Diplomatic Bluebook 2015

Chapter 2

Japan’s Foreign Policy that Takes a Panoramic Perspective of the World Map

Section 1 Asia and Oceania


General Overview

The Asia-Oceania region is home to many of emerging countries and is blessed with an abundance of human resources. It is a world growth center and has been enhancing its presence. Of the world’s population of 7.2 billion,1 approximately 3.4 billion live in East Asia Summit (EAS) member states2 (excluding the United States and Russia). This represents 48.1% of the world’s population.3 The combined nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) member states, China, and India grew 340%4 over the last ten years, as compared with the world average of 100%. Total exports and imports of EAS member states (excluding the United States and Russia) is US$10.7 trillion, making it the second largest market behind the European Union (US$11.6 trillion). Of these exports and imports, 58.5%5 are intra-regional, illustrating the close economic ties between these nations and their high degree of economic interdependence. As the middle class expands, overall purchasing power is expected to rise sharply. This will support strong economic growth within the region, and the huge demand for infrastructure and massive purchasing power of this large middle class will also help to bring renewed affluence and vitality to Japan. Realizing affluence and stability throughout Asia and Oceania is indispensable for Japan’s peace and prosperity.

Meanwhile, the security environment surrounding Japan within the Asia-Oceania region is becoming increasingly severe. North Korea continues its nuclear and missile development and engages in provocation; countries in the region are modernizing their military forces in a manner that lacks transparency, and are trying to change the status quo by force or coercion; and tensions within the region are growing over maritime issues, including issues in the South China Sea. Other factors hindering the stable growth of the region include immature financial markets, environmental pollution, limited supplies of food and energy, and aging populations.

  • 1 State of World Population 2014 Report.
  • 2 ASEAN (member states: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Viet Nam), Japan, China, the ROK, India, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • 3 World Bank (WB) World Development Indicators.
  • 4 WB World Development Indicators.
  • 5 International Monetary Fund (IMF), Direction of Trade Statistics.

Japan-U.S. Alliance

The Japan-U.S. Alliance is the linchpin of Japan’s diplomacy as the security environment in the Asia-Pacific region has become increasingly severe. Japan welcomes the United States’ continued rebalancing towards the Asia-Pacific, since such policy will contribute significantly to the stability and prosperity of the region. When President Barack Obama of the United States visited Japan in April 2014, the two leaders confirmed the Japan-U.S. Alliance’s leading role in ensuring a peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific. Japan will continue to work closely with the United States to further contribute to the peace and stability of the world.


In recent years, China has achieved rapid economic development while facing a variety of social and economic challenges, and has significantly enhanced its presence within the international community in various fields. The entire international community, including Japan, welcomes the development of China as a responsible, peace-loving nation. However, China’s moves to strengthen its military capabilities without sufficient transparency, and its increased maritime activities, are causing concern in the entire region.

Japan and China are neighbors across the East China Sea. They have an inseparable relationship characterized by close economic relations and people-to-people and cultural exchanges. In 2014, the number of Chinese travelers to Japan surpassed the 2 million mark for the first time and reached 2.409 million. The number of Chinese visitors has set a monthly record for 16 consecutive months since September 2013.6 At the same time, there are a number of political and social differences between the two countries, and precisely because they are neighbors it is inevitable that frictions and confrontations occasionally occur.

  • 6 Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) press release, January 20, 2015.

In 2014, a variety of efforts were made to improve Japan-China relations. Exchanges of views between Minister for Foreign Affairs Fumio Kishida and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi were realized on the margins of ASEAN-related foreign ministers’ meetings in August and the United Nations (UN) General Assembly session in September. On November 7, the Japanese and Chinese Governments released “Regarding Discussions toward Improving Japan-China Relations.” On the 8th, a Japan-China foreign ministers’ meeting was held for the first time in two years and two months on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Ministerial Meeting in Beijing. On the 10th, a Japan-China summit meeting was realized for the first time after two years and six months on the occasion of the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting. These meetings served as a first step for the two countries to improve their relations by reaffirming the basic principles of a “Mutually Beneficial Relationship based on Common Strategic Interests.”

