Japan-United States of America Relations

“Diplomacy in Creeping Crises”

September 21, 2017
Speech by Foreign Minister Kono at Columbia University1
Speech by Foreign Minister Kono at Columbia University2
Dr. Curtis, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
I am truly honored to be here.
I would like to express my deep gratitude to Columbia University for hosting this event.
I never thought I would be giving a speech about diplomacy in front of students when I myself was a student at Georgetown University with Professor Albright, who later became Secretary of State. In her class, I wrote a paper on why the famous Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman J. William Fulbright was defeated by a rookie candidate, Dale Bumpers, in the Democratic primary election in Arkansas.
My conclusion was “You can say whatever you want about foreign policy, but what really matters is the price of pork at the local market.”  
Instead of talking about the price of pork, now let me talk about the perspective from East Asia today.
[Today’s Challenges]
The international order is shaking. The stability and prosperity of the international community have been upheld by the overwhelming power of US military forces, the value of the dollar and US political strength. But now, the existing international order is facing various challenges. One mistake could lead to a severe crisis in the international community.
The foremost challenge we are facing is North Korea’s nuclear and missile threat. North Korea has launched nearly 40 ballistic missiles since last year, including two ballistic missiles which flew over Hokkaido in Japan. Japanese citizens were full of anxiety.
On September 3, North Korea also conducted its 6th nuclear test. Analysts say that its destructive capability was ten times more than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Furthermore, North Korea is estimated to be advancing its technology of intercontinental ballistic missiles to the point that they can reach here, New York City. We are now facing an unprecedented threat that is more grave and imminent to the security of the entire international community, including the US.
The second challenge is how to cope with an emerging China. Chinese economic growth has provided opportunities to the world. At the same time, as symbolized by the construction of aircraft carriers, China is boosting its military capacity in a rapid and non-transparent manner based on its economic power, and is flexing its muscle around the world. Under such circumstances, the big issue now is how to secure the global strategic balance.
The third challenge is international terrorism. Terrorism is absolutely unacceptable because it not only takes the lives of innocent people but also hinders creative thinking and free economic activities.
Since September 11, the fight against terrorism is still ongoing, and these threats have been expanding throughout the Middle East and Africa as well as Europe, US and Southeast Asia.
The fourth challenge is the rise of protectionism. We believe that globalism has enlarged the economic pie and has brought greater prosperity to human beings. But now, many countries are suffering from inequality, job losses, and rise in the number of immigrants. As a result, protectionism and inward-looking trends are growing as a backlash to globalism.
The fifth challenge comes from cyberspace issues. Cyber-attacks are becoming more sophisticated and complicated, developing at a breakneck speed. Cyber-attacks are not only eroding our economic activities, but they are beginning to undermine the foundation of democratic institutions.
Threats are creeping up behind the international community. We need to prevent future crises by upholding the existing international order with our wisdom, courage and action.
[Three Principles of the International Community]
I believe there are three principles the international community needs to uphold.
The first principle is respect for international laws and rules. Without the rule of law, “coercion by power” becomes widespread. Human beings have overcome violence by law, and freed themselves from Hobbes’s world of “the war of all against all,” and shaped the modern world with rationality.
Attempts to change the status quo by force or coercion should never be tolerated. International disputes should always be resolved based on international law. The rule of law is the very wisdom created by human beings.
The second principle is respect for diversity. The world consists of a variety of ethnicities, religions and political regimes. The spirits of diversity and tolerance to others are essential for the development of an inclusive society.
The third principle is respect for freedom and openness. Open societies that respect freedom of thought and action allow people to dream and hope. Authoritarian societies deprive freedom from people, making them spiritless and sluggish. Therefore, we need to continue to support the free and open international order.
[Japan’s Increasing Role]
Rising from the ashes of the war more than 70 years ago, Japan started to pave the way for reconstruction with generous support from the international community, including the US. 
After creating a free and democratic “New Japan”, Japan, in turn, has been assisting developing countries with international cooperation. I am very proud of that history.
With the changing international environment, however, Japan should play an even bigger role together with like-minded countries in order to uphold these three principles.
(Security and Defense)
First, Japan is assuming more responsibility in the area of security and defense than ever before. Japan has increased its defense budget for five consecutive years, upgrading our defense capability, such as Japan’s own Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) system.
