"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] Foreign Policy Speech by Minister for Foreign Affairs Koichiro Gemba to the 180th Session of the Diet

[Place] Tokyo
[Date] January 24, 2012
[Source] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
[Full text]

At the beginning of the 180th session of the Diet, I wish to outline my thinking on the basic orientation of Japan's foreign policy.


Since assuming the post of Minister for Foreign Affairs, I have done my utmost to advance a results-oriented, “substantial diplomacy” aimed at achieving steady progress toward the goal of maximizing Japan's national interests. Even in the course of Japan's effort to recover from the Great East Japan Earthquake, a number of new developments have arisen within the international community. These include the growing prominence of emerging countries, the increasing diversity of those playing an active international role, groundbreaking developments in information and communication technologies, the economic crisis in Europe, and the movement toward democracy as seen in the case of the “Arab Spring.” In addition, elections or changes of leadership are scheduled to take place in many countries during 2012, including the United States, China, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Russia, and France.

The three pillars upholding a nation's interests are security, prosperity, and values. In order for Japan to secure its national interests, in addition to our own efforts on security, it will be important to minimize risks and maximize opportunities for growth within the Asia-Pacific region in which we are located. This calls for a prosperous and stable regional order based on democratic values, to push ahead with the ongoing recovery from last year's disaster that remains our biggest task, and to work to revitalize Japan through harmonious coexistence with other countries in the region.

A peaceful and stable world is indispensable to the prosperity of Japan. In this regard, it is important for Japan to overcome its inward-looking tendency. We are already directly addressing a number of issues toward this end. As well as creating a momentum toward reversing the decline in the budget for Official Development Assistance (ODA), which had dropped by half over the past 14 years, we have dispatched Self-Defense Forces (SDF) unit to make personnel contributions in South Sudan, formulated Guidelines for Overseas Transfer of Defense Equipment etc., and entered into consultations toward participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations with the countries concerned. In terms of harmful rumors of Japanese products caused by the nuclear accident, including restrictions on imports, we see encouraging examples in Fukushima Prefecture where, in some cases, average wholesale prices for livestock are returning to pre-disaster levels. We will continue to work persistently to address this issue. This year, it is essential that Japan continues to use its distinctive conceptual power to “turn the tables”?in other words, to transform challenges into opportunities. This might include using post-disaster reconstruction to revitalize Japan, for example, or using climate change as an opportunity to bring Japanese technology to the world. I am committed to pursue proactive diplomacy not only in the Asia-Pacific region but also on the world stage.

Creating a Prosperous and Stable Order in the Asia-Pacific Region

In Asia, Japan faces a dramatically changing international environment. If we are to maximize opportunities for growth in the Asia-Pacific region while minimizing risks, I believe that Japan needs to create open and multilayered networks with the countries in the region, based on rules adhered to international law.

Toward this end, in addition to strengthening cooperation among these countries, Japan has played a role in addressing common issues by utilizing existing frameworks such as the East Asia Summit (EAS) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

Responding to the changes of international environment in the 21st century, we will continue to consistently deliberate how the Japan-U.S. Alliance should be to contribute to building a prosperous and stable order in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Japan-U.S. Alliance is the linchpin of Japan's foreign policy and security and a public good for the stability and prosperity not only of the Asia-Pacific region but also of the world. Japan and the United States have deepened our relationship of trust at various levels. Based on this, Japan will seek to further deepen and develop the Alliance, particularly in the areas of security, economy, and cultural and people-to-people exchanges at the heart.

In the area of security, we will promote concrete cooperation in a wide range of areas, based on the outcome of the Japan-U.S. Security Consultative Committee (“2+2”) held last year. In this context, based on the recognition that the U.S. Forces in Japan play the essential role in securing the deterrence vital to Japan, the Japanese government will make utmost efforts to gain the understanding of the people in Okinawa regarding the realignment of the U.S. Forces stationed in Japan, including the replacement of the Futenma Air Station. Regarding reduction of the burden on Okinawa, we have been making progress on various fronts, which includes the agreement reached at the Japan-U.S. Joint Committee to create a new framework on jurisdiction over members of civilian component of the U.S. Forces in Japan. I am determined to continue building up visible results, step by step in this regard.