Based on such progress, there has been a gradual resumption of dialogues and cooperation between the two countries, and the bilateral relationship is gradually working towards improvement. However, even after the Japan-China summit meeting, China has continued to unilaterally attempt to change the status quo in the East China Sea, including intrusion by Chinese Government vessels into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands. From January through the end of December 2014, Chinese Government vessels intruded into Japanese territorial waters 32 times (involving a total of 88 vessels). The Senkaku Islands are an inherent part of the territory of Japan, in light of historical facts and based upon international law. Indeed, they are under the valid control of Japan. The Government of Japan will continue to deal with the situation with resolute determination to defend Japan’s territorial land, sea, and airspace.

Japan and China share responsibilities for peace and stability in the region and the international community. Stable Japan-China relations are essential, not only for the people in the two countries, but also for the peace and stability of the Asia-Oceania region. Based on the concept of the “Mutually Beneficial Relationship based on Common Strategic Interests,” the Government of Japan will promote the development of Japan-China relations from a broad perspective through continued dialogues and cooperation at various levels.


Taiwan is an important partner with which Japan has intimate people-to-people exchanges and close economic ties. With regard to cultural exchanges, a special exhibition of the Palace Museum was held at the Tokyo National Museum from June to September 2014 and at the Kyushu National Museum from October to November 2014. In line with the 1972 Japan-China Joint Communique, the relationship between Japan and Taiwan is maintained through working relations at the non-governmental level, with emphasis on promotion of working cooperation to achieve closer bilateral ties.


In 2014, following on from the previous year, Japan and Mongolia actively carried out high-level exchanges. In July, the two countries reached an agreement in principle in the negotiations of the Japan-Mongolia Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). Japan will continue to further strengthen the mutually beneficial and complementary cooperation in wide-ranging areas, including economic cooperation, to deepen the “Strategic Partnership.”

Republic of Korea

Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) are most important neighboring countries to each other, and their good relationship is essential for peace and stability in the Asian-Oceanian region. In 2014, the two countries have deepened communication at various levels such as the Japan-U.S.-ROK summit meeting and two Japan-ROK foreign ministers’ meetings, with the aim of improving their relations, aware of the importance of cooperation towards the 50th anniversary of the normalization of relations in 2015. In recent years, the people of Japan and the ROK have steadily deepened and expanded their mutual understanding and interaction, while economic relations remain very close. Despite the fact that the two countries face difficult issues, in light of the current situation in the East Asia, Japan will continue to make steady efforts toward building future-oriented and multi-layered relations with the ROK through the efforts of both countries in every field, including politics, economy, and culture from a broader perspective.

North Korea

North Korea continues its efforts to consolidate the regime centered on Kim Jong-Un, the First Chairman of the National Defense Commission. In February 2013, North Korea conducted a nuclear test, and in 2014, North Korea repeatedly conducted missile launches. North Korea’s nuclear and missile development poses a serious threat to the entire international community. Japan will continue to closely coordinate with countries concerned, including the United States, the ROK, China, and Russia, strongly urging North Korea to refrain from any further provocation, and to take concrete actions toward denuclearization and other goals in compliance with the Six-Party Talks Joint Statement and the relevant UN Security Council resolutions. With regard to Japan-North Korea relations, Japan-North Korea Government-level Consultations were held in March 2014, for the first time in one year and four months. On the occasion of the Consultations in May, North Korea promised to conduct comprehensive and full-scale investigations on all Japanese nationals, including victims of abduction, and commenced the investigations in July. The Government of Japan, under its policy of “dialogue and pressure” and in accordance with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, will continue to work in close coordination with other countries concerned toward the comprehensive resolution of the outstanding issues of concern, such as the abductions issue, as well as nuclear and missile issues.

