IISS Shangri-La Dialogue
19th Asia Security Summit
Singapore, June 11, 2022
Second Plenary Session
“Managing Geopolitical Competition in a Multipolar Region”
Dr. Chipman, ladies and gentlemen, I am truly honored to participate in the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue. While the COVID-19 pandemic is still posing challenges to the world, I am pleased that the Dialogue is being held here in Singapore, for the first time in three years. I would like to pay respect to the distinguished IISS delegates and to the Government of Singapore, who have made consistent efforts to hold the Dialogue.
I am also honored to have the opportunity to speak in this session together with Mr Sébastien Lecornu, Minister of the Armed Forces, France, the European country which has in particular continued to assert its active engagement in the Indo-Pacific. And also with General Prabowo Subianto, Minister of Defense, Indonesia, which will chair the G20 leaders’ meeting this year.
Today, I would like to discuss the implications for the Indo-Pacific of Russian aggression against Ukraine and Japan’s efforts to deal with geopolitical competition in the region.
Russia’s ongoing, outrageous acts of aggression against Ukraine, are nothing but a unilateral change of the status quo by force. The aggression clearly infringes upon the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. It also constitutes a serious violation of international law and the United Nations Charter prohibiting the use of force. Furthermore, the mass killing of innocent civilians in Ukraine is a grave breach of international humanitarian law. Russia must be held accountable for these outrageous acts.
The response to Russia's aggression against Ukraine influences not only the fate of that country, but also that of the rules-based international order. Were it not for the international community’s unified and resolute opposition, the rules-based international order could have collapsed, leading to global turmoil. The world is now in the midst of a competition between countries protecting the rules-based international order and those attempting to change the order by force.
I believe we can draw the following lessons from the on-going invasion. Firstly, the danger posed by countries that possess or are developing nuclear weapons, but disregard the rules, is real and present. We are reminded once again of a terrible fact. That there is a state, which is actually willing to threaten others with its nuclear weapons and use powerful military capabilities, in an attempt to unilaterally change the status quo.
Secondly, even when facing such aggression, with steadfast resistance from the invaded country and the cooperation of the entire international community, an invasion’s momentum can be curtailed. And if a country conspiring to invade another can be made sufficiently cognizant of this lesson, from now on, we should be able to deter such aggression in other regions of the world.
Thirdly, the international community can support such collective efforts even at great distance or if separated from the region. Many states and private organizations are engaged in various measures. They are enforcing powerful sanctions against Russia providing large-scale assistance to Ukraine for its resistance; and are launching initiatives to deal with Russian disinformation campaigns that seek to justify the invasion. I call on the international community to continue its endeavors in solidarity.
These lessons can be applied to the Indo-Pacific region. For it has latent issues synonymous with the invasion, and where the severity and uncertainty of the situation is increasing at a markedly rapid speed.
To begin with, while Russia has attacked Ukraine, it has also been intensifying its military activities in the Far East and the Pacific. Sino-Russia ties may further deepen. And there is no doubt that many countries are also increasingly concerned by the joint military activities conducted by China and Russia – two major military powers.
In the South China and East China Seas, unilateral change, or attempts to change, the status quo backed by force continue to occur. The peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait, situated between these waters, is important to not only the security of Japan, but also the stability of the international community. However, in this region, we are witnessing attempts to rapidly and comprehensively enhance military power without transparency. And even worse, the protagonist has never renounced the potential use of force against Taiwan.
Moreover, since the beginning of this year, North Korea has repeatedly launched missiles at an unprecedented high frequency and in new ways, while referring to the strengthening of its nuclear power. The recent developments of nuclear and missile related technologies by North Korea threaten the peace and security of Japan, the region and the international community, which is totally unacceptable.
We are facing the reality that the actors provoking such problems, not only possess or are developing nuclear weapons, but also are taking actions that ignore the rules. It is safe to say, the international community already shares the concern that a situation akin to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine could erupt in the Indo-Pacific.
Japan has earnestly followed the path of a peace-loving nation since the end of World War II. We have faithfully played by international law, have attached importance to strengthening the rule of law, and have also consistently pursued peaceful resolutions based on international law for disputes between sovereign states.
