Diplomatic Bluebook 2018

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 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 7.6 billion, approximately 3.6 billion people live in East Asia Summit (EAS) member states (excluding the U.S. and Russia)1. This represents about 48% of the world's population2. The combined nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states, China and India grew 300% over the last ten years, as compared to the world average of 150%. Total exports and imports of EAS member states (excluding the U.S. and Russia) is 10.2 trillion US dollars, making it the second largest market behind the European Union (10.6 trillion US dollars)3. There are close economic ties among 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 in the Asia-Oceania region is becoming increasingly severe as seen in the following developments: provocation such as nuclear tests and launch of ballistic missile development by North Korea; modernization of military forces in a manner that lacks transparency and attempt to change the status quo by force or coercion in countries in the region; and tension within the region growing over maritime domain, 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.

(Japan-U.S. Alliance and Asia-Oceania region)

The Japan-U.S. Security Arrangement is the foundation of peace, prosperity, and freedom, not only for Japan but also the entire Asia-Pacific region. Amid the increasing severity of the regional security environment including North Korea, the Japan-U.S. Alliance is more important than ever. Since the inauguration of the Trump administration in January 2017, Prime Minister Abe and President Trump held more than 20 Summit Meetings including telephone calls by the end of the same year, and the two leaders have been working to build a robust relationship of trust, coordinating closely on various issues of the Asia-Pacific region, including the one of North Korea.

In February 2017, a month after the inauguration of the Trump administration, Prime Minister Abe visited the U.S. to hold a meeting with President Trump. They shared their concerns about the increasingly severe security environment in the Asia-Pacific region and held discussions on this trend, including North Korean nuclear and missile development and the unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea and South China Sea. The two leaders shared their understanding of the importance of building a network of allies and strengthening multilayered cooperative relationships between allies and like-minded nations, situating the Japan-U.S. Alliance at its center, and the necessity of continuous efforts to strengthen the alliance. Prime Minister Abe and President Trump agreed to pursue together a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy,” during President Trump's visit to Japan in November 2017, underscoring the importance of stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region─a core region of vitality for the entire world. Japan and the U.S. will continue to play leading roles in facilitating regional peace and prosperity, including activities based on the abovementioned strategy.

  • 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 2017
  • 3 International Monetary Fund (IMF)

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 2017, the number of Chinese travelers to Japan was about 7.36 million (Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO)), setting a record high for two consecutive years, following the previous year which was 6.37 million.

2017, which was the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and China, saw frequent high-level dialogues including three Summit Meetings and four Foreign Ministerial Meetings. The Chinese Embassy in Tokyo held a reception celebrating the anniversary, and Prime Minister Abe and Foreign Minister Kono attended the reception. On September 29, the day of the anniversary, the leaders of state and foreign ministers of both countries exchanged congratulatory telegrams.

Japan and China share responsibility for regional and global peace and stability, and stable Japan-China relations are crucial when responding to regional and global issues, including the North Korea issue. Although difficult issues exist between Japan and China, from the fact that they are neighboring countries, Japan and China will continue to follow the approach of sustaining a “Mutually Beneficial Relationship based on Common Strategic Interests,” pursue cooperation and exchange in all manners of fields while dealing with concerns in an appropriate manner, and develop friendly and cooperative bilateral relations in a stable manner based on a broad perspective.


Taiwan is an important partner which has intimate people-to-people exchanges and close economic ties with Japan and is a friend of Japan. Working relations between Japan and Taiwan are also deepening, and in 2017, cooperation documents regarding mutual assistance in customs matters and cultural exchanges between the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association and the Taiwan-Japan Relations Association were signed. In line with the 1972 Japan-China Joint Communique, the relationship between Japan and Taiwan continues to be maintained as working relations at the non-governmental level, under which both sides are cooperating on building closer ties.


Mongolia is an important regional partner for Japan. 2017, which was the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Mongolia, saw the first-ever reciprocal visits by the head of the two countries' parliaments- Chairman of State Great Hural Enkhbold (who visited Japan in March); and Speaker of the House of Representatives Oshima in the Diet (who visited Mongolia in July). Based on the mid-term Action Plan signed by the two countries' Foreign Ministers in March, Japan is going to work to support the efforts of Mongolia to achieve economic recovery and fiscal rehabilitation through an International Monetary Fund assistance program, while also building a truly mutually beneficial strategic partnership covering a wide range of fields.