Southeast Asian Countries

Against the backdrop of their high rates of economic growth, Southeast Asian countries have been assuming a greater importance and presence in the Asia-Oceania region. Japan has been working to strengthen relations with each of the ASEAN member states, based on a longstanding history of friendly relations. In 2014, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Singapore in May and Myanmar in November. In addition, other high-level exchanges were maintained through frequent visits to ASEAN member states by Foreign Minister Kishida and other Cabinet members. The strategic environment of the Asia-Oceania region has changed in recent years, and in order to achieve peace and prosperity in the region, Japan will continue to reinforce its dialogue and cooperation with Southeast Asian countries in the fields of politics and security. Moreover, as a growth center for the 21st century and as a region that will see the establishment of the ASEAN Community in 2015, Southeast Asia continues to attract attention as a promising investment destination and trade partner. Hoping to capture a share of the vitality of this region to revitalize the Japanese economy, the Government of Japan supports the development of the infrastructure and investment environment and backs up the expansion of Japanese companies into this area. Japan is also working to reinforce people-to-people and cultural exchanges. In 2014, Japan further promoted friendly relations with the Southeast Asia region by celebrating the milestone 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Myanmar and the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Brunei. Furthermore, youth exchanges were organized through programs such as JENESYS 2.0. The Government of Japan also implemented measures to attract visitors to Japan from Southeast Asian countries, including easing visa requirements for visitors from Indonesia, the Philippines, Viet Nam, and Myanmar.

Oceanian Countries

(1) Australia and New Zealand

Australia and New Zealand are important partners of Japan in the Asia-Oceania region sharing the same basic values. The two countries have also been working with Japan to address regional and global issues. In recent years particularly, Japan-Australia relations have been defined as a “special relationship,” reflecting its rapidly advancing. The two countries are strategic partners that work together for the peace and stability of the international community. Japan-Australia cooperative relations have steadily deepened in the areas of security and defense. As for economy, the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) entered into force in January 2015, further enhancing the mutually complementary economic relations, including trade and investment. Japan and New Zealand have maintained friendly relations for many years. On the occasion of the summit meeting in July 2014, the leaders issued a joint press release on enhancing the bilateral cooperation, confirming the further advancement of the “Strategic Cooperative Partnership” between the two countries.

(2) Pacific Island Countries and Region

Japan has deep historical ties with its neighboring countries and region in the Pacific with which it shares the Pacific Ocean. They are also important partners of Japan in the areas of international cooperation and the supply of fisheries and mineral resources. Japan has further strengthened its relations with the Pacific Island Countries and region including through the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM), the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Post-Forum Dialogue, and mutual high-level visits. In July 2014, Prime Minister Abe made the first official visit to Papua New Guinea by a Japanese Prime Minister in 29 years. In addition, Prime Minister Abe held for the first time a Japan-Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting during the UN General Assembly session in September, where the leaders affirmed their cooperation in the lead-up to the Seventh Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting to be held in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture in May 2015.

South Asia

South Asia is situated in a geopolitically important region at the intersection of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Many countries in this region continue to register high economic growth, and young people make up a significant proportion of the region’s vast population of about 1.6 billion. This has drawn attention to the economic potential of the region which is becoming increasingly important in the international arena. On the other hand, many countries in the region continue to face challenges such as poverty, democratic consolidation, and terrorism, and achieving political stability remains a key issue for these countries. In addition, these countries are vulnerable to natural disasters including earthquakes. Japan will further strengthen its economic relations with countries in the region such as India with which Japan has had traditionally friendly and cooperative relations, enhance connectivity within the region and between the region and neighboring ones, and promote the strengthening of cooperation in the international arena. Likewise, Japan will continue to support efforts to address the challenges confronting each country, such as national reconciliation and democratic consolidation.

Measures on the Comfort Women Issue

The Government of Japan has sincerely dealt with issues of reparations, property and claims pertaining to the war, including the comfort women issue, under the San Francisco Peace Treaty, and through bilateral treaties, and other international agreements. These issues have been legally settled with the parties to these treaties, agreements and instruments. From the perspective of facilitating feasible remedies for the former comfort women, the Government and people of Japan collaboratively established the Asian Women’s Fund (website of Asian Women’s Fund [Digital Museum]: http://www.awf.or.jp/), through which they provided “atonement money” and carried out various medical and welfare projects. Successive Prime ministers sent letters expressing “apologies and remorse” directly to each former comfort woman.

In 2014, various events took place regarding the comfort women issue. The ROK continues to request that Japan deal with this issue. However, the position of the Government of Japan is that this issue should not be turned into a political or diplomatic problem. The Government of Japan will continue to make its utmost effort to gain the understanding of Japan’s position, the earnest and sincere efforts it has made, and the facts.

