Vol. 4, No. 13 (December 24, 2008)
The opinions and materials contained herein do not necessarily represent the views or policies of the Government of Japan.

 

In this issue

1. Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting

2. Press Conference by Taro Aso, Prime Minister

3. "Pride" - Message from the Prime Minister

4. Asia in the Coming Years: A Japanese Perspective

5. Start of Entries for the Third International MANGA Awards

6. Japan's Anime Ambassador Makes U.S. Debut

 

Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting

 

(photo) the signing ceremony
Signing ceremony at the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting (photo: Aso Cabinet homepage)

 

-Aso Cabinet Homepage
(December 13, 2008)

For the text of the joint press conference that followed the Trilateral Summit, click here.

Prime Minister Taro Aso visited Fukuoka Prefecture to hold the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting.

Prime Minister Aso first held talks with Mr. Lee Myung- bak, President of the Republic of Korea (ROK) at a hotel in Fukuoka City. At the meeting, the leaders agreed to work together toward a future-oriented mature partnership. They also confirmed their intention to continue to work closely in the areas of finance and the economy against the backdrop of the severe situation of the international economy, and welcomed the temporary increase of the maximum swap amounts under the bilateral currency swap arrangement. On the North Korean issue, Prime Minister Aso and President Lee, while expressing regret for North Korea's disagreement on the verification process for its nuclear programs at the previous meeting of the Six-Party Talks, shared the view that the issue of verification is extremely important in advancing the denuclearization of North Korea, and that close coordination at the Six-Party Talks will be maintained bilaterally between Japan and the ROK and also trilaterally among Japan, the ROK, and the United States.

After the meeting with President Lee, Prime Minister Aso held talks with Mr. Wen Jiabao, Premier of the State Council of the People's Republic of China, at the Kyushu National Museum in Dazaifu City, Fukuoka Prefecture. At the meeting...

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Press Conference by Taro Aso, Prime Minister


-Press Conference by the Prime Minister
(December 12, 2008)

(photo) Prime Minister Taro Aso
Prime Minister Taro Aso (photo: Aso Cabinet homepage)

 

PRIME MINISTER TARO ASO: I decided to hold this press conference, admittedly at short notice, as I wished to speak to the public on a particular topic. That topic is "emergency measures to defend people's daily lives".

The United States' financial crisis has begun to affect the real economy at an abnormal pace. So far, the government has taken countermeasures in the form of the first supplementary budget (of fiscal 2008) and subsequent measures to counter difficulties in people's daily lives, giving top priority to providing security in people's daily lives and financial stability.

However, even after these efforts...

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"Pride" - Message from the Prime Minister


-Aso Cabinet E-mail Magazine, No. 9
(December 4, 2008)

(photo) gate of Al Julan Elementary School
The flags of Iraq and Japan join hands in a picture on the gate of Al Julan Elementary, a school which was repaired by Japan's Self Defense Forces. (photo: Aso Cabinet Homepage)

 

In a recent issue of his e-mail magaznie, Prime Minister Taro Aso reflected on the pride he feels for the Self Defense Force (SDF) personnel whose mission in Iraq will terminate this year, and shared his impressions of the new personnel system implemented in a major Japanese department store. For more information on the completion of the SDF's mission in Iraq, see the Prime Minister's November 28th statement. To read more about the Prime Minister's visit to LOFT department store, see the December 1st press release.

 

When we look back on Japan's reconstruction assistance activities in Iraq, we must never forget our two diplomats, Ambassador Katsuhiko Oku and First Secretary Masamori Inoue.

Last Saturday, November 29, marked the fifth anniversary of the loss of their precious lives in Iraq.

Ambassador Oku and First Secretary Inoue's sense of mission and passion for the reconstruction of Iraq have been taken forward by Japanese diplomats and members of the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) in Iraq. The country is now steadily following the path of reconstruction.

A picture featuring the words "For Iraq's future" is displayed at the main gate of Al Julan Elementary School, which was repaired by Japan. The picture depicts the SDF's achievements, which have taken firm root.

The SDF personnel have devoted themselves to each and every one of their missions, which have included road repairs, the development of water treatment plants, and the transport of people and medical supplies. The SDF's activities have certainly enhanced the image of Japan, though living in Japan we may not be conscious of it.

Last Friday, the Government of Japan decided to terminate, by the end of this year, the SDF's activities in Iraq, which have continued for four and a half years.

I would like to express my most sincere respect and gratitude to the SDF personnel who have diligently carried out missions in a sweltering land far away from their families. As the Prime Minister of Japan -- and as a Japanese citizen -- I am very proud of them.

On Monday of this week, I visited LoFT, a household goods store, in Shibuya, Tokyo.

It was not for shopping. This year, the company abolished classifications such as contract employees and part-time employees, and all employees who sought to become regular ones have now been accepted as such. The staff on the sales floor and at cash registers are all regular employees. I wanted to see this and hear from the staff directly. That is why I visited the store.

The people in charge of the sales floor work on their own initiative at everything from monitoring hot-selling products to placing orders. Cashiers need a wealth of product knowledge to draw upon when serving customers.

"This is a challenging job," said a young employee. What was clear to me from her words was the pride that she takes in her work. These people with real responsibility and a corresponding level of treatment had shining faces.

I heard that the changes to the company's personnel system have resulted in a cost increase of over 400 million yen, yet sales are growing despite the country's severe economic situation.

