Diplomatic Bluebook 2017

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 the world's growth center and has been enhancing its presence. Of the world population of 7.4 billion, approximately 3.4 billion people live in East Asia Summit (EAS) member states (excluding the U.S. and Russia)1. This represents about 46% of the world's population2. The combined nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) member states, China and India grew 330% over the last ten years, as compared with the world average of 150%. Total exports and imports of EAS member states (excluding the U.S. and Russia) is 9.6 trillion US dollars, making it the second largest market behind the European Union (10.6 trillion US dollars)3. There are close economic ties between these nations and they have a 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 in the Asia-Oceania region is becoming increasingly severe as seen in the following developments: provocation such as nuclear and missile development by North Korea; countries in the region 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 growing over maritime issues, including in the South China Sea. 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 population.

  • 1 ASEAN (member states: Indonesia, Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, Brunei, Viet Nam, Malaysia, Myanmar and Laos), Japan, China, the ROK, India, Australia and New Zealand
  • 2 The State of World Population 2016
  • 3 International Monetary Fund (IMF)
(Japan-U.S. Alliance and Asia-Oceania region)

The Japan-U.S. Alliance is the linchpin of Japanese diplomacy, and is important for the Asia-Pacific region as well. Japan is closely cooperating with the U.S. in order to play a leading role in the formation of order in the region. At the Japan-U.S. Summit Meeting in May 2016, regarding the East Asia situation, Prime Minister Abe stated that he hoped to strengthen a network of peace and prosperity with the Japan-U.S. Alliance as its linchpin and President Obama stated that strengthening cooperation with ASEAN was an urgent issue. The two leaders confirmed the importance of the rule of law at sea, and shared the view that Japan and the U.S. will solidly fulfill their roles within the international community. Furthermore, at the Japan-U.S. Foreign Ministers' Meeting in November, the two Foreign Ministers shared the recognition that there are more and more urgent challenges facing Japan and the U.S., and confirmed that they would continue to further strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance for the peace and prosperity of the region and the international community. Japan will also further strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance together with the Trump administration inaugurated in January 2017.


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 own activities in space and cyberspace are also attracting the attention of the international community. Its increased activities at sea and in the air in the East China Sea and South China Sea, and in their airspace, are causing common concern in the entire region.

Japan and China are neighbors across the East China Sea. The Japan-China relationship is one of the most important bilateral relationships characterized by close economic relations and people-to-people and cultural exchanges. In 2016, the number of Chinese travelers to Japan was about 6.37 million (Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO)), setting a record high for two consecutive years, following the previous year which was 4.99 million. 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.

Following on from the previous year, overall 2016 was a year in which a move toward improvement in Japan-China relations was seen. In April Foreign Minister Kishida paid a bilateral visit to China, which was the first time for approximately four and a half years as the Foreign Minister of Japan, where he made a courtesy call to Premier of the State Council Li Keqiang, and held a meeting with Foreign Minister Wang Yi. This move toward an improvement in relations continued into the second half of the year and on the occasion of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit (in Mongolia) in July Prime Minister Abe held his second meeting with Premier Li Keqiang. In the same month the two countries took the opportunity of the ASEAN-related Foreign Ministers' Meetings to hold the Japan-China Foreign Ministers' Meeting. In August Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Japan for the first time in order to attend the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Foreign Ministers' Meeting. Then on the occasion of the G20 Hangzhou Summit in September, Prime Minister Abe visited China and held his third summit meeting with President Xi Jinping. Prime Minister Abe and President Xi Jinping also held a meeting at the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in Peru in November, and confirmed that they would improve Japan-China relations taking the opportunity of the 45th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China in 2017 and the 40th anniversary of the Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Japan and People's Republic of China in 2018.

Meanwhile, unilateral attempts to change the status quo continue in the East China Sea. From January through the end of December 2016, Chinese Government-owned vessels intruded into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands 36 times (121 vessels in total), including those related to the incident in which many Chinese government-owned vessels pushed their way into the waters around Japan in August. The Senkaku Islands are indisputably an inherent part of the territory of Japan, in light of historical facts and based upon international law. Indeed, the Senkaku Islands are under the valid control of Japan. Consequently, there exists no issue of territorial sovereignty to be resolved concerning the Senkaku Islands. 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 of 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. Working relations between Japan and Taiwan are also deepening, and in 2016, cooperation documents regarding product safety and language education exchanges between the Interchange Association4 and the Association of East Asian Relations were signed. 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.

  • 4 The Interchange Association changed its name to the Japan–Taiwan Exchange Association on January 1, 2017.