Furthermore, we are prepared to do more to contribute to the stability of the world. Recent security legislations have enabled us to expand our security cooperation with the US and other partners.
(North Korea)
Second is the North Korean issue. A nation’s “will” and “capability” are necessary to resolve international challenges, and I believe Japan is equipped with both.
But of course, Japan cannot go at it alone. A strong Japan-US Alliance is essential in confronting the threat of North Korea. So is the trilateral security cooperation among Japan, the US, and South Korea.
China and Russia are also influential actors that play key roles in this issue. They share the view with Japan that North Korea must give up its nuclear ambitions. With the robust Japan-US Alliance, Japan will actively engage with countries like China and Russia even though we are not always on the same page.
The UNSC Resolution 2375 was unanimously and very promptly adopted on September 12, and includes the regulation of supplying crude oil and petroleum products to North Korea. Sanctions by the relevant Security Council resolutions will cut off more than 90% of North Korea’s export revenue of approximately $ 2.7 billion annually. I applaud the efforts of the US negotiators led by Ambassador Hailey.
Despite international calls for peaceful solutions, North Korea has never stopped escalating provocations. In addition, it is a fact that North Korea was secretly proceeding with nuclear programs while engaging in dialogues with the international community in the past, such as the Agreed Framework in the mid-1990s and the Six Party Talks at the beginning of the 21st century.
It is not the time for dialogue for the sake of dialogue. Now is the time for the international community as a whole to maximize the pressure on North Korea to take concrete actions toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
On this note, can you believe that over 160 countries have diplomatic ties with North Korea, the biggest threat to the world right now? A number of countries still accept many North Korean workers and maintain their economic ties with North Korea.
We have to urge those countries to cut off their diplomatic and economic relationships with North Korea. By fully implementing the relevant UNSC resolutions, we must stop the flow of human resources, goods, money and technology into North Korea.
We must work together with countries in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa to get rid of the “loopholes” in the sanctions. This is what I called for when I visited Manila and Africa this August, this is what I called for when I made a tour in the Middle East earlier this month, and this is exactly what I am calling for at the United Nations this week.
I appreciated President Trump’s recent remarks at the UN General Assembly regarding kidnapping of a Japanese girl by North Korea. We know some innocent American abductees are also held by North Korea now. I would like to stress to all international community on the need to double our efforts to resolve this issue as soon as possible.
Third, when talking about Japan’s active role for the peace and prosperity of the region and beyond, I need to talk about our relationship with China. The global power balance is changing, and a rapidly growing China is at the center of the change. It is also a fact that, because we are neighbors, difficult issues exist between Japan and China.
But we are the second and third largest economies in the world; hence we have great responsibility for the peace and prosperity of the region. Therefore, we should not confront each other. We should not allow “tension” to dominate the entirety of Asia. We must make Asia a region of “peace and friendship.”
There are many fields in which Japan and China can cooperate, such as finance, trade and investment, environment, disaster prevention, tourism, etc. Increasing mutual understanding through youth exchanges and tourism are also extremely important. They are all investments towards the future.
Under the idea of “Mutually Beneficial Relationship based on Common Strategic Interests,” I would like to foster a stable bilateral relationship from a broad perspective. I myself would like to visit China as soon as possible and realize the mutual visits between the leaders which have been stalled for the past several years.
(The Middle East)
Fourth, Japan is willing to play an even more active role towards the peace and stability of the Middle East. Japan is religiously very tolerant and respectful to Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.
We have no colonial history in the Middle East. Egyptian President El Sisi once said the Japanese people are “walking Qurans.” We may be following the value of the Quran without realizing it.
The Japanese economy is directly tied to the peace and stability of the Middle East. We can talk to US whenever we need. US is another big player in the Middle East. There is no reason for Japan not to be involved in Middle East affairs. I visited Cairo to hold the first ever Japan-Arab Political Dialogue last week.
There, I articulated my commitment to the Middle East focusing on, among others, an enhanced political role, enduring efforts, and investment in people.
(Free Trade)
Fifth, Japan will also continue to take the initiative for free trade. The recent agreement in principle on the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement sent out a powerful message to the world. The US’s withdrawal from the TPP was regrettable, but we will promptly advance the TPP among 11 countries first, keeping in mind the possibility of the US’s return to this agreement in the future.
