JAPAN: Japan's global strategy and the Japan-US global partnership
Nobutaka Machimura

Mr. Machimura, Photo: MOFA Japan

During a visit to New York on April 30, Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Nobutaka Machimura gave the following speech at the Japan Society. For more information on the Minister's visit, please visit the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs at www.mofa.go.jp

The ties between the US and Japan go far beyond both the cultural bonds and the shared cultural values that have emerged between us. The United States is an invaluable and irreplaceable partner to Japan and, indeed, our closest ally. With that as background, I would like to give you an overview of the proactive directions in which Japanese diplomacy is heading as we mark the 60th year since the end of World War II.

In the Eastern tradition, the 60th year marks a juncture. The oriental zodiac has a sixty-year cycle, and it is the 60th year that marks the end of one cycle and the beginning of the next. I myself happen to be at this juncture now, having been born in 1944.

As we look at the first 60 years since the end of World War II, it is impossible not to be struck by the dramatic and in some ways barely believable changes that have taken place all around the globe. Sixty years ago, just after the close of the war, Japan lay in total ruin; yet who should come to our aid but the United States of America, the country that we had, during the war, declared our sworn enemy, but then showed us, in the true spirit of America, generosity in helping rebuild our country. Japanese people have never forgotten this. Japan joined the United Nations in 1956, and thereby rejoined the community of nations, and it was, indeed, by enjoying support and cooperation from the international community that Japan was able to rise to be a great economy, just second to the United States. With this in mind, we have exerted diplomacy as a peace-loving nation, which is reflected in the fact that Japan has achieved its economic development without resorting to armed conflicts since the end of World War II. As you may know, last week in Indonesia, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi clearly expressed his sincere feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology and reconfirmed his steadfast resolve to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the world, in front of delegates of more than 100 Asian and African countries.

I know of course that lots of people are recently worried about the current bilateral relations between Japan and China or between Japan and the Republic of Korea. I duly recognize and understand their sentiments on the past. In this regard, Beijing and Seoul attribute the cause of the present situation to Prime Minister Koizumi's visits to Yasukuni Shrine. Let me explain to clear up the misunderstanding. Prime Minister Koizumi does visit the Shrine in order to swear that Japan will never wage war again, and to express his deep regret for the victims who were forced to go to the battle-field, reconfirming that it is to such sacrifice that Japan owes what it is today.

So over these 60 years, Japan has learned firsthand the importance of international cooperation in enabling not only development but also peace and prosperity. Having been the beneficiary of such cooperation in the early years after World War II, Japan has been making contributions around the world, particularly in Asia and the Pacific. And we did our best in any number of fields, including infrastructure development and financial cooperation during the Asian currency crisis, to enable other countries to enjoy peace and prosperity as well.

The Asia-Pacific region is now the economic growth center of the world. And we are indeed proud to have been able to facilitate this transition through our ODA and regional cooperation activities, which are focused most prominently on the countries of ASEAN. At present, Japan and other Asian nations as a whole are moving actively to conclude economic partnership agreements (EPAs) and free trade agreements (FTAs) to complement multilateral efforts in the WTO.

Recently, the remarkable economic development of China is the focus of many headlines, as it emerges as a major regional, and indeed, global player. We do welcome the fact that China is now shifting from being the recipient of ODA to a donor, and we are pleased, first of all, that we have played a substantial role in making this possible through the Japanese ODA, and secondly, that China is now in the position to begin carrying out its full responsibilities in the international community on both the regional and the global levels.

The Government of Japan welcomes the tremendous strengthening of the ties between Japan and China that the two nations have witnessed over the years, such as economic relations as well as people-to-people exchanges. We do hope both countries further promote our cooperation through dialogues and deepen not only our understanding of each other, but also, I emphasize, our trust in each other to act in good faith at all times. From this point of view, Japan has been working hard for a positive, future-oriented relationship with China, and that is why I myself visited Beijing two weeks ago to exchange views with my Chinese counterpart Li Zhaoxing. Prime Minister Koizumi, too, held a meeting with President Hu Jintao last week. Both countries, Japan and China, reconfirmed the commitment to cherish and further promote the bilateral relationship.

