Yasuhisa Shiozaki: "Japan itself has its unique position in the region"

Posted in Japan | 05-Feb-06 | Author: Yasuhisa Shiozaki| Source: Munich Conference on Security Policy

Yasuhisa Shiozaki, Senior Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan.
Speech at the 42nd Munich Conference on Security Policy

1. Introduction

Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

First, let me say how honored I am to make this presentation to the influential Munich Conference on Security Policy, as the Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan.

The 20th century witnessed two world wars and the Cold War, which ended before turn of the century. People believed in the advent of a lasting peace, and expected to receive the dividend of peace. However, the future of the international community in the 21st century remains unpredictable. We still have no clear vision as to how the new post-cold war international order should be structured. The United Nations, 60 years after its establishment, is not always coping effectively with the issues we face today. Reforms to that organization, including the Security Council, are vitally needed. As intensifying globalization causes both positive and negative effects, we now face new threats such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the spread of international terrorism.

Against this backdrop, Asia's significance in the world is increasing. On the economic front, Asian nations are enjoying striking growth, with positive impacts on the international economy as a whole. On the other hand, sources of instability still abound in Asia. To put it simply, Asia has become increasingly significant both in the positive as well as the negative sense.

Today, I intend to share with you my personal views by focusing on three key areas, making comparisons between in Asia and Europe as necessary:
  • First, what are the attributes that characterize Asia and its significance in the world?
  • Second, what policies do Asian countries need to put in place to ensure peace and prosperity? And to that end, what type of relationship should Asia have with the rest of the world.
  • And third, what is Japan's role in all this?

2. Asia as a region

Distinguished guests,

First, let us try to characterize Asia as a region. I would like to mention some key attributes of Asia on the political and economic front, by way of making a comparison to Europe.
  • First, on diversity - Asia is a region of diversity in terms of ethnicity, culture and religion as well as the developmental stage of the countries in the region. Unlike Europe, which has made significant progress in integration, there is no 'one Asia.' This has both positive and negative implications. While diversity is one of Asia's greatest strengths, it also makes cooperation among countries difficult in some ways.
  • Second, on the strong economy - Asia is highly dynamic with its strong economic potential. East Asia including Japan, China and South Korea increased its share of world GDP by 13 % during the past 30 years. Nearly 50% of the world population reside in participating countries of the East Asia Summit, and those countries consist 22.6% of the global nominal GDP. China's economic growth is a notable positive influence to the region as a whole. We must capitalize on this positive influence, while cooperating in dealing with the negative impact of such rapid growth, including environmental pollution and energy supply and demand.
  • Third, on the weak financial ties - Asia has no common currency such as the Euro, and the convertibility of Asian currencies is weak. In this regard, after East Asia experienced a large scale financial crisis in the late 1990s, Japan has assisted financially-troubled Asian countries through the New Miyazawa Initiative. In addition, the ASEAN+3 countries have been working to enhance cooperation among countries in the region through measures such as the Chiang Mai Initiative. However, it is still important in my view to further increase financial cooperation among individual Asian countries.
  • And forth, on the uncertain security environment - Tensions on the security front have not fully subsided in Asia, and East Asia in particular. According to the Military Balance, as of 2003, 33% of the world's military manpower is concentrated in East Asia and Australia. In this region, China alone consists just over 11% of the world's entire military manpower. There are a variety of difficult issues including the nuclear, missile and abduction issues of North Korea, as well as uncertain cross - Taiwan Strait relations. Peace and stability in East Asia are maintained by the forward deployment of US forces and bilateral alliances with the US, which play a similar role to that played by NATO in Europe during the Cold War.

