"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] Speech by Mr Takeaki Matsumoto, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, on the Occasion of the 17th International Conference on the Future of Asia

[Place] Imperial Hotel
[Date] May 26th 2011
[Source] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
[Full text]

1. Opening

Distinguished guests, good evening.

It is my great honor to have been given an opportunity today to deliver a message to the leaders and intellectuals representing Asia including H.E. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, and in the presence of distinguished senior statesmen including the former Prime Minister Nakasone and former Prime Minister Abe. I offer my deep gratitude to Mr. Sugita, President of Nihon Keizai Shimbun and the many other participating organizations for arranging this conference so soon after the Great East Japan Earthquake. I also thank all of you who have traveled from other countries to attend this long-standing gathering.

Since the earthquake, we have received numerous messages of solidarity and encouragements from around the world. Many relief supplies and donations have been delivered to the stricken areas. Rescue teams from 28 countries and regions have devoted themselves to rescue and search activities and to providing medical assistance under severe circumstances. It is hard to find the words to describe how much such generosity has encouraged and supported the Japanese people. On behalf of the Government and the people of Japan, I wish to extend my profound appreciation to everyone concerned.

We will never forget that the world stood by Japan in its moment of need. Japan will revive and emerge as a more attractive nation to return the warm solidarity and support extended by all of you from all over the world. Today, I would like to expound on Japan's efforts to bring about "Open reconstruction" and on Japan's approach to its diplomacy.

2. The response to the earthquake

The enormous human and material losses caused by the earthquake have greatly affected the Japanese economy. Even excluding the impact of the nuclear accident, the total amount of damage is expected to be of the order of 16 to 25 trillion yen (200 to 313 million US dollars). The greatest challenge we face now is how to respond to power shortages and disrupted supply chains. As to the power supply, we will expand the supply capacity by various means including resuming the operations of dormant thermal power plants. Additionally, we will devise plans to trim electricity in advance of the peak demand in the summer time. Through these efforts, we intend to close the supply-demand gap while keeping the impact on economic activities to a minimum. Many production bases of Japan's world-class manufacturers, including those in the semiconductor and automobile-related sectors, were hit by the disaster. This had a major effect on manufacturing industry in North America and Asia, where the division of labor is well established. However, helped by the tireless efforts of the each company concerned, about 90% of the supply chain is expected to be restored by this summer. Japan remains strongly attached to manufacturing and maintain the corresponding sense of responsibility. The OECD estimates that GDP shrinks 3.7% in the second quarter of this year on an annualized basis. However, economic activity is expected to largely recover on the back of reconstruction demand, and this recovery is projected to lead to economic growth of 5.3% in the third quarter and 2.2% next year.

The accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station caused great anxiety both at home and abroad. The power station suspended operations after the enormous earthquake of magnitude 9.0. Nevertheless, the cooling system stopped functioning due to tsunami and other factors. We have to admit that we were not able to provide sufficient information on the accident as it was difficult to comprehend the situation at the beginning, though we had no intention whatsoever to hold back the information. We sincerely apologize for the great anxiety caused. The Government intends to work together with Tokyo Electricity Power Company (TEPCO) to stabilize the reactors in a systematic manner in the next six to nine months. We will continue to provide the international community, especially neighboring countries, with prompt and adequate information with maximum transparency.

In this respect, there is a widespread misunderstanding that Japan is widely and heavily contaminated by radiation, which has led to many foreign governments imposing import restrictions on Japanese products. Many private companies have also been refraining voluntarily from importing them. However, the Japanese Government has set a provisional regulation values in accordance with international standards. If radioactivity exceeding that limit is detected in food products, neither their distribution nor export will be allowed. The Government is providing the authorities and private companies abroad with the appropriate information to convince them to rethink their restrictions. I would very much appreciate if all the participants today convey what I have said to those concerned after returning home. Japan is safe. Please enjoy farm and fishery products and other food items from Japan just as you used to do.

