No. 4 - Jul 1995
Vol. 43 - pp.22-26


Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan

In this article, the author focuses on security issues in the Asia-Pacific region and then refers to modalities for future cooperation between Japan and NATO, especially in light of the results of the third NATO-Japan Security Conference which was held in Brussels last October.

The Asia-Pacific region experienced a number of tragic conflicts during the Cold War, many of which were brought about by the antagonism between the ideologies of East and West. However, even prior to the end of the Cold War, following the demise of the Soviet Union, a series of positive developments occurred in Asia which led to the relaxation of the Cold War structure there even before this happened in Europe. Some examples include the establishment of diplomatic relations between the People's Republic of China and its neighbours and the simultaneous achievement of membership in the United Nations of both North and South Korea. Together with the dynamic economic development of the countries of this region, these various developments are creating the most stable period in Asia since the Second World War. On the other hand, certain serious problems in the region remain unresolved, and these are factors of instability.

On the Korean Peninsula, the military tension between North and South still exists, and recently, the issues of nuclear weapons and missile development by North Korea have been of great concern to the region, as well as to the international community as a whole.The danger of armed conflict in the Taiwan Strait has not yet disappeared, and the Northern territorial issue between Japan and Russia remains to be resolved, blocking complete normalization of relations between our two countries. Further south, many of the nations around the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea have claimed sovereignty over them, and there is concern that these territories could be a trigger for future conflict.

Furthermore, compared with Europe, the situation in Asia remains extremely diversified, which is another source of potential uncertainty. For instance, while there are still several Socialist countries, such as China, North Korea and Vietnam, threat perceptions in the region vary from country to country. With regard to the level of economic development, there are also big differences.

Given this situation, figuring out how the security of the Asia-Pacific region can be assured is one of the most important issues that these countries currently face. The principal concerns include the future of China, the future role of Japan, and the incontestable importance of the US military presence in the region. With these concerns forming a focus for thought, for the first time ever there is budding interest in the security of the region as a whole, as well as steady efforts for regional security based on a recognition of diversity.

A Japanese initiative

The countries of this region share the recognition that a multiplexed approach is the most appropriate way to ensure their security. This would achieve the simultaneous and parallel advance of the following objectives:

  • The maintenance of existing security arrangements. Currently, all bilateral security arrangements between the United States and the countries of Asia (Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Australia, etc.) serve their useful purposes and ensure the presence of United States forces in the Asian region.

  • A region-wide dialogue on security to enhance the transparency of policies and build confidence.

  • Efforts to resolve the outstanding issues in the area (the Korean Peninsula, the Spratly Islands, the Northern Territorial issue, Taiwan, etc.) among the countries concerned.

  • Region-wide cooperation to ensure the economic development of these countries.

Japan has tried hard to ensure that such a multiplex approach takes root in Asia, including by proposing the establishment of a forum for political dialogue in order to increase confidence among the countries of the region. This led to the establishment of a regional security dialogue with participation by China, Russia, Vietnam and other countries, and, in 1994, to the first meeting of the ASEAN (1) Regional Forum which was held in Bangkok.

Fortunately, Japan and the United States share a common understanding regarding a multiplexed approach for achieving security in the Asia-Pacific region. In particular, both countries share a firm common recognition of the notion that the most important factor for securing the stability of this region is the continued presence of the United States forces and that the Japan-US Security Arrangements serve as the main pillar of support for this presence.

In the September 1993 Bottom Up Review, and the February 1995 East Asia Strategic Report, the United States government, sharing the same positive recognition, stated clearly that the United States would continue to commit a presence of 100,000 personnel in the Asian region.

It is worth noting that Japan contributes significantly to maintaining the continued presence of these forces in the Asian region. Indeed, Japan's host nation support for the United States forces stationed in Japan amounted in fiscal year 1994 to US$5.6 billion.

The Japan-US Security Arrangements are not only vital for Japan's defence but are becoming increasingly important as a stabilizing factor for the region as a whole. In addition, this alliance forms the solid basis of the unshakable friendly relations between Japan and the United States, which together account for 40 per cent of world GDP, and give credibility to Japan's external commitment not to become a major military power in the future.

If we take a comprehensive look at all of these factors, it becomes clear that the firm maintenance of the Japan-US Security Arrangements do and will play a central role for the security of the Asia-Pacific region as a whole.

Regional dialogue and cooperation

The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), which is the first of its kind for dialogue on region-wide political and security issues in this area, was held in July 1994 in Thailand, with the participation of foreign ministers of 17 countries, including China, Russia, and Vietnam plus the European Union. The goal of ARF for the time being is to increase the transparency of the policies of the countries of the region and to enhance a sense of mutual confidence - and a good start toward this goal was made. At the first meeting of the Forum, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, Yohei Kono, proposed a three-pillar structure for the future goals of ARF:

  • sharing information through the publication of defence white papers and other such documents;

  • promoting exchanges of personnel who are involved in defence matters, and

  • cooperating toward advancing global activities, such as peacekeeping operations and non-proliferation.

The Chairman's statement issued at the conclusion of the meeting announced that ARF would be held on an annual basis and that consideration would be given to various measures to improve preventive diplomacy and confidence building, while consideration would also be given to comprehensive concepts of security appropriate to this region.

The ASEAN Regional Forum, while different in nature from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), nevertheless shares some of its goals and thus, in my view, it would be beneficial for ARF and the OSCE to begin discussions on possible cooperation, though not before ARF has had time to achieve some solid progress.

In parallel with the region-wide dialogue, a security dialogue on a sub-regional basis in north-east Asia is proceeding steadily as well. This region includes Japan, the United States, China, Russia, North Korea and the Republic of Korea, and its stability is one of the major factors for the security of the whole Asia-Pacific.

