"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] "Seeking a Millennium Partnership: New Dimensions in Japan-Europe Cooperation", Policy Speech on Japan-Europe Relations by Foreign Minister Yohei Kono at the French Institute of Foreign Relations

[Place] Paris
[Date] January 13, 2000
[Source] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
[Full text]

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

At the beginning of this new millennium it is a great privilege for me to have this opportunity to speak about the future of Japan-Europe relations at the prestigious French Institute on Foreign Relations (IFRI). As for Japanese-French relations, last year got off to an auspicious start with Prime Minister Obuchi's visit to France and was rounded off by Prime Minister Jospin's visit to Japan. I feel honoured that this year I have been able to open the curtain on Japanese-French relations.

Through my visit to Germany in December last year and my current visits to Italy, Belgium, the United Kingdom and France, I have personally been able to see the Europe of today, which is achieving such dynamic change while remaining true to its long traditions, and I have felt the need for us to elevate relations between Japan and Europe to a dimension worthy of this new period we are entering. Today I would mainly like to speak on the theme of "New Dimensions in Japan-Europe Cooperation." At the outset, however, let me touch on some of the common points between the long histories of civilisation in Japan and Europe.

As very well represented by President Chirac, there are many people in France today who have a profound understanding of Japanese culture. Although my remarks this evening may provoke a number of differing views, I hope that you will regard them as reflecting a plausible perspective.

1. Common cultural experiences between Japan and Europe

The Japanese government is going to issue this year a 2000 yen note for the first time. Although this project pales in comparison with the introduction of the European common currency, the euro, it is nonetheless noteworthy. The design on one side of the note depicts a scene from The Tale of Genji, the greatest masterpiece of Japanese literature, which was completed a millennium ago during the early years of the 11th century and is said to be the earliest novel written in the world. The Tale of Genji has a great significance in Japanese cultural history for it was written in the unique Japanese phonetic alphabet called kana. It is believed that the centralised sovereign Japanese state was born in the second half of the seventh century through the adoption of the Chinese system. After that, for several hundred years not only official documents but also diaries and literature were written using Chinese ideograms. Gradually, however, a unique Japanese phonetic alphabet was developed. It began to replace Chinese characters in daily messages, women's diaries and literature, and reached its fruition in The Tale of Genji, which was written by a woman called Murasaki Shikibu. Hence, for the Japanese people The Tale of Genji is a monumental work because it shows symbolically that our country, named Japan, which had been greatly influenced by Chinese culture and created by modelling itself in part on elements of that culture, had finally established itself as a unique cultural entity.

If I may offer a hypothesis, it is that the process that Japan followed of adopting and adapting elements from an advanced civilisation and then establishing its own unique culture has parallels with the experience of the Europe of long ago. At the time that Japan was being awakened by the influence of Chinese civilisation, all of Europe was feeling the significant impact of the Mediterranean civilisation and was incorporated into the Roman system. I believe that the trend that followed, whereby each region developed in a way that reflected the various unique elements of its indigenous culture, has similarities with Japan's experience. For example, I think we can say that the French language developed into a form somewhat recognisable today around the time that The Tale of Genji was written. Undergoing numerous trials and ordeals after that, Europe developed into the most advanced region in the world. Japan, through its encounter and contact with the advanced West, made rapid progress and became the first non-Western country to embark upon the process of modernisation. In this sense I believe we can say that, even across the span of a millennium, Europe and Japan share many common elements and underpinnings that resonate with each other.

2. Present necessity for Japan-Europe cooperation

To turn our attention to the present, the wave of globalisation is sweeping across the world and major changes are occurring in all aspects of political, economic and social life. The region that is most clearly manifesting these transformations is Europe. The process of regional integration represented in the EU is spreading and deepening across all of Europe, encompassing not only the economic but also the political and social spheres. With the introduction of the euro, the setting of common foreign and security policies, the abolition of border controls and so on, a new world is being built in Europe.

Forty years ago my father, who was also a politician, travelled to Europe. Upon his return he said, "We should take the EEC seriously. I am convinced that in the future the United Kingdom will join it and that France and Germany, overcoming past adversities, will endeavour to achieve a single political community." I daresay his view did not attract much attention in Japan at the time, but after touring Europe this time I strongly feel that what my father predicted 40 year ago is coming true. Europe is gaining a powerful presence as a major player in the political sphere as well as in the realm of civilisation.

In recent years it has been said that Japan-Europe ties have become less close compared to Japan-U.S. or Europe-U.S. relations. As a result of efforts on both sides we have achieved some progress, but this is generally seen as having occurred mainly in the field of economic exchange. However, through this trip I have come to realise that Japan-Europe ties have indeed become much stronger and that this development has not been limited to the economic field.

This is, firstly, because both Japan and Europe share common values, including a belief in the principles of freedom, democracy and respect for human rights. At the same time, we are both grappling with serious issues facing our social systems, such as ageing populations, social security arrangements and unemployment.

