Asia and the Pacific
Ensuring the stability and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region that surrounds Japan is critical for the security and prosperity of Japan and the strengthening of relations with other countries in the region is required.
Asia has overcome the Asian Economic Crisis of 1997 and is now riding a wave of globalization to enjoy steady and continuous economic growth. This has resulted in such as the positive changes towards further development of the region deepening of intraregional interdependence and the creation of a sense of community through the permeation of shared lifestyles, which have given rise to increasingly intense discussions regarding the creation of an East Asian community. However, at the same time, there are issues that must be overcome in forging a stable and prosperous Asia, including issues that directly affect the security of Japan, such as the situation on the Korean Peninsula and across the Taiwan Strait, as well as challenging issues shared by the entire region such as terrorism, piracy, climate change and energy and pandemic influenza and other infectious diseases.
Furthermore, in Asia, structural changes unprecedented anywhere around the globe are underway, as China and India, accounting for one-fifth and one-sixth of the world's population respectively, are simultaneously rising to the forefront in such fields as politics, security, and economy. A major topic for Japanese diplomacy is thus how the potential of these two countries can be elicited constructively in ways that contribute to the stability and sustainable growth of both Asia and the world.
The fundamental objective of Japan's diplomacy in Asia and the Pacific is to lead the region to become one which shares fundamental values, characterized by long-term stability and predictability and grounded in mutual understanding and cooperation. In keeping with this objective, Japan is implementing the following three fundamental principles in its diplomacy towards the Asia-Pacific region.
The first of these is that, in order to establish stable international relations, Japan will aim at "synergy" between the policies of the strengthening of the Japan-US alliance and the promotion of diplomacy vis-�-vis Asia. Japan intends to continue to ensure deterrence against any movement that might destabilize the region by firmly maintaining the Japan-US security arrangements, which are critical for the security of the region, while proactively promoting diplomacy vis-�-vis Asia by strengthening its relations with neighboring countries, notably China and the Republic of Korea (ROK).
The second is that Japan will elicit the region's potential to the greatest possible extent in dealing with common regional issues by taking a multilayered approach. This approach will include not only bilateral diplomacy but also the promotion of East Asian regional cooperation, such as through the East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN+3, Japan-ASEAN, and Japan-China-ROK cooperative frameworks, and of cooperation that broadly incorporates countries outside the region, such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). In addition, within these efforts, Japan will promote the consolidation of fundamental values.
The third is that Japan squarely faces the facts of its history with humility, that in the past it has caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people in Asian nations. With feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology always engraved in mind, Japan has consistently made efforts for the past 60 years as a "peaceful nation" underpinned by its solid democracy and market economy. As a forerunner, Japan will continue to afford various kinds of cooperation, including efforts for the consolidation of peace, reinforcement of governance, and development of economic rules while supporting the development of an Asia grounded in common values.
The Korean Peninsula
The Korean Peninsula, being adjacent to Japan, is one of the most important geographical areas for Japan.
The ROK is Japan's closest neighbor geographically and is an important neighbor with whom Japan enjoys extremely close relations in various areas, including politics, economics, and culture. The ROK is an ally of the United States as is Japan, and it also shares with Japan fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, and basic human rights. The further strengthening of future-oriented, friendly and cooperative relations is critical for the stability and prosperity of not only Japan and the ROK but also the northeast Asian region as a whole.
The year 2007 witnessed developments in multilayered and close intergovernmental dialogues spanning a broad range of fields, including the Japan-ROK Summit Meeting in Singapore in November and six Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers Meetings, as well as in exchanges at the private-sector level. The ROK held a presidential election on December 19, in which Mr. Lee Myung-bak of the Grand National Party (Hannara) was elected. Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda attended President Lee's inauguration ceremony on February 25, 2008, after which a Summit Meeting was held between the two leaders. They shared the view on the importance of bringing bilateral ties into a "new era" marked by even closer cooperation between Japan and the ROK.
As for North Korea, the basic policy is to aim to normalize Japan-North Korea relations through comprehensive resolution of the outstanding issues of concern including the abduction, nuclear and missile issues and the settlement of the unfortunate past between the two parties, in accordance with Japan-DPRK Pyongyang declaration. Under this policy, the government of Japan has been making its utmost diplomatic efforts to achieve progress in both the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and Japan-North Korea bilateral relations including the abduction issue.
