Foreign Policy Speech
By H.E. Mr. Seiji Maehara, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan
At the Center for Strategic and International Studies
"Opening a New Horizon in the Asia Pacific"

January 6, 2011


I am truly grateful for this opportunity to speak today at CSIS, one of the leading think tanks of the United States. It was exactly five years ago that I last had the pleasure of speaking here. During these years, political landscape in Japan underwent a significant transformation with the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) achieving the change of government, and CSIS has consistently attached importance to the Japan-US relations and conducted steady research on the subject. I think the latent power of the United States is rooted on the presence of think tanks like the CSIS that analyze information and make policy recommendations, and take on extremely useful and constructive roles in shaping public opinions, both domestic and international. I would like to express my respect to Dr. John Hamre, President of CSIS, Dr. Michael Green, who has led the highly respected Japan Chair and other experts of CSIS for their continued efforts and contributions to society.

I majored in international politics at Kyoto University. My academic advisor and mentor, Professor Masataka Kosaka, before he passed away, gave me several instructions as his last will. One of them was that Japan-US relations must be managed well in spite of many difficulties. Since I was first elected to the Diet in 1993, I have visited the United States every year to exchange views with US government officials and experts, precisely because I have believed that the Japan-US alliance is the cornerstone of Japan's diplomacy, and that it is essential for statesmen, who engage in governing a country, to build a relationship of trust with the partner country. Japan and the United States have faced various bilateral and global issues. The trust between our two countries has worked as a driving force to overcome each of these challenges.

Fifty years have passed since the Japan-US Security Treaty was concluded in 1960. This year, 2011, is interpreted as the inaugural year of the new Japan-US alliance which ushers in the next half a century. The NATO Summit adopted a new Strategic Concept last year, in which new cooperative security in the 21st century was introduced. Likewise, the Japan-US relations, which are the most important in the transpacific relations, must be deepened in transformation to a new alliance responding to the changing strategic environment. Last December the US Department of State released "The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR)," which showed the US determination to lead the world through civilian power. The QDDR also involved a rigorous review of an effective setup for the implementation of US foreign policy, which reminds us of the distinct character of the United States, that is to constantly aim to improve itself. In particular, it is noteworthy that the QDDR indicates that the US takes measures which include strengthening the inter-agency approach to the security areas including conflict prevention, development, peace building, and assistance to vulnerable states by making use of civilian power. I hope that Japan and the United States in close cooperation would promote the rise of civilian power in the Asia Pacific, while making the Japan-US Security Treaty cornerstone of peace and stability. If the Asia Pacific region were to become a driving force for the peace and prosperity in the twenty-first century, we need to bolster the network of civilian power, and see to it that democracy and market economies take root in the region. After all, they have brought the most peace and prosperity to human kind throughout history.

Today I wish to share with you my basic thoughts on how Japan and the US should cooperate with each other in this region, which is going through a period of change, in order to promote the shaping of a new order and to open a bright future under the theme of "Opening a New Horizon in the Asia Pacific."

(Current Situation in the Asia Pacific and its Future Vision)

There is no doubt that the twenty-first century is the era of the Asia Pacific. The three countries of Japan, the United States, and China occupy the top three spots in global GDP ranking. In addition, some estimate that the share of Asia excluding the US and other Pacific-rim countries as a percentage of global GDP likely will reach 40% in 2030 compared to 25% in 2009.

At the same time, we must remember that the rapidly developing Asia Pacific is fraught with factors of instability and uncertainty. The nuclear and missile development issue of North Korea is a cause for major concern. It should be noted that, as seen in the sinking incident of the Republic of Korea's patrol ship "Cheonan" last May, the shelling of the Yeongpyeong island last November and the development of enriched uranium, North Korea these days is escalating the level of its provocation against the region and the international community. In addition, in the case of Japan, we have with North Korea the unresolved issue of the abduction of Japanese citizens.

The rise of Asian emerging economies, while providing opportunities for the economies of Asia and the world, also is causing tension against the backdrop of the scramble for resources. In addition, increase in military spending by some countries without transparency has become a factor that could potentially raise tension in the region. Thus, with ongoing multi-polarization among the community of nations we are witnessing a tendency for countries to increasingly pursue their own interests in the absence of a common platform.

The Asia Pacific is a region full of diversity with a multiplicity of ethnicities, cultures, and religions. It is this diversity that is driving the remarkable growth of the region. Diversity, with a misstep, may turn into a conflict. Instead, it is quite possible to bring prosperity in the region by building on diversity a stronger sense of unity and making the region even more dynamic and open. We should build this new order with the fundamental philosophy that developing the Asia Pacific region through cooperation, instead of under hegemony, is indivisible from the long-term interests of the countries in the region.