(Institution Building)
Sixth, we will also contribute more to tackling issues in regards to failed states. Most of those countries have failed to establish national institutions, such as parliament, court system, election commission, tax systems, law enforcement, which can be trusted by its people.
If people cannot trust the national institutions, people inevitably turn to their tribe or sects, which can only lead to internal unrest. Japan will increase our efforts to support institution building in developing countries.
Let me give you some examples. In Cambodia, in order to develop its judicial system, young Japanese judges and prosecutors have worked with locals to write laws which would become the basis of Cambodia. In East Timor, Japan provides trainings for administrators who are engaged in the election process and trainings for police officers about freedom of the media and law enforcement.
Japanese Self-Defense Force officers have provided trainings at the Ethiopian International Peacekeeping Training Centre on reforms concerning law and order and election observation, and have contributed to the capacity building of peace keepers of African countries. We have invited teachers of Islamic boarding schools in Indonesia to Japan in order to share Japanese expertise and experience of education.
I believe that these supports for institution building can be made only by democratic countries upholding the rule of law and respecting basic human rights and that these supports would lead to peace and stability of the region, and, thus, human security and sustainable economic growth.
[Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy]
Japan has been promoting the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy.” The Indo-Pacific Ocean links rapidly growing Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and North America. It is indispensable for Japan, US, and like-minded countries such as India and Australia to maintain and develop a free and open maritime order based on the rule of law in this region.
Japan strongly supports the Freedom of Navigation Operations by the US and emphasizes the importance of strategic port visits. Japan and the UK have agreed to advance their relationship from partners to “allies,” and will continue to conduct joint maritime exercise in the Indo-Pacific.
This region faces various security challenges such as maritime safety, piracy, terrorism, smuggling, and large-scale disasters. Japan will help developing countries build better maritime law enforcement capabilities through the granting of patrol vessels and providing technical cooperation.
Japan also intends to pursue economic prosperity through the reinforcement of connectivity by improving infrastructures, such as sea ports and railways and roads.
Let me give you an example of “connectivity.” Japan is undertaking the construction of “East-West Economic Corridor” that connects Indochina and Myanmar. The road runs from Da Nang, Vietnam, in the east, through Laos and Thailand and to Mawlamyaing, Myanmar, to the west. As you see, it goes around the Strait of Malacca, and the new mile-long Second Mekong International Bridge that spans the Mekong River has increased the traffic volume by eight times. The future plan is to connect the road and sea-lane to Bangladesh, India and beyond the ocean to Kenya in Africa.
Japan puts emphasis on Quality Infrastructure. It is NOT just about physical quality but also about program quality. When investing in and assisting infrastructure projects such as sea ports, railroads, roads and pipelines etc., there are certain international standards that must be maintained.
They must be open, transparent, non-discriminatory, environmentally and socially responsible and financially sound. When giving sovereign loans to developing countries, you must pay attention to the debt situation of the recipient country. We must be responsible for the quality of the infrastructure projects in which we invest, assist and give aid to, to really help the steady growth of developing economies. 
Japan is not and will not be a dominant military power. For the foreseeable future, Japan’s population is shrinking and aging. We have no oil, gas, uranium and not much else. However, Japan should not, cannot, and will not be a “follower” in the world.
We will capture the sign of change, respond rapidly to the intense fluctuations of the global tide, and, together with the US, “allies” and partners, lead the world to be more peaceful and prosperous. Japan must become a beacon for the world. That is my belief.
In just one month after taking this post as a foreign minister on August 3, I attended the ASEAN-related Foreign Ministers’ meetings in Manila, the Japan-US Foreign and Defense Ministerial Meeting in Washington (2+2), the Ministerial Meeting of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in Maputo, Mozambique, the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Japan-Arab Political Dialogue in Cairo, and visited the Middle East to meet two kings, a crown prince, a president and nine Foreign Ministers.
Every day, I feel the importance and the heavy responsibility of my duties as a foreign minister.
We tend to be pessimistic. Easygoing optimism is dangerous. But I would still like to conclude my remarks by quoting Thomas Friedman’s words: Quote, “Pessimists are usually right and optimists are usually wrong but all the great changes have been accomplished by optimists,” unquote.
No matter how challenging the situation, let’s keep hope and let us get over difficulties with wisdom, courage, and action.
Thank you very much.

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