China's full participation will be essential if we are to create open, multilayered networks in the Asia-Pacific region. Together with China we will work to further deepen 'Mutually Beneficial Relationship based on Common Strategic Interests' during 2012, the year of the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between Japan and China. A constructive role of China is vital to the stability and prosperity not just of the region but of the world as a whole. To this end, bilateral cooperation is underway in a wide range of areas, and Japan and China are moving ahead with concrete initiatives founded on a bilateral consensus. The strategic trilateral dialogue and cooperation between Japan, the United States, and China is more important than ever to the peace and stability of the region. We will work toward launching the Japan-U.S.-China talks, which I proposed last year, in addition to the Japan-China-ROK, Japan-U.S.-ROK, Japan-U.S.-Australia, and Japan-U.S.-India frameworks already in place.

The ROK, which shares the fundamental values with Japan, is the most important neighboring country for Japan. Japan and the ROK need to cooperate from a broad perspective, based on the future-oriented thinking, though difficult problems occasionally arise between the two countries. To further make the bilateral ties multilayered and strengthened, Japan will continue to enhance people-to-people exchanges of the both countries including those between leaders and ministers, as well as cultural exchanges. Although Takeshima issue is not the one which could be resolved overnight, it goes without saying that Japan will continue to clearly convey to the ROK side that Japan will not accept what Japan cannot accept.

With regard to the Japan-Russia relationship, we will make efforts for the development of cooperation in all areas, including cooperation for the success of the APEC Summit in Vladivostok, with a view to building appropriate relations as partners in the Asia-Pacific region. At the same time, I reaffirmed, during my recent visit to the Nemuro Subprefecture of Hokkaido, my strong determination to resolve the Northern Territories issue ? the main pending issue between Japan and Russia ? without further delay. I hope that substantive discussions on the Northern Territories issue will be carried out between the two governments, including during the forthcoming visit of the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to Japan.

Regarding the situation on the Korean peninsula, we will respond appropriately manner to the new situation following the death of Kim Jong-il, Chairman of the National Defense Commission of North Korea. Through coordination among Japan, the U.S. and the ROK, Japan will strongly urge North Korea to take concrete actions, including the immediate suspension of its uranium enrichment activities, which is a violation of the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and the Joint Statement of the Six Party Talks. With regard to Japan's bilateral relationship with North Korea, Japan seeks to normalize the relationship, in accordance with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration, through comprehensively resolving outstanding issues of concern, including the abduction, nuclear and missile issues, and through the settlement of the unfortunate past. The abduction issue is an important issue concerning the sovereignty of Japan as well as lives and safety of our citizens, and is a matter of serious concern for the entire international community. We will make every possible effort to realize the return of all the abductees as soon as possible.

In 2011, Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) adopted the “Bali Declaration” at the Japan-ASEAN Summit. Based on the Declaration, we will promote cooperation to enhance ASEAN Connectivity and cooperate on disaster management and other areas. We will host the Mekong-Japan Summit in Japan this year, and further deepen cooperation with the Mekong region countries.

With regard to the relationship with Australia, we will advance cooperation in the area of security and enhance our economic interdependency. We will further develop our Strategic and Global Partnership with India, building on the results of the visit to India by Prime Minister Noda at the end of last year.

During my visit to Myanmar at the end of last year, I conveyed to the leaders of the Government of Myanmar Japan's evaluation for recent activities toward democratization and national reconciliation, and strongly urged them to take further efforts, including the release of political prisoners. I also met with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and we discussed the rule of law, democracy, free trade, and human dignity and security, drawing on examples from Japan's own experience. I conveyed to both sides Japan's intention to support further reforms building on the historically amicable relationship between our two countries. Since then, numerous political prisoners have been released in Myanmar. We welcome this development.

In regard to the relations with Pacific Island Countries, we will make our utmost effort to further reinforce our ties through the next Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM6), which Japan will host in Okinawa in May this year.

Since ancient times, Japan has had the flexibility to assimilate and integrate cultural influences from the East and West, and has developed a system of values that prizes harmony and mutual respect. Japan has been incorporating Western values into its culture, while rooted in Asian values and is among the first countries in Asia to adopt democracy. I think it is precisely because of these qualities that Japan has such an important role to play, and I hope we are to fulfill that role.

