During a lecture on ’Japan’s foreign policy: Strategy and practice’, Japan’s Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Akitaka Saiki reiterated the Japanese position that the security issues in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, the South China Sea and East China Sea cannot be treated separately.
Maritime security issues in the region cannot be separated: Japan’s Vice Minister
After participating in the trilateral foreign secretary level meeting in New Delhi with Indian Foreign Secretary Dr. S. Jaishankar and Australian counterpart Mr. Peter Varghese, Japan’s Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Akitaka Saiki delivered a talk on ’Japan’s Foreign Policy – Strategy and Practice’ at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi, on June 9, 2015.
Chairing the session, Prof. K V Kesavan, Distinguished Fellow, ORF, referred to the various contributions made by Mr Saiki for the strengthening of the India-Japan partnership. In the context of the subject of the seminar, Prof Kesavan mentioned how Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has taken several steps to redefine the security role of Japan in the Asia-Pacific region.
Vice Minister Saiki began by informing the audience of the recent trilateral meeting where he, along with Dr. S Jaishankar and Mr. Peter Varghese, exchanged views on regional issues. On the India-Japan bilateral front, Mr Saiki stated that the Japanese are making necessary preparations for Prime Minister Abe’s to visit India by the end of this year.
Mr Saiki reiterated the Japanese position that the security issues in the Pacific Ocean, Indian Ocean, the South China Sea and East China Sea cannot be treated separately. This comment is similar to the statement Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida made earlier this year in India.
Mr Saiki pointed out how both Prime Minister Modi and Prime Minister Abe are “very dynamic, strategic and vibrant”. In addition, he outlined the good relationship the two leaders have cultivated. Under the leadership of Prime Minister Abe, the new “economic packages” have so far had a positive effect on the Japanese economy – an estimated growth rate of 3.9% on an annualised basis.
To consider what India and Japan can do together, Mr Saiki mentioned the following four factors: the environment we live in, the changing geopolitical landscape, the political and economic changes in Europe and the effect this has on other regions such as the Middle East.
Mr Saiki said that the environment in Asia has changed dramatically in the past 25 years including the spread of democracy. He also commented on the bright future of Asia since many ASEAN countries have a young population that stimulates economic growth. This is one issue on which Japan and other Asian countries could cooperate further, he hinted.
Within Asia, Mr Saiki spoke further about the rise of China and its political motives. While China behaved in a more reserved manner under Hu Jintao, China under Xi Jinping seems to be more outgoing. Mr Saiki presented the number of intrusions by Chinese ships in the Japanese water near the Senkaku Islands as an example of China’s ’outgoing’ behaviour. He further emphasized that the Japanese do not use force but instead they use megaphones and speakers to urge the Chinese vessels to leave Japanese waters. He rhetorically questioned the intensions and the motives behind the Chinese government. He also stated to the audience that Xi Jinping will be China’s President for at least seven more years, and thus it is important for Japan and other countries to keep in mind what kind of country China will be in these seven and a half years.
Mr. Saiki then spoke of the political changes Russia is experiencing under Mr Putin’s leadership and the recent annexation of Crimea. Even though a strong message came out in the recent G7 Summit in Germany,Russia has not reacted yet. Regardless of what the motivations are for the Russians, Mr Saiki stated that isolating Russia or Putin was not a solution.
With regards to Russia, Mr Saiki stated that Japan has its own agenda with Russia including Prime Minister Abe’s official invitation to Putin to visit Japan this year. He called this a dilemma since Japan has many political and economic motivations to engage in further dialogue with Russia. But at the same time, without an improvement of the Crimean situation, Japan cannot simply invite Putin and expect to make progress on the bilateral front.
The fourth topic Mr Saiki discussed was the economic and social problems in European countries. He believes that it is imperative for the 28 EU members to overcome issues such as high unemployment and financial bankruptcy since young people who are unable to find jobs in the EU will look at other regions such as the Middle East and join radical groups. Even though there are no simple solutions to these issues, Mr Saiki reinforced his statement that these issues must be solved without the use of force and that “the big should not bully the small”.
As this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Mr Saiki stated that Prime Minister Abe is currently preparing his speech for the occasion in August. The content of this address and the language he will use will be scrutinized by some of the neighbouring nations of Japan, especially China and South Korea. Although a form of apology similar to that of former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama would be welcomed by certain countries, Mr Saiki pointed out that Prime Minister Abe has already officially rejected repeating the words of his predecessors. It is likely that Prime Minister Abe will address Japan’s new role in the region and its continuous contribution to world peace. Having said that,Mr Saiki explicitly stated that it is a futile attempt for the media to predict the content for Prime Minister Abe’s speech.
Responding to questions from the audience, Mr. Saiki spoke about the importance of the trilateral relations between India, Japan and Australia. The officials of these three countries have agreed to meet on a regular basis, and to have further dialogue on various issues.
Giving the closing remarks, Dr C. Raja Mohan, Head of Strategic Studies Programme of the ORF, emphasised Mr. Saiki’s point that we cannot simply isolate Russia or Putin and that normal relations between Russia and Japan will be welcomed in Delhi as it would be a positive development for regional stability in the long-term.
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