Diplomatic Bluebook 2019
Japan's Foreign Policy that Takes a Panoramic Perspective of the World Map
Section 1 Asia and Oceania
The Asia-Oceania region is home not only to China and Japan, the second and third largest economies in the world, but also to many emerging countries with remarkable growth. As the world's growth center, the region, with an abundance of human resources, drives the world economy 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 nearly tripled over the last ten years, as compared to the world average of 150%3. Total exports and imports of EAS member states (excluding the U.S. and Russia) is 10.35 trillion US dollars, making it comparable to the European Union (11.72 trillion US dollars)4. 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: the nuclear and 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. 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, frequent natural disasters and aging population.
Japan highlights enhancing cooperation with neighboring countries as a pillar of its diplomacy, and has been engaging in proactive diplomacy including at the leaders' and Foreign Ministers' level. Regarding the relations with Asia-Oceania countries, in 2018, Prime Minister Abe visited the Republic of Korea (ROK) to attend the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Olympic Games in February, and paid an official visit to China in October for the first time in seven years by a Japanese Prime Minister. In November, Prime Minister Abe visited Singapore to attend the ASEAN-related Summit Meetings, followed by his visit to Australia and then to Papua New Guinea for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders' Meeting. Japan also hosted summit meetings inviting Asia-Pacific countries, such as the seventh Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting and eighth Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM8) in May and the tenth Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting in October. In addition, summit meetings were held by inviting VIPs, including Prime Minister Modi of India. Foreign Minister Kono engaged in diplomatic activities in this region persistently, visiting 21 countries and regions in the Asia-Pacific in 2018.
- 1 ASEAN (member states: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam), Japan, China, the ROK, India, Australia and New Zealand
- 2 The State of World Population 2018
- 3 World Bank (WB)
- 4 International Monetary Fund (IMF)
(Japan-U.S. Alliance and Asia-Oceania region)
The Japan-U.S. Security Arrangement is a foundation of peace, prosperity and freedom, not only for Japan but also the entire Asia-Pacific region. In the midst of an increasingly severe regional security environment, the Japan-U.S. Alliance is more important than ever. Since the inauguration of President Trump in January 2017, Prime Minister Abe and President Trump held 36 Summit Meetings, including telephone calls, by the end of 2018. The two countries have been working closely at multiple levels, including at the summit level, to address the various issues of the Asia-Pacific region, including those related to North Korea.
Furthermore, Japan and the U.S. are deepening their cooperation in achieving a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” On the occasion of the Japan-U.S. Summit Meeting in September, a factsheet was released on Japan-U.S. cooperation in areas such as maritime security and disaster risk reduction. On the occasion of U.S. Vice President Pence's visit to Japan in November, a joint statement was issued on concrete cooperation in the areas of energy, infrastructure and digital connectivity. Aside from the U.S., Japan will continue to work with like-minded countries, such as Australia, India and ASEAN countries, in continuing to play a leading role in the peace and prosperity of the region.
(Measures on the comfort women issue)
The Government of Japan has sincerely dealt with the issues of reparations, property and claims pertaining to the Second World War, including the comfort women issue, under the San Francisco Peace Treaty and through other bilateral treaties, agreements and instruments. Japan is of the view that these issues have been legally settled with the respective parties to these treaties, agreements and instruments.
Meanwhile, we have observed some installation of comfort woman statues5 not only in the ROK but also in the U.S., Canada, Australia, China, the Philippines, Germany and Taiwan. Such movements are 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. (For more details, see boxed article “The Issue of Comfort Women”)
- 5 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.
The Issue of Comfort Women
1. The issue of comfort women between Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK)
(1) As the issue of comfort women has been a major diplomatic issue in Japan-ROK relations since the 1990s, Japan has sincerely dealt with it. The issue concerning property and claims between Japan and the ROK was legally settled in 1965 through the Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims and on the Economic Cooperation between Japan and the ROK. However, from the perspective of facilitating feasible remedies for the former comfort women, the people and the Government of Japan cooperated to establish the “Asian Women's Fund” in 1995, through which they carried out medical and welfare projects and provided “atonement money” to each former comfort woman in Asian and other countries, including the ROK. In addition, successive Prime Ministers have sent letters expressing their “apology and remorse” to former comfort women. The Government of Japan has made every effort as mentioned above.
(2) Furthermore, as a result of great diplomatic efforts, the Governments of Japan and the ROK confirmed that the issue of comfort women was “resolved finally and irreversibly” with the agreement reached at the Japan-ROK Foreign Ministers' Meeting in December 2015. The Japanese and ROK 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. This agreement was welcomed by the international community, including the then Secretary-General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon and the U.S. Government.
In accordance with this agreement, in August 2016, the Government of Japan contributed 1 billion yen to “the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation” established by the Government of the ROK. The Foundation provided financial support to 34 out of 47 former comfort women who were alive at the time of the agreement, and to the bereaved families of 58 out of 199 former comfort women who were deceased at the time. The agreement has been received positively by many former comfort women.
(3) However, in December 2016, a comfort woman statue1 was installed on the sidewalk facing the Consulate-General of Japan in Busan by a civic group in the ROK. Subsequently, the Moon Jae-in administration was newly inaugurated in May 2017. Based on the results of the assessment made by the Taskforce to Review the Agreement on Comfort Women Issue under the direct supervision of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the ROK, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha announced the position of the Government of the ROK on January 9, 2018 as follows: i) it will not ask for a renegotiation with Japan; and ii) the 2015 agreement, which fails to properly reflect the wishes of the victims, does not constitute a true resolution of the issue. In July 2018, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family of the ROK announced that it would arrange a reserve budget to “appropriate the full amount” of the 1 billion yen contributed by the Government of Japan and contribute this amount to “the Gender Equality Fund”. In November, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family announced that it would proceed with its dissolution of “the Reconciliation and Healing Foundation.”