With this in mind, it will be important to develop institutional foundations embodying the rule of law, democracy, respect for human rights, global commons, and free and fair trade and investment rules, including the protection of intellectual property rights. This needs to be done in addition to developing infrastructure that has underpinned the development and economic growth of the region's developing countries to date.

For example, Indonesia, a country with the world's largest Muslim population, elects its president through direct ballot, and is enjoying political stability as a democratic state by respecting the freedom of speech among others. These developments have made Indonesia's leadership role in ASEAN more dependable. The Bali Democracy Forum organized at President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono's initiative is worthy of attention as an Asia-originating commitment to democracy. Japan highly appreciates it as an attempt in the region to build an institutional foundation called democracy. I myself attended the 3rd Bali Democracy Forum last December on behalf of the Japanese Government and gave a presentation titled "Democracy in Diversity -- Building on Asia's Unique Strength -- ."

Needless to say, whether fast rising emerging economies such as China and India will engage actively in shaping the region's new order with full grasp of the common interests of the international community will be crucial. In particular, as China already has grown deep economic interdependence with both Japan and the United States, its peaceful development in harmony with the international community will be in the interest of both of our countries. Japan, therefore, takes interest in the role that China will play in shaping a new regional order in the Asia Pacific.

(Roles Expected of Japan and the US)

In consideration of such strategic environment, the Japan-US alliance is vitally important not only to the defense of Japan but also to the peace and stability of the Asia Pacific region as the region's public goods. I highly appreciate that the United States not only has continued to make immeasurable contributions to the region's peace and stability by maintaining an overwhelming presence in the Asia Pacific, but also has been intensifying its engagement in the region under the Obama administration.

The top-priority task today for Japan and the United States, I believe, is to invest our all-out and all-round effort to shape a new order in the Asia Pacific region, which finds itself in the middle of a period of change. The roles of our two countries will not diminish in anyway in the days ahead. In fact, in view of the urgent need to develop "institutional foundations" in the region today, expectations are only rising that we play even greater roles, and I feel the responsibilities on our shoulders are very great.

To date Japan has endeavored to promote various regional cooperation, in addition to making contributions to the sustainable growth of the Asia Pacific through trade and investment, official development assistance (ODA) and others. Japan will carry on these efforts. In particular, Japan, jointly with the United States, has considered important ASEAN's centrality in regional cooperation. Japan, therefore, will continue to attach importance to supporting efforts toward ASEAN integration through assistance for the building of an ASEAN Economic Community by 2015 and the strengthening of ASEAN connectivity. At the same time, we are paying particular attention to East Asia Summit (EAS) among the various frameworks that are evolving with ASEAN at the core. Japan has consistently advanced the idea of US participation to EAS and welcomes the official decision of US and Russian participation last year.

There are some concrete agendas for Japan and the United States to pursue in order to develop institutional foundations in this region. Expanding and strengthening the role of EAS is one of them. EAS so far has seen progress in regional cooperation in the five priority areas of energy, education, finance, disaster management and measures against avian flu. In the days ahead, we wish to bring up for consideration the possible inclusion of security within the scope of EAS. From this perspective we are looking forward to the role that Indonesia will play as the ASEAN Chair this year. These, I believe, are in line with the thoughts Secretary Clinton enunciated in her presentations in Hawaii in January and October of last year.

The second task is the APEC, which has achieved remarkable progress in creating common platform for the liberalization of trade and investment over the past 20 years or so. We shall build on the "Yokohama Vision," a product of the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting that was held in Yokohama last November, and continue close coordination with the United States, which will chair the APEC process this year, from the vantage of "From Yokohama to Honolulu." In Yokohama, it also was confirmed with regard to "The Pathways to FTAAP (Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific)" that concrete actions should be taken by way of building on the regional endeavors currently under way. The Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership agreement (TPP) can be regarded in particular as a next-generation type FTA. As such, it can be an important first step towards the realization of an FTAAP. If a framework becomes a reality with major global economies such as Japan and the United States participating, it will have great economic as well as political significance. I regard this also as part of the process of strengthening Japan-US relations. Quite frankly, in considering Japan's participation in TPP, Japan has to carry out reforms including agriculture, which doubtless will entail difficulties. However, the Government of Japan has decided to launch consultations with the countries concerned, as it believes that the revitalization of agriculture and further opening up of Japan are two objectives that can go hand in hand rather than run counter to each other.

Thirdly, we should establish closer partnerships among countries that are mature democracies with market economies, with a view to building a system of cooperation encompassing both security and the economy. One approach in this regard is the consolidation of networking in the Asia Pacific region. If we can expand the networking among countries which share the rules, we will be able to reinforce the region's institutional foundations. In parallel, we should engage in rules-making efforts for new public space such as the outer space and cyber space, in addition to rules governing the freedom of maritime navigation, intellectual property rights, and open skies.

