Diplomatic Bluebook 2017

Chapter 2

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

2.European Regional Organizations and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM)

(1) Cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

NATO is a military alliance aimed at collective defense of its 28 member countries, and works on crisis management, the prevention of conflict and stabilization after a conflict outside its area that can become direct security threats to the territory and people of the member countries including assistance to Afghanistan, counterterrorism, anti-piracy measures off the coast of Somalia. In the NATO Wales Summit (2014), it was declared to increase the defense spending of each member state to 2% of its GDP within ten years (five countries had attained 2% or more of GDP as of 2016: the U.S., the UK, Estonia, Greece, and Poland). Furthermore, at the NATO Warsaw Summit in July 2016 a joint declaration on the NATO-EU strategic partnership was signed. At the meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers in December, in order to put the declaration into practice, NATO and the EU agreed to strengthen cooperation regarding more than 40 measures in seven areas, including maritime security and cyber security.

Japan and NATO are partners sharing basic values. In accordance with the Individual Partnership and Cooperation Program (IPCP) that was signed upon Prime Minister Abe's visit to NATO Headquarters1 in May 2014, concrete cooperation between Japan and NATO has been promoted. In February 2016 the Japan-NATO High-Level Consultations was held in Brussels and both sides exchanged their views on security policies. To date, Japan has participated in the NATO Crisis Management Exercise (CMX), Humanitarian Assistance/Disaster Relief (HA/DR), and cyberspace related exercises as an observer. Furthermore, Japan has dispatched female Self-Defense Force personnel to NATO headquarters in order to encourage cooperation in the areas of women, peace, and security.

In addition to the financial contributions for development, Japan also cooperates with NATO for stabilization of Afghanistan. Specifically, Japan supports activities of healthcare and education programs for the Afghanistan National Army (ANA) through contribution to the NATO ANA Trust Fund. In addition, Japan contributes to the NATO Partnership for Peace (PfP) Trust Fund that supports programs such as the clearance of unexploded bombs and landmines and explosive ordnance disposal training in Georgia.

Major Frameworks of Europe

  • 1 In January 2007, Prime Minister Abe visited NATO headquarters for the first time as a Japanese prime minister; this time was the second visit by a Japanese prime minister.

150th Anniversary of Japan-Belgium Friendship

The Kingdom of Belgium is a state that has existed continuously since it was established in 1830. It started when it became independent of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, a country with territory covering approximately the present area of Belgium and the Netherlands.

After the Meiji Restoration Japan embarked on encouragement of new industry, and learned many things from Belgium, which quickly experienced the Industrial Revolution that resulted in its advanced iron-making and machinery industries. An example of this was the establishment of the Bank of Japan. The Bank was established after Japan learned a lot from the National Bank of Belgium, which was considered as the model of modern banks in every aspect, from its legal system to its internal structure of the buildings.

Looking back at history, Belgium is the region in which Flemish painting flourished, and currently it is a country that is attracting attention in the various areas such as politics, economics and academia as the “capital of Europe.” Belgium and Japan celebrated the 150th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations in 2016.

In Belgium, the Celebration Committee was organized centered on the Embassy of Japan in Belgium, and the 150th anniversary was celebrated. On January 19, 2016, a gorgeous Opening Ceremony was held in the Egmont Palace, the state guest house of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Following this, a countless number of diverse Japan-related events were held throughout Belgium every week, including lectures and symposiums on cuisine, hina dolls, anime, the history between the two countries, etc., concerts featuring taiko drumming, shakuhachi flute, saxophone, violin, etc., demonstrations of ikebana flower arrangement, the tea ceremony, martial arts, kimono, etc., public performances of gagaku classical music, rakugo storytelling, noh theater, etc., ukiyoe woodblock prints, paintings, and photography exhibitions, etc. Furthermore, Japan participated as the invited country in large-scale events that are well-known in Belgium, such as the Salon des Vacances or Holiday Fair, the Ghent Floralies (a flower show), the Ommegang (an historical festival), the Brussels Flower Carpet (see the photo), Film Fest Gent (international film festival of Ghent), Winter Wonders (a Christmas market). On December 13, the Closing Reception was held at the historical social club Cercle Royal Gaulois, closing the events celebrating the 150th anniversary.

