Diplomatic Bluebook 2016

Chapter 2

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

6.Regional and Inter-Regional Cooperation

The Asia-Pacific region is one of the world’s growth centers. The realization of a peaceful and prosperous region is one of the priority issues in Japan’s diplomacy. From this perspective, Japan places a high priority on working with its neighbors to create a peaceful and stable regional community underpinned by rules that comply with international law and a free, open and close-knit regional economy, making use of various regional cooperative frameworks, including Japan–ASEAN, Japan-Mekong cooperation, EAS, ASEAN+3, and APEC, while maintaining the Japan–U.S. Alliance as the linchpin of its foreign policy.

(1) The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

At the ASEAN-related Summit Meeting held in November 2015 (in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), it was declared that the ASEAN Community constituted of three communities of “political security,” “economic” and “socio- cultural” (Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Establishment of ASEAN Community) would be established at the end of 2015, and the “ASEAN2025: Forging Ahead Together” which shows the direction of the ASEAN Community for ten years from 2016 to 2025 was adopted. ASEAN has been working toward even further integration since the ASEAN Community was established.

ASEAN also plays an important role as a center of regional cooperation in East Asia. In addition, multi-layered East Asian regional cooperation centered on ASEAN is functioning through such frameworks as ASEAN+3, EAS, ARF and strengthened cooperative relationship in a wide range of areas including politics, security and economy. On the economic front, the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), as well as other Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with various countries including Japan, China, the ROK, and India were concluded, creating a network of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) centered around ASEAN. With regard to Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the negotiations started in 2013, and entered into a substantive phase in three major fields of trade in goods, investment and trade in services in 2015. Participating countries look forward to the conclusion of the negotiations in 2016 (see 3-3-1).

Although its GDP is approximately 3.2% of the global total, it has achieved high economic growth rates over the last decade, and ASEAN attracts attention as a growth center of the world.

Since ASEAN is situated in a geopolitically important location and constitutes important sea lanes, and its stability and prosperity relates to those of not only the East Asian region but also the international community, it is important for the entire international community that ASEAN is integrated in accordance with values such as the rule of law and democracy.

Concerning issues over the South China Sea, the tension has been tremendously heightened in the region caused by rapid and large-scale land reclamations, building of outposts and their use for military purposes in the sea.

In response to this, at the ASEAN-related summit held in November, the importance of freedom of navigation was reaffirmed, and a number of countries expressed opposition against land reclamations, building of outposts and their militarization in the South China Sea, and emphasized the importance of peaceful settlement of disputes based on international law.

The Philippines has been proceeding with arbitration concerning the dispute over the waters with China based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and, in October, the Arbitral Tribunal admitted jurisdiction over a part of the issues submitted by the Philippines. In November, oral proceedings on merits took place. In spite of such progress, unilateral actions that change the status quo and increase tensions in the South China Sea have not been stopped, and the situation remains unpredictable (see 1-1 (2), 2-1-2 ( 1) and 3-1-3 (4) ).

(2) Japan-ASEAN Relations

ASEAN exerts its centrality in regional cooperation in the Asia-pacific region. So achieving a more stable and prosperous ASEAN as the motive force is 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 by “ASEAN2025” to achieve even further integration after establishment of the ASEAN Community at the end of 2015, while steadily implementing the Vision Statement on ASEAN–Japan Friendship and Cooperation and the Joint Statement that were both adopted at the 2013 ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit Meeting.

Having reached new heights following the 2013 Commemorative Summit Meeting, Japan–ASEAN relations were further enhanced in the areas of security and economy and other broad areas such as disaster management and human exchanges, through such meetings as the Japan–ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) in August 2015, as well as the 18th Japan–ASEAN Summit Meeting (in Kuala Lumpur) in November that year.

In security area, Japan’s efforts under the Proactive Contribution to Peace based on the principle of international cooperation was welcomed by many ASEAN Member States, and Japan and ASEAN shared “serious 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 for maritime security, with the utilization of Official Development Assistance (ODA) for ASEAN Member States as well as joint exercises with the Philippines Navy.

In economic area, through ODA and JAIF, Japan will continue to support deepening the ASEAN integration after establishment of the ASEAN Community, including support for enhancing ASEAN Connectivity and narrowing gaps within the region. The ASEAN side welcomed the “Partnership for Quality Infrastructure.”. At the Japan-ASEAN Summit Meeting held (in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) in November, Prime Minister Abe announced an “Industrial Human Resource Development Cooperation Initiative” and the establishment of a “Japan-ASEAN Women Empowerment Fund” as new ASEAN support measures. In addition, regarding Japan-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEP), negotiations on trade in services have already been concluded and negotiations on investment are proceeding toward an early conclusion.