(Republic of Korea)

Good relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) are essential for the peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. The year 2015 marked the 50th anniversary of the normalization of Japan-ROK diplomatic relations, and there have been vigorous exchanges between two countries. In 2017 the number of people traveling between Japan and the ROK reached an all-time high. Economic relations are also close. On the political front, Japan-ROK Summit Meetings between Prime Minister Abe and President Moon Jae-in (inaugurated in May 2017) were held in July and September. A Summit Meeting was also held in February 2018 when Prime Minister Abe visited the ROK to attend the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. On the other hand, in December 2017, the Taskforce to Review the Agreement on Comfort Women Issue, which reviewed the agreement between the Governments of Japan and the ROK in 2015 published a report, and the Government of the ROK announced its position on the Japan-ROK agreement in January 2018. For the Government of Japan, it is completely unacceptable that the ROK would seek additional measures from Japan. The Government of Japan will continue to strongly urge the Government of the ROK to steadily implement the agreement, which confirmed that the issue is “resolved finally and irreversibly.” Although difficult issues exist between Japan and the ROK, it is important to move Japan-ROK relations forward in a future-oriented manner while managing these issues appropriately.

(North Korea)

In 2017, North Korea conducted the sixth nuclear test and launched 15 ballistic missiles, including the two that flew over Japan. North Korea's build-up of its nuclear and missile capabilities poses an unprecedented, grave and imminent threat towards the peace and stability of Japan and the international community. Japan is cooperating closely with the U.S. and the ROK and coordinating with relevant countries including China and Russia to maximize pressure on North Korea by all available means. Through such efforts, Japan is working for the comprehensive resolution of outstanding issues of concern, such as the abductions, nuclear and missile issues. As well as being a critical issue concerning the sovereignty of Japan and the lives and safety of Japanese citizens, abduction by North Korea constitutes a universal issue among the international community as a violation of basic human rights. Based on the basic recognition that the normalization of its relations with North Korea is impossible without resolving the abductions issue, Japan has positioned its resolution as the most important issue. Accordingly, Japan has strongly urged North Korea to provide a full account of all the abduction cases, to hand over the perpetrators to Japan, and to ensure the safety of all abductees and their immediate return to Japan. The Inter-Korean Summit is scheduled on April 27, 2018, and the U.S.-North Korea Summit is scheduled in May or early June. Japan will continue to cooperate closely with the U.S. and the ROK to urge North Korea to abandon all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile of all ranges.

(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. Following Prime Minister Abe's visits to the Philippines, Indonesia, and Viet Nam in January as a part of efforts to strengthen coordination with major Southeast Asian nations, in 2017, Japan welcomed the leaders of a large number of nations from the region. In November, Prime Minister Abe visited Viet Nam to attend an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit Meeting and visited the Philippines to attend an ASEAN Summit Meeting. While in the Philippines, Prime Minister Abe served as the chair of the 9th Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting. There were also frequent ministerial visits. Foreign Minister Kono engaged in intensive communication with counterparts in the region including a visit to the Philippines in August to attend an ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting and a visit in November to Viet Nam to attend an APEC Ministerial Meeting. 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. At the Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting held in November 2017, the leaders shared the intention to further accelerate software-related initiatives. Furthermore, 2017 was also the 130th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Thailand and the 60th anniversary for Japan and Malaysia, and initiatives were implemented to promote friendship and goodwill to mark these milestones. People-to-people exchange and cultural exchange was also further enhanced through the youth exchange programs, such as JENESYS2017 program.

Japan's initiatives such as these have firm support from Southeast Asian countries. According to a survey on public opinion about Japan conducted in ten ASEAN countries4 in March 2017, the overall figures for ASEAN showed that 91% replied that Japan was either “very trustworthy” or “somewhat trustworthy.” In addition, in response to the question of which G20 country (or region) had contributed the most to the development of ASEAN over the last 50 years (multiple answers allowed), Japan's contribution to ASEAN countries was the most highly regarded with 55% of respondents selecting Japan, while 40% selected China.