Many events were held in Japan too, centered on the Embassy of Belgium in Japan. The highlight of these was the visit to Japan by His Majesty King Philippe, King of the Belgians, and Her Majesty Queen Mathilde, Queen of the Belgians. From October 11 to October 14, Their Majesties the King and Queen stayed in Japan as State Guests, paid a State Call to Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan, attended a State Banquet at the Imperial Palace, and visited Yuki City guided by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress. Their Majesties the King and Queen also attended a dinner hosted by Prime Minister Abe and his wife, among others. In addition to Tokyo, they travelled to Nagoya City and Osaka City, and attended events commemorating the 150th anniversary. The events in a wide range of fields such as a meeting with business people, fashion event in Belgium, a seminar of women and a meeting with academics, showed the richness of the Japan-Belgium relations.

The visit to Japan by Their Majesties King Philippe and Queen Mathilde opend a new page in the history of exchanges between the Imperial Family of Japan and the Royal Family of Belgium, that have cultivated a close and friendly relationship, and created an opportunity for further development of the friendly relations between the two countries, making an important step toward the 200th and 300th anniversary.

Brussels Flower CarpetBrussels Flower Carpet
©Peter Testelmans, Muse HeArt Photography
Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan receiving Their Majesties King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians (October 11, Photo: Imperial Household Agency)Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan receiving Their Majesties King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of the Belgians (October 11, Photo: Imperial Household Agency)

150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Italy

● Overview of the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Italy ●

1 The journey of 150 years shared by Japan and Italy

In 2016, Japan and Italy celebrated the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between the two countries. The first exchanges between Japanese people and Italian people go back to the second half of the 16th century, but relations between the two countries were created on August 25, 1866 by concluding the Treaty of Amity and Commerce. Since then, both Japan and Italy have achieved development as modern united nations, and the friendly cooperative relations between the two countries have steadily developed across a wide range of areas.

Japan and Italy have many points in common, including a world-class culture and profound aesthetic sense, underpinned by a long history and traditions, which have played a major role in promoting mutual understanding. It is no coincidence that the first large-scale exhibition of Japanese art in Europe was held in Rome in 1930. Furthermore, “Japan in Italy 1995-1996,” a large-scale event to introduce Japan which was held for the first time in Italy in the middle of the 1990s, led to the subsequent “Italy in Japan 2001” and the events for the 150th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Japan and Italy.

2 VIP Visits

In this milestone year, partly because of the fact that Japan was the G7 chair country, the number of visits between the two countries increased. In particular, Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino paid an official visit to several cities such as Rome, Milan, Bologna, and Florence, from May 10 to May 16. In Rome, Their Imperial Highnesses celebrated the 150th anniversary of the diplomatic relations together with President Sergio Mattarella. Furthermore, the Japan-Italy relations have become even closer by VIP visits including the visits to Italy by Prime Minister Abe, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Aso, and Foreign Minister Kishida as well as the visits to Japan by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Paolo Gentiloni.

3 Events for the 150th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Japan and Italy

Events for the 150th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Japan and Italy were jointly promoted by the public and private sectors, and hundreds of events were run in a wide range of areas, such as holding of symposiums on politics, economics, tourism, education, and academic relations, throughout Japan and Italy, and Japan-Italy joint meetings. Large-scale exhibitions on such themes as Buddhist statues, paintings, and photographs. were held, and in May a lighting ceremony to light up the Colosseum in brilliant colors was held in the presence of Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino. Furthermore, a variety of events were held, from the traditional performing arts of Japan including noh theater and bunraku puppet shows, to gagaku classical music and traditional Japanese musical instrument concerts, modern dance, a concert given by a combined Japan-Italy orchestra conducted by Mr. Riccardo Muti, and tournaments featuring kendo sword fighting and other martial arts. Many sister city exchanges and grassroots events were also carried out, and Japanese androids were widely covered in the media in Italy.

Relations between one country and another boil down to relations between a person and another. It is strongly expected that based on the 150th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Italy, which bonded together the hearts of many people, mutual understanding between the two countries, and between the citizens of the two countries will be further encouraged, and that new prospects for the bilateral relations will be opened up.

● Events to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between Japan and Italy ●

Light-up of the Colosseum in Rome 〈Love to Humanity, Love to Earth〉

Lighting designer Motoko Ishii (representative of Motoko Ishii Lighting Design Inc.)

The Colosseum, approximately two thousand years old, one of the largest ruins in Italy, and a landmark of Rome, was bathed in light. A vivid red light flickered while coloring the inside of the rows of arches. In the next instant, it was covered by blinding pure white light. This was the start of the prologue of the event.

After the Colosseum was colored red, white, and green like Italy's flag, a pure red circle was drawn on the white part in the middle. This was the moment when Japan's flag is superimposed on Italy's flag.

