Diplomatic Bluebook 2016

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 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 population of 7.3 billion1, approximately 3.5 billion live in East Asia Summit (EAS) member states (excluding the U.S. and Russia)2. This represents about 48% of the world’s population3. The combined nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) member states, China and India grew 430% over the last ten years4, as compared with the world average of 180%. Total exports and imports of EAS member states (excluding the U.S. and Russia) is 11 trillion US dollars, making it the second largest market behind the European Union (12 trillion US dollars). Of these exports and imports, 33.1% are intra-regional5, 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 the 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 as seen in the following developments: provocation such as nuclear and missile development; countries in the region being modernizing their military forces in a manner that lacks transparency and trying to change the status quo by force or coercion; and tension within the region is growing over maritime issues, including issues in the South China Sea. (see 1-1 (2), 2-1-2 (1), 2-1-6 and 3-1-3 (4)). Other factors hindering the stable growth of the region include immature economic and financial systems, environmental pollution, unstable demand and supply of food and resources, natural disasters and aging populations.

  • 1 State of World Population 2015 Report
  • 2 ASEAN (member states: Indonesia, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei, Viet Nam, Malaysia, Myanmar, and Laos), Japan, China, ROK, India, Australia, and New Zealand
  • 3 World Bank World Development Indicators
  • 4 World Bank World Development Indicators
  • 5 International Monetary Fund (IMF), Direction of Trade Statistics
(Japan-U.S. Alliance and Asia-Oceania region)

The Japan-U.S. Alliance is the linchpin of Japan’s diplomacy, and is important for the Asia-Oceania region as well. Japan welcomes the U.S. policy with emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region (the United States’ rebalance policy) contributing to the stability and prosperity of the region. When Prime Minister Abe officially visited the U.S. in April 2015, the two countries demonstrated their strong intention to continue to contribute to the region and the world based on their shared fundamental values. At a Japan-U.S. Summit Meeting held in November 2015, the two leaders shared the view to build a network to realize peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region, with the Japan-U.S. Alliance as the linchpin.


In recent years, while facing a variety of social and economic challenges, China has been significantly enhancing its presence in the international community in various fields against the background of its economic growth. The entire international community including Japan welcomes the development of China as a responsible, peace-oriented 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. Japan-China relationship is one of the most important bilateral relationships characterized by close economic relations and people-to-people and cultural exchanges. In 2015, the number of Chinese travelers to Japan was about 4.99 million (Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO)), setting a record high for two consecutive years, following the previous year surpassing the two million mark for the first time. 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.

A move toward the improvement of Japan-China relations was seen in 2015, and various dialogues and exchanges which had been sluggish over a long period until then were resumed. Meetings between Foreign Minister Kishida and Foreign Minister Wang Yi were held on the occasions of Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (March), ASEAN–related Foreign Ministers’ Meetings (August), and Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting (November). At the meetings, both Ministers candidly exchanged views. With regard to meetings between the leaders, Prime Minister Abe met with President Xi Jinping for the second time on the occasion of an event celebrating the 60thanniversary of the Bandung Conference in April and, at the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting, a meeting between Prime Minister Abe and Premier Li Keqiang of the State Council was realized for the first time. At this meeting, Prime Minister Abe and Premier Li Keqiang shared the recognition that Japan-China relations are heading for improvement and the trend should be further strengthened, coming up with specific results, such as confirming the resumption of mutual visits by foreign ministers and the importance of high-level exchanges including between foreign ministers. Furthermore, Prime Minister Abe held informal talks with Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping on the occasions of the ASEAN-related summit meeting and the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in November, respectively, where they conducted constructive exchanges.

Meanwhile, attempts to unilaterally change the status quo continue in the East China Sea. From January through the end of December 2015, Chinese Government-owned vessels intruded into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands 35 times (95 vessels in total). The Senkaku Islands are indisputably 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. Furthermore, with regard to the unilateral development of resources carried out in the maritime area pending delimitation, the Government of Japan will continue to strongly request China to cease its unilateral development and to implement the agreement on cooperation (“June 2008 Agreement”).

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 in 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 which has intimate people-to-people exchanges and close economic ties with Japan. In 2015, the Agreement between the Interchange Association and the Association of East Asian Relations for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with Respect to Taxes on Income was signed. Working relations have been deepening through such cooperation. In line with the 1972 Japan-China Joint Communique, the relationship between Japan and Taiwan continues to be maintained through working relations at the non-governmental level, with emphasis on promotion of working cooperation to achieve closer bilateral ties.


