Speech by H. E. Mr. Yasukazu Hamada, Minister of Defense

(Translation/Check against delivery)

Speech by H.E. Mr. Yasukazu Hamada
Minister of Defense of Japan
On “The Major Powers and Asian Security: Cooperation or Conflict?”
At the 8th IISS Asia Security Summit (Shangri-La Dialogue)
30 May 2009, Singapore

[1. Introduction]

Dr. Chipman,
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honor for me to speak at the Shangri-La Dialogue, which has unparalleled significance as the only multilateral defense ministerial dialogue in the region. Let me express my deep appreciation to the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Government of Singapore for hosting this event.

Today, I will first make a brief overview of the recent developments in the security environment in East Asia. After that, I will make some remarks on what kind of responsibilities the “major powers” should bear for the stability of this region, and on how I recognize Japan’s role and challenges in this context.

[2. Developments in the security situation in East Asia]

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to begin by describing recent developments in the security environment in East Asia. In this region, while mutual dependence among states have deepened and bilateral, trilateral and multilateral coordination and cooperation have been strengthened, there still remain traditional security problems such as unification issues and territorial disputes. In addition, this region faces serious threats posed by non-state actors like international terrorist organizations; furthermore, against the background of globalization, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles has become a pressing challenge.

Under such circumstances, Japan has placed emphasis on an effective response against new threats and diverse contingencies. In addition, Japan has engaged in international peace cooperation activities with the recognition that the peace and stability of the international community are closely connected with the peace and security of individual countries. The government of Japan as a whole has been taking part in humanitarian and reconstruction support in Iraq, efforts for the eradication of terrorism through replenishment support for foreign vessels engaging in maritime interdiction activities in the Indian Ocean, and assistance in the improvement of the security situation and economic development of Afghanistan. Moreover, Japan has contributed to disaster relief efforts upon request from the governments of affected countries in various major disasters in Asia.

Even after 9.11, we have seen three new trends worthy of attention regarding the security environment in East Asia, together with greater leaven for cooperation. The first trend comprises more diverse, complex and stratified global security threats and destabilizing factors, such as piracy, disaster, infectious diseases and climate change, which have an impact on regional security as well. The second is the rapid modernization of armed forces and more active military activities, which reflect recent years’ continuous economic growth of major countries. The third is North Korea’s nuclear tests and development of longer-range missiles, which pose a threat to the stability of the region.

North Korea announced five days ago that it had conducted a second underground nuclear test. A nuclear test by North Korea is totally unacceptable as it constitutes a grave threat to the security not only of Northeast Asia but of the entire international community when taken together with the enhancement of its ballistic missile capability. Such an action clearly violates United Nations Security Council resolution 1718 and contravenes the Joint Declaration of the Six-Party Talks. Japan urges North Korea once again to abandon its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs. We also expect that the UN Security Council will soon adopt a strong new resolution and that the international community will undertake concerted measures for its implementation.

[3. Three responsibilities of major powers]

Ladies and gentlemen,

Asia is a region full of potential for growth and prosperity. The existence of destabilizing factors and arms buildup could be elements that can make the future of this region uncertain. On the other hand, however, there is an emerging trend of countries working together to build mutually beneficial relationships based on shared interests. It is important to make efforts to strengthen such a trend and prevent confrontation which this region has experienced in the past.

Therefore, I believe that a major task this region has to tackle is the question of how to reduce any friction and confrontation that may arise and to promote constructive collaboration. Every country should share responsibility for peace and stability in the international community in a way that corresponds to its capacity and resources. At the same time, major powers with greater capacity and resources should have larger responsibilities to fulfill for the stability of the region. I believe such responsibilities are three-fold: to enhance confidence among major powers, to cooperate to overcome global security challenges, and to contribute to regional capacity building.

(First responsibility: increasing confidence among major powers)

To fulfill the first responsibility of increasing confidence among major powers, we should begin by promoting defense dialogues and exchanges, and making this a constant and common practice. This is not limited to the relations among allied members.

In order to establish relationships of trust with other countries, Japan has been carrying out bilateral defense exchanges with a variety of countries, particularly with neighboring China and the Republic of Korea as well as the important regional partners of Australia and India. In addition, we have been taking part in multilateral security dialogues, some of which have been organized by the Ministry of Defense of Japan. I signed memoranda on defense exchanges and issued a joint statement in recent meetings with the Defense Ministers of Australia, China and the Republic of Korea as written proofs of the strengthened relationships. While utilizing such high-level talks as driving forces, we need to expand and deepen defense exchanges at all levels including, but not limited to, defense officials’ consultations, exchange of young officers, joint exercises, mutual visits of vessels and aircraft, exchange of lecturers between peacekeeping institutions, and exchange of students and researchers.

Enhancing such exchanges is imperative, but exchanges alone do not suffice. Confidence building among major powers requires further transparency of armed forces on a reciprocal basis, not merely by expressing strategic intentions but by providing persuasive grounds. Lack of transparency concerning stockpiles and the future directions of armaments, arms transfers, defense spending and policy-making processes can cause distrust and suspicion. It is an important responsibility for major powers to remove uncertainty and enhance predictability so as to reduce the risk of an arms race and devastating miscalculation.

(Second responsibility: cooperation to overcome global challenges)

The second responsibility of major powers is cooperation to overcome global security challenges. They include aforementioned various fields like terrorism, piracy, disasters, infectious diseases and climate change, but here, I wish to focus specifically on the important global issue of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. In addressing this issue, nuclear powers must take the lead.