  • 4 The MOFA website
(Oceania countries)
(1) Australia

With the region facing a wide range of issues, the “Special Strategic Partnership” between Japan and Australia, which share fundamental values and strategic interests, is more important than ever. The strategic visions of Japan and Australia concerning the establishment of a free and open Indo-Pacific region based on the rule of law are increasingly converging, and the two countries need to demonstrate leadership and coordinate toward regional stability and prosperity. Japan-Australia relations are becoming increasingly close, with annual mutual prime ministerial visits and close coordination between the Foreign Ministers of each country. Progress is also being made with cooperation in the areas of security and defense with regularly held the Foreign and Defence Ministerial Consultations (“2+2”) and progress in negotiations on a reciprocal access agreement. On the economic front, Japan and Australia are coordinating closely on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and East Asia's Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in order to facilitate free and open trade, and mutually complementary economic relations are being further advanced by the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). Coordination is also steadily being strengthened through participation in multilateral frameworks including Japan-U.S.-Australia and Japan-Australia-India.

(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. In May, Prime Minister Bill English visited Japan and held a Summit Meeting. The general election held in September led, the following month, to the first change in administration in nine years. Immediately after this, at the time of the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting and the APEC Ministerial Meeting in November, the first Summit Meeting with the new Prime Minister and the first Foreign Ministerial Meeting were held and it was agreed that the two countries would continue coordinating closely and work on strengthening bilateral ties.

(3) Pacific Island Countries (PICs)

The PICs and Japan are bound by the Pacific Ocean, have deep historical ties, and are important partners in areas such as cooperation in the international arena and the supply of fisheries and mineral resources. They are becoming increasingly important from a geographical perspective as they are located at the heart of the Pacific Ocean. The Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM) 3rd Ministerial Interim Meeting (MIM3) was held in Tokyo in January 2017 and the 4th Japan-Pacific Islands Summit Meeting was held in New York in September, and it was confirmed to further strengthen the partnerships between Japan and the PICs.

(South Asia)

High economic growth rates and latent economic potential mean that the South Asia region is growing increasingly important, in addition to its geopolitical importance as an intersection of Asia, the Middle East and Africa. On the other hand, the region faces challenges such as poverty, democratic consolidation, terrorism, and vulnerability to natural disasters. Japan is working to strengthen not only economic relations but also cooperation in a wide range of fields with countries in the region, including India, with which Japan has traditionally enjoyed friendly and cooperative relations. Of particular note is Japan's relationship with India, which is referred to as “the bilateral relationship with the most potential in the world.” Through exchanges of different levels including annual reciprocal visits by the leaders, the relationship is developing in a manner that is apt for the “New Era for Japan-India Relations.” Japan is also working proactively with India to facilitate regional and global peace and prosperity, including cooperation toward the achievement of a free and open Indo-Pacific region based on “Special Strategic and Global Partnership.” Japan will continue to promote the strengthening of the connectivities in the region and surrounding regions including India, and cooperation in the global arena with and between these countries. Japan will also continue its efforts to address the various issues of countries in the region including the issues of 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)

In spite of this Japan-ROK agreement, a comfort woman statue was installed on the sidewalk facing the Consulate General of Japan in Busan on December 30, 2016. On January 6, 2017, the Government of Japan announced measures in response to this5. In addition, the Taskforce to Review the Agreement on Comfort Women Issue under the direct supervision of Minister of Foreign Affairs of the ROK published a report on its review on the agreement reached between the Governments of Japan and the ROK on December 27, and in response to this, the Government of Japan issued a Statement by Foreign Minister Kono claiming that should the Government of the ROK attempt to change the agreement, which has already been implemented, Japan-ROK relationship would become unmanageable, that such an attempt cannot be accepted under any circumstances, and that the Government of Japan strongly urges the Government of the ROK to steadily implement the agreement, which confirmed that the issue was “resolved finally and irreversibly.”

