Japanese Diplomacy at a Historic Watershed
Monday, January 24, 2011
Tokyo - (PanOrient News) The following is the full text of the lecture presentation on foreign policy by Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan on January 20, in Tokyo.
"Japanese Diplomacy at a Historic Watershed"
Lecture Presentation on Foreign Policy by Prime Minister Naoto Kan
January 20, 2011
Imperial Hotel, Tokyo
Today's opportunity to deliver my address on foreign policy was graciously extended to me by the International Friendship Exchange Council, most notably Chairman Chihiro Kanagawa, and other related persons.
Needless to say, diplomacy is important in any era. Yet, the world is now in an era that can truly be called a historic watershed, with diplomacy now becoming increasingly critical for Japan and for the world.
Despite that fact, there are not all that many opportunities for me as the Prime Minister to address the public directly with a focus on diplomacy. At the same time, I believe that it is highly significant to take such an opportunity to convey to the world my way of thinking and Japan's approach. It was on account of this kind of thinking that here at the beginning of the year this kind of lecture presentation came to be held and I have come to be here today. In any event, next week the National Diet begins a new session, and while I will be making a policy speech that squarely addresses both domestic and international issues, today I would like to present my way of thinking, including my personal point of view, focusing on foreign policy and security issues.
I suspect you may all share a common perception that in comparison with the eUnited States vs. Soviet Union' bipolar structure of years gone by, this era of the 21st century has become profoundly more complex. In particular, in recent years we have seen the rise of a number of emerging economies including China and India, with major changes to the global power balance also now emerging. For example, twenty years ago the group of advanced nations called the G7 accounted for more than two-thirds of global GDP, at 68%. This now stands at 53%, or roughly half, and the group of countries known as the G20 has come to rise dramatically in influence.
While the term "globalization" is one that has been with us for some time, the addition of IT technological development and the like has given rise to unprecedented changes in the world, while finance and a great number of economic relations now transcend borders and interlink much like a fine mesh. As symbolized in one way by Wikileaks, we are now in an era in which various kinds of information fly back and forth across the globe in a single instant, directly and immediately impacting even politics in various countries.
Moreover, terrorist activities crossing over state boundaries as well as global environment issues and biodiversity concerns have also become critical issues. It is against just such a backdrop that the present day with its globalization presents both significant opportunities but also uncertainties to us and indeed to the world. This fact is also an inescapable conclusion. In such an era as this, will we be able to make the most of these opportunities? And, will we be able to properly contain and inhibit the risks emerging from uncertainties? I feel that diplomacy now requires us to have higher conceptual abilities and response capabilities above and beyond those needed in years past.
In such an era, here at the beginning of 2011 I would like to lay out my thinking with regard to foreign policy and national security, setting five pillars at the axis. The first of these pillars is the Japan-US alliance as the cornerstone of Japanese foreign policy. The second is the new development of foreign relations with Asia. The third is the promotion of economic diplomacy; the fourth, addressing global issues; and the fifth is Japan itself responding with precision to the security environment surrounding it. I will be addressing each of these five pillars in turn.
[The First Pillar – the Japan-US alliance as the cornerstone of Japanese foreign policy]
As for the first pillar of the Japan-US alliance as the cornerstone of Japanese foreign policy, I think that by now there is little need to speak on this at length. This is Japan's most important bilateral relationship. At the same time, I regard the Japan-US alliance as a relationship that not only holds great significance for, and has contributed to, both Japan and the United States, but also serves as an element of stability for the Asia-Pacific region as well, thereby being highly evaluated as "public goods." In light of this, the vast majority of the Japanese public has expressed active support for the Japan-US alliance over the span of these 65 years since the end of the war, and, regardless of the change in government, this relationship must, in my view, continue to be maintained and reinforced.
The Japan-US alliance involves more than just national security aspects. It is imperative that we advance still further the deepening of this alliance across a spectrum of fields, including economic aspects and also exchanges in human resources and culture. Human relations are akin to alliances, in that we are inclined to think that, once formed, a good relationship will continue on forever. Yet in fact efforts on both sides are necessary for a good relationship to be maintained. I have been married for forty years and should I ever fail to put effort into our relationship, I suffer through a taste of my own medicine.
Looking at it from that angle, we must never forget that in the context of the Japan-US alliance, members of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and the US Marines, perhaps youth not even twenty years of age, have a mission to be prepared to shed their own blood should a contingency arise. I intend to continue to use this understanding in working towards the further deepening of the Japan-US alliance. In the first half of 2011 I expect to visit the United States. At that time I would like to create jointly with President Obama a vision through which we succeed in further deepening the Japan-US alliance of the 21st century.
I believe that as we deepen this Japan-US alliance, it will be very important to work tenaciously to tackle the issues in the relocation of Futenma Air Station in Okinawa. I wish to extend here once more an apology for the consequence that engendered great confusion among the people of Okinawa, or deeply hurt their feelings, with regard to the Futenma issue. Last month I visited Okinawa and thought once again about the pain that is being felt by the Okinawan people. Even today 74% of US military bases in Japan are concentrated in Okinawa, a situation which imposes a burden on many Okinawan people. In particular, since the reversion of Okinawa to Japan, even as the mainland saw significant reductions in the number of US military bases, Okinawa has not seen many reductions up to the present day. As a person engaged in politics I feel that this situation is deeply regrettable for the people of Okinawa and I feel a deep sense of shame at this situation.
At the same time, there continue to be extremely challenging risks to the current security environment in Asia, including the issue of nuclear development by North Korea. In order to ensure Japan's national security, I believe that we must adhere to the Japan-US Security Treaty and that the presence of US military bases is necessary within Japan.
That said, we must at the earliest possible time eliminate the risk of the Futenma Air Station, which is located in a densely populated area. In addition, insofar as the transfer to Guam of approximately 8,000 US Marines currently stationed in Okinawa, along with their 9,000 family members, as well as the return of facilities and areas south of Kadena, will lead to a lightening of Okinawa's military base burden, I am very intent on materializing these developments.
Insofar as the presence of US military bases in Okinawa supports the security of the entirety of Japan, we must undertake tireless efforts to have the public as a whole share the pain and burdens borne by Okinawa. Today Japan and the US reached agreement to transfer to Guam a portion of training currently undertaken at Kadena. At all possible occasions, including here today, I intend to actively appeal to the public living in regions outside of Okinawa in order to gain their understanding and cooperation regarding sharing the burdens of the US military bases.
[The Second Pillar – the new development of foreign relations with Asia]
Next I will discuss foreign policy on Asia as the second pillar.
The Asia-Pacific region is truly diverse in, among other things, its stages of economic development, ethnic groups and peoples, and values. Yet against such a backdrop, the region is now poised to make a significant leap forward even in the context of world history. What will clearly prove critical for the long-term development of the region is the creation of collaborative frameworks, rather than the form of conflict, through which the diversity of this region will serve as a source of vitality and dynamism. In order to do this I believe it is necessary for Japan to make efforts to actively promote cooperation among the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, including such countries as China, the Republic of Korea, Russia, the member states of ASEAN, Australia, India, and the United States.
In addition to these cooperative relationships, I intend for Japan to make use of regional cooperation frameworks including APEC, the East Asia Summit, and the ASEAN Regional Forum to strengthen multi-layered cooperative relations. Japan making efforts towards the creation of an open network will of course lead to benefits for Japan itself, but I believe it also leads to the building of win-win relations for those Asia-Pacific countries.
Now I would like to touch upon Japan's relations with individual nations.
First let us look at our relations with China. In recent years China, which has dramatically risen to the forefront, is coming to play an important role for both the world and the region. At the same time, there are areas in China's strengthening of its national defense, in which transparency is somewhat lacking, and in its increasingly ambitious maritime activities regarding which we must harbor concerns. The incidents that arose last year were extremely regrettable occurrences.
However, Japan and China have had exchanges continuously over the history of our two nations, certainly for the period of over two thousand years since the dawn of Japanese history, as neighboring countries separated by a thin strip of water. While there was for a time an unfortunate period between our countries, within our long histories we have been engaged in active exchanges across a broad range of fields, including politics, economics and culture.
In particular, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution, when China began on its path to modernization. Sun Yatsen, who can be called the father of modern China, and other people with deep connections to Japan played a very important role in this revolution. Shokichi Umeya, a Japanese, assisted Sun Yatsen and as a close friend long devoted himself to Sun Yatsen's work. This relationship is one recognized not only by Japan but also in China.
In light of such a history, I believe that it is necessary to make efforts to deepen the relations of our two countries still further, limiting ourselves not to the areas of politics or national security, and furthermore not to the area of economics, but rather expanding through the cultural realm, the economic realm, and also mutual people-to-people exchanges. Within that context, our two countries share a role of responsibility as major international powers both in Asia and particularly at the global level, and in keeping with that relationship I want to deepen our "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests" still further. In order to achieve this I intend to set up not only a hotline between the leaders of our two countries but also foster exchanges between the governing parties and, as I mentioned earlier, deepen still further people-to-people exchanges.
Next I would like to speak about the new era in Republic of Korea (ROK)-Japan relations.
Relations between Japan and the ROK are such that regular flights link a substantial number of cities in our two countries, with a round trip comfortably possible as a day trip, making our countries a "one-day cultural sphere." In addition to the proximity of our traditional cultures and our languages, in recent years there has been mutual interest in the other country's trends, including fashion and anime, among other areas. The sense of familiarity our citizens now feel towards each other has become unprecedented in its strength. The ROK has become Japan's closest neighbor in both name and reality.
Last year marked the one hundredth anniversary of Japan's annexation of the Korean peninsula. Under the colonial rule of the past, the Korean people were deprived of their country and their culture, and the pride of the Korean people was deeply wounded. In a Prime Ministerial Statement last summer I expressed once again my feelings of deep remorse and my heartfelt apology regarding such tremendous damage and sufferings. Grounded in the spirit expressed therein, Japan and Korea have expressed mutual pledges for new cooperation as we look to the future. There are regional security issues surrounding the Korean Peninsula, including the incident of the sinking of the ROK military patrol vessel the Cheonan in March last year, and also matters to be pursued as we advance trade liberalization between Japan and the ROK. I believe that these are issues that Japan and the ROK must overcome in cooperation as the roles that Japan and the ROK play jointly to achieve these objectives in the region and in the international community continue to expand.
Since I assumed this office in June last year, I have already had summit meetings with President Lee Myung-bak on three occasions in addition to three telephone conversations, and we have also spoken on a personal level. Together with President Lee, I will continue to build up concrete forms of cooperation between Japan and the ROK in various fields into the future as we firmly forge such a deep relationship of trust. In this way I wish to build a truly new era in Japan-ROK relations.
At the same time there is the situation in North Korea.
November last year saw the incident in which Yeonpyeong Island of the Republic of Korea was shelled by North Korea, as well as North Korea's declaration of its activities to enrich uranium, which are directly linked to the development of nuclear weapons. Both of these threaten the peace and stability of not only the Northeast Asia region but also the world. With regard to such nuclear, missile, and security issues, Japan has strengthened the collaboration between Japan and the ROK, as well as among Japan, the United States, and the ROK, and urges North Korea to halt such provocative actions and comply with the abandoning of all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs as agreed in the Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks of 2005. Japan is looking to normalize its diplomatic relations with North Korea after the comprehensive resolution of the outstanding issues of concern, including the abduction, nuclear, and missile issues, and settling the unfortunate past based on the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration. The abduction issue is a matter that concerns the national sovereignty of Japan. The other day I had the opportunity to speak directly with family members of abductees and I have renewed my determination to bring about the early resolution of the abduction issue. I will spare no effort to enable all abductees to return to Japan at the earliest possible time.
As for our relations with Russia, we will tenaciously engage in negotiations in accordance with our basic policy of concluding a peace treaty upon resolving the issue of the attribution of the Northern Territories, which are Japan's sovereign territory. The territorial issue is one which I believe we must work to resolve on the basis of assembling all possible information and insights, taking an "all Japan" approach. President Medvedev and I have agreed that we will push forward with consultations towards the resolution of the territorial issue and also consultations to expand economic cooperation, including at the summit level. I believe it is important that through these consultations the Russian government comes to hold the recognition that the resolution of the territorial issue will contribute tremendously to Russia's own long-term national interests. I believe that sort of development would be a desirable step forward. I will make efforts so that the cooperative relationship between Japan and Russia is enhanced further.
Next, it goes without saying that Japan is a maritime state surrounded entirely by the sea. Japan has been blessed with the abundant bounty of the marine area of Asia and the Pacific. This marine area is also a root source of the abundance of this region overall. Yet at the same time this abundance has in recent years led to an increasingly marked amount of conflict regarding marine interests, and we cannot overlook the fact that this is becoming a source of regional instability. While advocating for its rights openly and fairly, Japan wants to take the initiative in creating maritime rules and undertake other means to prevent conflicts before they break out so that this Asia-Pacific region can continue to be home to a "sea of peace."
I also intend to move ahead proactively in the creation of common rules to govern not only free navigation of the seas but also intellectual property rights and space, cyberspace, and other new public spaces. To do so, I intend to utilize a multi-faceted network in the Asia-Pacific region.
[The Third Pillar – the promotion of economic diplomacy]
As my third pillar, I would like to address the promotion of economic diplomacy. In Japan a trend towards being somewhat inward-focused is intensifying, such as the decreasing number of young people who are studying abroad. When I launched my Cabinet in June last year, I felt very keenly the need to break out of the feeling of being caught in an impasse that has been ongoing in Japan for almost twenty years and the need to revitalize Japan. The key to this is opening up the country both psychologically and economically. Japan opened up the country 150 years ago during the Meiji Restoration, and then opened itself anew 65 years ago after its defeat in the war. Japan accomplished new movement forward in each of these eras. In the present day we will achieve a 21st-century opening of Japan. Setting this year as the base year for the opening of Japan in the 21st century, I will work to bring this into reality. This is the fundamental thinking guiding my Cabinet this year. I believe we must move forward in this area, staking the fate of Japan on it.
In specific terms, while there are many elements involved in the opening of Japan, if I may focus here on the economic aspect, this would mean accelerating liberalization in trade and investment and also in human resource exchanges. We will work towards the strengthening of international trade rules through the conclusion of the WTO Doha Round negotiations and promote comprehensive economic partnerships. I consider this to be the optimal means for Japan and the world to achieve mutual prosperity and I have been pressing forward on this issue. Moreover, we will steadily implement the economic partnership agreements we agreed with India and Peru last year. We will move forward expeditiously in our negotiations with Australia, and we will aim to resume or launch negotiations on economic partnership agreements with the EU, the ROK, and Mongolia. I also intend to press forward further in the joint study for a free trade agreement among Japan, China, and the ROK.
In addition to these, as for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, or "TPP," we have already begun its domestic examination on whether to join consultations on this Agreement and are continuing our consultations with the United States and other relevant countries. I intend to determine in roughly June of this year whether or not Japan will participate in negotiations aimed at joining the Agreement. A 5% reduction in the effective corporate tax rate was also decided upon with an eye toward opening up the country.
In conjunction with this, the revival of agriculture is also an issue of urgency. The average age of Japanese farmers is 66, and land upon which cultivation has been abandoned has expanded, now reaching 400,000 hectares, a scale that exceeds the size of Saitama Prefecture. As a result, regardless of whether or not trade is liberalized, if we continue to proceed in this way, Japanese agriculture will steadily decline. I intend to transform reform of the agricultural sector away from the protection of agriculture, which has been the approach taken thus far. For example, farmers would grow rice or vegetables. But not only would they grow them, but also they would deliver them to consumers and, in some cases, provide them to large numbers of people through restaurants. I will work to transform agricultural reform to an orientation taking an assertive posture, including transitioning to such a "senary," or sixth-order, industry as I just described, and endeavor to make it possible for young people to enter into agriculture full of hope. To coin a new expression, this will be "a 21st-century opening of Japan that values agriculture." I hope that you join me in pursuing this.
At the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting in November last year which I chaired, the leaders agreed on the goals of balanced growth, inclusive growth, sustainable growth, innovative growth, and secure growth. Based on these, I will also aim to help build the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific, or "FTAAP," as an agenda over the medium to long term. We are also moving ahead in promoting the liberalization of the skies. Just yesterday, we opened yet another gateway by reaching agreement on implementation of an "Open Skies" arrangement with Singapore. We have already concluded a full-fledged Open Skies Agreement with the US last November and at the end of December we reached agreement on implementation with the ROK. I consider this one kind of evidence that Japan is currently moving steadily to open up the country.
Allow me also to touch briefly on the export of infrastructure through the close cooperation of the public and private sectors. For a sizable number of emerging economies, it will be infrastructure that becomes the major key to further growth and ongoing development into the future.
At the same time, Japan has the technology necessary for developing infrastructure and it also has capital.
In light of this, firmly linking up mutually complementary relations between emerging economies and Japan will prove to be quite important both for the development of the emerging economies and for Japan as it embraces the vibrancy of these countries.
Last year I had talks Prime Minister Dung of Viet Nam on three occasions. I believe that these were to good effect. This past October, Japan received its first [international] order in the field of nuclear power generation for the construction of reactors at the second nuclear power plant site in Viet Nam, and concurrently we succeeded in actualizing a contract in the area of rare earths. For upcoming large-scale projects as well, numerous Cabinet members will be heading overseas to sell Japan's strengths assertively at the very highest levels. I intend to work proactively to connect such fields as this in which Japan has great expertise to the further development of emerging and also developed nations, and to take the vibrancy of those countries and link it in to Japan.
In particular within such fields I find the securing of natural resources extremely important. Rare earths and other mineral resources are becoming increasingly important as resources that sustain among other things industry related to next-generation energies.
We have seen progress in consultations on the joint development of resources with various countries, for example not only with Viet Nam last year, but also with such countries as India, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Canada, and Australia.
Something that made a particular impression on me was that in the course of talks with the President of Bolivia in South America, the President said that if possible he would like to add value to lithium resources and supply them to the world, as Bolivia holds almost half of the world's lithium resources. I responded by saying that I would like to dispatch to Bolivia people with expertise in lithium battery technology, and the President said he would welcome this most enthusiastically.
In addition, Kyoto University has accepted two young students from Bolivia who are now engaged in studies of such technology and related fields. In this regard, I hope to build up relations in which it is not the case that Japan alone is reaping benefits in buying something from these countries. Instead I want to create relations in which value is added for these countries as well, while also leading to the enhancement of Japan's national interests.
[The Fourth Pillar– efforts to address global issues]
I would like now to take up as the fourth pillar efforts to tackle global issues. I feel that there are several areas within diplomatic and security policy where Japan's international contributions at the global level are indeed tremendous.
In particular, last year, after I assumed the office of Prime Minister, I had the opportunity to meet with the leaders of many countries. Along the way I received expressions of thanks any number of times from leaders of developing countries in Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Latin America, who said that Japan's ODA over many years along with its economic cooperation and technical cooperation have given rise to extremely significant outcomes in the course of these countries moving forward, in terms of both growth and stability.
Japan tends to have suffered a bit of trauma at the fact that in the First Gulf War Japan sent money but failed to dispatch any people. However as I look back on this long period of 65 years since the end of the war, our contributions to a large number of countries through such peaceful means, which are contributions that are truly in accordance with the principles of the Japanese Constitution, were clearly not a mistake by any account. This is what I felt through the words of my counterparts from a large number of developing and emerging economies.
Last year, I made a speech at the United Nations regarding the Millennium Development Goals and related issues. I announced new contributions in the areas of health and education in what is called the "Kan Commitment." Japan is moving forward in its preparations to hold an international conference in Japan within 2011 for follow-up on the UN High-level Plenary Meeting on the MDGs so as to enhance partnerships with a broad range of relevant parties.
We will steadily implement the pledges we made at the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development, called TICAD IV. These international pledges include among other initiatives a doubling of our aid for Africa by 2012 and providing support to enable a doubling of private investment in Africa.
We will also actively extend assistance to Afghanistan and Pakistan. In particular, we will implement steadily our support to Afghanistan for agriculture, infrastructure and reintegration programs. In order to contribute to peace in the Middle East, we exert ourselves to assist Palestinian people.
Next let us consider Japan's contributions in the area of environmental issues. Japan is an environmental powerhouse and our energy conservation and clean energy technologies are very highly evaluated around the world.
I believe that it is necessary for Japan to go beyond the "hard" aspects of industrial technology to make contributions in the "soft" area such as international standards.
Japan's initiatives have been highly acclaimed internationally in, among other areas, carbon dioxide emission reductions and other climate change countermeasures and also the conservation of biodiversity, which helped lead to the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol. I intend to resolutely demonstrate leadership still further in such areas.
In addition to the existing framework for environmental countermeasures such as the Conferences of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, I would like to put forth a new international initiative addressing Asian environmental challenges in particular.
I have already directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other related ministries and agencies to examine this. With regard to the problem of carbon dioxide emissions, I have been advocating that we move forward by establishing international standards in which, for example, a carbon dioxide emissions per capita is used. Per capita emissions [per year] are currently roughly 20 tons in the United States, about 10 tons in Japan and Germany, about 4 in China, and a bit over 1 in India, with roughly 4 tons per capita as the worldwide average. If we were to halve that by 2050, that would mean we would need to lower it to 2 tons per person, disregarding for now increases in the population.
In such a scenario, emissions would have to be brought down to a tenth of current levels in the US, to a fifth of current levels in Japan, and to half even in China. I believe that it is important to put forward a common target of this type—that is, to put forward a climate change target of this type for the entire world—and advance our efforts accordingly.
As for efforts towards nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, I want Japan, as the only country to have ever suffered the devastation of atomic bombings, to continue to stand at the forefront of international efforts towards the attainment of a world without nuclear weapons.
Japan has been submitting draft nuclear disarmament resolutions to the United Nations General Assembly, stoking the interest of the international community in the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Since the advent of the Democratic Party-led government, the United States has also become a co-sponsor of our draft resolutions and they have been adopted through the support of an overwhelming majority. Towards April this year, Japan's Special Communicators for a World without Nuclear Weapons, whose assistance I requested, are scheduled to visit various countries around the world to talk about their experiences as survivors of the atomic bombings.
In order to tackle assertively on these issues, I intend to attach great importance to the United Nations, as we have done in the past, but to an even greater extent.
Discussions on the reform of the United Nations Security Council have been underway for a great many years. Japan is not saying that it should be, or that it hopes to be, a permanent member of the Security Council merely because of its considerable economic might. I feel that there will be enormous significance for global nuclear disarmament if a country that does not possess nuclear weapons joins the permanent members of the Council. I will endeavor to gain understanding all over the world regarding Japan's bid to become a permanent member of the Security Council so that we can play just such a role.
[The Fifth Pillar – Japan itself responding with precision to the security environment surrounding it]
Lastly I would like to address as my fifth pillar Japan itself responding with precision to issues in the security environment surrounding present-day Japan. At the end of last year, new National Defense Program Guidelines governing national security and defense were stipulated. Under these new Guidelines, Japan will continue to uphold the fundamental principles of its defense policy, including its exclusively defensive defense policy and its three non-nuclear principles. The Guidelines reaffirm carrying forward Japan's own efforts as well as cooperation with our ally and with the international community.
Along with Japan's defense, I also regard as objectives such security issues as contributing to the peace and stability of the region and the world and also helping to ensure human security.
In particular, within this overall picture, we have cast off the Basic Defense Force Concept that has been handed down from the Cold War era. It reinforces our readiness and mobility and incorporates the building of a "Dynamic Defense Force" supported by high-tech capabilities and information capabilities. I intend to enhance the structure to be one that responds rapidly to any crisis. I will consolidate an appropriately sized defense force step by step while at the same time executing a structural transformation of our defense force by concentrating resources on truly critical functions. This means creating a more effective defense system with limited resources. I intend to prioritize the improvement of such functions as surveillance, maritime patrols, air defense, and responses to ballistic missile attacks, including in southwestern Japan.
The peace and prosperity of Japan in the present day are inextricably linked to the stability of the region and the world. "One-nation pacifism," in which all is deemed fine as long as our own country, or the neighboring vicinity, is at peace, will simply not do. As for what Japan can do for the peace of the region and of the world, Japan must make efforts towards these ends, including through the ODA and international contributions that I mentioned earlier. Since the DPJ took the reins of government Japan has taken an approach of seeking to be actively engaged in United Nations peacekeeping operations in accordance with the rules governing Japan's engagement. We now have more than 380 personnel dispatched, in contrast to the roughly 50 personnel that had been dispatched before. In addition to ODA, we will make the contributions fit for our nation to such fields as United Nations peace activities, anti-piracy activities including those off the coast of Somalia, and disaster relief and rescue activities.