In 2015, following the previous year, Japan and Mongolia actively carried out high-level exchanges. In February, Prime Minister Chimed Saikhanbileg visited Japan and an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) was signed, the first such agreement for Mongolia. Moreover, Prime Minister Abe visited Mongolia to hold the 8th summit meeting with President Tsakhia Elbegdorj. Japan will continue to further strengthen the mutually beneficial and complementary cooperation in wide-ranging areas, including economic cooperation, in order to develop the “Strategic Partnership.”

(Republic of Korea)

The Republic of Korea (ROK) is Japan’s most important neighbor that shares strategic interests with Japan. Their good relationship is essential for peace and stability in the Asian-Pacific region. Japan and the ROK marked the 50th anniversary of the normalization of Japan-ROK relations in 2015, and more than 440 certified cultural and exchange projects were carried out in the two countries. In the political sphere, the first summit meeting between Prime Minister of Japan, Abe and President of the ROK, Park Geun-Hye was held in November and, in late December, the two Governments confirmed that the issue of comfort women, a long-standing issue, is resolved finally and irreversibly, thereby greatly advancing the Japan-ROK relationship forward. Furthermore, Prime Minister Abe and President Park confirmed that they would take responsibility as leaders to implement this agreement and deal with various issues based on the spirit of this agreement. (See “Announcement by Foreign Ministers of Japan and the Republic of Korea at the Joint Press Occasion” on page 38). In light of this agreement, the Government of Japan will move toward developing a new era of future-oriented Japan-ROK relations. In order to respond firmly to a spate of provocative actions by North Korea, the Government of Japan will advance security cooperation between Japan and the ROK as well as among Japan, the U.S. and the ROK.

(North Korea)

In North Korea, the regime centered on Kim Jong-Un, the First Chairman of the National Defense Commission has been basically con-solidated. North Korea conducted a nuclear test in January 2016 and launched ballistic missiles in clear violation of the UN Security Council Resolutions and the Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks. 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 U.S., the ROK, China and Russia, and to strongly urge North Korea to take concrete actions toward denuclearization and other goals in compliance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and the Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks. With regard to Japan-North Korea relations, Foreign Minister Kishida held a meeting with Foreign Minister of North Korea Ri Su-Yong on the occasion of the ASEAN-related Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Malaysia in August 2015. At the meeting, Foreign Minister Kishida conveyed Japan’s concerns, while requiring North Korea to fulfill the agreement in May 2014 and strongly urged North Korea to return all the abductees at the earliest possible date. The Government of Japan, under its policy of “dialogue and pressure” and “action for action” and in accordance with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, will continue to work in close coordination with relevant countries toward the comprehensive resolution of the outstanding issues of concern, such as the abductions, 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 region. Japan has been working to strengthen relations with these countries, based on a longstanding history of friendly relations. In 2015, Prime Minister Abe visited Singapore (March), Indonesia (April), the Philippines and Malaysia (November). In July, the 7th Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting was held in Tokyo, and the leaders from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam visited Japan to attend the meeting. Ministers also frequently came and went to conduct high-level exchanges, including Foreign Minister Kishida. Amid the strategic environment of the Asia-Oceania region that has changed in recent years, Japan will continue to reinforce its dialogue and cooperation with Southeast Asian countries in the fields of politics and security to achieve peace and prosperity in the region. Moreover, as a “growth center” for the 21stcentury and as a region that contains the ASEAN Community established in late 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 advancement of Japanese companies into this area. Japan has been also working to reinforce people-to-people and cultural exchanges. In 2015, the Government of Japan took the opportunity of the milestone 60th anniversaries of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Laos and the signing of Japan-Cambodia Friendship Treaty to promote friendship and goodwill. Furthermore, the Government of Japan promoted youth exchanges through programs such as JENESYS (Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths) 20156, and measures to attract visitors from Southeast Asian countries, including easing visa requirements for visitors from Vietnam.