In January 2018, the Government of the ROK announced its position on the Japan-ROK agreement. For the Government of Japan, it is completely unacceptable that the ROK would seek additional measures from Japan, despite the confirmation in the Japan-ROK agreement that the comfort women issue is “resolved finally and irreversibly.” The Government of Japan will continue to strongly urge the Government of the ROK to steadily implement the agreement.

Furthermore, there is a move to install comfort woman statues6 in other countries as well, including the U.S., Canada, Australia, China, the Philippines, and Germany. Such a move is extremely regrettable 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.

  • 5 Specifically, Japan decided to take interim measures such as (1) postponing participation of members of the Consulate-General of Japan in Busan in municipal events in Busan; (2) temporary recall of the Ambassador of Japan to the ROK, Yasumasa Nagamine, and Consul-General of Japan to Busan, Yasuhiro Morimoto; (3) suspending Japan-ROK consultations on the bilateral swap arrangement; and (4) postponing Japan-ROK high-level economic consultations.
  • 6 For the sake of practical convenience, they are referred to as “comfort woman statues.” However, the use of this term is not a reflection of the recognition that these statues correctly embody the reality of those women at that time.
(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 and outside Asia-Oceania. In addition to strengthening bilateral cooperation, Japan is actually engaging in 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 has been seeking to develop this process as the chair country.

ASEAN exerts its centrality in regional cooperation in East Asia, therefore realizing 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 ASEAN's efforts for further integration even after the establishment of the ASEAN Community in the end of 2015.

Japan-ASEAN relations were raised to a new level through the Japan-ASEAN Commemorative Summit in 2013. Through meetings such as the JPN-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting in August 2017 (Manila, the Philippines) and the 20th Japan-ASEAN Summit Meeting in November (Manila, the Philippines), cooperative relations have been further strengthened in a wide range of fields including the strengthening of unity in ASEAN, sustainable economic growth, enhancing living standards, and securing regional and global peace and security. With regard to the South China Sea issue, a chairman's statement expressing concern and underscoring the importance of non-militarization in the South China Sea, maintaining the freedom of navigation and overflight, and peaceful resolution of conflict in accordance with international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea was released at the 12th East Asia Summit (EAS) held in November. In light of these circumstances, Japan is proactively working on activities aimed at contributing to regional stability, including providing capacity building assistance for maritime security through its Overseas Development Aid, and joint exercises with the navies and maritime law enforcement organizations of coastal countries.

At the EAS, leaders reviewed cooperation within the EAS and discussed its future directions, as well as regional/international issues. Prime Minister Abe announced that Japan will, under the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy,” maintain and strengthen the rule based, free and open maritime order in the Indo-Pacific and make them international public goods that bring stability and prosperity.

Prime Minister Abe also announced that with the aim of further promoting the policy of “Proactive Contribution to Peace,” Japan would expand human resource development, provision of supplies and equipment, and intellectual contribution in three areas: maritime safety; humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR); and peacekeeping operations (PKO). With regard to the North Korea issue, Prime Minister Abe also stressed that it was necessary for the international community to maximize pressure on North Korea and that it was important for EAS to issue a clear message on strengthening pressure on North Korea. In response to this, almost all the leaders raised the issue of North Korea, and many expressed concern over the development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, and urged compliance with the UN Security Council resolutions by North Korea given that the series of provocative actions by North Korea were violations of UN Security Council resolutions and a threat to the peace and stability of the international community.

With regard to the issue of the South China Sea, Prime Minister Abe also explained that, based on Japan's stance of supporting the centrality of ASEAN, Japan wholeheartedly supported basic principles laid out in the Joint Communiqué of the ASEAN Foreign Minister's Meeting issued in August. Prime Minister Abe also called on the countries concerned to strictly adhere to the “three principles of the rule of law on the seas.” He expressed Japan's continuing concerns over the situation in the South China Sea, and emphasized that easing tensions through forward-looking efforts by China and ASEAN should lead to “demilitarization.” In response, most of the leaders raised the issue of the South China Sea and emphasized the importance of securing freedom of navigation and peacefully resolving disputes according to international law including UNCLOS. In addition, some countries expressed concern over the recent situation in the South China Sea and advocated the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint