation from the private sector, the academic world and civic society. Also, while the development of technologies such as AI, IoT, and 5G is creating new services and social values, it is making our society increasingly vulnerable to cyberattacks. As it is not easy for any one country to deal with these threats alone, cooperation with the whole international society is essential. In recognition of this situation, Japan promotes cyber diplomacy based on three pillars-"promotion of the rule of law," "development of confidence-building measures," and "cooperation on capacity building"-in order to realize a "free, fair and secure cyberspace."

International debate has started on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems, known as LAWS, which are equipped with artificial intelligence and which can kill or wound people without human control. Just as gunpowder or nuclear weapons changed the way of conducting was in the past, artificial intelligence could fundamentally change the way of conducting war. While there is the risk that an artificial intelligence system could kill people based its own judgement without human control, as was the case in the movie "The Terminator," the use of artificial intelligence could make it possible to replace soldiers at low cost. Many countries have already entered the race to develop weapons equipped with artificial intelligence. For its part, Japan will be actively involved in the development of international rules while taking into consideration the viewpoint of its national security based on its position that meaningful human control is essential.

With respect to ODA, Japan aims to provide it in a manner matching its focus on human security without trying to achieve what is beyond its capacity.

In order to deepen understanding on ODA among the Japanese people, it is necessary to make clear its effects. Regarding assistance related to health, education, empowerment of women and agriculture, it is becoming easier internationally to express the effects in numerical terms. Given the use of taxpayers' money, a commitment to the results is essential with respect to ODA as well.

This year, the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 7) will be held in Yokohama. In Africa, there remain countries where the level of public trust in national institutions related to elections, parliament, the legislation, the judiciary, public order, taxation, and immigration control is low, with emphasis placed on ethnic, cultural and religious bonds, rather than on governance systems. This situation sows the seeds of frequent civil wars, religious conflicts, and acts of terrorism and delays the development of the countries. Japan will actively extend support for activities to promote peace building, particularly the development of national institutions, in Africa. On the other hand, Africa, a continent achieving remarkable growth, is called the last frontier of the 21st century and has huge potential. Toward TICAD7, we will further promote trade and investment between Japan and Africa through the public and private partnership, human resource development for the sake of Africa's economic growth, and the development of quality infrastructure.

The global number of refugees and displaced persons in the world has reached around 70 million people, the highest level since the end of World War II. Because of the impact of climate change, natural disasters including typhoons and torrential rains are expected to be more severe than before. In order to achieve the SDGs by 2030, an estimated 2.5 trillion dollars is needed annually to cover the funding gap. However, Japan and many other developed countries are facing severe fiscal constraints. Therefore, we need to develop an innovative financing mechanism. Those who have benefited from globalization should contribute part of the benefits to international organizations for humanitarian assistance. It is worth debating in-depth on the idea of creating an international financing mechanism that uses some of the benefits brought by globalization to resolve global issues while taking account of the progress in international initiatives. Japan will be leading these debates.

Under the rules set by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), countries whose gross national income (GNI) per capita exceeds the threshold will be  excluded from the counting of ODA. However, at a time when disaster risks are growing in island countries and amid the ongoing climate change, flexible action is essential. Japan will firmly support people in need of assistance regardless of its eligibility as ODA.

Many developing economies are seeking not only ODA but also investments from Japan. Given the limited size of the ODA budget, promoting private-sector investments is also very important for the future of Japan's diplomacy. We will provide firm support for overseas business expansion through the provision of information and the use of ODA so that small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as large enterprises, can actively expand abroad.

Japan will not only promote major free trade initiatives, such as the expansion of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP11) , which entered into force at the end of last year, the implementation of the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which will also enter into force, and the early conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations, but will also strategically advance free trade agreements (FTAs) and investment treaties with small-sized economies. The number of countries and cities to which direct flights from Tokyo are available is small compared with the numbers of countries and cities that can be directly reached from Beijing and Seoul. In order to take advantage of the energy of the private sector for the benefit of Japan's diplomacy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must cooperate with the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism to raise the number of direct flights and increase international exchange in terms of investment and tourism.