To the rhythm of the stately gagaku, a straight line was drawn with thick, white brushstrokes out of the darkness, and following this the pine trees of Rome and then the forests of Japan appeared. Symbolizing the love to humanity, living creatures such as birds, fish, flowers and butterflies were drawn, and in the final climax, to appeal the love for the Earth, words meaning “love” in the languages of the world, beginning with AMORE in Italian and then AI in Japanese, cover Earth one after another.

The event of the Light-up of the Colosseum started on May 11, 2016 with an honored beginning with Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino pushing the switch to turn on the lights to start the show. Just at that time the weather was occasional showers, which is unusual for Rome, but the rain stopped immediately before the lights were turned on and the subsequent three days of events were blessed with fine weather.

Looking back, there were many hurdles that had to be overcome to realize the event. First of all, although there have been friendly relations between the two countries over the many years until now, there was the question of whether we could use the Colosseum, Italy's largest cultural ruin, among others.

I strongly feel that these hurdles could only be overcome thanks to the support from Mr. Umberto Vattani, the President of Fondazione Italia Giappone, and Mr. Hiroyasu Ando, President of the Japan Foundation, who promoted this event with enthusiasm throughout.

Furthermore, I would like to take this opportunity to cordially thank everyone who helped, including the staff at the Embassy of Japan in Italy.

Light has a strong impact. Beautiful light has the ability to reach the hearts of all people. If I could have opportunities, I would love to continue putting on lighting events in city spaces that can be seen by tens of thousands of people in one night and can serve as anniversary events capable of building ties between Japan and other countries.

Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino turning on the lights at the Colosseum (May 11, Rome, Italy; Photo: Motoko Ishii Lighting Design Inc.)Their Imperial Highnesses Prince and Princess Akishino turning on the lights at the Colosseum (May 11, Rome, Italy; Photo: Motoko Ishii Lighting Design Inc.)
Lighting event, the light-up of the Colosseum (May 11, Rome, Italy; Photo: Motoko Ishii Lighting Design Inc.)Lighting event, the light-up of the Colosseum (May 11, Rome, Italy; Photo: Motoko Ishii Lighting Design Inc.)

(2) Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) (see 2-1 for the details)

ASEM - a gathering of Asian and European countries that account for approximately 60% of world's GDP, population, and trade - is a valuable forum for strengthening relations between Asia and Europe, and enabling Japan to promote its contributions to the world through its policies of Abenomics and proactive contribution to peace.

In July 2016, a summit meeting was held in Ulaanbaatar and the leaders decided to designate March 1, the date on which the first ASEM meeting was held in Bangkok, as “ASEM Day” in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the inauguration of ASEM. Activities are being carried out for young people of Japan to think about the future of Europe and Asia and promote mutual understanding and people-to-people exchange.

(3) Cooperation with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

OSCE, which has 57 member countries from Europe, Central Asia, and North America, is a regional security organization that aims to prevent conflicts and build confidence in the region through a comprehensive approach. Japan has been involved in OSCE activities as an “Asian Partner for Co-operation” since 1992 and supports terrorism prevention by strengthening border management through contribution to Border Management Staff College2, election management, and projects that support the advancement of women into society, etc.

OSCE is playing an important role in improving the Ukraine situation. Japan understands the Ukraine issue to be a matter of principle to maintain a rules-based international order and is providing financial support to the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) and has been dispatching an expert to the SMM from August 2015. State Minister for Foreign Affairs Kishi attended the OSCE Ministerial Council held in Hamburg (Germany) in December and stated that the security environments of Europe and Asia are indivisible. In addition, he referred to the current situation regarding the terrorism and refugee issues, and the situations in the Ukraine and East Asia (North Korea, the East China Sea and the South China Sea) and responses to them, and appealed the importance of fully observing the rule of law and united responses by the international community.

(4) Cooperation with the Council of Europe (CoE)

The CoE is a regional organization of 47 member countries in Europe and fulfills an important role in establishing international standards in the fields of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. As the only observer from Asia, Japan has been making active contributions to various activities of the CoE since its accession in 1996. Japan dispatched an expert to the 5th World Forum for Democracy held in November (in Strasbourg, France). Japan also dispatched experts and provided financial support to “the Octopus Conference 2016” which aims at promoting international cooperation to respond to cybercrime held in the same month (in Strasbourg). Furthermore, 2016 was the 20th anniversary of Japan being given observer status. In commemoration of this anniversary, Japan held a photo exhibition in the CoE venue of the Buddhist statues and masks stored in Todaiji Temple, Nara Prefecture.