(Deepening Japan-US Alliance)

For our two countries to play a central role in order to move in the direction I have suggested, an unshakeable Japan-US alliance will be essential. Japan and the United States fell out of step last year over the issue of the relocation of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa. At the same time, dissatisfaction grew among Okinawans over the inability of the Japanese government to turn their wishes into reality. The crucial point is that efforts to gain the understanding of local Okinawa community will be essential for the resolution of the issue. It will be essential to not invite a situation that might undermine the functioning of the Japan-US alliance, which has a strategic importance for the region's stability, as the Government of Japan moves forward the relocation of Futenma Air Station while making clear that it will deliver on the Japan-US agreement of May 28th last year. It therefore will be important for both Japan and the United States to contribute their respective wisdom from medium- and long-term perspectives, and work with unwavering determination to resolve the Futenma relocation issue.

From the viewpoint of setting the right environment to manage the bilateral alliance, the understanding reached in principle between the two governments as a result of the comprehensive review of the Host Nation Support for the US Forces in Japan is an achievement of the Kan and Obama administrations. This major political decision to maintain the current level of support over a five-year period in spite of the harsh fiscal conditions is a reflection of the recognition on the part of the Government of Japan regarding the importance of the Japan-US security arrangements.

Last December the Government of Japan revised the National Defense Program Guidelines, in which a new concept of "Dynamic Defense Force" focusing 'operations' was introduced in place of "the Basic Defense Force Concept" that aims to secure deterrence by the 'existence' per-se of defense capability. Japan recognizes that it is our responsibility to build, through its own effort, a defense structure more appropriate for the changing strategic environment in Asia.

With regard to the economy, which is the second pillar of the Japan-US alliance, believing that the evolution of the alliance will be founded on robust economies, we shall promote cooperation in new areas of growth and involving leading-edge technologies that provide for mutual interests -- renewed growth, jobs, and exports -- in addition to promoting TPP, which I referred to earlier. More specifically, we shall promote cooperation projects such as high-speed railway systems including superconducting Maglev and environmental technologies including clean energy. Japan takes pride in its high-speed railway system, which operates on time with high level of safety, having had no fatal accidents to date. These are features that are not seen in high-speed railway systems of any other country. We are convinced that if this high-speed railway system, which epitomizes Japan's state-of-the-art technology and incorporates at the same time maximum considerations for the environment, is introduced into the United States, it will long remain a symbol of our bilateral alliance that is visible to the people of Japan and the United States.

The third pillar of our alliance is cultural and people-to-people exchanges. It is often pointed out these days that the number of Japanese students studying in the United States is on the decline. I hear that Professor Eiichi Negishi, the Japanese chemist at Purdue University who was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, said with a sense of urgency, "Young folks, go abroad!" We indeed have to devise incentives to encourage young Japanese, who have become inward looking these days, to go abroad including to the US. I myself have gained immeasurably from my contacts with Dr. Hamre and many others gathered here over the years. The government, sharing the same awareness of the problem, agreed with the United States in the bilateral summit meeting that was held in the margins of the Yokohama APEC meeting last year to step up our bilateral exchanges. Apart from continuing the JET program, which has built up impressive track record to date, the agreement includes the dispatch of young Japanese teachers to the US, and two-way exchanges of students.


Last but not the least, what is most crucial for an alliance is mutual trust. In the four months since assuming office as foreign minister last September, I have built a relationship of trust with Secretary Clinton as ones in charge of diplomacy by, for example, having four foreign ministers' meetings including the one scheduled today. I am convinced that, by further deepening the Japan-US alliance bolstered by mutual trust, we surely will be able to overcome any challenges that will confront the Asia Pacific region.

Japan and the United States built the most important alliance in the world after the devastating World War II. As most people including I were born after the war, there is a tendency today to take the alliance for granted. However, when I put my hands together in prayer to console the spirits of both Japanese and American soldiers who lost their lives in Iwo Jima, the site of a hard-fought battle of the unfortunate war, and when I reflect on the tragic experiences of the prisoners of war (POW) who endured severe ordeal, I am strongly reminded that the alliance which binds us was not built in a day. Therefore, it is our duty to make this tie further stronger. The next year, 2012, is the centennial anniversary of Tokyo's gift of cherry trees to Washington DC. I wish to express my hope that this year Japan and the United States would demonstrate their determination to continue to deepen our friendship and to strengthen mutual trust, just as these resplendent cherry blossoms that adorn the Potomac every spring will continue to bloom.

Thank you very much.

Back to Index