3. How can peace and prosperity be achieved in Asia?

Distinguished guests,

So, when we have a group of incredibly diverse and complex mix of people, thriving and growing under a tense security situation, what should we be doing in Asia to ensure economic prosperity and a stable security environment? And how should Asia interact with the rest of the world to best achieve that aim? I would like to touch upon four points here today.
  • The first point is an Asian economy that is open to the world. Montesquieu once said; "The natural effect of commerce is to lead to peace." Strengthened economic ties do not only help ensure prosperity for the Asian region but also stability within the region. Here, (a) promoting Free Trade Agreements (FTA), (b) channeling Asia's rich savings into investment to generate regional economic development, and (c) facilitating labor movements hold the key.
    For their part, each Asian nation must fully comply with international economic rules, including intellectual property rights, upheld by the WTO. As its economic growth has been export-driven, the Asian economy needs to be open to the world. We must openly recognize that the development of Asia's economies is not a zero-sum, but rather a positive-sum game for the whole international community.
    The world could enjoy greater prosperity all around if Asia and Europe deepen their ties within each region and between each other in three areas - namely trade (the flow of goods), investment (the flow of money), and the movement of labor (the flow of people). And here, I should admit that Japan must be the one to take the lead in these areas.
  • The second point is security. Cold War-type tensions still remain particularly in East Asia. I believe that the easing of such tensions in Asia would lead to a greater degree of economic prosperity and peace in the region as well as in Europe and the international community as a whole.
    Nobel Peace Prize winner and economist, Norman Angell, argued in 1913 in his best-selling book 'The Great Illusion' that commerce and industry of a people no longer depended upon the expansion of its political frontiers by military force, and that war was no longer the justification that it makes for the survival of the fittest. But unfortunately, however interdependent the European countries might have been on the eve of WWI, the war still did occur. Perhaps the political leaders and dictators at that time were not well aware of economic interdependency.
    Nowadays economic interdependence has grown stronger. But it is all the more important for Asian countries to work tirelessly on confidence building and preventative diplomacy amongst each other through not only bilateral contacts but also in multilateral fora such as the ARF (ASEAN Regional Forum), which is the only Governmental multilateral security forum in Asia.
    Europe has experienced the process of economic integration, and of striving to achieve political unification. I would very much hope that those of you in Europe would share those experiences and offer support to ensure an easing of tension and peaceful development in Asia. Conversely, if Europe were to fuel tensions in Asia, it would most likely have a negative impact on the Asian economy and, by extension, the European and international economies in the long term.
  • The third point is the promotion of democratic values in Asia. The wars and international disputes of the 20th century have proven that democracy works to ensure peace and prosperity in the international community. Now that democracy has come out victorious from the 20th century, we must spread it throughout Asia and the world at large, so that the fruit of democracy can be shared by all. Asia can learn a lot from Europe and the US, with the greatest amount of experience in this area.
    Democracy is a single and universal concept, and there is no such variation as 'green democracy' or 'red democracy.' Procedure is essential in democracy and there is no real democracy without an election which can change government.
    At the same time, I would like to emphasize that, because democracy has a direct relation not only to the state, but also to the lives and values of individuals and their society, it is not something that you can force upon people, nor is it something that can be taught like mathematics or science. Democracy must be felt, understood and accepted wholeheartedly by the people themselves. Therefore each Asian nation has to discover democracy for themselves in their own way and at their own pace in order to make it truly their own. Japan is an experienced democracy today, but we did not achieve this over night. After the Meiji Restoration in 1867, our experiences contained both successes and failures. We went through two world wars before we were able to arrive at where we are today. I think it would be useful for Japan to share our experiences, successes and failures alike, as a good lesson with our friends in the region. Similarly, I think it is very important that the West recognize that democracy has to be discovered and won by the people themselves, and patiently support this process.
  • My fourth point relates to cooperation beyond Asia as a region - namely dialogue with the rest of the world.
    Asia is an open society. Peace and prosperity in Asia as well as the entire international community will be greatly enhanced by ensuring that Asia becomes even more open to the world. In the context of Asia's relations with Europe, ASEM or Asia-Europe Meeting is an important experiment and should be developed further. In this very context, Japan intends to deepen its relationship with NATO.
    It is increasingly important for both Europe and Asia to promote functional cooperation inter-regionally and globally to deal with a wide range of issues ranging from international terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to the environment, natural disasters, infectious diseases, economic rules, human rights and disarmament.
    Also, as each sub-region in Asia has its distinct features, sub-region wise policy coordination between Europe and Asia would be extremely useful. In this context, Central Asia and Southwest Asia including India - another key player in the region, with their geopolitical and strategic importance and proximity to Europe, are examples of sub-regions in which close Euro-Asian policy coordination is needed.