There was a certain degree of progress in the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, such as the implementation of the "Initial Actions for the Implementation of the Joint Statement", agreed in February 2007 at the Six-Party Talks, and the adoption of the "Second-Phase Actions for the Implementation of the Joint Statement" in October. However, North Korea did not take within the established timeframe the denuclearization actions that it had promised to implement before December 31, 2007. Japan intends to continue to make concerted efforts with the United States and other relevant countries to ensure the implementation of the "Second-Phase Actions for the Implementation of the Joint Statement" and moreover make progress towards the full implementation of the 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks.
In Japan-North Korea bilateral relations, the Working Group for the Normalization of Japan-DPRK Relationship convened twice in 2007, but there was no concrete progress regarding the outstanding issues of concern, including the abduction issue. While utilizing the Six-Party Talks and other diplomatic opportunities, cooperating and collaborating closely with other relevant countries to conduct sincere bilateral discussions with North Korea and also to demand North Korea concrete actions towards the resolution of the outstanding issues, including the abduction issue.
China and Mongolia
The interdependence between Japan and China is growing deeper, with economic relations and people-to-people exchanges becoming increasingly close. Within this context, the Japan-China bilateral relationship has become among the most important bilateral relationships for both countries. In 2007 there were frequent high-level exchanges of views, including reciprocal visits by the leaders and the foreign ministers, such as the Japan-China High-Level Economic Dialogue, Summit Meetings and Foreign Ministers' Meetings taking advantage of various types of international meetings. These were held with a view to creating a "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests" that would expand those common interests as the two countries take their solemn responsibility and contribute jointly to Asia and the world. These diplomatic efforts resulted in tangible advancement over a wide range of areas, including a strengthening of mutual cooperation in energy conservation and the environment, promotion of mutual understanding through exchanges in the security field and youth exchanges, and contributions to regional and international society, notably to issues surrounding North Korea and reform of the United Nations Security Council. Japan and China have agreed to work towards as early a resolution as possible regarding the issue of resource development in the East China Sea through repeated discussions with a view to conducting joint development. With regard to Chinese domestic affairs, the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) was convened in October and the next Chinese leadership was appointed.
In the year 2008, Japan and China will commemorate the 30th anniversary of the conclusion of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship and also observe the Japan-China Youth Friendship Exchange Year. It is also the year in which the 29th Olympic Games (the Beijing Olympics) will be held. Japan and China will further develop their bilateral relations by building up dialogues and exchanges at a full range of levels and making efforts to settle outstanding issues. They also intend to continue to contribute jointly to the peace, stability, and prosperity of the world, with a view to creating a "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests."
In 2007, Japan and Mongolia celebrated the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, and various events were held to commemorate the "Year of Japan in Mongolia."
ASEAN, aiming at the establishment of an ASEAN Community by 2015, adopted the ASEAN Charter in November 2007. Japan has the longest history of any country as a partner of ASEAN, and will continue to support ASEAN's efforts towards ASEAN integration. In the meanwhile, Japan has developed relations with ASEAN in the economic arena, through such as the conclusion of negotiations for the ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. Japan is also strengthening its relations with individual member states of ASEAN in various areas, including the politics, economy, and culture. Japan has also actively supported peacebuilding in Southeast Asia, dispatching a development expert to the International Monitoring Team in Mindanao, the Philippines and civilian police officers to the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT).
In 2007, Japan welcomed visiting dignitaries Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore, Prime Minister Surayut Chulanont of Thailand, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of Malaysia, Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh of Lao PDR, President Nguyen Minh Triet of Viet Nam, Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen of Cambodia, and Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei Darussalam. Prime Minister Abe also made an official visit to Indonesia and Malaysia, and Prime Minister Fukuda visited Singapore to attend the East Asia Summit (EAS). Japan and the member states of ASEAN have reinforced their relations through these active exchanges of visits by their leaders.
As for the relations with Mekong region countries, the Japan-CLV (Cambodia, Lao PDR, and Viet Nam) Summit was held as an associated meeting at the ASEAN Summit in November, and Foreign Ministers' Meetings of the CLV and Japan were convened twice. In January 2008, the first Japan-Mekong Foreign Ministers' Meeting was held in Tokyo.
As for EPAs with ASEAN member states, negotiations have started on the Japan-Viet Nam EPA; the Japan-Brunei EPA and Japan-Indonesia EPA have been signed; the Protocol Amending the agreement between Japan-Singapore for a New-Age Economic Partnership and the Japan-Thailand EPA have entered into force; and the Japan-Philippines EPA is currently under consideration in the Philippine Senate.
On the cultural front, 2007 marked the 120th Anniversary of Japan-Thailand Diplomatic Relations, and various commemorative exchanges were held. In addition, Japan worked to strengthen its public relations, having reached to concur with Singapore in opening "Japan Creative Center" in that country.