In other areas, Japan has been promoting the “Japan-ASEAN health initiative,” to support human resources development with the aim to promote health, prevent illness, and improve the standard of medical care, and “Japan-ASEAN Disaster Management Cooperation such as through the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA CENTRE). Furthermore, Japan promotes a variety of people to people exchange programs in ASEAN, via such initiatives as “JENESYS 2.0”1, “the WA Project”, and “Sport for Tomorrow.”

The Mekong region (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam), situated in a strategic location for land and sea transport, has been achieving strong economic growth, becoming a partner of growth blessed with a prospective future. Peace, stability and prosperity in the region are extremely important for Japan. Economic development in this region contributes to the redress of development gap and the promotion of regional integration within ASEAN, making it important for the stability and prosperity of the entire region. Although the Mekong region has been experiencing a significant growth through the recent progress of the infrastructure development and economic activities, challenges such as development gap within the region still remains.

Japan-Mekong summit meeting (July 4, State Guest House, Tokyo; Photo: Cabinet Public Relations Office)Japan-Mekong summit meeting (July 4, State Guest House, Tokyo; Photo: Cabinet Public Relations Office)
Japan-Mekong summit meeting (July 4, State Guest House, Tokyo; Photo: Cabinet Public Relations Office)Japan-Mekong summit meeting (July 4, State Guest House, Tokyo; Photo: Cabinet Public Relations Office)

In July, Japan invited the leaders of five countries in the Mekong region, and hosted the 7th Mekong-Japan Summit (Japan-Mekong Summit Meeting) in Tokyo. At the meeting, the “New Tokyo strategy 2015” was adopted as a policy for Japan-Mekong cooperation for the next three years, from the viewpoint that it is important to make efforts with the aim to realize “quality growth” with inclusiveness, sustainability and resiliency. Furthermore, at the meeting, Japan announced the implementation of ODA support totaling 750 billion yen for the Mekong region in the next three years. Mekong region countries highly evaluated Japan’s efforts as contributing to enhancement of connectivity within and outside the region, “quality growth” in the region and promotion of Japan-Mekong economic relations. In August, the 8th Japan-Mekong foreign ministers’ meeting was held in Malaysia, and the “Mekong-Japan Action Plan to realize the New Tokyo Strategy 2015” was issued.

  • 1 Youth exchange programs with Asia Pacific countries and regions announced by Prime Minister Abe in 2013, involving a total of approximately 30,000 people.

(3) East Asia Summit (EAS) (participating countries: ten ASEAN countries and Japan, China, ROK, Australia, New Zealand, India, U. S. and Russia)

Launched in 2005, the EAS is an important regional forum, with its objectives to facilitate candid dialogue among leaders on issues of importance to the region and the international community, and to take advantage of leadership of the participating heads of governments to advance specific cooperative initiatives targeting issues of common concern in the region. Many democratic nations take part in the EAS, and it is expected that it will contribute to sharing fundamental values in the region, including democracy and the rule of law as well as to strengthening international rules concerning trade and investment.

At the EAS Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held in August in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Foreign Ministers discussed the future direction of the EAS, as well as regional and international situations, including the South China Sea and North Korea. Foreign Minister Kishida stated Japan’s stance on the South China Sea and North Korea. Moreover, he explained Japan’s initiatives and ideas in regard to strengthening the EAS, infrastructure investment and disaster risk reduction. In addition, he stated that Japan had held the “High Level Seminar on Peacebuilding, National Reconciliation and Democratization in Asia” in Tokyo in June, and expressed his appreciation to countries concerned for their contribution to the seminar. With regard to the South China Sea issue, he stated that the “Three Principles of the Rule of Law at Sea” advocated by Prime Minister Abe at the Shangri-La Dialogue, should be thoroughly abided by, and expressed serious concerns over continued unilateral actions that change the status quo and increase tensions in the South China Sea. With regard to North Korea, Foreign Minister Kishida stated that Japan’s policy of aiming for a comprehensive resolution of outstanding issues of concern such as abductions, nuclear and missile issues remains unchanged.

At the 10th EAS held in November, (in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) the Leaders discussed EAS’ initiatives, as well as regional and international situations. Prime Minister Abe stressed that the structure of the EAS should be further strengthened as the premier forum of the region, on the occasion of its 10th anniversary since its founding. He 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 of the Leaders expressed their support for reinforced institution of the EAS as well as expanding its scope on political and security areas, and the Leaders adopted the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the 10th Anniversary of the EAS.