In 2016, following from the previous year, Japan and Mongolia actively carried out high-level exchanges. From Mongolia, Minister for Foreign Affairs Purevsuren (May), Chairman of State Great Khural (Parliament) Zandaakhuu Enkhbold (June), Minister for Foreign Affairs Munkh-Orgil (September), and Prime Minister Erdenebat (October) all visited Japan, and in July Prime Minister Abe visited Mongolia for the third time during his premiership. Japan will continue to aim for true mutually-beneficial cooperation in wide-ranging areas and develop relations in order to strengthen the “Strategic Partnership.”

(Republic of Korea)

The Republic of Korea (ROK) is Japan's most important neighbor that shares strategic interests with Japan. A good Japan-ROK relationship is essential for peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. The year 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the normalization of Japan-ROK relations, and vigorous exchanges between the two countries were carried out. In 2016 the number of people traveling between Japan and the ROK reached an all-time high. Economic relations are also close. In the political sphere, forward-looking progress in Japan-ROK relations was seen, including the commencement of the projects of the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation based on the Japan-ROK agreement in 2015, and the conclusion of the agreement between the Government of Japan and the Government of the ROK on the Protection of Classified Military Information that provides for example, principles for the protection of classified military information. On the other hand, a variety of issues exist that are unacceptable to Japan, including the installation of the comfort woman statue on the sidewalk in front of the Consulate-General of Japan in Busan on December 30, 2016, the landing of the Governor of North Gyeongsang Province, Republic of Korea on Takeshima in January 2017, the incident of the theft of a Buddhist statue. Although difficult issues exist between Japan and the ROK, it is important for the two countries to communicate at a variety of levels in a wide range of areas including security and to move toward developing a new era of future-oriented Japan-ROK relations based on mutual trust.

(North Korea)

In North Korea, the power base of the regime centered on Kim Jong-Un, the Chairman of the State Affairs Commission, has been enhanced. At the Congress of the Workers' Party of Korea, which was held for the first time in 36 years, the “byungjin policy”, under which North Korea simultaneously pursues economic construction and the build-up of nuclear-armed forces, was positioned as a permanent strategic policy. The issue of abduction by North Korea is not only a critical issue concerning the sovereignty of Japan as well as the lives and safety of Japanese citizens but also a universal matter of the entire international community as a violation of fundamental human rights. Based on the basic recognition that the normalization of diplomatic relations with North Korea is impossible without resolving solution of the abduction issue, Japan has positioned its resolution as the most important foreign policy issue. Accordingly, Japan urges North Korea to ensure the safety of all abductees and their immediate return to Japan, to provide a full account of all the abduction cases, and to hand over the perpetrators. In 2016, North Korea conducted two nuclear tests and launched more than 20 ballistic missiles, and the enhancement of its nuclear and missile capacity poses a new level of threat to Japan and the entire international community. In close cooperation with the U.S., the ROK, China, Russia, and other relevant countries, Japan will continue to urge North Korea to refrain from provocative actions and to comply with relevant UN Security Council Resolutions and Joint Statements of the Six-Party Talks. Under its policy of “dialogue and pressure” and “action for action” and in accordance with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, Japan 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 based on the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration.

(Southeast Asian countries)

Against the backdrop of their high rates of economic growth, Southeast Asian countries have been increasing their importance and presence in the international community. Japan has further strengthened relations with these countries, based on friendly relations over many years. In 2016, Prime Minister Abe took the opportunity of the ASEAN-related summit meeting in September to visit Laos and held the 8th Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting. Furthermore, there were many visits by ministers too, and Foreign Minister Kishida conducted high-level exchanges including visits to Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam in May and the Philippines in August. Japan will continue to reinforce its framework for dialogue and cooperation with Southeast Asian countries in the fields of politics and security to achieve peace and prosperity in the region. Moreover, Japan will promote “quality infrastructure investment” in cooperation with each country and international institution aimed at realization of a sustainable “quality growth” and will accelerate initiatives for improving both hard and soft connectivity of the Southeast Asia region. For example, the Japan-Mekong Connectivity Initiative was launched in 2016, and Japan advanced discussions with the Mekong countries about the priority projects for implementation for improving the connectivity of the Mekong region. Japan has been also working to further reinforce people-to-people and cultural exchanges. For instance, the Government of Japan took the opportunity of the milestones of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Singapore and the 60th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations with the Philippines, attracted tourists to Japan through the conclusion of air services agreements with Cambodia and Laos, and promoted youth exchanges through programs such as JENESYS (Japan-East Asia Network of Exchange for Students and Youths) 2016.

(Oceania countries)
(1) Australia

Japan and Australia support a free and open rule-based international order and contribute together to the stability and prosperity of the international community under the “Special Strategic Partnership” sharing fundamental values and strategic interests. On the basis of the Prime Minister's mutual visits and close coordination between Foreign Ministers, Japan and Australia have been steadily deepening cooperative relations in the security and defense area including the signing of the new Japan-Australia Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (Japan-Australia ACSA). In the economic area, mutually complementary economic relations based on the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) are being further advanced, and the two countries are cooperating closely regarding the promotion of free trade including the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement, East Asia Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Furthermore, trilateral cooperation and partnerships such as Japan-U.S.-Australia and Japan-Australia-India are being steadily enhanced.