We, Japan, strongly support the United States’ declaration that it will pursue a world free of nuclear weapons and announcing that it will ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, or CTBT. We also welcome fresh nuclear disarmament negotiation to be started between the United States and Russia. As stated in the “Eleven Benchmarks for Global Nuclear Disarmament” which the Japanese Government recently made public, what is important, next, is that China and the other nuclear powers also take nuclear disarmament measures, which will contribute to the progress of global nuclear disarmament. We strongly hope that the day will come in the near future when all countries whose ratifications are necessary for the entry-into-force of the CTBT including nuclear states ratify this treaty and nuclear tests are no longer conducted.

Japan, as the only nation ever to suffer atomic attacks, has long been making positive efforts in the field of disarmament and non-proliferation. With the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference scheduled next year, and in the wake of North Korea’s nuclear tests, what is the most important is that major countries must make serious efforts not to create a situation where those who abide by rules live in fear and those who break rules enjoy gains. We are determined to actively contribute to strengthening NPT mechanisms at the forefront of such international efforts. Moreover, in order to enhance WMD non-proliferation frameworks in Asia, Japan is willing to join efforts to promote understanding of the Proliferation Security Initiative, or PSI, and to continue to engage in PSI joint exercises.

(Third responsibility: contribution to regional capacity building)

The third responsibility of major powers is contribution towards building regional capacity to cope with the various situations that affect peace and stability. Countries in this region are beginning to share agendas such as disaster relief, maritime security and peacekeeping or peace-building. Of particular importance is cooperation to develop the ASEAN Regional Forum, or ARF, and other multilateral fora into frameworks of practical cooperation and problem solving for common security challenges. Another important task is to support each country’s capacity building, which in turn improves regional capacity to deal with security issues.

At the beginning of this month, the first ever field exercise on disaster relief under the framework of the ARF was organized in the Philippines, marking an epoch-making step toward a more action-oriented ARF. The Japan Self-Defense Forces took part in that exercise to join other countries in medical, epidemic control, water supply, maritime rescue and air transport activities. I would like to express my respect for the efforts by the Philippines and the United States, which co-hosted the exercise. Japan will make maximum contributions in order for this kind of initiative to be sustained and expanded for better regional security management capability.

To facilitate such joint efforts, I consider that it will be better for the Asia-Pacific region to have an intergovernmental multilateral dialogue, in addition to Track II, at a defense ministerial level in which all countries across the region take part.

[4. Future efforts of Japan]

Ladies and gentlemen,

Japan will discharge the three responsibilities I just presented as one of the “major countries” in the region. We will do so from the following two viewpoints.

(Engagement with neighboring countries)

The first is efforts to build “cooperativeness” and “collaboration” through positive engagement with neighboring countries. Taking into account the emerging security situation in East Asia, Japan itself needs to make proactive efforts to further stabilize the regional environment and order through positive engagement with neighboring states.

Concerning greater engagement with neighboring countries, it is important to encourage them to play a responsible and constructive role in the field of security and to build “cooperativeness” and “collaboration” while getting rid of “antagonism” among concerned parties, especially when the world is expanding its multi-layered efforts to improve international security environment. My proposal is to dramatically strengthen our proactive efforts together with the defense establishments of neighboring countries, such as joint exercises for disaster relief, admission and dispatch of units to respond to large-scale disasters, the establishment of frameworks to prevent accidents, and joint initiatives for multilateral regional cooperation to address non-traditional security challenges. These concepts just explained will be incorporated into the ongoing governmental process to review the National Defense Program Guidelines formulated five years ago.

(Reliable and attentive partner)

The second is that Japan is to be a reliable partner on an equal footing, attentive to the cultural differences, to the sensitivities felt by the people of the host countries and to the real needs of the local population.

What we have always cherished in our international peace cooperation efforts were: understanding the common challenges and needs of the international community; good communication with local governments; collaboration between assistance by the Self-Defense Forces and development assistance; and synergy between the Japan-US alliance and Asian diplomacy. The Self-Defense Forces have also learned from past overseas activities the importance of the respect for local communities and their needs, demonstration of strict discipline and high expertise as well as close communication and cooperation with various international partners. We believe such an approach represents a steady way towards the stability of the area of operation. Japan will strive to play a constructive role in tackling global security challenges as a reliable and attentive partner in this region.

(Issues for further review)

Ladies and gentlemen,

For Japan to more actively engage in international tasks, there are some issues that need to be reviewed. One of them is to enhance policy-making abilities. In order to fulfill the three responsibilities in the changing environment described at the beginning of my statement, it is important to produce attractive policy packages for the region and to publicize them effectively. In addition, the Self-Defense Forces have to prepare for long-term international activities, amid increasingly extensive, multi-functional and protracted forms of recent international peace operations. It is also important to establish comprehensive and general domestic legislation to enable swift and effective participation in a wider range of international peace operations.

We also need to examine what we can do for the capacity building of national defense authorities in such fields as disaster management and peacekeeping, not only in human resource development but also in wider aspects including equipment and technological cooperation, while maintaining our basic philosophy of not fomenting international conflicts. I would add that measures to ensure sufficient allocation of resources including human resources should be necessary in order to expand international roles on top of the task of ensuring national defense and security.

Japan still has considerable potential yet to be exercised for stability in Asia. We will contribute actively to regional peace and stability to fulfill shared responsibilities together with those present here, while raising our alliance and relationships with neighboring states to a higher dimension.

Thank you very much.


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