Archives

"Japan To Seek Asia-Wide Free Trade Accord"

June 7, 2001

Seiken Sugiura
Senior Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, Japan

I am truly delighted to be able to participate in the seventh "Future of Asia" Conference hosted by Nihon Keizai Shimbun. Among the speakers at this conference are three current heads of state, including Prime Minister Mahathir of Malaysia, and such admirable figures as former Secretary Siazon of the Philippines, whom I have known since my youth. To be asked to present the keynote address at such a distinguished gathering is truly a great honor for me.

(My early ties to Asia)
At the outset, allow me to talk about my first involvement with Asian affairs. As a university student, I had the good fortune to meet Mr. Goichi Hozumi, the man who became my mentor. In my junior year of university, I moved to the Hongo campus of the University of Tokyo and happened to move into a dormitory, the Shinseigakuryo, which was then under the supervision of Mr. Hozumi. Prior to World War II, this dormitory had been known as the Shikenryo, taking Shiken, the pen name of Shinkichi Uesugi, a noted constitutional scholar. Mr. Hozumi, one of Professor Uesugi's prize students, was the dormitory's patron for many years and devoted his life to oversee the education of the youth. He was truly a man of great character.

Ever since the prewar days, when the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan had been under Japanese colonial rule, students from those countries and China had been coming to stay at that dormitory while they studied in Japan. The dormitory had been, in that sense, something of a gathering place for young ambitious men, and it remained so after the war, despite the change of name. Under Mr. Hozumi's supervision, many students from other parts of Asia passed through its doors.

The year I moved to Hongo campus, thanks to political leaders at that time, a new scholarship program had begun that brought foreign students to Japan. These students arrived in 1954, spent one year studying the Japanese language at either the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies or the Osaka University of Foreign Studies, and then arrived at the campuses of various universities and to be enrolled as students from 1955 on.

With guidance from Mr. Hozumi, I formed the Tokyo University Asian Students Friendship Society and began looking after the interests of foreign students. At his suggestion, I helped establish a meeting hall for foreign students, which is now called the Asia Bunka Kaikan, or Asian Culture Center, located in Tokyo's Komagome district.

I went to work for Kawasaki Steel upon graduation, but I was called back and joined in the establishment of the Center. I was also involved in establishing the Association for Overseas Technical Scholarship (AOTS), which was run by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and which since has developed into an organization that handles grand large-scale projects of its own.

I became involved in these activities because I was greatly interested in finding out why the youth from Southeast Asian nations had decided to come to study in devastated postwar Japan, a country which was "torn in war, but hills and rivers remain" as an ancient Chinese poet once spelled. As I came to know some of these people better, I became more and more interested. I ended up leaving my job at Kawasaki Steel and plunged into the sort of work that is now considered foreign aid. I was not even paid a salary at first, but I poured all my youthful energies into my work.

What I wanted to mention at the outset is my discovery in dealings with young people from Asia. It was that scars of the war are very deep and lingering. The whole series of wars and conflicts, which lasted 15 years, or even more if one goes back to the Meiji Era - including Japan's wars with China, Russia, the stationing of troops in Siberia, and Japan's involvement in World War I - during the so-called prewar period when Japan treated Asia as a battlefield, and the terrible damage inflicted by Japan's acts of "aggression," in the words used by the Statement of Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, left deep scars. I had friends who, when I got to know them well, told me that their reasons for coming to Japan to study was to find out how to defeat the enemy that had done such awful things to them during the war.

In considering Japan's relations with the rest of Asia, we must recognize that what the Japanese did to people elsewhere in Asia before and during the war - including the merge of Korea and the acquisition of Taiwan - caused deep wounds that still remain. The Japanese people must always keep in mind the fact that these wounds have not healed.

I personally believe that Japan's actions leading up to the war constituted just a sort of human mistakes which are described in one of the main Confucian scriptures, Saden. It says: There are "Gofui" or five wrongs which are ignoring morals, disregarding own capability, neglecting friendship, unclear principles and insensitivity to culpabilities. If a country commits these five wrongs and yet tries to win a battle, it only deserves a sour loss of the war. I have to state that in the path Japan walked up to that war, we did commit these five wrongs.