The countries of South Asia, notably India, the world's largest democracy, maintained high rates of economic growth in 2007 and have had an increasingly strong presence in the international community. The percentage of intraregional trade stands at a low 5.3% (2006 figure). However, there has been movement towards closer regional ties, focused on economic relations, with the Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) entering into force in January 2006, followed by the Fourteenth South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit in April 2007 confirming the importance of strengthening regional connectivity.
There was notable movement in the areas of democratization and peacebuilding in the South Asian region in 2007. In Bangladesh, although general elections scheduled for January were postponed, preparations have been underway under the caretaker government for holding the elections by the end of 2008. In Pakistan, although state of Emergency was declared in November, aroused fears of an interruption in the consolidation of democracy, subsequently President Pervez Musharraf resigned his position as chief of army staff, started his second presidential term as a civilian and lifted the State of Emergency on December 15. General elections, which had been originally scheduled for January 2008 and postponed in the aftermath of the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, were held on February 18, 2008. In Nepal, an interim cabinet including Maoist ministers has been taking charge in the government since April 2007. Agreement was reached to hold the election for the constitutional assembly on April 10, 2008, after two election postponements. Bhutan held its National Council (upper house) elections on December 31 as the country's first-ever nationwide election. The process towards a parliamentary democracy is moving forward, with elections for the National Assembly (lower house) and the formulation of a constitution scheduled for 2008. In Sri Lanka, armed conflicts and terrorist incidents have been ongoing since the Sri Lankan government recaptured the country's eastern region from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and the peace process conducted through political dialogues has stalled, with the government withdrawing from the ceasefire agreement in January 2008.
Japan's relations with South Asia have been strengthened through active political and cultural exchanges. Japan participated for the first time in the Fourteenth SAARC Summit as an observer nation, and Foreign Minister Taro Aso announcing Japan's cooperation in the areas of democratization and peace building, the promotion of regional cooperation, and the promotion of people-to-people exchanges. In addition to the visit of Prime Minister Abe to India in August, Japan-India relations enjoyed active exchanges of high-level visits including cabinet ministers. High-level visits in 2007 also included the visit of Minister of Defense Yuriko Koike to Pakistan (August) and the visit of President of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa to Japan (December), among others. Moreover, the year 2007 marked not only Japan-India Exchange Year but also the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Bangladesh and the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the Maldives, with commemorative events held.
Japan, Australia, and New Zealand share fundamental values and have come to work in a concerted manner towards the peace and stability of both the region and international society.
In particular, 2007 was a year in which the security relationship between Japan and Australia developed rapidly, with the issuance of the Japan-Australia Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation in March, the holding of the Japan-Australia Joint Foreign and Defense Ministerial Consultations (2+2 Meeting) for the first time in June, and the approval of the Action Plan based on the Joint Declaration at the Japan-Australia Summit Meeting in September. In this way relations between Japan and Australia have moved beyond trade and investment to a stage that can be properly called a "comprehensive strategic relationship" that includes the fields of politics and security.
Japan's location in the Pacific Ocean is something it holds in common with the Pacific island states, and these countries serve as an important source of marine resources. Japan has been building up the cooperation with these countries through the Japan-Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Summit Meeting (Pacific Islands Summit), working jointly with the island nations to address the political and economic challenges facing them.
Intra- and Inter-regional Cooperation
Cooperation advanced in each of the various existing regional cooperation frameworks in East Asia during 2007, with particularly significant developments emerging in efforts to address energy, climate change and other environmental issues. First, the Cebu Declaration on East Asian Energy Security was issued at the Second EAS in January, followed by the adoption of the Sydney APEC Leaders' Declaration on Climate Change, Energy Security and Clean Development at the APEC Summit in Sydney in September and the Singapore Declaration on Climate Change, Energy and the Environment at the Third EAS in November, with the leaders sharing the view on the setting up of voluntary energy efficiency goals. In addition, the Second Joint Statement on East Asia Cooperation was issued at the ASEAN+3 Summit Meeting, setting forth broad directions for East Asia cooperation over the next decade. At the Summit Meeting among Japan, China, and the ROK, formulation of an Action Plan for the further promotion of trilateral cooperation as well as holding of a trilateral Summit Meeting separately from the ASEAN associated meetings in one of the three countries were decided. Under the ASEM framework, five countries and one organization formally became new ASEM partners. Interfaith dialogues were continued, as were dialogues to promote cooperation related to, among others, climate change and energy, counter-terrorism, and small and medium enterprises.