Japan's relationship with the Republic of Korea is also of tremendous importance. First and foremost, both share the common values of freedom and democracy. This year as we celebrate Japan-Korea Friendship Year, we are promoting mutual understanding at the individual level along with exchanges. As a matter of fact, much of the push for improved understanding and exchange has swelled at a grass-roots level. Japan has already witnessed a surge of interest in pop music, TV shows, and movies from Korea, creating a solid base on which we can foster these increasingly close ties.

At the government level, too, the Republic of Korea is a very important country to us. It is essential, for example, that the two nations continue to stand firm in our desire to resolve the various North Korean issues through close cooperation. Therefore, we are committed to continuing what we call the Shuttle Summit Meetings. In order to tackle challenges both countries face, I think we have to redouble our efforts to further fortify the future-oriented relationship that we have built over the years.

North Korea's nuclear and missile issues directly threaten not only the security of Japan but also the entire Asia-Pacific region including the United States. Japan considers joint engagement by Japan, the US, and South Korea essential for the resolution of these issues, and we continue to urge North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks as soon as possible without preconditions. We look forward to an early resolution to the many issues relating to North Korea through our policy of "dialogue and pressure."

North Korea's abduction of Japanese nationals remains an unsolved issue and continues to cause grave humanitarian concern. I would like to express my personal gratitude for the strong support and understanding shown by the US Government as well as American people.

Thus, what is important is that the stable relationship among Japan, the United States, China, and South Korea forms the very core of regional cooperation. This is, indeed, indispensable for ensuring peace and prosperity throughout the entire Asia-Pacific region.

At the same time, Japan has been continuously making efforts to promote regional cooperation in the Asian-Pacific region. There is growing interdependence in Asia, particularly in the realm of socioeconomic ties, and the advance of ASEAN and ASEAN+3 has broadened the scope of regional cooperation. Let me take an example of Chiang Mai Initiative. In November 1999, ASEAN+3 leaders recognized the importance of regional financial cooperation as the lesson from the 1997 financial crisis. Following this, ASEAN+3 agreed with that Initiative in May 2000, through which Multilateral and Bilateral Swap Arrangement was established. Furthermore, we have a framework of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), in which the United States also takes part. The ARF is the sole intergovernmental forum in the Asia-Pacific region for discussion of security issues. Having started from the confidence building stage, it is now advancing towards the preventive diplomacy stage.

This year in particular looks set to mark the beginning of increased dynamism in Asian development, with the East Asia Summit scheduled to be held in Malaysia this year, representing just a great step forward for the regional cooperation in an East Asian community. Of course, the Asian region will face many challenges as it moves towards a community, even more so than Europe has faced in forming the EU, as Asia is the home to truly amazing diversity in history, religion, culture, and race as well as political and economic systems.

What East Asia urgently needs most for the development of Asian regional cooperation is, first of all, the ensuring of openness, inclusiveness, and transparency in keeping with the open regional approach; and second, a willingness to maintain the shared values, such as democracy and human rights assurances, and to conform with the international rules, including those of the WTO and other such organizations. To this end, Japan is of the view that the United States' involvement in this process in this region is indispensable, and that India, Australia and New Zealand also could play an important role.

Even here in this post-Cold War world, still remain a number of challenges such as conflicts and poverty. And, even as we enjoy many benefits from globalization, we find ourselves grappling with issues such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), international organized crime, and global environmental problems.