(4) The dissolution announcement is totally unacceptable for Japan in light of the 2015 Japan-ROK agreement. While the Government of the ROK, including President Moon Jae-in, repeatedly stated in public that it “will not abandon the agreement” and “will not ask for a renegotiation with Japan,” Japan has implemented all of its commitments under the Japan-ROK agreement and the international community is closely awaiting the ROK's implementation of the agreement. The Government of Japan will continue to call on the Government of the ROK to steadily implement the Japan-ROK agreement.
- 1: For the sake of convenience and practicality, the statues in front of the Embassy of Japan in Seoul and the Consulate-General of Japan in Busan are referred to as “comfort woman statues.” However, the use of this term is not a reflection of the recognition that these statues accurately embody the reality of these women at that time.
2. The comfort women issue in the international community
(1) The Government of Japan has sincerely dealt with the issues of reparations, property, and claims pertaining to the Second World War, including the comfort women issue, under the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which the Government of Japan concluded with 45 countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and France, and through other bilateral treaties, agreements, and instruments. These issues including those of claims of individuals have already been legally settled with the parties to these treaties, agreements, and instruments.
(2) On this basis, the Government of Japan has actively taken measures to recover the honor of former comfort women and to provide remedies for them. In 1995, the AWF was established with the cooperation of the people and the Government of Japan for the purpose of carrying out atonement and remedy projects for former comfort women. The Government of Japan provided a total of 4.8 billion yen. Approximately 600 million yen was donated to the AWF by the people of Japan. The Government of Japan extended maximum cooperation to the AWF, which implemented medical and welfare support projects and provided “atonement money,” to offer realistic relief to former comfort women. As part of the AWF's projects, “atonement money” (2 million yen per person), which was funded by donations from Japanese people, was provided to 285 former comfort women (211 for the Philippines, 61 in the Republic of Korea, 13 in Taiwan). Moreover, the AWF provided funds in those countries/areas for medical and welfare support funded with contributions by the Government of Japan (3 million yen per person in the Republic of Korea and Taiwan, 1.2 million yen for the Philippines) (for a total of 5 million yen per person in the Republic of Korea and Taiwan, 3.2 million yen per person in the Philippines). Furthermore, using funds contributed by the Government of Japan, the AWF extended support for projects to promote social welfare services for elderly people in Indonesia as well as projects to help improve the living conditions of former comfort women in the Netherlands.
(3) When the “atonement money” as well as the medical and welfare support were provided to individual former comfort women, then-Prime Ministers (namely, PM Ryutaro Hashimoto, PM Keizo Obuchi, PM Yoshiro Mori and PM Junichiro Koizumi) sent signed letters expressing their apology and remorse directly to each former comfort woman.
(4) As stated in the Statement by the Prime Minister issued in 2015, Japan will engrave in its heart the past, when the dignity and honour of many women were severely injured during wars in the 20th century. Japan will lead the world in making the 21st century an era in which women's human rights are not infringed upon.
(5) Despite such sincere efforts by the Government of Japan, there are claims that can hardly be said to be based on historical facts, such as the allegations of “forceful taking away” of comfort women and “sex slaves” as well as the figures such as “200,000 persons” or “several hundred thousands” for the total number of comfort women.
The Government of Japan's position regarding these claims is as follows;
●“Forceful taking away”
“Forceful taking away” of comfort women by the Japanese military and government authorities could not be confirmed in any of the documents that the Government of Japan was able to identify. (This position is stated, for example, in a written answer approved by the Cabinet on December 16, 1997 to a question by a member of the House of Representatives.)
The expression of “sex slaves” contradicts the facts so that it should not be used. This point was confirmed with the ROK on the occasion of the Japan-ROK Agreement in December 2015 and the expression “sex slaves” is not used in the agreement.
●Figures such as “200,000 persons” for the total number of comfort women
The figure “200,000 persons” lacks concrete evidence. As stated in the report of the Government study's result of August 4, 1993, it is virtually impossible to determine the total number of comfort women as no documents have been found which either indicate the total number or give sufficient ground to establish an estimate.
(6) The Government of Japan has been making efforts to provide clear explanations regarding its sincere efforts and official position in international fora. Specifically, at the UN, the Government of Japan has explained its position at a number of opportunities such as during the examination of the Seventh and Eighth Periodic Reports by the Government of Japan on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in February 2016. In February 2017, the Government of Japan also submitted its amicus curiae brief to the U.S. Supreme Court for the trial concerning a comfort woman statue installed in Glendale in the suburbs of Los Angeles, United States.
・Written Answer to the Second Question Submitted by House of Representatives Member Ms. Sanae Takaichi on References to the “Comfort Women” Issue in Textbooks (December 1997)
・Announcement by Foreign Ministers of Japan and the Republic of Korea at the Joint Press Occasion (December 2015)
・Remarks by Then Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Sugiyama for the Consideration of the Seventh and Eighth Periodic Reports by the Government of Japan under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (February 2016)
・Brief of the Government of Japan as Amicus Curiae in Support of Petitioners, Koichi Mera and Gaht-US Corporation v. City of Glendale (February 2017)
・Statement by Then Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Horii at the High-Level Segment of the Human Rights Council (February 2018)
・Remarks by Deputy Director-General / Deputy Assistant Minister (UN Ambassador) of the Foreign Policy Bureau Otaka for the Consideration of the Tenth and Eleventh Combined Periodic Report by the Government of Japan under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (August 2018)
・Letter from Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary for Human Rights Okamura Chair Janina of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances and Fact-sheet with Regard to the Concluding Observations from the Consideration of the First Report by the Government of Japan under the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (November 2018)