Overcoming Japan's Inward-Looking Tendency and Rising to the Challenge of Resolving Global Problems

Japan's contributions will not be limited to creating networks in the Asia-Pacific region, which I have outlined. We will also proactively address the issues facing the international community.

The first important contribution is in the realm of politics and security. Japan will play a more active role in peacekeeping and peacebuilding by participating in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations. In addition to our efforts including in Haiti and elsewhere, the Japanese government recently commenced dispatching SDF engineering unit to take part in the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS). We will continue to contribute to the peace and stability of the international community by engaging in the Japan's area of strength, and will work to put in place the conditions necessary for that effort.

Building peace in Afghanistan is an important task that the international community must accomplish successfully. At a meeting with President Hamid Karzai during my recent visit to Afghanistan, I made it clear that Japan would continue to support efforts toward stability and sustainable growth. We also discussed the content of a ministerial level conference to be held in Tokyo this July, and generally shared the view on the concrete direction. We will now coordinate with other countries involved in order to produce deliverables. In order to secure stability in Afghanistan, we will also focus on maintaining stability in the region including Pakistan.

On the Middle East peace process, Japan will continue to contribute by working toward the resumption of direct negotiations and providing assistance to the Palestinians, among other measures.

It is important for Japan to ensure the safety of navigation. In addition to our anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, we will continue to extend our assistance for stabilization of Somalia and capacity building on maritime law enforcement in the neighboring countries. Concerning the cooperation on the sea, a public good of the international community, we made certain progress in last year's East Asia Summit. We will continue to work actively with other Asia-Pacific countries to strengthen common visions and rules consistent with the international law.

In the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, along with pushing ahead with the steady implementation of the Action Plan adopted at the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, we will promote the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI) initiated by Japan and Australia, and play a leading role in discussions among the international community aimed at bringing about a “World Without Nuclear Weapons” through the reduction of nuclear risk. On non-proliferation, Japan has serious concerns, particularly with regard to the current situation of the nuclear issues of North Korea and Iran. In order to dispel the concerns of the international community, we call on Iran to make a decision for a peaceful and diplomatic resolution to the situation, and to take substantive measures without delay toward this end. Recognizing the need for effective sanctions and stable oil prices, Japan will play an active role to resolve the situation in coordination with the international community.

On the subject of nuclear safety, following the accident at the Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, I believe Japan has a responsibility to share with the international community knowledge and lessons learned from a thorough investigation of the accident, thereby contributing to an enhancement of the international nuclear safety. As part of these efforts, Japan will organize a high-level international conference on nuclear safety in the latter half of this year, in co-sponsorship with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

In building a new international order, strengthening the United Nations is essential. Japan has been working to reform the organization and to reinforce the functions of the United Nations. In particular, we will work proactively toward realizing the reform of the Security Council and Japan's permanent membership in it. We will also strive to promote the representation of Japanese staff members, particularly at the senior management levels, in the United Nations and other international organizations.

As for the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (The Hague Convention), based on the Cabinet Understanding of May last year, the Government aims to submit the convention and relevant domestic legislation for approval to the Diet in this current session.

The second contribution is on the economic and social front. ODA is an extremely effective means of achieving stability and development in developing countries, solving global issues, and achieving peace and development of our own country. Strengthening our cooperation with the emerging economies whose influence has been increasing so dramatically in recent years, we will implement ODA strategically and effectively, working hand-in-hand with NGOs and other private sectors. Specifically, Japan will play a leading role in such efforts as the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the formulation of new international development goals beyond 2015, taking the lead in disaster risk reduction and peacebuilding. Japan will also continue to support sustainable growth in developing countries through infrastructure development and other assistance. Underlying all of these endeavors is the philosophy of human security on which Japan has led discussions in the international community, exhibiting our vigorous conceptual power.

In Africa, where achieving human security is a major issue, we will work steadily on a diplomatic program based on the three pillars of expanding development assistance, trade and investment, contributing to peace and stability, and addressing global issues. In addition, we will host the Fifth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V) in Yokohama next year.

As part of our ongoing efforts to achieve global sustainable development, we will contribute to the discussion at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) this June and the 18th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP18) at the end of the year, playing a leading role in the global effort to put in place the foundations for moving toward a green economy and achieving low-carbon growth. This spring, we will host the East Asia Low-Carbon Growth Partnership Dialogue in Tokyo. Our aim is to use Japan's advanced technology to offer the world a cutting-edge model of energy saving, energy creation and energy storage.