Across the world, there are an increasing number of young people who have become interested in Japanese language and culture, with Japanese manga and anime acting as a gateway. Doraemon, Hello Kitty and Pikachu have now become world-known characters, while sushi and ramen restaurants are springing up around the world. We need to continue communicating Japanese culture to the world in various forms, including not only manga and anime but also TV programs, movies, music, food, drinks and games. Unfortunately, Japan has a cultural budget smaller than that of the ROK, not to mention France, so Japan should make increased efforts in this respect. On the other hand, there are limits to what can be achieved through the government's budget alone. It is also important to consider ways so that cultural projects can be commercially sustainable while promoting cooperation between the public and private sectors.

Japan's nature and culture are attracting many foreign tourists. In the runup to the Rugby World Cup 2019, the Olympic and Paralympic games Tokyo 2020, and the  EXPO 2025 Osaka, Kansai, Japan, we will contribute to the promotion of in-bound tourism, actively communicating to the international community that regions hit by natural disasters have been recovering.

We will make increased efforts to communicate Japan's policies and initiatives in a strategic manner internationally so that Japan can implement various foreign policy initiatives and realize an international order based on fundamental values. In particular, it is extremely important to communicate Japan's position concerning the understanding of history and territorial integrity.

It is also extremely important to take actions to increase people who have a good understanding of Japan and support the country. Japanese language training is important for smoothly accepting foreign workers and realizing a society in which Japanese and other people can live together harmoniously. This viewpoint will also be incorporated in our future efforts in the field of Japanese language training. However, unfortunately, the Japanese language is lagging far behind other languages, such as French, Spanish and Chinese, not to mention English, in terms of the number of learners. We must make patient efforts. Collaboration with communities of Japanese immigrants and descendants is also important. It is essential to further enhance initiatives to strengthen the bond with communities of Japanese immigrants and descendants.

Diplomacy is not something conducted only by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the government. It is necessary to conduct diplomacy in a way that takes full advantage of the whole of Japan's resources and capabilities. We must make more active use of the strengths of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in providing grant aid and technical assistance. Actually, we must support NGOs that can be utilized for that purpose. To do so, we will first increase Japan's NGO-related budget by around 30% in consideration of a recommendation submitted by a panel of experts concerning ODA. We will gradually increase the budget further while watching the budget implementation. In particular, we will consider the possibility of increasing the general administration expenditure budget for NGOs by a maximum of 15%.

We will establish governance at the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and will also nurture implementing agencies that can compete with JICA with respect to the implementation of ODA. We will consider the characteristics of implementing agencies, including NGOs and development consulting firms, and implement ODA in a visible, whole-of-Japan approach, while maintaining sound competitive relationships between the implementing agencies. We will strengthen international competitiveness by carrying out fundamental reform in the field of consulting as well.

It is also an urgent task to increase the number of Japanese nationals working at the United Nations and other international organizations. Although we have made it clear to international organizations that Japan would like to increase the number of Japanese staff members and senior personnel to a level commensurate with its financial contributions, the number of Japanese applicants for posts at those organizations is insufficient in the first place. Few young people pass the United Nations' employment screening exams due to insufficient English skills and the like, so employment through the Junior Professional Officer (JPO) program is about the only path to a post at United Nations organizations. As a result, the number of young Japanese people who are employed by United Nations organizations is constrained by the size of the JPO budget. As a short-term solution, we will give Japanese students studying abroad better guidance regarding international organizations. We will resume dispatching national public employees to international organizations as JPOs.

In order to support the appointment of Japanese personnel to senior posts at international organizations, we will make use of posts at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to assist Japanese personnel at international organizations aiming for higher posts.

Japanese higher education has not necessarily been succeeding in enabling students to acquire a good command of English. This is an obstacle for Japanese people not only in working at international organizations but also in making active contributions on various occasions. The issue here is not the choice between speaking proper Japanese or English. We need both. It is an urgent task to fundamentally reform our English learning systems. We will cooperate with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

In order to secure top posts at important international organizations, other countries field former prime ministers, cabinet members and other politicians as candidates. If Japan is to win these posts Japan must do the same. To that end, it is essential to choose a right person at the right place regardless of the ruling parties or the opposition parties. We welcome any Diet members to step forward to take on the challenge. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will provide full support.

We are resolved to continue to contribute to the peace and stability of the world while firmly defending Japan's national interests and peace.

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