4. Japan's unique role in Asia and the world

Distinguished guests,

So far, I have been referring to Asia as a region as a whole. However, as I myself noted, Asia is a region of diversity, and there are limits to describing it under the single label of 'Asia.'
Japan itself has its unique position in the region. Japan is an experienced democracy. It is politically and socially stable, and is the second largest economic power in the world. Moreover, Japan is making contributions to the international community as a peaceful country. We are the second-largest contributor of official development assistance in the world, thus far providing approximately 221 billion dollars to 185 countries. Japan's assessed contribution to the UN budget is 19.5%, a greater amount than the UK, France, China and Russia - all permanent members of the Security Council, put together. It is striking to think that only two countries, Japan and the US, provide for over 40% of the UN budget. With such characteristics, Japan intends to continue to act as a constructive component in Asia and the international community, whose readiness enables it to provide security in the areas of both economy and politics.
In the economic field, Prime Minister Koizumi is pressing forward with his robust reforms initiative. The unprecedented as well as unexpected political triumph of the Prime Minister and the ruling coalition over the postal reform issue last autumn is still vivid in our memories. With such bold leadership and a rejuvenated private sector, Japan has come out of over a decade of economic stagnation, achieving positive growth in the three consecutive years since 2002. With restored vitality and improved efficiency in our economy, Japan is willing to continue to serve as the source of dynamism for the world economy as a vibrant and robust developed economy.
In the area of security, for over a decade after the Gulf Crisis of 1991, Japan has been working tirelessly to expand its role in the international community. Back in 1991, we were unable to contribute personnel to the efforts by the international coalition to counter Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, due to a Constitutional constraint on overseas dispatchment of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces. Despite the fact that Japan made a financial contribution of outstanding 13 billion dollars, we were criticized as being "too little, too late." Japan's flag was omitted from the ad that the Kuwaiti government posted on the Washington Post, thanking the countries that contributed to its liberation. Since this painful experience, we have put in place legislation that enabled the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to participate in UN Peace Keeping Operations under specific conditions. Today, we have an established record of participation in UN peacekeeping operations in Cambodia, Mozambique, the Golan Heights, Rwanda and Timor-Leste. After the 9/11 terror attacks on the US, Japan has enacted special legislation to dispatch it's Self-Defense Forces to the Indian Ocean and Iraq in support of the fight against terrorism and efforts to rebuild Iraq. Today, Japan is proud to be a major global contributor to a wide range of international efforts, ranging from the reconstruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, the fight against terrorism, transnational crime, to the Indian Ocean Tsunami relief operation, to list just a few.
In my view, Japan should and will play an even greater role in efforts to ensure international peace in the future, hopefully as a permanent member of the Security Council, while maintaining its basic stance as a peace-loving nation. In this context, it is worth noting that there is an on-going political debate in Japan towards amending the Constitution, which will surely have an impact in this regard. Participation of the Self-Defense Forces to UN Peace Keeping Operations and other international peace efforts are still limited by strict and specific legal conditions to make sure that their overseas activities are in conformity with the current Japanese Constitution. As a consequence, activities by the Self-Defense Forces today are largely limited to logistical support and humanitarian and reconstruction assistance. An amended Constitution may allow the Japanese Self-Defense Forces to participate more actively in a wider range of international peace efforts. At the same time, I would like to emphasize that in this debate over constitutional amendment, there is already a consensus that the first clause in Article 9, which renounces war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes, should remain intact as a peace-loving nation.
Promotion of regionalism has been a global trend, and Asia is no exception. Japan wishes to play its part in the process of molding an East Asian community. As witnessed in the successful launching of the East Asia Summit in December last year, the momentum we are seeing today towards deeper regional cooperation in East Asia is real and irreversible. We must ride this tide and lead our region to a prosperous and stable community. Japan has a long history of friendship with ASEAN, fully launched by the Fukuda speech in 1977. Japan regards ASEAN to be the key of regional cooperation, and has been closely working with ASEAN as equal strategic partners in addressing our common challenges. Through such cooperation, Japan hopes to lead the East Asia Summit, with ASEAN in the "driver's seat," to be the centerpiece of regional community building, while ensuring its openness and complementarity with other existing regional frameworks.

5. Conclusion

Distinguished guests,

Some people liken the 21st century-Asia to Europe on the eve of World War I in 1914. In other words, military tensions and mutual distrust escalating to the extreme.
However, I don't believe in this theory. What we need in our region is more confidence building, better understanding, and a greater degree of transparency. And from this perspective, although far from the level attained in Europe, the relationship among states in Asia is reaching a certain level of maturity. In a metaphor, the situation in Asia now is in a way like when you are trying to convince someone you are dating to marry you.
Diversity and dynamism are Asia's strengths. While tensions do remain on the security front, it is by no means impossible for Asia to overcome them with the help of Europe and the international community.
The future for Asia is both bright and complicated. However, as former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said, 'kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.' Today's problems can become tomorrow's potential. Japan is determined to play its role in bringing that potential to fruition. Let all of us join hands to make the 21st century an era of peace and prosperity in Asia as well as the world at large.

Thank you.

The spoken word is applicable!