Diplomatic Bluebook 2020

Chapter 2

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

Section 6 The Middle East and North Africa

1 Overview

The Middle East and North Africa (hereinafter, “the Middle East”) are situated in a geopolitically important location at the intersection of Europe, sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, and South Asia. The Middle East accounts for approximately 50% of the world's oil production and for approximately 50% of the world's natural gas reserves. In addition to being an important energy-supplying region for the world, the Middle East, in particular the Gulf countries, has been promoting the diversification of each of the local economies against a backdrop of a high population growth rate in recent years (17.3% in the last 10 years), and has high potential as a market.

At the same time, various conflicts and disputes have historically existed in the Middle East, and even now it faces a number of destabilizing factors and challenges. In addition to growing regional tensions over Iran, political turmoil has continued in various regions since the “Arab Spring” that began in 2011. Fighting has continued in Syria, giving rise to a large number of refugees and internally displaced persons, which has had a great impact on the stability of the entire region, including neighboring countries. In Yemen as well, severe security and humanitarian conditions continue as the Houthis clash with the Yemeni Government and the Arab Coalition (led by Saudi Arabia, etc., at the request of the Yemeni Government). Moreover, in addition to the Middle East peace process, which has been a historical issue since the founding of Israel in 1948, the risk of the spread of violent extremism, as represented by the “Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL),” still remains in some areas. Resolving these problems and achieving peace and stability in the Middle East is of great importance for the peace and stability of the world as a whole, including Japan.

Japan imports approximately 90% of its crude oil from the Middle East, and it is extremely important for Japan's peace and prosperity to promote peace and stability in the Middle East and to maintain and develop good relations with countries in the region. From this point of view, Japan in recent years has been striving to strengthen relations with Middle Eastern countries in a wide range of fields, including not just the economy, but also in politics, security, culture and people-to-people exchanges. Japan made active diplomatic efforts in 2019 as tensions in the Middle East increased, including Prime Minister Abe's visit to Iran in June and Iranian President Rouhani's visit to Japan in December. In addition, in order to ensure safety of navigation for Japan-related vessels, in December the Government of Japan decided on a policy of utilizing the Self-Defense Forces' assets to strengthen its information gathering posture in addition to further diplomatic efforts to ease regional tensions and stabilize the situation, and thoroughly undertake measures to ensure the safety of navigation.