1. Asia and Oceania
Today, the presence of the Asia and Oceanian region is increasing in the world, as it i ncludes numerous emerging nations and serves as a driving force of world growth. The realization of a prosperous and stable Asia and Oceania region is essential for the peace and prosperity of Japan. Economically, this region continues to boast high growth rates, supported by its rich human resources: of the world’s population of approximately 7 billion people, approximately 3.3 billion people reside in East Asia Summit (EAS) member states excluding the U.S. and Russia1, accounting for 48.1% of the entire world population2; the total nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states, China, and India has increased by 4.2 times over the past 10 years3 (the global average has increased by twice), and it is expected that the future increase of the middle class in this region will lead to the further rapid growth of their purchasing power; the total amount of exports and imports of EAS member states excluding the U.S. and Russia is USD 9.3 trillion, following the European Union (EU) (USD 10 trillion). Intraregional trade accounts for 51.8% of this figure4, showing expanding economic interdependence in this region. In recent years, a closely linked supply chain is formed by the investment led by Japan, throughout this region. Encouraging strong growth in this region and making use of massive demand for infrastructure and the purchasing power of the huge middle class in the region will also bring prosperity and vitality to Japan.
While such opportunities for economic growth are increasing in the Asia and Oceania region, various risks are increasing and threatening the region’s stability. The security environment surrounding Japan has become more severe since the region faces such developments as modernization of military forces, increased tension among the countries in the region over intensified maritime activities and maritime issues in the South China Sea and other waters, and territorial disputes in the region. In addition, in 2012, changes in leadership are expected in many nations including China and the Republic of Korea (ROK). Furthermore, other issues such as less-developed financial markets, environmental pollution, tight supplies of food and energy, and aging populations can be factors hindering the region’s stable growth.
In light of these conditions, it is becoming even more important for Japan to strengthen cooperation with the countries of the region in order to maximize opportunities for growth in the Asia and Pacific region, as well as to minimize risks. While the Japan-U.S. alliance is the linchpin of the Japanese diplomacy, Japan will build open and multi-layered networks with the countries in the Asia and Pacific region, based on rules adhered to international law. For this purpose, Japan will advance regional cooperation utilizing various frameworks such as the trilateral dialogues among Japan, China, and the ROK; Japan, the U.S., and the ROK; and Japan, the U.S., and Australia; as well as multilateral frameworks including Japan-ASEAN, East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN+3 (Japan, China and ROK), and APEC.
The full participation of China is essential to such open and multi-layered networks. China is an important neighbor with whom Japan has developed strong ties in a wide range of areas such as culture and human exchange, and Japan-China relationship is one of the most important bilateral relationships for Japan. China has further reinforced its presence in diverse area of the international community in recent years. In 2011, the two sides had frequent high-level exchanges, and at the Japan-China summit in December, Prime Minister Noda expressed “Six Initiatives to Further Deepen a ‘Mutually Beneficial Relationship based on Common Strategic Interests’ on the Occasion of the 40th Anniversary of the Normalization of Diplomatic Relations between Japan and China”.
Japan will steadily deepen the “Mutually Beneficial Relationship based on Common Strategic Interests” with China from a broader point of view, not only by strengthening the bilateral relationships but also by promoting cooperation and exchanges in a wide range of areas such as regional and global issues.
Based on the traditionally friendly bilateral relations, Japan will cooperate closely with Mongolia to strengthen the mutually beneficial and complementary relationship on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of Japan-Mongolia diplomatic relations, with an aim to embody the “Strategic Partnership” shared by the two countries as a new diplomatic goal.
The ROK is Japan’s most important neighboring country, which shares fundamental values such as democracy. There are frequent visits between the two countries. Prime Minister Noda visited the ROK in October President Lee Myung-bak came to Japan in December. Summit meetings were held on these occasions. Through communications including such high-level ones, Japan will continue to make an effort to build a future-oriented and multi-layered relations with the ROK.
