Diplomatic Bluebook 2021

Chapter 2

Japan's Foreign Policy by Region

Section 1 Promotion of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)”

1 Overview

The Indo-Pacific region, which stretches from the Asia-Pacific across the Indian Ocean to the Middle East and Africa, is the core of the world's vitality and supports more than half of the world's population. At the same time, it is a region which has seen complex power dynamics of countries and has experienced drastic shifts in the regional power balance. The region also faces a variety of threats, such as piracy, terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, natural disasters and illegal fishing. It is essential to ensure peace and prosperity in the entire region and beyond, through establishing a free and open order based on the rule of law.

Japan has long emphasized the importance of taking a holistic view of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, as seen in the “Confluence of the Two Seas” speech regarding the Indian and Pacific Oceans delivered by Prime Minister Abe to the Indian Parliament in 2007. In August 2016, this concept was brought to fruition as the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)” vision, which Prime Minister Abe announced to the world in his keynote speech at the 6th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD VI) in Kenya. In his speech, Prime Minister Abe stated that the key to stability and prosperity of the international community is the dynamism created by combining “Two Continents”─rapidly-growing Asia and potential-filled Africa─and “Two Oceans”─free and open Pacific and Indian Oceans─and that Japan would work to realize prosperity in Asia and Africa.

In order to materialize FOIP, Japan, as its advocate, initially sought to further strengthen strategic cooperation with India, which historically has had strong ties with East Africa, as well as with the U.S., Japan's allies, and Australia.

With India, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Japan in November 2016, the two countries shared the view to take initiatives for the stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region by enhancing the synergy between Japan's FOIP and India's “Act East Policy” through collaboration.

With the U.S., during Prime Minister Abe's summit meeting with President Barack Obama in December 2016, the two leaders shared the recognition on the importance of expanding the network of allies, including among Japan, the U.S. and Australia and among Japan, the U.S. and India, in order to realize a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” and ensure stability and prosperity in the region. In addition, at the summit meeting in November 2017 when President Donald Trump visited Japan as the first stop on his first trip to Asia after taking office, the two leaders shared the view that both countries would work together to promote FOIP.

Prime Minister Abe visited Australia in November 2018 and held a summit meeting with Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The two leaders affirmed that the two countries share the FOIP vision and shared the view on working together for regional stability and prosperity. Prime Minister Morrison expressed his commitment to promoting an “open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific” in his foreign policy speech in June 2019.

Furthermore, policy documents on the Indo-Pacific have been released by ASEAN in June 2019, France in June 2018, Germany in September 2020, and the Netherlands in November 2020. In particular, the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP), adopted at the ASEAN Summit in June 2019, enshrines the rule of law, openness, freedom, transparency and inclusivity as ASEAN's principles of action.

In 2020, Japan continued to actively engage in diplomatic activities for the realization of FOIP, even as the global spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) limited in-person diplomatic activities.

Shortly after taking office, Prime Minister Suga held a summit telephone call with President Trump in September, during which the two leaders shared the view that Japan and the U.S. would work closely together to achieve FOIP. In October, Prime Minister Suga visited Viet Nam and Indonesia for his first overseas visit as Prime Minister. He clearly stated that Japan, as an Indo-Pacific nation, would continue to contribute to regional peace and prosperity, based on the belief that ASEAN, located in the center of the Indo-Pacific region, is the cornerstone of the efforts for realizing FOIP. In November, Prime Minister Suga attended the Japan-ASEAN Summit Meeting. At the meeting, the Joint Statement of the 23rd ASEAN-Japan Summit on Cooperation on ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific was adopted, which affirmed that ASEAN's AOIP and FOIP share fundamental principles and confirmed that Japan and ASEAN would promote concrete cooperation in line with the AOIP.

Foreign Minister Motegi resumed his overseas travels with his visit to the UK in August. Over the course of around half a year to January 2021, Foreign Minister Motegi visited 23 countries in Europe, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. Through in-person meetings in those countries, he advocated the importance of promoting FOIP and gained support from a wider range of countries. In addition to bilateral meetings, Japan held the 2nd Japan-Australia-India-U.S. Foreign Ministers' Meeting in October, which was the first ministerial-level international conference hosted by Japan since the outbreak and spread of COVID-19. The meeting affirmed the importance of broader coordination with more countries for the realization of FOIP, noting that it is a vision for peace and prosperity of the region, and its importance in the post-COVID-19 world is increasing.

In this way, Japan has strategically promoted efforts to realize FOIP in cooperation with like-minded countries from 2016 to the present. As a result, the vision of FOIP first proposed by Japan is now shared by the U.S., Australia, India, ASEAN and major countries of Europe, and is gaining broad support in the international community. Various consultations and cooperation are also under way. The vision is becoming increasingly important to the post-COVID-19 world, and Japan will continue to pursue wider coordination for its realization.