In view of the increasingly severe security environment in the region, Prime Minister Abe expressed his determination that Japan will make further contributions to the peace, stability and prosperity of the region and the international community in accordance with the policy of “Proactive Contribution to Peace” based on the principle of international cooperation, walking hand in hand with countries which share fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. He also stated that “Legislation for Peace and Security” concretely puts such efforts into practice.

Regarding the South China Sea issue, he expressed serious concerns over ongoing unilateral actions in the South China Sea, including large-scale and rapid land reclamation, building of outposts and their use for military purposes. He also urged other leaders to share the common view that such remarks as not intending to pursue militarization of outposts built in the South China Sea must be followed by concrete actions. Furthermore, Prime Minister Abe called for strictly abiding by the “Three Principles of the Rule of Law at Sea,” based on a view that freedom of navigation and overflight at sea must be upheld 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 the marine environment in maritime areas pending final delimitation. (see 1-1 (2), 2-1-2 (1) and 3-1-3 (4)).

While reiterating the importance of dialogue, he also underscored his support for the utilization of arbitral proceedings by the Philippines as a means to settle maritime disputes in a peaceful manner. He showed his strong expectation for full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), and early conclusions of an effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC). (see 3-1-3 (4) and 3-1-6).

On North Korea, Prime Minister Abe stated that Japan is consistent in its policy of pursuing a comprehensive resolution of outstanding issues of concern including the abductions, nuclear and missile issues, and he called on countries for their continued understanding and cooperation toward the early resolution of the abductions issue.

(4) ASEAN +3

The Asian financial crisis was the direct catalyst for the launch of ASEAN+3, with the first ASEAN+3 Summit taking place in 1997. It currently covers cooperation in 24 fields, including finance, agriculture and food, education, culture, tourism, public health, energy, and the environment. ASEAN+3 member states are deepening the various cooperations based on the “ASEAN+3 Cooperation Work Plan (2013-17).”

With regard to financial cooperation, the National Diet of Japan completed procedures for the approval of the Agreement Establishing ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) in May, and that Japan concluded this Agreement in June. In food security, through the framework of the “ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve” (APTERR) Agreement, Japan provided rice to countries such as the Philippines and Cambodia in 2015.

At the 16th ASEAN+3 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) in August, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Kiuchi explained Japan’s contribution to ASEAN+3 cooperation. In addition, he explained Japan’s position on Japan-China-ROK Trilateral cooperation, and issues concerning North Korea and the South China Sea with regard to North Korea, he seeks for each country’s cooperation on nuclear and missile issues and the abduction issue

At the 18th ASEAN+3 Summit Meeting held in November 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Prime Minister Abe expressed his expectation that the normalization of Japan-China-ROK Trilateral cooperation process will enhance further progress for the ASEAN +3 cooperation. He also pointed out the need for an early entry into force of the Agreement establishing ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) and the importance of enhancing the function of the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization (CMIM). In addition, he stated that Japan would closely cooperate with the relevant countries for an early conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). The Prime Minister Abe also called for the further expansion of public-private partnerships to establish food value chains and for the easing and lifting of import restrictions that they had placed on Japanese food products. He also highlighted the importance of promoting student exchanges and tourism cooperation. Aside from the above, Prime Minister Abe mentioned that it is important for North Korea to refrain from provocations and to comply inter alia with UN Security Council resolutions. He called on ASEAN Plus Three member states for their continued understanding and cooperation toward an early resolution of the abductions issue. With regard to maritime security, Prime Minister Abe expressed serious concerns over ongoing unilateral actions in the South China Sea, including large-scale and rapid land reclamation, building of outposts and their use for military purposes, which change the status quo and increase tensions.

The “Final Report on East Asia Vision Group (EAVG) II Follow-up” was adopted at the summit meeting, and that government authorities will follow up on recommendations described in the EAVG II report.

(5) Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Cooperation

Trilateral cooperation among Japan, China and the ROK continues to play an important role in promoting exchange and mutual understanding among the three countries that enjoy geographical proximity and share historical ties. Furthermore, as economies that play a major role in the world economy and serve as the motive force driving the prosperity of the East Asian region, trilateral cooperation among Japan, China and the ROK continues to be vital in efforts to tackle various issues in the international community.

In March, the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held (in Seoul, ROK) for the first time in about three years, and Foreign Minister Kishida attended the meeting. The three Ministers discussed cooperation in such a wide range of areas as disaster management, environment, youth exchange, counter-terrorism, the Middle East and Africa, and shared the view that they would further promote such trilateral cooperation. With regard to the regional and global situations, the three Ministers exchanged their views frankly on regional issues such as the situation in Northeast Asia and the cooperation in East Asia and they reaffirmed their staunch opposition to the development of nuclear weapons by North Korea among others. The three Ministers decided to hold a Trilateral Summit at the earliest convenient time.