  • 6 “Japan’s Friendship Ties Programs” promotes a people-to-people exchange between Japan and the Asia-Pacific, North America, Europe, Latin America and Caribbean. The Asia-Pacific regional component of this exchange program is called “JENESYS2015.” Through this exchange program, we seek to promote mutual trust and understanding among the people of Japan and the Asia-Pacific region, and to build a basis for future friendship and cooperation. Furthermore, we also seek to promote a global understanding of Japan’s society, history, diverse culture, politics, economics and diplomatic relations.
(Oceania countries)
① Australia and New Zealand

Japan and Australia, sharing fundamental values and strategic interests and working together on issues in the Asia-Pacific region and on global issues, have built a “special relationship” and are important partners that contribute together to the peace and stability of the international community. In recent years, Japan-Australia cooperative relations have been steadily deepening especially in the security and defense area on the basis of the Prime Ministers’ mutual visits and the Foreign Ministers’ close cooperation. In the economic area, the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) entered into force in January 2015, leading to further enhancement of the mutually complementary economic relations, including trade and investment.

New Zealand is also a strategic cooperative partner with which Japan has been maintaining friendly relations for many years. On the occasion of Prime Minister Key’s visit to Japan in March 2015, the two leaders re-confirmed cooperation in regional and global issues in addition to strengthening bilateral cooperation in the fields such as economy, security and defense and people-to-people exchange.

② Pacific Island Countries (PICs)

PICs, which are neighbors that shares the Pacific Ocean, have deep historical ties with Japan. They are also important partners of Japan in the areas of international cooperation and the supply of fisheries and mineral resources. Japan has been further strengthening its relationship with PICs by hosting the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM) and attending the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) Post Forum Dialogue as well as through mutual high-level visits. In May 2015, the 7th PALM was held in Iwaki City, Fukushima and the Japan-Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting was held for the second time on the occasion of the UN General Assembly held in September.

(South Asia)

South Asia is situated in a geopolitically important region at the intersection of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. Not only because many countries in this region continue to register high economic growth, but also because young people make up a significant proportion of the region’s vast population of about 1.7 billion, the region is drawing atten-tion for its economic potential, and 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 international agreements including bilateral treaties. 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/) in 1995, 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 of former comfort women. The Government of Japan has made every effort as mentioned above. It was confirmed in late December that the comfort women issue between Japan and the ROK is resolved finally and irreversibly. The two leaders also confirmed that they would take responsibility as leaders to implement this agreement, and that they would deal with various issues based on the spirit of this agreement. (See the “Joint press release” by the foreign ministers of both Japan and the ROK on page 38).

(Strengthening Regional Cooperation)

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, Japan-U.S.-India, and Japan-Australia-India arrangements, as well as larger multilateral frameworks, such as Japan-ASEAN, ASEAN+3, East Asia Summit (EAS), APEC, ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Japan-Mekong and others. With regard to the trilateral cooperation among Japan, China and the ROK, the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting was held in 2015 for the first time in approximately three and a half years, with major results as follows; The three leaders shared the view that trilateral cooperation had been completely restored; they reaffirmed that the Trilateral Summit should be held on a regular basis; and they decided that Japan would take chairmanship in 2016.

ASEAN exerts its centrality in regional cooperation in East Asia, so achieving a more stable and prosperous ASEAN as the motive force is absolutely essential to the stability and prosperity of the region as a whole. Based on this recognition, Japan has announced that it will actively support efforts to achieve even further integration after establishment of the ASEAN Community. The Japan-ASEAN relationship was further strengthened in a wide-range of areas, such as not only security and economy but also disaster management and people-to-people exchange, through the Japan-ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in August 2015 and the 18th Japan-ASEAN Summit Meeting in November of the same year.

Cooperation between ASEAN and Japan is making steady progress under the Vision Statement on ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation and Japan has steadily implemented its commitments. Japan and ASEAN shared concerns over the current situation which may undermine peace, safety and stability in the South China Sea. Under these circumstances, Japan is actively working on activities contributing to the stability of the region, such as capacity building assistance that leads to maritime security, taking advantage of Official Development Assistance (ODA) for ASEAN Member States and joint training with the Philippines Navy.

At the 10th East Asia Summit (EAS) held in November, Prime Minister Abe reiterated that Japan puts its emphasis on expanding the scope of the EAS in the political and security areas and reinforcing the EAS institution. Almost all the leaders expressed their support for reinforced institution of the EAS as well as expanding its scope on political and security areas. The leaders adopted the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the 10th Anniversary of the EAS.

At the same summit, Prime Minister Abe called for thorough strict abidance with the “Three Principles of the Rule of Law at Sea,” based on a view that freedom of navigation and overflight at sea must be defended as a fundamental right. In addition, he stated that coastal states are required under international law, whether for military use or civilian use, to refrain from unilateral actions that would cause permanent physical change to marine environment in maritime areas pending final delimitation.