(2) New Zealand

New Zealand is a strategic cooperative partner with which Japan has been maintaining friendly relations for many years, and the cooperative relations of the two countries are being strengthened through ways such as exchanges at a variety of levels.

(3) Pacific Island Countries (PICs)

The PICs and Japan are bound by the Pacific Ocean and have deep historical ties. The PICs are important partners of Japan in areas such as cooperation in the international arena, the supply of fisheries and mineral resources. On the occasion of the UN General Assembly in September, Japan held the third Japan-Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting and in addition, the Third Ministerial Interim Meeting of the Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM) was held in January 2017 confirming the close cooperative relationship of Japan and the PICs.

(South Asia)

South Asia is situated in a geopolitically important region at the intersection of Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. The region is drawing attention for its economic potential and is becoming increasingly important in the international arena, not only because many countries in this region continue to witness high economic growth, but also because young people make up a significant proportion of the region's vast population of around 1.7 billion. 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. Furthermore, these countries are vulnerable to natural disasters including earthquakes. In addition to further strengthening its economic relations with countries in the region such as India, with which Japan has had traditionally friendly and cooperative relations, Japan will enhance intra- and inter-region connectivity 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. Japan is of the view that these issues have been legally settled with the respective parties to these treaties, agreements and instruments. However, 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” in 1995, through which they carried out various medical and welfare projects and provided “atonement money.” Successive Prime Ministers sent letters expressing “apologies and remorse” directly to each former comfort woman. The Government of Japan has made every effort as mentioned above. Furthermore, it was confirmed between the Foreign Ministers of Japan and the ROK in late December 2015 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 Announcement by Foreign Ministers of Japan and the ROK at the Joint Press Occasion on page 47).

It is highly regrettable that despite this Japan-ROK agreement, a new comfort woman statue was installed on the sidewalk facing the Consulate-General of Japan in Busan on December 30, 2016. There is no change to Japan's position that both Japan and the ROK should respectively implement this agreement in a responsible manner.

Furthermore, there is a move to install comfort woman statues in other countries as well, including the U.S., Canada, Australia, China, and Germany. Such move is highly disappointing and incompatible with the position of the Government of Japan. The Government of Japan is of the view that claims such as “forceful taking away of comfort women by the Japanese military and government authorities,” “several hundred thousands of comfort women existed,” and “sex slaves” are not recognized as historical facts. The Government of Japan will continue reaching out to various people involved in this issue to explain this position.

(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), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Japan-Mekong cooperation and others. Furthermore, the process of trilateral cooperation among Japan, China and the ROK has an important value, and Japan held the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Foreign Ministers' Meeting in August as the chair country.

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.

ASEAN-Japan relations, which have been elevated to new levels after the Commemorative Summit Meeting in 2013, has been further strengthened in a wide range of areas including enhancement of the integration of ASEAN, sustainable economic growth, improvement of people's livelihoods, and ensuring the peace and safety of the region and the international community, through the ASEAN-Japan Ministerial Meeting in July 2016 (in Vientiane, Laos) and the 19th ASEAN-Japan Summit Meeting in September 2016 (in Vientiane, Laos). Regarding the South China Sea issue, a Chairman's Statement issued in the ASEAN-Japan Summit Meeting in September emphasized the maintenance of freedom of navigation and overflight, peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), self-restraint in the conduct of activities, and the importance of non-militarization. Under these circumstances, Japan is actively working on activities contributing to the stability of the region, such as a joint drill with the Philippines Navy, and on the support for capacity building contributing to marintime security, taking advantage of Official Development Assistance (ODA) for ASEAN Member States.

At the 11th East Asia Summit (EAS) held in September, there was a review session of cooperation within EAS, discussions on its future directions as well as regional and international situations. Prime Minister Abe stated that Japan would contribute even more actively to formulating measures for countering terrorism and violent extremism in EAS participating countries. Furthermore, he stressed that the structure of the EAS should be further strengthened as the premier forum of the region, reinforcing the EAS institution. He also stated his desire to promote further discussions in the political and security areas.

At the same summit, Prime Minister Abe expressed serious concern over the South China Sea issues and stated that all parties should exercise self-restraint over and refrain from actions that may increase tension in the region and seek a peaceful resolution based on international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Furthermore, Japan clarified its position that it has always supported ASEAN centrality and unity and while Japan welcomes dialogue between China and ASEAN, the dialogue should be based on international law, on the premise that non-militarization and self-restraint will be maintained on the ground. Moreover, Prime Minister Abe stated that the Philippines-China arbitral award is legally binding on the parties to the dispute and expressed his expectation that both parties' compliance with the award will eventually lead to the peaceful settlement of the disputes.