Speech at Symposium on "Japan and the World: A New Global Strategy"


Asia Society, New York, U.S.A

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

Good afternoon.

It is my great pleasure and honor to be here at the Asia Society. I am delighted to have this opportunity to discuss Japan's global strategy with you. However, I am a little bit nervous because Prime Minister Abe gave a speech to Congress on a more or less similar topic. I hope that what I am going to say today is not radically different from our Prime Minister's speech.

For many internationalist New Yorkers, there is no need to mention that 2015 is going to be a critical year for the global community. In July, an important international conference on the future of development finance will be held in Ethiopia. In September, the United Nations summit is expected to agree on the Sustainable Development Goals that will replace the Millennium Development Goals. In December, COP 21, a UN Conference on Climate Change, is supposed to reach a crucial agreement on climate. As a responsible member of the international community, Japan is ready to contribute to these pivotal occasions.

From Japan's perspective, 2015 is also an important year. This year marks the 70th year of the country's defeat in the Second World War. At the Joint Meeting of the U.S. Congress, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that "Post war, we started out on our path bearing in mind feelings of deep remorse over the war. Our actions brought suffering to the peoples in Asian countries. We must not avert our eyes from that. I will uphold the views expressed by the previous prime ministers in this regard".

I understand the 70th anniversary of Japan's defeat to be important for three reasons. First, it is important because it offers an occasion for the Japanese to reflect on the mistakes that Japan made through the aggression and colonial rules that led to the defeat in 1945.

Second, it is a good opportunity to examine Japan's experiences since 1945. The period from 1945 to current day is much longer than the period between 1895 and 1945. As you may know, 1895 was the year Japan joined the imperialist powers by acquiring its first colony, Taiwan, as a result of the Sino-Japanese War.

Over the last 70 year period, therefore, there have been many developments. Japan successfully and quickly recovered from the war thanks to the generous peace the United States helped design in San Francisco. Japan achieved rapid economic growth, and the Japanese became much more prosperous as a result. Throughout this process, the World Bank financed the Shinkansen and Tomei Highways. Through the Fulbright Program, many Japanese earned a quality education and an international perspective.

But Japan made many mistakes during this period, too. Many Japanese cities suffered from serious air and water pollution. In the 1960s, traffic congestion in Tokyo was really terrible. Japan allowed the "bubble" to burst and went through a period of economic stagnation in the recent past. At times, Japan was criticized for not making enough of a contribution to the international community commensurate with its economic power.

Partly in response to such criticism, but mainly out of its genuine desire to become a responsible global citizen, Japan became one of the largest contributors of development cooperation by the end of the 1980s. The Japanese made efforts to rectify their mistakes by reducing the level of pollution in cities and making them less congested through the introduction of effective mass transit systems.

Despite many limitations and mistakes over the 70 years, therefore, the Japanese can be proud of their achievements, notably of having built a peaceful, prosperous and clean country and having fulfilled its international obligations without shooting a single bullet.

But the third reason for the significance of the 70th anniversary is probably even more important than the previous two. 2015 is significant because it should be the year for Japan to contemplate on what it should do in the future. Reflecting on the disastrous mistakes made before the war and examining the achievements and limitations of the 70 year history since defeat, Japan should now design the path it will take during the rest of the 21st century. 2015 is an opportune moment because, as I previously mentioned, it is the year that the international community is engaged in setting up SDGs and Climate goals.

What are the lessons that the Japanese learned from the two periods before and after 1945? The most important lesson was extremely clear: military means did not result in either peace or prosperity for Japan, and Japan should pursue non-military means to achieve its national interests. The failure of militarism in the first period and the success of economic prosperity it experienced during the second period made this lesson very clear to many Japanese.

But there are other lessons that Japan learned during the post-war period. First, peace is the basic condition of prosperity. And the post-war peace for Japan has largely been secured by the effective alliance with the United States.

Second, the liberal international economic system has been the basis of Japan's economic recovery and growth. Japan owes a great deal to the United States for its participation in GATT in 1955, for example; without US persuasion, it would have been extremely difficult to overcome opposition of some of the other prominent members.

