Diplomatic Bluebook 2020

Chapter 2

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

Section 1 Asia and Oceania

1 Overview

(General overview)

The Asia-Oceania region includes not only China and Japan, the second and third largest economies in the world, but also numerous emerging countries with remarkable growth. It is a dynamic region where diverse cultures and races intermingle and influence each other. As the world's growth center, this region, with an abundance of human resources, drives the world economy and has been enhancing its presence. Of the world population of 7.7 billion, approximately 3.6 billion people live in East Asia Summit (EAS)1 member states (excluding the U.S. and Russia).2 This represents about 47% of the world's population.3 The combined nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states, China, and India increased by more than 260% over the last ten years, as compared to the world average of 140%.4 Total exports and imports of EAS member states (excluding the U.S. and Russia) are 11.4 trillion US dollars (2018), making it comparable to the EU (12.7 trillion US dollars).5 There are close economic ties among these nations, and they have a high degree of economic interdependence. Further economic growth is expected, and this strong growth within the region 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 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.

Against this backdrop, Japan practices proactive diplomacy with neighboring countries as a pillar of its diplomacy, and has been actively engaging in diplomacy including at the leaders' and foreign ministers' levels. Regarding the relations with Asia-Oceania countries, in 2019, Prime Minister Abe visited Thailand to attend the ASEAN-related Summit Meetings and the Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting in November, and visited China for the eighth Japan-China-Republic of Korea (ROK) Trilateral Summit Meeting in December. In Japan, Prime Minister Abe hosted the G20 Osaka Summit in June, and on the occasion of the Ceremony of the Enthronement of His Majesty the Emperor in October, held meetings with leaders of many Asia-Oceania countries. Foreign Minister Kono visited Asian countries and island countries. Foreign Minister Motegi, who was appointed to his post in September, hosted the G20 Aichi-Nagoya Foreign Ministers' Meeting and held meetings with key figures, including State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha of the ROK, and Foreign Minister Payne of Australia. Foreign Minister Motegi engaged in diplomatic activities in this region persistently, holding the first Foreign and Defence Ministerial Meeting (“2+2”) between Japan and India in November.

Japan intends to continue to strengthen various cooperation, including Japan-ASEAN cooperation, such as pursuing synergy between the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)” and the “ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP)”6 (see the Special Feature on page 81), as well as Japan-China-ROK cooperation focusing on the three areas of the environment, aging society, and people-to-people exchanges.

Japan-Australia Summit Meeting (June 27, Osaka; Photo: Cabinet Public Relations Office)Japan-Australia Summit Meeting
(June 27, Osaka; Photo: Cabinet Public Relations Office)

  • 1 EAS: East Asia Summit
  • 2 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
  • 3 The State of World Population 2019
  • 4 World Bank (WB)
  • 5 International Monetary Fund (IMF)
  • 6 AOIP: ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific
    Adopted at the ASEAN Summit Meeting in June 2019. It is based on the principles of strengthening ASEAN Centrality in the Indo-Pacific region, as well as openness, transparency, inclusivity, a rules-based framework, good governance, respect for sovereignty, non-intervention, complementarity with existing cooperation frameworks, equality, mutual respect, mutual trust, mutual benefit, and respect for international law, such as the UN Charter, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and other relevant UN treaties and conventions, the ASEAN Charter and various ASEAN treaties and agreements and the EAS Principles for Mutually Beneficial Relations. Based on this, it promotes maritime cooperation, connectivity, the SDGs, and cooperation in economic and other areas.
(Japan-U.S. Alliance and Indo-Pacific region)

The Japan-U.S. Security Alliance, with the Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements as its core, is the foundation of peace, prosperity, and freedom, not only for Japan but also for the Indo-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 47 Summit Meetings, including telephone calls, by the end of 2019. The two countries have been working closely at multiple levels, including at the summit level, to address the various issues of the Indo-Pacific region, including those related to North Korea.

Furthermore, Japan and the U.S. are deepening their cooperation in achieving FOIP. At the Japan-U.S. “2+2” in April, the two countries confirmed that they will jointly increase their presence in the region, while working with regional partners including through joint exercises and port calls. At the Japan-U.S. Summit Meeting held on the occasion of President Trump's state visit to Japan in May, a factsheet was issued outlining examples of concrete cooperation in the energy, digital, and infrastructure sectors. On the occasion of the ASEAN-related Foreign Ministers' Meetings held in Bangkok, Thailand in August, the Japan-United States Mekong Power Partnership7 was announced. On the occasion of the Indo-Pacific Business Forum held in Bangkok, Thailand in November, the Japan-U.S. Strategic Energy Partnership Statement and the Japan-U.S. Joint Statement on Furthering the Development of Smart Cities in the Indo-Pacific were released (see Chapter 2, Section 2, 1 (3)).

  • 7 This is a joint Japan-U.S. program carried out in coordination with the Mekong countries to maintain and promote the development of sustainable energy and quality energy infrastructure, which serve as complementary driving forces for the economic development of the Mekong region.
(Japan's measures on the comfort women issue)

 (See 2(2)A(C) regarding the comfort women issue between Japan and the ROK)

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 U.S., the UK, 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.

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 Asian Women's Fund (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. In addition, 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 in the Philippines, 61 in the ROK, 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 ROK and Taiwan, 1.2 million yen per person in the Philippines) (for a total of 5 million yen per person in the ROK 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.

When the “atonement money” as well as the medical and welfare support were provided to individual former comfort women, then-Prime Ministers (namely, Prime Ministers Hashimoto Ryutaro, Obuchi Keizo, Mori Yoshiro, and Koizumi Junichiro) sent signed letters expressing their apology and remorse directly to each former comfort woman.

As stated in the Statement by the Prime Minister issued in 2015, Japan will engrave in its heart the past, when the dignity and honor 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.

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.

●“Sex slaves”

The expression of “sex slaves” contradicts the facts and 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.

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 United Nations (UN), the Government of Japan has explained its position on a number of occasions 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 2016.8

Installations of comfort woman statues9 have been observed not only in the ROK but also in the U.S., Canada, Australia, China, Germany, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Such moves are extremely regrettable and incompatible with the position of the Government of Japan. In February 2017, the Government of Japan 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, U.S.10 The Government of Japan will continue reaching out to various people involved in this issue to explain its position.

  • 8 See References on the comfort women issue
  • 9 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.
  • 10 See References on the comfort women issue
[See References]

・Announcement by Foreign Ministers of Japan and the Republic of Korea at the Joint Press Occasion (December 2015)

・Remarks by 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)