3. Towards "Open Reconstruction"

Japan will pursue a future-oriented and open reconstruction program, hand in hand with the international community, because we believe it is in Japan's national interest to do so.

Pictures of Japanese people helping each other and trying hard to rise up have drawn the attention of the world. I consider this to be an expression of the underlying spirit of symbiosis, or interaction based on mutual dependence and mutual benefit, which the Japanese have long embraced. People evolve through competition but they are able to sustain themselves through symbiosis. I consider this principle to be indispensable for the coming generation.

One type of symbiosis is the "symbiosis between people". The philosophy of human security, of which Japan is a leading advocate in the international community, is a reflection of the spirit of the "symbiosis between people" which Japanese people have fostered.

Another type of symbiosis is the "symbiosis between nations". Japan will help foster symbiosis between nations by promoting cooperation with the international community in both the political and security arenas as well as the economic field. I consider this to be the mission of Japan's diplomacy, which has contributed to the achievement of today's peace and prosperity through international cooperation.

Finally, in overcoming natural disasters such as has occurred this time, "symbiosis between people and nature" is vital. Absorbing the lessons of the earthquake and the nuclear accident, Japan intends to lead international discussions on improving nuclear safety and environmental policy as well as on responding to large-scale natural disasters.

I think an "Open Asia" can lead the way to such an era of symbiosis. At the beginning of the 20th century, when Asia was considered to be lagging behind the West, there was a Japanese who insisted that Asia was one. Of course, Asia is diverse and is not a concept which conflicts with the West. I can tell you that the spirit of symbiosis espoused by Japan is shared with all of Asia and that, hand in hand, the countries of Asia can unite. I also believe that we must be able to propagate the philosophy of symbiosis from Asia far and wide throughout the world. Asia looks out on both the Pacific and the Indian Ocean. An "Open Asia" is expected to share its robust growth with the world and to take on the role of an engine of global prosperity. I believe that Japan, as one of the Asian countries, needs to pursue "Open reconstruction" based on the philosophy of symbiosis. I would like to move on to what this "Open reconstruction" is like and the diplomatic means of achieving it.

4. Cooperation in broader areas including politics and security

Presently, the center of the world is largely shifting to the Asia-Pacific region. Japan has been making efforts together with each country to achieve the dynamic development of the whole region, while ensuring that its diversity does not lead to conflict. At the Special ASEAN-Japan Ministerial Meeting, held on the initiative of President Yudhoyono of the Republic of Indonesia immediately after the earthquake, we were given the kind message that the ASEAN members' support was to reciprocate Japan's past contribution to the development and stability of each ASEAN country. At the Trilateral Summit among Japan, China and the Republic of Korea, held on the 22nd of May, the leaders of Japan's closest neighbors showed their sense of solidarity.

In order to respond to this appreciation and trust from the Asian countries, Japan will continuously assume a positive role for the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. In this regard, it is necessary to further deepen the Japan-US alliance as a public good which supports the peace and prosperity of this region. I will promote diplomacy to this end in my capacity as the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan.

Japan puts much value on enhanced solidarity with Asia.

During the Trilateral Summit among Japan, China and the Republic of Korea, the leaders of the three countries visited a shelter in Fukushima. This was a big source of encouragement for the people affected by the disaster. We have agreed to cooperate in nuclear safety, renewable energy, energy efficiency, disaster prevention and other relevant areas. Moreover, we achieved concrete outcomes in many other fields which will assist Japan's reconstruction efforts such as trade, investment, tourism and people-to-people exchange. Japan intends to commit to this framework and to continue to take the initiative in this regard.

Meanwhile, Japan is determined to spare no effort to provide support for the building of the ASEAN Community as well as for the enhancement of ASEAN Connectivity. In this context, we appointed Ambassador of Japan to ASEAN last year and we opened our Mission to ASEAN in Jakarta today.