In light of this, the Sixth Japan-China- ROK Trilateral Summit was held in November (in Seoul, ROK), and Prime Minister Abe attended. At the Summit Meeting, the Leaders of Japan, China and the ROK got together for the first time in about three and a half years, and frankly exchanged views on cooperation in a wide range of fields and pressing issues in the regional and international communities. The “Joint Declaration for Peace and Cooperation in Northeast Asia” was adopted with significant results: 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.

Prime Minister Abe expressed his intention to play a role of the chairman to enhance further positive cooperation, and stated he looked forward to welcoming in Japan PARK Geun-hye, President of the Republic of Korea and LI Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China.

(6) Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

Consisting of 21 countries and regions (economies), including those in the Asia- Oceania region, APEC promotes regional economic integration and intra-regional cooperation among the member economies on a voluntary basis. The Asia-Pacific region is positioned as the world’s growth center, so strengthening cooperation and relationships of trust in the economic realm in this region is absolutely crucial if Japan is to achieve further development.

At the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting held in the Philippines in 2015, the participating leaders had lively discussions on the themes of “Inclusive Growth through Regional Economic Integration” and “Inclusive Growth through Sustainable and Resilient Communities,” under the overall theme of “Building an Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World.” Prime Minister Abe stressed the importance of strengthening the “rule of law in the economic field,” and explained efforts of realizing a “Society with the Dynamic Engagement of All Citizens” and measures supporting women’s empowerment. (see 3-3-3 (4)).

(7) Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM)

The ASEM was established in 1996 as the only forum to intensify dialogue and cooperation between Asia and Europe. The ASEM currently consists of 51 countries and two institutions as members, and has been working through summit meetings and various ministerial meetings in the fields of politics, economy and culture/society/others defined as three pillars.

In November, the 12th ASEM Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held in Luxembourg. They had discussions on climate change, development, disaster risk reduction and management, connectivity, the future of the ASEM and the regional and international situations. Foreign Minister Kishida attended the meeting, and stated Japan’s idea concerning a way for a response to climate change right before the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) was to be convened. He also talked about necessary cooperation toward sustainable development in the international community and about cooperation in the field of disaster risk reduction and management in the ASEM such as knowledge-sharing. Furthermore, he explained Japan’s cooperation concerning international and regional issues, such as terrorism and violent extremism including ISIL, and refugees and migration issues, as well as Japan’s ideas and position concerning the situation in the South and East China Seas and the issue of abduction by North Korea. The Chair’s Statement issued at this Foreign Ministers’ Meeting referred to maritime security with the situation of the South China Sea in mind, and explicitly mentioned the abduction issue following the 10th ASEM Summit Meeting in 2014.

In April, the 5th ASEM Education Ministers’ Meeting and the 3rd ASEM Transport Ministers’ Meeting took place in Riga (Latvia). They discussed the promotion of cooperation in education between Asia and Europe, and the development of connectivity through multi-modal transportation between Asia and Europe, respectively. In December, the 5th ASEM Labor and Employment Ministers’ Meeting was held in Sofia (Bulgaria), and the participating ministers exchanged views, under the theme of “Towards Sustainable Social Development in Asia and Europe: a Joint Vision for Decent Work and Social Protection.”

Japan hosted an ASEM Symposium on Promoting Tourism in Tokyo in September with participation of Ministerial level of ASEM members. They exchanged views on the current situation, best practices, and problems/challenges of tourism exchanges between Asia and Europe, and a Chair’s Summary was issued.

  • 2 A transportation system in which an efficient and good transportation system is provided in accordance with the needs of users through cooperation of multiple transportation means.

(8) South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC (15))

The significance and importance of the SAARC is re-examined from the viewpoint of regional connectivity. Japan attends the SAARC as an observer, and is making efforts for strengthening ties with the SAARC in a variety of fields such as democratization and peace-building, infrastructure, energy and disaster risk reduction. In the energy field in particular, the 8th Japan-SAARC Energy Symposium was organized (in Islamabad, Pakistan). They put together a proposal entitled, “The medium-term vision for regional energy connectivity in the SAARC” in March. Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Nakane attended and expressed Japan’s position to continue to contribute to strengthening energy connectivity in the SAARC region through individual projects. Japan invited about 2,500 people from 2007 to 2015 (about 220 people in 2015), as part of youth exchange between Japan and the SAARC.