In order to secure a stable supply of such energy and mineral resources as fossil fuels and rare metals, as well as food, we need to strengthen our multi-tiered cooperative relationships with resource-rich countries, including the newly emerging economies. As Japan depends highly on imports to meet its fossil fuel needs, we will continue our efforts to achieve energy security by working to build stronger relationship with resource-supplying countries and the countries that lie along the transportation routes. With the understanding that a steady supply and stable price of oil are the most important factors to achieve energy security, I visited some countries in Middle East in early January. At the same time, we need to build on our strengths in energy and environmental technology, which is already at the most advanced level in the world. During my recent meetings with senior figures of the countries in the Middle East, I called for cooperation with the region's countries in this field, and received enthusiastic support.

In order to ensure that growth overseas leads to growth of Japan, as a trading nation we must regard global demand as Japan's domestic demand. Based on the Basic Policy on Comprehensive Economic Partnerships, Japan will play a leading role for the realization of a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) and will promote high-level economic partnerships with a wider range of countries in a proactive and multifaceted manner. In concrete terms, as far as the TPP is concerned, we will make efforts to gather further information, through the consultations towards participating in the TPP negotiations with the countries concerned, as to what each country would expect from Japan, and, through sufficient national debate, reach a conclusion on the TPP faithfully from the viewpoint of our national interests.. We aim to launch negotiations on a Japan-China-ROK trilateral FTA promptly. Furthermore, we will also advance the EPA negotiations with the ROK and Australia and will aim to launch negotiations promptly on a Japan-EU EPA, while also making proactive contribution to the establishment of a framework for economic partnership such as ASEAN+3 and ASEAN+6. Developing overseas markets is also important. There is huge global demand for infrastructure, particularly in Asia. By providing Japan's advanced technology in such areas as high-speed rail, water infrastructure, and environmental technology, we aim to support development and build a “win-win” relationship with other countries in the region as we grow together. We will consider using ODA in this context, including Private Sector Investment Finance by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Third, it is important that we pursue diplomacy that builds on Japanese values. Since ancient times, Japan has absorbed a wide variety of culture and technology from other countries, flexibly putting a Japanese twist on it and coming up with what should be described as a Japanese brand. Recently, a TV program introducing Japanese culture of politeness was broadcast in Saudi Arabia, stirring widespread interest in Japan. Afterwards, the number of visitor visas to Japan issued in the country became threefold. We will make the export of Japanese culture part of our national strategy. This should go beyond the “Cool Japan” Initiative to communicate to people overseas the full diversity of Japan's attractions, including its virtues, to foster a better understanding of Japanese values. We will also strengthen the international contribution that Japan makes through cooperation on the cultural front. In particular, we will also focus our efforts on people-to-people exchanges, as a way of nurturing the kizuna between Japan and the rest of the world that became apparent after the earthquake disaster last year.

Creating Environment to Enhance Japan's Comprehensive Diplomatic Capacity

In order to implement effectively the policies I have just outlined, it is essential to promote 'All-Japan' diplomacy in which each of the stakeholders of the country takes part in and plays their role. In this view, we will reinforce cooperation with local governments, private companies, NGOs, and the public. To provide support, in particular for the international activities of Japanese corporations, we will work to protect the lives, safety, and property of Japanese nationals and promote their interests overseas. We will also work to further strengthen our ability to gather and analyze the intelligence that is essential for our foreign policy. We will also take the initiative in disclosing diplomatic records.


Last year, Japan suffered a major natural disaster of unprecedented proportions. That time, the resilience of people in the affected areas and the entire Japanese people as they first came to terms with disaster and then got to work on recovery attracted the attention of the world. In Genshi Shiroku, a work that has been a favorite of mine for more than 20 years, the Edo-period Confucian scholar Issai Sato wrote as follows: “One who encounters adversity should treat it as good fortune. One who is in good fortune should not forget adversity.” This year is the Year of the Dragon. This time of hardship is the ideal moment for Japan to overcome its inward-looking tendency and soar like a dragon, fulfilling more actively than ever the role we are called upon to perform in the world.

Diplomacy depends on the combined strength of the entire nation. I ask for the cooperation of all Diet members, regardless of party affiliation, and for the understanding and cooperation of the Japanese people.