Secondly, it can be asserted that Japan and Europe, as global partners, are inseparably linked regarding security. Both sides have the will and the capability to engage in mutual assistance in the face of challenges to the security of either side, such as those in Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor, and as regards the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organisation, known as KEDO.

Thirdly, cooperation between Japan and Europe is a natural consequence of our deepening economic interdependence resulting from globalisation.

On December 18 last year I visited Kosovo and held talks with leaders from both the Albanian and Serbian sides, urging on both sides the importance of pursuing dialogue. Japan is sparing - and will continue to spare -- no effort to assist Kosovo, and this reflects the security concerns and values which Japan and Europe share. Similarly, I am convinced that Europe will also maintain an active interest and engagement in Asia, including the Korean peninsula through its participation in KEDO as well as East Timor.

3. Three pillars of Japan-Europe cooperation

At the outset of the new millennium, I believe that we should strive to deepen the cooperative ties between us, particularly regarding the following three areas.

(1) Realising shared values while respecting diversity

The first pillar of cooperation between Japan and Europe should centre on the realisation of our shared values while recognising and respecting cultural diversity. It is apparent that the main causes for the outbreak of regional conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo lie in ethnic or religious strife. Today humankind is faced with the question of how it can bridge differences involving ethnicity, religion and civilisation, and by the same token advance dialogues among peoples. Against this backdrop, the United Nations General Assembly, building on its 1995 United Nations Year for Tolerance, designated the year 2000 the International Year for the Culture of Peace and the year 2001 the International Year of Dialogue among Civilisations, in its attempt to promote dialogue among member nations and foster a culture of peace.

Overcoming barriers of language and culture, the cooperative European partnership that has found expression in the EU has accumulated great experience in dissolving confrontation through dialogue. If one recalls that The Tale of Genji contains abundant allusions to Chinese history and references to the influence of Buddhism and that it frequently features people from the Korean peninsula, I think one can say that Japan was even then a country with a strong sense of openness and internationalism that spanned the entire Asian region. More recently, from the time of the Meiji Restoration Japan looked toward Europe for its basic direction regarding democracy and modernisation and learned a great many things from Europe. Rousseau and Kant were among the spiritual models for the Meiji leaders. Through applying the concepts of democracy and human rights after the Second World War, the Japanese people experienced how valuable these principles were to socioeconomic development and recognised them as the cornerstones of peace.

Japan and Europe, which have endeavoured to advance dialogue between them while recognising the diversity among civilisations and cultures, should now cooperate to promote dialogue among all countries and all civilisations of the world. Obviously, dialogues between countries and civilisations with differing cultural and social backgrounds should be infused with a spirit of sensitivity and tolerance. Japan and Europe are being called upon to help build a new international order in the 21st century based on the universal values of democracy and human rights by conducting dialogue while continuing to pay due attention to instances of diversity.

(2) Strengthening of Japan-Europe political cooperation

(Aims of political dialogues)

As the second pillar of cooperation between Japan and Europe, for the sake of world peace and stability we should raise our political cooperation to a level commensurate with our economic ties.

In response to such developments in the EU as the rapid unification of foreign and security policies, I believe that Japan, in addition to enhancing its existing exchanges with member countries, should advance cooperation with the EU in the political realm through improved contacts between us. My meetings with Dr. Solana, High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policies, and others when I visited Brussels were the practical outcome of such thinking. In this regard, we are planning to hold a Japan-EU Summit Meeting in Japan with participation of President Chirac of France, which assumes the EU presidency in the second half of this year. In the future, I believe that we should continue talks with the Council of Ministers, the Commission and our various other counterparts.

(Prevention of conflicts)

The issue of the prevention of conflicts, one of the priority items on the agenda for Japan-Europe political dialogue, has also been discussed at the UN, the G8 and other fora. I feel that the ideal situation is when conflicts are prevented through the accumulation of unpublicised efforts by a number of people so that the results cannot be attributed to any single person. Japan believes that it is important to adopt a comprehensive approach, embracing as appropriate political, economic and social measures at every stage, from efforts aimed at preventing conflicts to the building of post-conflict peace. Japan and Europe should work together seriously in studying how we can cooperate in the field of conflict prevention. Moreover, Japan will make efforts to collaborate with the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe so that more cooperation can be effected between us for the support of democratisation, the establishment of independent news media and so on.

Regarding the building of peace during post-conflict periods, Japan has extended assistance to Bosnia and has been actively participating in the G8 discussions on Kosovo. Moreover, Japan has announced its own Kosovo-related assistance, including aid to the neighbouring countries. Similarly, the European countries have dispatched troops to the multinational force in East Timor. There is a structure emerging between Japan and Europe as global partners for mutually extending assistance in response to conflicts in either region, and we wish to continue this relationship in the future.


