Interviews & Articles

(March 22, 2017 )

English necessary to transmit government message to the world

April 7, 2017

I would like to express my congratulations to The Japan Times on its 120th anniversary. The paper has continually disseminated current news in English since its inception in 1897, spanning the course of three centuries.

1897 marked nearly 30 years since the Meiji Restoration and was when Shigenobu Okuma, one of the founders of modern-day Japan, was the foreign minister. It was at this time that Japan took the first steps to modernization and built its foundation of democracy. Since then, Japan has undergone significant changes, from the devastation of World War II to the reconstruction and rapid economic growth after the war. Following the war, Japan has steadfastly walked the path of peace and contributed to the peace and prosperity in the world with its knowledge and technology.

The Japan Times has witnessed those events in the course of 120 years and has continued to publish English news for a global readership. We are commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration next year to look back on Japan’s path of modernization and democratization, and to pass on the spirit of Meiji to the future. In the same spirit, I would like to take the opportunity to contribute an article to The Japan Times at this important juncture.

At a time when information is instantly transmitted across the globe through a wide range of media, the dissemination of information in English, the de facto international language, has never been more important for Japanese diplomacy. My mission as press secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is to explain Japan’s diplomatic policies to the world, and one particular focus is to strengthen our English-language messaging.

We consider it is important that Japanese leaders’ messages are delivered to the rest of the world accurately. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida have been actively traveling around the world to promote “diplomacy that takes a panoramic perspective of the world map.” Their speeches, summaries of meetings and press releases are translated into English and widely covered in English-language news.

Furthermore, the prime minister and foreign minister have been extensively contributing articles to, and conducting interviews with, major foreign newspapers and other media outlets in English. In September 2015, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the U.N., Prime Minister Abe discussed Japan’s path of peace and active contribution to peace and development in an article titled “Lessons learned for a Better World,” which was published in a major media outlet. Prime Minister Abe stated that, “Over the last 60 years, Japan has been a partner for developing countries, extending much-needed assistance to develop human resources and infrastructure while also respecting and understanding their specific needs.”

Foreign Minister Kishida also contributed an article to major media outlets prior to the G-7 Hiroshima Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. From Hiroshima, the first city that experienced an atomic bombing, Foreign Minister Kishida highlighted the importance of the G-7 to work together and sent a strong message to achieve a world without nuclear weapons.

Japanese leaders also believe that it is important to communicate their message directly to an audience. In April 2015, Prime Minister Abe delivered a speech in English entitled “Toward an Alliance of Hope” to a joint session of the U.S. Congress in Washington D.C. His speech highlighted how old enemies have become present friends, and reviewed how Japan and the U. S. have worked together to achieve global peace following World War II. On the following day, media outlets around the world repeated direct quotes from the prime minister’s speech. A major American paper, for example, reported that Prime Minister Abe said, “I would like to send out a strong message that both Japan and the U.S., which once fought with each other, now achieved reconciliation.”

Another example is Foreign Minister Kishida’s speech to the U.N. In July 2016, Foreign Minister Kishida attended the Open Debate of the U.N. Security Council on “Peacebuilding in Africa.” Foreign Minister Kishida provided a statement in English regarding Japan’s peace-building efforts in the region, laying out the three principles of Japan’s peace-building initiatives: a focus on “people on the ground,” “improving living standards through inclusive economic development,” and “tolerance of diversity.”

Japan’s communication of its foreign policy in English is becoming increasingly important. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to actively convey its messages to the world through communications in English. Please come and visit our website, which has a range of English content, and is updated daily. It includes the latest information on visits to Japan by international leaders, updates on international meetings and other events, as well as explanations of Japan’s diplomatic policies and international exchanges.

Norio Maruyama
Press Secretary,
Ministry of Foreign Affairs

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