On the Korean Peninsula, North Korea sank an ROK navy patrol vessel in March 2010 and shelled Yeonpyeong Island in November that year. In addition to these provocative actions, nuclear development by North Korea, which announced that it had developed a uranium enrichment program, poses a grave concern. In close coordination with the U.S., the ROK, and other countries, Japan has strongly urged North Korea to take concrete actions toward achieving goals including denuclearization in accordance with the Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks and the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. Japan will continue such efforts. In addition, following the death of Kim Jong-il, Chairman of the National Defense Commission, in December 2011, Japan has been closely monitoring the situation through close cooperation with countries concerned to ensure that this does not have a negative impact on peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula. With regard to the abduction issue, Japan has repeatedly demanded that North Korea initiate a comprehensive investigation as agreed at the Japan-North Korea Working-Level Consultations in August 2008. Japan will continue working in close coordination with the countries toward a comprehensive resolution of the outstanding issues of concern, including the abduction issue.
As the security environment of the Asia and Oceanian region becomes more severe, the continued U.S. presence in this region grows more important. The United States strengthened its engagement in the Asia-Pacific region, for example by the first official participation in the East Asia Summit (EAS) and announcing rotation of U.S. Marine Corps to Australia in 2011. Japan will continue striving together with the U.S. to maintain the peace and prosperity of the Asia and Oceania region by firmly upholding, and further deepening and developing the Japan-U.S. alliance.
Japan has enjoyed a long history of friendly relations with ASEAN as an ASEAN dialogue partner. In addition to its relations with ASEAN as a whole, which is the center of the regional cooperation, Japan is also working to strengthen its relations with individual ASEAN member states. Among them, Indonesia, which chaired ASEAN in 2011 and is the only G20 member among the ASEAN member states, is playing an increasingly important role in the Asia and Oceania region as a core ASEAN member. Indonesia is also important to Japan as a supplier of resources, a market, and a destination for investment, and the two countries have an economically close beneficial relationship. In recent years, Japan’s relations with Indonesia have been deepening as strategic partners that address various regional and the international issues beyond the bilateral framework, for example, in support for democratization in the region, disaster prevention, and climate change.
On Myanmar, since the transition to civilian rule in March, some positive developments toward democratization and national reconciliation have been seen, including the release of many political prisoners and the realization of a ceasefire agreement with minority armed forces. Together with encouraging the Myanmar government to take further positive steps toward additional progresses on democratization and national reconciliation, Japan will enhance cooperation in the four areas; human exchange, economic cooperation, the economy, and cultural exchange, from the perspective of supporting Myanmar’s reform efforts.
With a large population of approximately 1.6 billion and its geopolitical importance, South Asia has been increasing its weight in the international arena, while many countries in the region continue high economic growth. Japan will further strengthen its economic relations with countries in the region and continue to cooperate with their own efforts in such areas as national reconciliation and promotion and consolidation of democracy. In particular, Japan will further deepen its Strategic and Global Partnership and enhance cooperation in various fields with India, where Prime Minister Noda visited for the Annual Summit meeting in December 2011, as India has been increasing its influence in the international community as an emerging country. With regard to Pakistan, which has a key role in counter-terrorism, Japan encourages its own efforts towards the peace and stability of the region and the entire international community, as well as continues its cooperation mainly in economic areas.
Australia and New Zealand are important partners in the Asia-Pacific region that share fundamental values with Japan. Japan and Australia are strengthening the strategic partnership not only in economic relations such as trade and investment but also in the area of security, working closely to contribute to peace and stability of the international community. In response to the February Christchurch earthquake, Japan dispatched emergency relief teams to New Zealand and provided emergency grant aid.
Many of the Pacific Island countries have amicable relations with Japan, and they are important partners for Japan with regard to international cooperation and the supply of fishery resources. In 2011, a variety of efforts were made towards the Sixth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM 6) that was held in May 2012 in Okinawa.