Former Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobuo Ishihara, the head of working-level officials at the time of the drafting of the Kono Statement, testified at the House of Representatives Budget Committee hearing on February 20.7 Following the testimony, in response to a question in the Diet, the Government of Japan established a study team to understand what actually occurred and release the findings with regard to the process leading to the drafting of the Kono Statement. The study team conducted a study and released its study findings in June.8

In August, a major Japanese newspaper retracted some of its past articles, based on their judgment that testimony of taking away forcibly comfort women was a fabrication, and also admitted its confusion between comfort women and volunteer corps members.

  • 7 Testimony by former Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Ishihara: (1) no post factum corroborating investigation was conducted on the result of the hearings of former comfort women that is said to have served as the basis of the Kono Statement; (2) there is a possibility that in the drafting process of the Kono Statement, the language was compared and coordinated with the ROK side; and (3) as a result of announcing the Kono Statement, problems of the past between Japan and the ROK were once settled, but have recently been brought up again by the ROK Government, and it is extremely regrettable that the good intentions of the Government of Japan at that time are not being recognized.
  • 8 Details of Exchanges Between Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) Regarding the Comfort Women Issue: From the Drafting of the Kono Statement to the Asian Women’s Fund (Study Team on the Details Leading to the Drafting of the Kono Statement etc.) Report, http://japan.kantei.go.jp/96_abe/documents/2014/__icsFiles/afieldfile/2014/06/20/JPN_ROK_EXCHANGE.pdf

Strengthening Regional Cooperation

As described above, the strategic environment surrounding the Asia-Oceania region is changing rapidly, and it is becoming critically important for Japan to cooperate and strengthen its relations with the countries of this region. While continuing to strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance, Japan will play an active role in promoting peace and prosperity in the region by reinforcing its relations of trust and cooperation with its partners in Asia-Oceania and elsewhere. In addition to strengthening bilateral cooperation, Japan also makes proactive use of trilateral arrangements for dialogue, such as Japan-China-ROK, Japan-U.S.-ROK, Japan-U.S.-Australia, and Japan-U.S.-India arrangements, as well as larger multilateral frameworks, such as Japan-ASEAN, ASEAN+3, East Asia Summit (EAS), APEC, ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and others. With regard to the trilateral cooperation among Japan, China, and the ROK, concrete initiatives of working-level cooperation continued to make steady progress. Furthermore, at the ASEAN+3 Summit held in Myanmar in November, Prime Minister Abe expressed his hopes of holding a Japan-China-ROK foreign ministers’ meeting at an early date and linking it to the holding of a summit meeting.

Japan considers ASEAN’s further integration and central role in promoting regional cooperation as being critically important for the stability and prosperity of the entire East Asia region. In this regard, Japan places great importance on its relationship with ASEAN in the context of regional cooperation, and is helping to promote the integration of ASEAN. The Japan-ASEAN relationship, which was elevated to new heights following the Commemorative Summit in 2013, was further deepened through the Japan-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in August 2014 and the Japan-ASEAN Summit in November of that year, and other occasions, in the four areas presented in the Vision Statement on ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation: Partners for Peace and Stability (political and security); Partnership for Prosperity (economics and economic cooperation); Partners for Quality of Life (new socio-economic issues); and Heart-to-Heart Partners (people-to-people exchanges). Japan has been working cooperatively with the rapidly growing Mekong region since 2008 on issues such as narrowing gaps between early and late-developing ASEAN member states, and enhancing connectivity in the Mekong region. During the Sixth Mekong-Japan Summit in November 2014, discussion took place on the development and future direction of Japan-Mekong cooperation, and the leaders concurred that the next summit will be held in Tokyo in July 2015.

At the Ninth EAS held in November 2014, Prime Minister Abe noted that the EAS should be strengthened as a premier forum of the region. In addition, the Prime Minister proposed that the EAS in 2015, which marks its tenth year, be identified as a commemorative summit and that the secretariat function of the EAS be strengthened, in order to expand the political and security issues that the EAS deals with and to further reinforce the organization. At the Ninth EAS, discussions were held on maritime security, cooperation with low carbon growth and infrastructure investment in Asia, as well as the regional and international situation, including issues related to North Korea and the South China Sea.