I will not delve into this more deeply. But when questions arise between Japan and China or the Republic of Korea over such matters as the textbook issue, for instance, we must bear in mind the enormous harm to the hearts of the people who suffered such terrible losses in bodies, souls, and property, keeping also in mind that Japan itself suffered two million casualties among its military alone. Truly, the situation was "the country torn in war, but hills and rivers remain." At the same time, we must bear in mind that the wounds left by the war all over Asia remain and still unhealed and that this fact lies at the root of problems.

(Teachings of Mr. Hozumi)
Mr. Hozumi emphasized the importance of personal interacts with another person on a one-to-one basis in our dealings with students from elsewhere in Asia. He stressed the harmony of human dimensions. His conviction was: "No matter where the other person belongs, that person must always be regarded as a human being. Dealing with one another on a one-to-one basis, it is possible to achieve total mutual understanding." When I consider the future of Asia, just as when I consider my own involvement with Asia, I think of these principles - which have actually become my creed - that I learned from my long associations with those foreign students. The most important lesson is this: Japan is part of Asia, and Japan exists together with Asia.

(The Fukuda Doctrine)
Any discussion of the Japanese government's diplomatic policies toward the rest of Asia must acknowledge the importance of the so-called Fukuda Doctrine as asserted by the late Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, my own political mentor. In 1977, nearly one-quarter of a century ago, while on a tour of the ASEAN member states, the former prime minister made a speech in Manila in which he articulated Japan's foreign policy that later became known as the Fukuda Doctrine.

Prime Minister Fukuda pledged that Japan, a country committed to peace, would never become a military power and that Japan would build up relationship of mutual confidence and trust with Southeast Asian countries in wide-raging fields, and that Japan would cooperate positively with ASEAN and its member countries in their own efforts, as an equal partner. Even now, when I visit countries in Southeast Asia, I frequently hear their respective leaders with admiration speak of the Fukuda Doctrine. To my mind, the Fukuda Doctrine shares the principles of Mr. Hozumi and serves as the foundation of Japan's current and future diplomacy toward the rest of Asia.

(Retrospective on a quarter-century)
In the years since Prime Minister Fukuda's speech in Manila, changes have taken place in Asia, which no one could ever have imagined. When I was young, although Asian nations had achieved independence, the region was described as "Stagnant Asia," and one often heard pessimistic pronouncements that prosperity would never come to Asia. Then came the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the period of high economic growth from the mid-1980s through the early 1990s that became known as the "miracle of East Asia."

During this period, Japan developed very close economic relationships with the rest of Asia, led primarily by business people, some of whom are here today. Businesses expanded overseas, trade increased and close relationships were built up between Japan and other Asian countries, the likes of which could not have been imagined in the days following World War II.

Then, in 1997, a financial and currency crisis struck the region and inflicted a severe economic blow. Japan, among other nations, actively provided support during the crisis, offering various assistance through means like the Miyazawa Initiative. Recent indications suggest that a recovery has taken hold, although the situation still does not allow complacency. We are now in an extremely important point of time when the United States and Japan should respond to the expectations of Asian nations. And while the United States is enjoying relative economic prosperity, Japan should revitalize its own economy. I expect that Prime Minister Koizumi will speak to us this evening on these issues.

(Japanese diplomacy and security policy in the 21st century)
Prime Minister Koizumi, a favorite student of former Prime Minister Fukuda, and the inheritor of his philosophy in its purest form, delivered a policy speech on May 7 of this year. I fully understand and share Prime Minister Koizumi's attitude and feelings. This is what Prime Minister Koizumi said about Japanese diplomacy: "In order for Japan to continue to enjoy prosperity in peace, it is essential that we steadfastly devote ourselves to international cooperation. Japan must never again isolate itself from the international community and must never again wage war. Indeed, the prosperity that Japan enjoys is based upon the Japan-US alliance that has functioned effectively. Based on the foundation of the Japan-US alliance, we must maintain and enhance Japan's friendly relations with its neighbors, including the People's Republic of China, the Republic of Korea, and the Russian Federation. As one of the leading nations shouldering responsibilities of the international community, Japan will demonstrate its leadership in constructing an international system appropriate for the 21st century. In that context, Japan will take the initiative in seeking to reform the United Nations, strengthening the multilateral free trading system centered on the World Trade Organization (WTO), and in addressing global issues, including environmental ones."

(The basic direction of diplomacy toward Asia)
Japan's fundamental diplomatic policy is expressed in this passage from Prime Minister Koizumi's speech. Although the Prime Minister did not mention Asia by name, it goes without saying that friendly relations with the other nations of Asia occupy an extremely important place within this policy. And this is a fundamental point of view upon which Japanese diplomacy has long been based. In light of Asia's rich diversity, and also in light of the scars of the war to which I previously alluded, the expansion of regional cooperation in Asia cannot be expected to proceed in a linear fashion, as occurred in Europe. In today's Asia, efforts are being made to achieve better cooperation through gentle and stratified multilateral frameworks, with bilateral relationships as the foundation. I would now like to briefly address a few issues relating to bilateral relationships and multilateral frameworks.

(Relations with China and the Republic of Korea/Situation in the Korean Peninsula)
I would first like to address the topic of Japan's relations with the People's Republic of China, with the Republic of Korea, and with the Korean Peninsula as a whole. In general, we have maintained friendly relations with the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Korea in recent years. At the same time, however, there are various unsettled issues, as you are all aware. Nevertheless, I am confident that these questions will definitely be overcome. Based on the basic recognition that we must further expand our relations with these two important neighbors, both of which are inseparable from Japan geographically as well as historically, it is essential that we pool our wisdom with them and work together to meet a variety of challenges. Recently, Japan, the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Korea have been establishing trilateral cooperative relations, adding to their respective bilateral relationships. We must work to further expand these trilateral relationships.

On the Korean Peninsula as a whole, although the situation continues to reflect the legacy of the Cold War, events such as last June's historic North-South summit meeting indicate the start of positive progress toward unification. On the other hand, North Korea constitutes a real and concrete threat to the security of the region. In light of this fact, Japan will continue to make persistent efforts, in cooperation with the United States and the Republic of Korea, toward the normalization between Japan and North Korea.

(ASEAN)
Next I would like to refer to the ASEAN region. As you know, we regard ASEAN as East Asia's partner in the pursuit of peace and prosperity, and we intend to work to further expand our cooperative relationship. With Cambodia's entry as a member state in 1999, ASEAN now comprises 10 member states. But there is a number of factors impeding the progress of integration, such as the economic divide between the original members and the newer members and political instability within individual member states.

(Indonesia, East Timor, Myanmar)
Indonesia, a major ASEAN power, now finds itself in a situation of political instability. We fervently wish that political stability and economic recovery are achieved in Indonesia as soon as possible, and we intend to cooperate in any way we can to help achieve these ends. Needless to say, stability in Indonesia is the key to the stability of the entire region, including Japan.

In East Timor, nation-building efforts are underway in preparation for independence, and Japan intends to do all it can to support these efforts.

We are also greatly interested in the progress of the dialogue between the military regime in Myanmar and the pro-democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi. On a visit to Myanmar last year, I noted that the country is blessed with spacious land and abundant waters of the Irrawaddy River. I had the impression that, in the event of a future global food shortage, Myanmar could become an excellent base for food production with just a bit of improvement to its irrigation systems. I earnestly hope that Myanmar will restore a policy that embraces dialogue and cooperation as soon as possible and that it will play a greater role in the international community.

(Support for new member states, the Japan-Singapore Economic Agreement for a New Age Partnership)
Japan supports the "Initiative for ASEAN Integration," which is ASEAN's effort to bridge the economic divide among individual member states. We are carrying out a variety of measures to help, especially in the fields of Human Resources Development, Mekong River Basin Development and Information Technology. Meanwhile, negotiations with Singapore in concluding the Japan-Singapore Economic Agreement for a New Age Partnership are proceeding. Given the increasing economic ties between our two countries, the new agreement will enable cooperation across a broad range of areas, not only in the liberalization of trade and investment. Both countries are working to finalize the agreement within the year. I consider the conclusion of this agreement as the first step. Although it may take considerable time, I myself believe that we should set our sights on finding a way to create a framework enabling free trade and economic cooperation throughout ASEAN as a whole, and throughout the entire region, including East Asia.

(Promoting cooperative relations within a multilateral framework and the stratification of relations)
Regarding the promotion of cooperative relations within a multilateral framework and the stratification of relations, various forms of progress have become evident to augment the solid bilateral cooperative relations between Japan and ASEAN and its member countries. The ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conferences (PMC) have taken place since 1979, and we have witnessed in the intervening years the emergence of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), the ASEAN + 3 (Japan, China, and the Republic of Korea), as well as summit meetings among the leaders of Japan, China and the Republic of Korea. So, stratified regional frameworks have gradually expanded. As a reflection of Asia's rich diversity, it is important to establish relationships of mutual confidence to strengthen these efforts and to foster this stratified approach in endeavors with an open posture, which is evident in the participation of the United States and Europe in some of these fora.

(WTO)
I would like to touch briefly on the issue of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Needless to mention, it is necessary to strengthen the trade system on the basis of rules and to liberalize multilateral trade for Asian prosperity. It is vital that a new round should be launched at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Doha, Qatar, this coming November. We must make efforts to ensure that all the WTO member states, including those of the whole Asian countries and regions, will benefit from these negotiations.

(Promoting mutual understanding through exchanges)
It is of course important to promote mutual understanding through exchange activities. In addition to such economic cooperation as providing humanitarian assistance, improving human resources development and infrastructure, interaction emphasizing the human element is essential. Exchanges take place not only at the summit and ministerial levels and at other governmental levels, but also at the level of legislative representatives through the parliamentarian friendship associations with almost every country, community-level through sister-city relationships and in every other form at the grassroots level. Strengthening these exchanges with other countries of Asia at each level is important in building up mutually trusting relationships.

(New exchange programs)
Japan is carrying out a large number of new exchange programs. Among these are support for foreign students in Japan, which I have already mentioned, and the "Plan for Enhancing Human Resources Development and Human Resources Exchanges in East Asia" that was announced by the late Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi at the ASEAN + 3 summit meetings in Manila two years ago.

Let me introduce three more examples. The first is the Japan-ASEAN exchange program for high school students, which was proposed by former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori at last year's Japan-ASEAN summit meeting. Preparations are currently underway for this program to provide support for comprehensive exchanges involving mutual acceptance of high school students.

The second example is the Southeast Asia Engineering Development Network, or SEED-Net. This project provides support to create a network of universities in the ASEAN member states, with the additional aim of building stronger relations with universities in Japan.

The third example is the ASEAN SchoolNet program. This is a program being promoted by ASEAN to enhance interaction among schools within the ASEAN region using information technology. Japan supports the project and has already announced its intention to provide financial assistance through the World Bank.

(Conclusion) I would like to make one more point before concluding my remarks. Many of you who are present today have connections with Southeast Asia and are no doubt familiar with mangrove trees. Mangroves are found all over the world, but they are particularly numerous in East Asia, where once they were found along nearly every coastline. Lately many of these trees have been destroyed.

The mangrove tree does not have a single trunk but grows a large number of supporting pillars. Its roots spread out into the seawater and an aerial root extends into the air, enabling tree to breathe. The tree drops its seeds, which floats away with sea currents and puts out roots where they are washed up, so that one finds a profusion of mangroves in places where seawater mingles with fresh water. Together, large and small mangrove trees form swamps. A great variety of other forms of vegetation grow beneath the trees, and mangrove swamps make ideal habitats for fish, particularly shrimp. They also provide homes for small animals and birds.

Mangrove swamps absorb rough waves from the sea and prevent destruction from typhoons and storms. They also prevent soil erosion and collect soil under their limbs. In short, mangrove swamps form a natural breakwater. Thus, a stand of mangrove swamp actually adds to the land it grows on. Mangrove swamps have long provided a living for the many people who fish in them and cut down the trees to make charcoal.

Japanese diplomacy, I believe, should take a lesson from the mangrove. Relations with China and the Republic of Korea are of essential importance, but in light of the rich diversity of Asia with many nations and peoples, our diplomacy must have not only one root, but many roots to cover the entire region. By doing so, we should help sustain the livelihoods of people in the rest of Asia and protect their foothold from "storms" with our "roots, trunks and supporting pillars." If Japanese diplomacy could fulfill our roles in helping to protect those lives like mangrove swamps, perhaps one day the scars of war may be erased from the hearts of people in the rest of Asia.

For the future of Japan, sustained cooperative relationships with ASEAN and all the people of Asia are indispensable. By pooling our efforts with those of the rest of Asia, I sincerely hope that we will bring about new miracles here in the 21st century that will surpass the Asian miracle of yesteryear and realize a splendid future together.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.

Titles of speakers, names of companies, etc., were correct as of the time when the forum was held.