Next I would like to speak about a serious problem that the international community faces and which is a theme that Japan and Europe should be pursuing ceaselessly: disarmament and non-proliferation. The proliferation of nuclear weapons is a serious threat to the international community, and it is regrettable that such nuclear powers as the United States, Russia and China have made no progress towards the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Japan has been taking many initiatives for nuclear disarmament, such as presiding over the Conference on Facilitating the Entry into Force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty held last October. I appreciate the efforts that Europe has made in this area, with the leaders of France, the UK and Germany jointly writing an article published in a U.S. newspaper to promote the ratification of the treaty by the United States. In the future, I hope we will strengthen Japan-Europe cooperation for the prompt entry into force of the CTBT and toward the NPT Review Conference to be held in April.

Another urgent task is that of dealing with the problem of conventional weapons that are actually used in regional conflicts. In this area, cooperation between Japan and Europe seems very effective. On the subject of regulating small arms in particular Japan has been very active, as can be seen in its role as the chair of the U.N. Group of Governmental Experts on Small Arms. We look forward to and place great hope in cooperating with Europe toward the United Nations conference on small arms in 2001. In this connection, a joint Japan-EU project for the regulation of small arms in Cambodia is now being discussed as a concrete measure of political cooperation between Japan and the EU, and progress is anticipated.

(Reform of the United Nations)

Lastly, the United Nations continues to play a crucial role as a locus for elevating Japan-Europe cooperation to a more universal dimension and facilitating cooperation with other regions. Japan hopes and expects that, through cooperation between Japan and Europe, the Millennium Summit this autumn will be the opportunity to move forward discussions on strengthening the functions of the United Nations.

(3) Sharing the benefits of globalisation

The third pillar of Japan-Europe cooperation concerns how the benefits of globalisation can be shared worldwide. Japan and Europe, which together account for 45 per cent of the world's GDP, fulfil the conditions for playing a leading role in making maximum use of the dynamism of globalisation to bring prosperity to the world and protect the socially vulnerable. This task is an extremely formidable one.

As the first step, we need a new set of rules for international trade. The active participation of developing countries will be indispensable for the success of a new round at the WTO. Moreover, the concerns of civil society such as non-governmental organisations should be duly reflected. Japan and Europe have been cooperating closely at the WTO on trade issues, including the points I have just mentioned, and Japan would like to continue this cooperation toward the early launch of a new round of trade negotiations.

The financial and economic crisis that hit Asia in 1997 revealed that the economies of developing countries remain vulnerable to the possible threats posed by globalisation. As can be seen from the way in which that crisis was contained by the immediate response of the relevant countries, particularly Japan and European countries, the united efforts of the major countries are indispensable. At the recent Japan-France summit meeting, we agreed on the importance of aid coordination between Japan and Europe, and we decided to advance such cooperation. Japan will also provide assistance to developing countries to eliminate causes of conflicts, such as poverty and widening economic disparities among peoples, and to restore and build peace when conflicts end. In these areas, too, Japan and Europe can cooperate. Japan's joint project with Germany in Kosovo that we are currently attempting to move forward is an example of this kind of cooperation.

4. Seeking a new millennium partnership

The possibilities for Japan-Europe cooperation are extremely wide-ranging. To herald the opening of a new period of cooperation between Japan and Europe appropriate to the new millennium, I would like to propose a Japan-Europe Millennium Partnership.

(Cooperation for the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit)

The focus for Japan-Europe cooperation in the near future is the Kyushu-Okinawa Summit in July, to be held under Japan's presidency. Tokyo has been the venue for the three previous summits held in Japan but, as a result of the strong leadership of Prime Minister Obuchi, this year's summit will be the first to be held outside Tokyo. I think that Okinawa, with its unique and fascinating culture, is the best location for the leaders to feel firsthand the diversity of Japan. Incidentally, the 2000 yen note I mentioned at the outset, which will have a design on one side taken from a scene from The Tale of Genji, will also feature a picture of Shurei-mon, a landmark example of Okinawan architecture built under the Ryukyu Dynasty in the early 16th century. This gate is a symbol of the rich cultural heritage of Okinawa based on its long history. Located close to the southern part of China and Southeast Asia, Okinawa also has the characteristics of a cultural and economic crossroads. In this sense, the summit will reflect a stronger awareness of Asian perspectives.

I hope the participants will have ample time to deliberate on what the developed countries should do to build a future rich in creativity which embraces different cultures and civilisations, while paying due respect to their diversity. Furthermore, as the summit will be held in this milestone year of 2000, I hope that the G8 leaders will have frank discussions from a long-term perspective so as to raise the hopes of people all over the world that all people will be able to enjoy greater prosperity, achieve deeper peace of mind and live in a more stable world. Japan intends to cooperate with Europe on these issues as we prepare for the upcoming Kyushu-Okinawa summit.

(A new decade of Japan-Europe cooperation)

To consolidate this Japan-Europe Millennium Partnership and place it in a longer-term perspective, it is incumbent upon Japan and Europe to forge a common vision and to carry out joint cooperative efforts. In order to make this Millennium Partnership a reality through continuous dialogue and concerted action between Japan and Europe, I would like to close my speech by designating the next ten years starting from the year 2001, the beginning of the 21st century, the "Decade of Japan-Europe Cooperation".

Thank you for your kind attention.