Third, Japan's peace and prosperity is deeply connected with peace and development in East Asia, including Southeast Asia. Many concerns related to peace and security exist even now in East Asia, but it is significant that there have not been any inter-state wars in East Asia since 1979. East Asia is now enjoying the longest period of peace in its modern history. Based on this peaceful environment, East Asia has achieved unprecedented economic growth over the past 35 years. Japan's prosperity is inseparably connected with economic dynamism of the East Asian economies.

Reflecting on these lessons, it seems straight-forward to outline Japan's future directions. I have four points. First, Japan should continue to make the best use non-military means to act as a responsible global citizen.

Second, the alliance with the United States continues to be the basis of its security policy. Therefore, it is proper and welcoming that the recent "Two-plus-Two" meeting adopted revised guidelines of Japan-US defense cooperation. As peace and security in the Asia-Pacific is closely connected with peace and stability in other regions, Japan should also contribute to international peace-keeping operations elsewhere.

Third, Japan should make efforts to maintain liberal international economic order and promote further liberalization of trade globally; As President Obama and Prime Minister agreed yesterday, Japan should work closely with the US for a successful agreement on TPP.

Fourth, Japan should maintain efforts to sustain East Asia as a region of dynamic development. In addition to efforts of trade liberalization, harmonization of economic systems and efforts of security cooperation, Japan should continue its efforts to sustain "dynamism" in East Asian economies. Furthermore, Japan should help expand regions of economic dynamism elsewhere. The late 20th century was the era of the Asia-Pacific economic dynamism. I think the 21st century can be the era of the Indo-Pacific economic dynamism, where dynamic development spreads to South Asia and Africa.

I listed four directions of Japan's global strategy: non-military contribution to the international community; strengthening of the alliance with the U.S.; contribution to strengthening the liberal international economic system; and efforts to expand economic dynamism from the Asia-Pacific to the Indo-Pacific and elsewhere.

As JICA's work is closely related with the fourth direction, I would like to talk about what we think we should do to promote the fourth element of Japan's global strategy.

But before talking about substantive policy, let me brief you about what JICA is and the types of activities the agency is implementing.

JICA is a comprehensive organization that implements virtually all aspects of Japan's governmental bilateral development cooperation. It manages Japan's ODA loans. It manages about 70 percent of Japan's grant aid programs. It also manages most of Japan's technical cooperation programs, including volunteer programs and emergency response operations. Our annual ODA loan disbursement is about 7 billion US dollars. We manage about one billion US dollar worth grant aid projects and have around 600 on-going technical cooperation projects throughout the world. Our operation covers about 150 countries managed by our 91 overseas offices. Each year, we invite about 10,000 administrators and professionals to participate in our executive and professional training programs in Japan. About 2,500 volunteers, both young and senior, are currently working in 80 countries as Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers. Last Sunday, we sent our emergency rescue team to Nepal.

I hope you understood that JICA is an extremely useful tool for Japan. How is the government of Japan using this organization?

The Abe cabinet adopted a new "Development Cooperation Charter" last February, which will guide all of Japan's development cooperation activities, including JICA's.

One key concept highlighted in the charter is "quality growth." I said that Japan should help sustain and expand areas of dynamic economic growth in Southeast Asia, South Asia, Africa and elsewhere. Economic dynamism should be achieved by growth. But we believe that the desirable growth is not just about quantitative growth – it has to be "quality growth."

What is "quality growth"?

"Quality growth" should be "inclusive." The fruits of growth should be shared as widely as possible. It should be "sustainable," so as to generate socio-economic growth that does not come at the expense of the environment. And lastly, it should be "resilient" and able to withstand and recover from economic crises, natural disasters and other shocks. Without inclusive growth, a society may not be able to sustain enough demands. Worse yet, it may increase youth unemployment and lead to social unrest. Without sustainable growth, the society may destroy the environment and cause threats to people's health, as well as bring about environmental disasters. Without resilient growth, a society may suddenly collapse, thereby destroying the fruits of previous growth. In essence, without quality growth, economic dynamism cannot be sustained.