Fortunately, with the exception of North Korea, all of the countries involved are taking a positive stance toward such a dialogue. Since 1993, a series of unofficial meetings (with participation by government officials in their private capacity) have been held in San Diego (USA), in Tokyo and in Moscow. Future issues to be addressed include the questions of North Korea's participation and of realizing government-level dialogue.

Against the background of the dynamic economic development of the Asia-Pacific region, region-wide momentum for economic cooperation has been cultivated. Based on this, the first meeting of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) was held in Canberra in 1989; in 1993, through the initiative of President Clinton, the first APEC Summit Meeting was held in Seattle, USA and a second such meeting was held in 1994 in Jakarta; the third Summit Meeting is scheduled to be held in Osaka, Japan in November this year.

Looking back, the economic development achieved by the countries of Asia in recent years has played an important role in the stability of the domestic political situation of the individual countries, as well as that of the entire region. Through region-wide economic cooperation as described above, such positive aspects can be even further strengthened. Furthermore, deepening the mutual dependence in the economic relations of the region and cultivating a firm recognition of "interdependence" would serve as an important factor in preventing the outbreak of conflicts in the future, and also would have a positive role in maintaining the firm commitment of the United States to the Asia-Pacific region.

Thus, region-wide economic cooperation could also be said to play a major role in regional security. At the same time, it should be noted that there is a strong consensus among the participating countries that such regional economic cooperation should naturally be in conformity with the World Trade Organization (WTO), and that it must be open to other regions.

Japan-NATO relations

As a result of the discussions in the third NATO-Japan Security Conference held last October in Brussels, I strongly recognize anew that there are many common problems which Japan and NATO can tackle together with respect to world stability, through close dialogue and cooperation.

One of the most important common concerns between Japan and NATO is the question of Russia. We share the view that the success of the reform process in Russia is extremely important for the peace and stability of the international community, including Japan and Europe. Toward this objective, Japan has cooperated closely with the countries of Europe and the United States and has already implemented economic assistance for Russia in the amount of some US$4.4 billion. We are also concerned about various issues brought about as a result of the demise of the Soviet Union, including such matters as the outflow of nuclear related material and technology; the treatment of plutonium and radioactive waste, stemming from the dismantlement of nuclear-powered submarines; and future relations between Russia and Ukraine and other countries of the former Soviet Union.

More than anything else, these issues have global implications, and Japan has, together with the countries of Europe and the United States, made efforts to solve these issues. For example, Japan is committed to provide US$100 million in assistance to the countries of the former Soviet Union for the processing of nuclear waste.

The fighting in Chechnya, which has resulted in many casualties, including civilians, and has been most regrettable from a humanitarian viewpoint, is also cause for concern about the underlying trend in the Russian domestic political situation, which seems to be losing some transparency in the policy-making process. It is important for Japan, Europe and the United States to continue to encourage Russia to make further efforts for reforms in its political, economic and diplomatic policies, and Japan is ready to continue its support for these reform efforts.

In addition, just as the role of the United States in NATO remains vital, the maintenance of the military presence of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region, centring on the Japan-US Security Arrangements, is increasingly important.

From this perspective, Japan and NATO share many common interests in strengthening the commitment of the United States and I am certain that a close dialogue between us will serve our common interests.

Among the most important issues facing Japan and Europe today are, no doubt, arms control and disarmament. In this connection, we need to further strengthen our efforts toward nuclear non-proliferation. Deterrence has been and continues to be the rationale for nuclear weapons; indeed, nuclear strategies based on this concept have functioned effectively so far - the fact that since the Second World War nuclear weapons have never been used is testimony to this. Today, however, we are faced with a new challenge of preventing any more countries from obtaining nuclear weapons. Our coordination in this regard is essential.

Regional conflicts

The end of the Cold War brought about both the challenge posed by the outbreak of numerous regional conflicts and an opportunity to strengthen our ability to deal with conflicts through the United Nations. It goes without saying that international cooperation for dealing with regional conflicts, especially through such measures as preventive diplomacy and peacekeeping operations, now plays an important role in international peace and security.

Since the enactment of the International Peace Cooperation Law in 1992, with a view to ensuring Japan's active participation in United Nations peacekeeping operations, Japan has taken part in peacekeeping operations in Cambodia and Mozambique. Recently, in the light of the misery of Rwandan refugees in Zaire, Japan has dispatched some 400 personnel from the Self-Defence Forces to provide assistance in medical treatment, water supply efforts and air transport.

With regard to the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Japan supports the international community's efforts to restore peace in that region. We have made significant contributions to organizations such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for their efforts in providing humanitarian assistance. We have also dispatched personnel for missions undertaken by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

At the same time, one of the biggest problems we currently face is the wide gap between the expectations of the international society for peacekeeping operations and its actual commitments to support these capabilities. This is a problem to be addressed by the international community as a whole, but there, too, European and Japanese cooperative efforts must play the leading role.

In closing, I would like to comment on how Japan values its relationship with Europe within the triangular relationship formed by Europe, North America and Japan. In recent years, given the fact that relations between Japan and the US and those between the US and Europe are extremely close, one of the most important goals for Japanese diplomacy has been to deepen and expand the relationship between Europe and Japan. This was indeed the motivation for the initiatives taken by Japan which led to the Japan-EC Joint Declaration of 1991 and the Japan-NATO dialogue as well. Japan is determined to build upon these efforts to further develop a long-term sustainable relationship with Europe. By the same token, we have many interests in common which can serve to strengthen the relationship between NATO and Japan.


(1) Association of South-East Asian Nations whose members include Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

© Copyright by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation 1995.