Currently, a multilayered and functional network is emerging in this region around frameworks such as ASEAN, ASEAN+3, EAS and ARF. Especially noteworthy is the role of the EAS, of which the US and Russia are to officially become members this year. We expect it to develop its existing agenda and also to play a larger role in strengthening regional cooperation in political and security areas. For its part, Japan will spare no effort to that end.

5. Economic Partnership

The spirit of symbiosis is an idea leading to economic and social development. We could say that an attempt to realize harmony between symbiosis and competition amounts to economic partnership.

In order to strengthen economic partnerships, it is essential to promote a system of free trade and investment. The earthquake made people keenly aware that the Japanese economy rests on close cooperation with world markets. That is why the process of reconstruction must be an open one. The Basic Policy on Comprehensive Economic Partnerships which was approved by the cabinet decision last November stressed the importance of promoting EPAs and FTAs. The significance of this policy remains unchanged by the disaster at all and I think that it is becoming even more important than before. It has been confirmed that the joint study on a trilateral FTA embracing Japan, China and the Republic of Korea will be concluded within this year. Moreover, we aspire to advance the negotiations on a Japan-EU EPA by discussing the matter at the Japan-EU summit on the 28th. We would also like to resume the EPA negotiations with Australia and the Republic of Korea as soon as possible. As for a decision whether to join negotiations for the TPP Agreement, it was decided that we shall consider the timing of the decision from an overall perspective following the earthquake, but I think that Japan needs to look at the progress of the negotiations and to seize the early moment when Japan is still able to have its positions duly reflected in the negotiations.

We welcome investment in Japan, which contributes to reconstruction. Promoting investment in Japan, including the affected regions, enables capital and know-how to foster the revitalization of the economy and job creation. In order to encourage investment, it may be worth considering the creation of a 'special zone,' in which enterprises enjoy clear preferential treatments, which contribute to the concentration of capital and labor, such as preferential taxation, provision of economic incentive and deregulation, without discrimination between domestic and foreign enterprises.

It is not only capital that is needed for Japan's reconstruction. The bonds linking Japan with other Asian countries were rediscovered in the aftermath of the earthquake. For instance, Japan is receiving many tourists, students and workers from overseas, particularly Asian countries. However, among 20,000 to 30,000 foreign technical intern trainees who had stayed in the affected areas, mostly in the Tohoku region before the earthquake, about 6,000 to 10,000 are said to have returned to their home countries after the earthquake. The number of foreigners visiting Japan is also in decline. In April, it was more than 60% decrease over the previous year. For the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the affected areas, the revival of local tourism and industries is essential. We hope that the trainees will come back to Japan in response to the demands. Taking account of the progress in rehabilitation and reconstruction, we will offer Japan's appeal more than ever to recover the number of foreign tourists mainly in Tohoku region.

6. Promotion of exchange: 'Japan is Open'

Those who are visiting Japan for the first time after the earthquake must be surprised to see that life in Tokyo is just as active as before. Most parts of Japan have not been affected by the disaster at all and remain 'open for business and travel'. We have already received tremendous assistance from around the world. But if you are thinking of supporting us even more, we would like to stress that promoting business with Japan, tourism and study in Japan just as before, or more than before, would be the support we appreciate most.

7. Making use of Japan's strength-Japan's technology

The earthquake has deprived us of many precious things. However, it has prompted us to renew our recognition of the strengths of the Japanese economy, and of Japanese society as well. The strengths of Japanese technology will not only assist in Japan's reconstruction but will also contribute to global prosperity, including that of Asia.

(1) Infrastructure

A total of 27 Tohoku Shinkansen Super Express trains were operating at the time of the earthquake. All of them reduced their speed upon perceiving the earthquake and stopped safely, with no casualties or derailments. This showed that the Urgent Earthquake Detection and Alarm System, which the railroad companies have repeatedly improved, functioned effectively. Promoting overseas Japan's disaster-resistant technology and safe infrastructure, such as the well-known Shinkansen system, will be conducive to our recovery. It will be even more significant to share Japan's safe technology with the rest of the world.