Obviously, there are no panaceas to achieving quality growth. No single projects can suffice to attain quality growth. But I would like to mention one example that will contribute to at least some aspects of quality growth: the Delhi Mass Rapid Transport System (Delhi Metro) in New Delhi.

We started financing the project in the late 1990s. It has now become a 190 km network that will eventually become a 300 km network by 2018. Currently, 2.5 million passengers use the system daily. Though New Delhi should do more to improve its air quality, this network has substantially reduced the use of automobiles and became the world's first railway project registered with the United Nations under the Clean Development Mechanism. In general, a mass transportation system is an inclusive system. But as early as the planning stage, we paid special attention to making it more inclusive. For instance, we asked organizations representing disabled persons to participate in the planning process, thereby applying the international standard of barrier free design. Furthermore, this metro system introduced women only cars, security cameras and emergency call systems. Staff persons were trained to prioritize and answer emergency calls from women to protect them from gender based crimes in trains and metro stations.

Building on the successful implementation of the mass transit system in New Delhi, JICA has given ODA loans to metro projects incorporating the same concept of "quality growth" across India, including in the cities of Kolkata, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai. This type of metro construction is just one type of projects to achieve "quality growth". Future challenges for us is to find out what constitute the projects that are consistent with our concept of "quality growth" to sustain economic dynamism.

Another concept that the Development Cooperation Charter emphasizes is "human security." Human security is a human-centered principle that focuses on addressing threats to each individual. The principle stresses the importance of protecting the right of individuals to live happily and in dignity, free from fear and want, through their protection and empowerment.

We believe that this concept has special relevance in this century. While there are areas of economic dynamism in the world and while the frequency of inter-state wars has declined, there are areas of fragility. The civil war in Syria has already killed more than 200,000 people and forced over 9 million to flee their country. In addition, instability continues to exist in Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, South Sudan, and elsewhere. We need to address the issues of fragility most fundamentally because threats to human security should be everybody's concern. But in order to sustain economic dynamism throughout the world, we need to address human security issues too; areas of fragility exist adjacent to and sometimes overlapping with the countries experiencing economic dynamism.

As such, we are supporting countries such as Jordan and Turkey. In Jordan, JICA is working with the government of Jordan to help refugees and host communities meet their most urgent needs and protect their dignity. As a direct support to refugees, JICA has provided post-traumatic care to children, with particular attention given to the most vulnerable among them, notably people with disabilities. Recognizing the strain that the growing influx of Syrian refugees has put on host communities, JICA is providing medical equipment and school supplies, as well as expanding water supply and sewerage systems. As Prime Minister Abe agreed with King Abddular at Bandung, Japan pledged to extend 200 million US dollar (24 billion JPY) in ODA loans for budget support of Jordan.

Of particular concern for the Japanese from the perspectives of both human security and resilient growth are the threats caused by natural disasters. As a country that frequently experiences natural disasters, the suffering caused by natural disasters elsewhere in the world is not someone else's problems. This is the reason why Japan has hosted the UN World Conferences on Disaster Risk Reduction three times, the last of which was held in Sendai last March.

JICA considers "seamless efforts of response and reconstruction" extremely important. When Super Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, we immediately sent emergency medical teams. But even as the rescue teams were still on the ground, we sent reconstruction experts to start discussions with the government of the Philippines on how to utilize grant-aid and loan programs for reconstruction. We are planning to engage in similar efforts in Nepal in the coming weeks. Our rescue teams and medical teams are working there now. We plan to dispatch experts of reconstruction on 1st of May.

Prime Minister Abe often mentions Japan's "proactive contribution to peace." JICA, as the executing agency of Japan's development cooperation policy, is obviously an important means to fulfilling his commitment. We are prepared to support the activities necessary to achieving "quality growth." We will adhere to our guiding principle of "human security." The past 70 year period was a remarkable success of Japan-U.S. friendship. JICA is ready to work more closely with its American friends all over the world to make the next 70 years another period of great success of Japan-U.S. friendship.

Thank you very much.

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