Nevertheless, at present, not only is Japan surrounded by actors that both possess or are developing nuclear weapons and are ignoring the rules, but also, year by year, they are becoming more open in their disregard for them. Japan is located right at the frontline to oppose behaviors which flout the rules and for protecting the rules-based international order.
In light of this situation, as self-induced efforts, Japan will initially revise strategic documents and will accelerate the fundamental reinforcement of defense capabilities, so as to even more closely follow the path of a peace-loving nation. And then, to that end, we will also further elevate the Japan-US alliance, which is a foundation for peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, and will strengthen its deterrence and response capabilities.
The fundamental strengthening of defense capabilities by Japan, which is at the frontline facing up to actions that disregard the rules, demonstrates our firm resolve that unilateral change of the status quo by force will never be tolerated. I am sure that it will break the will of those aiming to ignore the rules towards Japan or in the Indo-Pacific region.
We must not condone any unilateral change of the status quo by force, not only towards Japan but in any nation or region. Without straying from the path to a peace-loving nation by even a step, Japan will continue to do all that we can to prevent rule-flouting-actions and to stamp out such harmful intentions.
The vision of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific”, FOIP, that Japan has been promoting, is exactly the endeavor to advance cooperation to protect the international rules-based order. We will continue to strive to realize FOIP, made possible by the expanding prevalence of principles such as the rule of law, freedom of navigation and overflight and free trade; by pursuing economic prosperity; and ensuring peace and security.
To fully accomplish FOIP, cooperation with ASEAN countries located at the nexus of the Indian and Pacific oceans is fundamental. Japan gives its total support to “AOIP”, the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, which was adopted by ASEAN to contribute to the maintenance of peace, freedom and prosperity in the region. AOIP shares fundamental principles with the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” vision.
Japan and ASEAN share concerns about, and strongly oppose, unilateral attempts to change the status quo backed by force. We have emphasized the importance of the rule of law and worked together to deal with security challenges in the region. Japan anticipates that ASEAN, with its centrality and unity, will build mutually beneficial partnerships with each country, and we will continue our cooperation. Collaborating with countries that ignore the rules can never be mutually beneficial. Countries that ignore the rules take advantage of their partners’ weaknesses, through international loans and the like, and try to exploit their partners to advance their own national interests. I would like to point out, that if cooperation is deepened with such countries, it ultimately damages one’s own interests.
There is no inclusive framework that covers the entire Indo-Pacific region. It is, therefore, all the more important to bring about FOIP by reinforcing the international-law-based-rules, through various ASEAN centered frameworks, such as Japan-ASEAN fora, ASEAN plus three and the East Asia Summit. In addition, the role of security frameworks, such as ADMM Plus, which plays a constructive role building regional resilience, is increasingly important. Also, as an effort in this region, in order to achieve FOIP, we will develop the four-nation Japan, the United States, Australia and India cooperation framework into a more tangible initiative.
Japan will also promote cooperation with countries in and out of the region, beginning with European countries, that share our fundamental values. Efforts to realize FOIP such as these, make a substantial contribution to the maintenance and strengthening of the rules-based international order.
By their wide-ranging and multilayered actions in response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, nations that respect the rules-based international order are demonstrating that it is possible to obstruct malign efforts by states that disregard the rules, irrespective of distance or separation from a region. Even if a crisis hits the Indo-Pacific, I am confident that the international community can act as one to rebuff such an attempt to disregard the rules.
In order to do so, countries protecting the international order should strategically convey the message that they will be working together in solidarity, as well as strengthening their defense capabilities. In this way, we must make it acutely clear to rule-flouting actors that it is impossible to change the rules-based international order by force. I would like to emphasize that no one should underestimate the strong solidarity of the countries protecting the rules-based international order.
We are now standing at an historic crossroads for the protection of the international rules-based order. Japan, which is standing on the frontline against actions that disregard the rules, will continue to fundamentally reinforce its defense capabilities. Furthermore, in order to realize FOIP, we will continue our ceaseless efforts, to expand the number of like-minded countries in the Indo-Pacific region and the international community. It is such sustained efforts that will bring about the preservation and strengthening of the rules-based order.
Thank you very much.