But how could I fail to touch upon the importance of the fight against terrorism without mentioning September 11th here in New York? More than a few Japanese nationals, too, fell victims, which we will never forget. I myself used to visit the World Trade Center and often enjoyed having meals on the upper floors, when I once worked here. I was terribly shocked to see that familiar building collapse in a flash. Terrorism is one of the greatest outrages inflicted by human beings on one another. As you know, Japan has been one of the United States' staunchest allies in the fight against terrorism. For example, we support, through activities of the Self Defense Force in the Indian Ocean, the United States' efforts to make developments in democracy and reconstruction in Afghanistan so that it should never again become a hotbed of terrorism. In Afghanistan, Japan also has been promoting the DDR (disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-soldiers) as a peace-building measure. Now, we are seeing a country becoming democratic through a series of elections. It is duly a success story of what Japan and the United States have done together, isn't it?

Another example of what Japan has made efforts with the United States is its humanitarian and reconstruction assistance in Iraq. That has been highly evaluated as an international contribution appropriate for Japan, utilizing organic tie-ups based on the dual approaches of cooperation by means of ODA, and the human contributions of our Self-Defense Forces.

In view of the historic opportunity to push forward the Middle East Peace Process, Japan is determined to play an active role in settling this issue peacefully. Japan's contribution to the Palestinians in fiscal 2004 amounts to 90 million US dollars. During my visit to the region in January, I personally expressed Japan's commitment to the peace in the region to both President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and Prime Minister Sharon of Israel and urged them to start the negotiation soon. We have invited two leaders to visit Japan and look forward to their early visits.

The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction represents also a most urgent concern for not only Japan but also the international community as a whole. Japan is committed to strengthening the effectiveness of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regime. With the recent revelation on underground networks of nuclear proliferation, Japan is redoubling its efforts with the United States to prevent and deter the proliferation of WMD, through such efforts as the Proliferation Security Initiative and strengthened export controls.

Poverty reduction still continues to be one of the major challenges for the international community. It would be impossible to secure peace or sustainable development without the resolution of this issue. Japan has contributed one-fifth of the world total ODA over the last decade, and as Prime Minister Koizumi stated in his speech at the Asian-African Summit Meeting last week, Japan will ensure a credible and sufficient level of ODA in order to contribute to the Millennium Development Goals.

Especially, we have been keeping watchful eyes on the current African situation, where some progress towards peace can be seen nowadays. Japan has been providing a large amount of assistance, not only post-conflict humanitarian assistance, but also election assistance, post-conflict community reconstruction, and other development aid to help them. Plus, we have also been promoting the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) process to further international discussions on African development. Mr. Koizumi announced last week that Japan would hold TICAD IV in 2008 and double its ODA to Africa in the three years to come, with grant aid continuing to be its central feature.

Another topic which will see even more and more attention as the year goes on is that of how the international system should be recrafted in order to best serve the interests of this rapidly-changing world. It is therefore critical that the international community take up various issues in close coordination.

Obviously, no other international system can match the legitimacy or universality of the United Nations. Thus, the strengthening of the functions of the United Nations is truly crucial. In particular, it is essential that the Security Council, charged with ensuring the peace and security of the globe, be reformed into an entity which is not only more effective but also more representative.

The Government of Japan has already advocated the importance of the UN reform and expressed that it is ready to carry out its constructive role on the international stage even more effectively as a permanent member of the Security Council. We appreciate that the United States understands and supports our position at the highest level.

Fortunately enough, the movement of the UN reform now has a sufficient momentum to break through the stagnation we experienced for over ten years. The United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for a decision regarding the reform of the Security Council before September of this year, which will clearly require the courageous political will of the community of nations if it is to come about.

The international community, particularly the United States, should recognize that a reformed United Nations is sure to be helpful for them, and we do believe that it will further reinforce cooperation with the United States. I hope this will also help to wipe out the unfounded allegation that the United States is running a policy of unilateralism.