In addition to enhancement of bilateral relations as outlined above, it is important to utilize a variety of frameworks for multilateral and regional cooperation in order to build open and multi-layered networks.
Japan is advancing trilateral cooperation with China and the ROK. In the Fourth Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit held in Japan in May, the leaders of the three countries visited areas affected by the earthquake of March 2011. While demonstrating an attitude of cooperation toward Japan’s recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake, in response to that earthquake, the three countries also agreed to strengthen trilateral cooperation in a broad range of fields and in particular in nuclear power safety, disaster management, and promotion of renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, left, meeting with Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi (December 26, Myanmar)
Japan believes that it is important that ASEAN, of which integration is proceeding, play as a center of regional cooperation for the stability and prosperity of the whole East Asian region. Based on this understanding, Japan attaches importance to Japan-ASEAN relations in regional cooperation. The Special Japan-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting held in April, in the aftermath of Great East Japan Earthquake, was a historically significant meeting that demonstrated the further deepening of the strong solidarity and sense of community between Japan and ASEAN. In November, the Japan-ASEAN summit adopted the “Bali Declaration” defining relations between Japan and ASEAN as well as the Japan-ASEAN Plan of Action for implementing this Declaration in light of increasing economic and political presence of ASEAN in the international community and the deepening of economic ties between Japan and Asia. These achievements will further bolster the friendly and cooperative relations between Japan and ASEAN and more active support for the establishment of an ASEAN Community in 2015.
The Sixth East Asia Summit (EAS) held in November was the first one, in which the U.S. and Russia participated. Japan attended this summit aiming to develop the EAS into a leaders-led forum that confirms common principles and fundamental rules or the region through enhancement of its political and security initiatives in addition to practical cooperation promoted so far, thus connecting its outcome to tangible cooperation. The summit affirmed the importance of international law, particularly with regard to the ocean, as public goods connecting the Asia and Pacific region as well as shared an understanding to advance cooperation and dialogue about the ocean, based on a proposal from Japan.
The Third Japan-Mekong Summit held in November featured a shared recognition that cooperation between Japan and the Mekong region countries was making effective progress and affirmed that cooperation would be promoted further through the framework of Japan-Mekong cooperation. The summit also expressed a shared recognition of the importance of public-private partnership and of assistance for environment and climate change, maternal health and infectious diseases, and food security and safety. Furthermore, it also reaffirmed the need for further strengthening cooperation to prevent disasters in the Mekong region, along with the aid in the aftermath of the massive flooding that had occurred in that region, particularly in Thailand.
From the perspective of establishing an ASEAN Community, the efforts for rectifying regional disparities by Southeast Asian countries, such as the Brunei Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA)5, are also important as well as Mekong development. Japan has been implementing the invitation and dispatch program with BIMP-EAGA in the fields of tourism, fisheries, and human-resources development.
The Bali Democracy Forum (BDF), hosted by Indonesia annually since 2008, is seeing an increase in the number of participants every year, and it has become an important international forum for spreading democratization in the region. Japan supports Indonesia’s effort and is also contributing to its work, for instance, by assisting to hold a seminar in support of democratization in Egypt to share Indonesia’s experiences of democratization.
Japan will also support the strengthening of regional connectivity and promote people-to-people exchanges with the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
In response to Great East Japan Earthquake, Japan received words of solidarity and encouragement as well as relief supplies and donations from the Asia and Oceania region, which is geographically close and has deep historical and cultural ties with Japan. In gratitude, Japan intends to contribute to the region’s peace, stability, and prosperity by playing a leading role in development of regional order and rules.
1 ASEAN members states (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia), Japan, China, the ROK, India, Australia, and New Zealand
2 IMF Direction of Trade Statistics July 2011
3 World Bank
4 IMF Direction of Trade Statistics July 2011
5 An initiative advanced by Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines for the development of island areas which are less developed.