In closing, in discussing these five pillars I would like to put forth one thought I have for today's Japan and today's world. I believe that you are aware of the fact that in Yamaguchi Prefecture where I was born, there was the great spiritual leader Yoshida Shoin as the Meiji Restoration was coming about. Shoin was a man of noble ideals who harshly criticized policymakers who did nothing when faced with a critical situation. Shoin once said to his students at his Shokason Juku academy, "What should men of high purpose respect for? That should be what they carry out by their own choice, keeping high aspiratins with rectitude."
We who are alive in 2011, and in particular those in the position of being politicians—we who shoulder a greater responsibility, or at a minimum myself—must accomplish those things that need to be accomplished, as politicians in the modern era. I believe that that is what is truly necessary.
Japanese politics, and indeed international affairs, now face extremely challenging issues. I will end my remarks today with a pledge that I will make in front of all of you, that with this type of resolve, I intend to push forward vigorously, to the very best of my ability, in order to realize progress in Japan's diplomacy.
Thank you very much for listening.
Questions and Answers
Moderator: Thank you very much, Mr. Prime Minister. I hesitate to ask you this, but if you might be amenable to it, a large number of our members have said they would like to ask you for your thoughts and your views. So while this may be quite presumptuous especially in light of the time constraints, I wonder if you might allow me to ask you one or two questions on behalf of our members.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan: Certainly.
Moderator: I very much appreciate that. Here is the first question.
Since taking office as Prime Minister last June, you have held meetings with numerous foreign leaders. While I am sure that each meeting has had its own unique agenda, having experienced these summit meetings, what sort of feelings or thoughts do you have? I would very much appreciate hearing your answer.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan: I became the Minister of Finance in January last year and Prime Minister in June. Even as the Finance Minister there were quite a lot of international meetings and once the meetings were over I met with a large number of world leaders. It is still just a little more than a year even since I became Finance Minister, but as I met with my counterparts multiple times, I came to understand each one's own sentiments. In light of that, I feel that for Japanese diplomacy it is extremely important for us first of all to have opportunities to meet them and then to meet multiple times if at all possible.
In addition, as I mentioned earlier, I have been told that for a great many developing nations and emerging economies, Japan is the model at which they are aiming. The leaders also conveyed their sense of gratitude for having been supported by Japan. In that regard I feel that it is altogether appropriate for us to have much more pride in the fact that Japan has been engaged in some very solid activities until now, in the role of a "big brother" to these emerging economies. That pride should not dwell on the past but should instead continue to root further for such countries into the future. Standing with them in support will also conversely lead to Japan's own growth. It is entirely possible to make just such a relationship. This is something that I have felt very strongly in the course of meeting with a great number of leaders.
Moderator: Thank you very much. I would like to conclude with one more question.
As we are all aware, a summit meeting has just taken place between the United States and China. Mr. Prime Minister, how do you intend to move forward in the areas of Japan-US relations and Japan-China relations, both of which are important for Japanese diplomacy? I very much look forward to your answer.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan: Just now I spoke at length on Japan-US relations. In Japan-US relations I have held summit talks with President Obama three times thus far. President Obama and I enjoy very good communication and for future directions as well, the arena for dialogue has already been firmly established. That is my take on the matter.
As for our relations with China, originally we had ongoing favorable relations, although that wavered temporarily as a result of the incident of the fishing boat collision off the coast of the Senkaku Islands and other matters last year. Based on such circumstances, I feel that it is necessary for us to forge linkages with China not only in the areas of politics and economics but also through deep human relations, or social relations, at the people-to-people level. In the past, there had also been various challenging issues with our neighbor the Republic of Korea, but today good relations that have overcome those issues are developing. I believe that in our relations with China as well, we need to on one hand make efforts to further deepen such people-to-people interactions while at the same time I would like us to deepen further the "mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests" in both economics and politics.
Moderator: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much.
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