The importance of Japan-US relations will clearly not diminish over time. People make much of our economic might - together Japan and the US make up a very impressive 40% of the entire global economy - and in the area of ODA, again we find our two countries providing about 40% of the global total. However, we have much more in common than just economic strength. We share the core values of freedom, democracy, and belief in the market economy, and we are solid and reliable allies in the areas of security and defense. Japan considers the further development of its good relationship with the United States a top priority.

We have been working to strengthen the Japan-US security arrangements, and our efforts include introduction of ballistic missile defense system as well as various legislative measures to cope with contingency situations. As the US military is currently undergoing a transformation, Japan is also in the process of its own transformation, developing a new general framework based on the new security environment. Within this context, we are continuing with our review of the posture of US forces in Japan. While we make utmost efforts to reduce the burdens on the local communities which host US military facilities and areas, including most notably Okinawa, we, of course, seek to fortify the deterrence provided by the presence of the US military.

The strength of our alliance is all the more amazing when you realize how quickly it has developed. 150 years ago, Japan and the US were essentially complete strangers to each other. Exactly a hundred years ago this year, it was none other than President Teddy Roosevelt that stepped in to broker peace between Japan and Russia, who were at war. After World War II, we resumed our friendship and we now literally enjoy the most important bilateral relationship of the world bar none, as Ambassador Mansfield once stated.

Japan and the United States have been cooperating with each other, being, in fact, global powers in the cultural realm as well. The fusion of the Japanese and American cultures has created a new global culture; the phenomenon is particularly visible in recent years. Miyazaki's animations including "Spirited Away" represent a new creation combining Japanese sensitivity with Walt Disney's American filmmaking traditions. And vice versa, a Japanese film "Shall We Dance?" has been remade in Hollywood starring Richard Gere. Some day in the near future, your children may be thrilled to see that Tokyo even has sushi-bars.

Today, I have focused so far on what the governments should do, but Ladies and Gentlemen, I do believe you are the very persons that guarantee these secure ties between the two countries, and I would like to thank you for giving me such a wonderful opportunity to witness your contributions to that effect.

Thank you very much for your attention.


Curriculum Vitae of Nobutaka Machimura

Born 17 October 1944         

June 1969                    
Graduated Faculty of Economics, University of Tokyo (Attended Wesleyan University, USA, on a one year exchange program)

1 July 1969                  
Joined Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI)

June 1974                    
Seconded to National Land Agency

May 1979                    
Seconded to Japan External Trade Organization (New York Trade Center)

1 April 1982                 
Retired as Director of the Planning Division, Petroleum Department, Agency of Natural Resources and Energy, MITI

18 December 1983      
Elected for the first time to the House of Representatives at the 37th election (elected for seventh consecutive term at the 43rd House of Representatives general election, 9 November, 2003) 

3 June 1989                 
Parliamentary Vice-Minister, Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture (Uno Cabinet)

11 August 1989           
Parliamentary Vice-Minister, Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture (reappointed under First Kaifu Cabinet)

16 March 1990            
Director, Cultural Affairs Division, LDP

26 December 1992       
Director, National Defense Division, Policy Research Council, LDP

8 November 1996        
Chairman, Standing Committee on Health and Welfare, House of Representatives

11 September 1997       
Minister of Education, Science, Sports and Culture (Second Hashimoto Cabinet)

31 July 1998                 
State Secretary for Foreign Affairs (Obuchi Cabinet)

March 2000                  
Special Advisor to the Prime Minister (Second Obuchi Cabinet and First Mori Cabinet)

5 December 2000         
Minister of Education, Science, Sports and Culture and Director-General of the Science and Technology Agency (Second Mori Cabinet)

6 January 2001              
Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology 

26 April 2001               
Acting Secretary-General, LDP

1 October 2002            
Director-General, Election Bureau, LDP

27 September 2004       
Minister for Foreign Affairs

Nobutaka Machimura is Japan's Minister of Foreign Affairs. For more information, visit the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs at www.mofa.go.jp or the Japanese Embassy in Washington at www.us.emb-japan.go.jp