(2) Japan Brand

'Safe and secure Japan', 'excellent Japanese science and technology', 'human development, technology and culture', none of these appealing aspects of the Japan Brand has lost its strength. The necessary inspections and repairs of the Tohoku Shinkansen were completed in only about one and a half months after the quake and the system had been fully restored by the end of April. The restoration of the expressways in the Tohoku region was even quicker. Only thirteen days after the quake, major expressways were reopened to general vehicles. And of course the speedy rehabilitation operation was supported by Japanese technology.

(3) Disaster Risk Management

Japan has long positioned disaster risk reduction and disaster risk management as among the most important pillars of international cooperation. We intend to do our utmost to institutionalize disaster preparedness and the tradition of mutual aid which Japan has cultivated over the years. Building upon this, we will work to develop mutual assistance networks in Asia, and eventually throughout the international community, which will function in the event of disasters.

We will hold regularly the ASEAN Regional Forum Disaster Relief Exercise (ARF-DiREx), which can be the basis for a mutual assistance network in Asia, to improve the region's emergency response capabilities. In addition, Japan will also provide assistance to the ASEAN Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Center).

As to disaster risk management, we will do our utmost to help bring about a disaster resilient society. As a start, Japan considers holding an international conference on large-scale disasters next year. We would like to position this conference as the starting point toward the establishment of a new global framework on disaster risk management. Moreover, Japan is willing to host the third UN World Conference on Disaster Reduction to be held in 2015.

(4) Nuclear Safety

We recognize that to investigate the nuclear accident thoroughly and to share the information and lessons gained with maximum transparency with the international community is the greatest responsibility for us who experienced the accident. Needless to say, we will offer our utmost cooperation to the investigation team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) so that it can fully conduct its investigation and assessment. Moreover, Japan will provide a detailed report on the accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station at the ministerial meeting of the IAEA on nuclear safety, to be held at the end of June. We will make a leading contribution to the process of boosting international nuclear safety. The discussions may include such issues as the enhancement of IAEA's efforts on capacity building in each member country and the strengthening of the international cooperation system on information sharing on accidents and assistance.

(5) Environment, Energy Policy, and Climate Change

The earthquake made us realize anew the importance of energy. We intend to secure the energy needed for reconstruction as well as to further diversify our mineral and energy resources by promoting resource diplomacy.

In addition to promoting clean use of fossil fuels and to using nuclear energy, which continues to be important energy resources, securing its safety, the government will promote policies so as to position renewable energy such as solar, wind, and biomass as one of the core energy resources, building upon further technological innovation. We will also promote uncompromisingly the clean use of fossil fuels and accelerate transition toward energy-efficient society.

Our determination to tackle climate change constructively to build a fair and effective framework is unchanged.

(6) Revitalization of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

The earthquake had a devastating impact on the agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries, which were key industries in the Tohoku region. The industry has also suffered from rumors due to the nuclear accident. It will also need to make efforts promptly to foster the revitalization process of the industries, which needed to be addressed immediately even before the earthquake. In doing so, we should not only restore these primary industries in the affected areas, but also design a system in which the scale of farming and the opportunity of entry can be expanded, so that Japan's revived agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries will thrive to co-exist with the idea of reconstruction open to the world.

8. Conclusion

What I wished to convey to you today was Japan's determination - Japan's determination that it will make a comeback through cooperation with the international community, including Asia. Japan is determined to work even more actively on international cooperation. The Japanese Government had to make decisions including the reduction of ODA to secure the finance for reconstruction. Nonetheless, our determination to sincerely implement our commitment to the international community remains unchanged. Based on the philosophy of symbiosis, we will show the world our open reconstruction process. Japan will work even harder to make Asia-Pacific region and the world more peaceful, safer and more prosperous. Let me close my remarks by pledging to lead Japanese diplomacy with this resolve in my mind.

Thank you for your kind attention.