There are no better resources than employees who commit to their companies and work as hard as they can. The words of Mr. Yoshiharu Endo, the company president, impressed me greatly. He said, "We spare no efforts when investing in our human resources."

People are the essence of companies. I reaffirmed the strength of Japanese-style management.

That evening, I asked Chairman of the Nippon Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) Fujio Mitarai and Chairman of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Tadashi Okamura to help bolster stable employment and raise wages. I also requested that companies not withdraw offers of employment.

Employment and wages are the basic foundations of people's livelihoods. Even if the economic situation becomes severe, we must safeguard them.

For its part, the Government is taking every possible measure, including reducing employment insurance fees and supporting regular employment of young people. In addition to these efforts, the Government and the private sector must work together and take whatever measures they can in order to safeguard the basic foundations of people's livelihoods.

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Asia in the Coming Years: A Japanese Perspective

-Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki
(December 17, 2008)

(photo) Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki
Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki (photo: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace )

 

On Wednesday, December 17th, Japanese Ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki delivered the following speech at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. To view the slides that accompanied the speech, and for past speeches by the Ambassador, click here.

All the people in the world think that their own region is unique. Asians are no exception. We believe that our situation is unique because of the following reasons:

  • Diversity: religions, races, languages, and development levels. Consequently, there is the non-existence of regional organizations like AU, OAS, or EU.
  • Nearly one-third of the world population is concentrated in two Asian countries which are now deemed emerging countries.
  • We have China and Russia in the region and the US as a neighbor. We also have a unique country like the DPRK in the region.

Today, the world is facing unprecedented challenges. The economic crisis, climate change, proliferation of WMD, terrorism, etc. Asian countries are also struggling to cope with these issues. The above-mentioned uniqueness of the region makes the situation somewhat complicated. But through such efforts, Asian solidarity may be developed as well. I would like to highlight today, Japan's role in such an endeavor and how we see US involvement.

Economy

IMF estimates that the GDP growth of all countries in 2009 will be down at least a few percentage points. Everyone points out that this economic crisis started from the US. However, economic growth up till now has also been supported by the US demand. Now that the world economy has stumbled, this is no time to do the blame game. We have to cooperate to put the economy on the right track. Some leaders in the world try to take advantage of this situation and to challenge the US leadership role or to shake the system of international finance. This is not the Japanese position. Japan supports the US endeavor to retain its leadership in the world economy. In the Summit of 20 countries in November, PM Aso has clearly stated that we should be making efforts to support the dollar-based currency system on which the current international economic and financial systems rely. On the basis of such philosophy, Japan extended 100 billion dollars to IMF as an emergency loan.

Regarding trade, it was a pity that the WTO Doha round was not able to make the progress needed. As an ex-Ambassador in Geneva, this was not totally inconceivable. Under such circumstances, the most important thing is that all the responsible countries commit themselves not to introduce any new trade-restrictive measures. We also need political will not to erode the commitments already made under WTO and FTAs. In short, stand still until the time comes.

Japan feels that it has a special responsibility in supporting the Asian countries in this crisis. Because, still, the Asian economy is closely related to that of Japan. Let me show you some charts and explain.

ASEAN:

Japan is the biggest trading partner, the biggest ODA donor, and the No. 1 country in Foreign Direct Investment to ASEAN. ASEAN has been the source of stability in the East Asia. Japan has been engaging in ASEAN activities and projects. Japan became the first dialogue partner of ASEAN in 1978, and since then Japan has built cooperation mechanisms at various levels. Japan's assistance regarding the development of the Mekong River Region will help new ASEAN members such as Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam become smoothly integrated into ASEAN.

China:

Japan is the biggest ODA donor. As Chinese leaders say, it must be an enormous task to even feed one fourth of the world population. China's opening of its economy three decades ago was only possible by being selective in terms of regions of development. People's frustration from disparity in distribution and an insufficient social safety net was manageable because the whole economy was growing. They have to maintain this growth path. Now China is also facing drops in export, thus in GDP. Some economists estimate that China's GDP will grow around the 7% level at best, which is a substantial decrease from the level of previous years. This is serious, because per capita, China's GDP remains in the 2000 dollars range. It is to our advantage to support China's economic development. All of our economies are intertwined. China's development should be seen as an opportunity.

Recently, our bilateral relations have been improving rapidly. This year, in May, President Hu Jintao visited Japan. It was the first visit by a Chinese President during the past 10 years. And quite recently, Premier Wen Jiabao visited Fukuoka, Japan, to attend the Trilateral Summit Meeting of Japan-China-South Korea. On June 18, political agreements on resource development in the East China Sea, which had been a long-pending issue between the two countries, were reached.

But there are still some basic things we have to keep our eyes on. Government policy towards the yuan, military build-up, human rights, and abiding by international norms such as IPR are some of them. These are the concerns of the international community as a whole. We continue to need US leadership in this regard. The Secretary of State designate Mme. Clinton stated this January that "the US and Japan share a strong interest in ensuring that China will play a stable, prosperous, peaceful and responsible role in the region and in the broader international community." We completely share such views.

India:

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on his visit to Japan two months ago, reaffirmed with Prime Minister Aso the importance of the Strategic and Global Partnership established in 2006 between the two countries. India has been the biggest recipient of Japan's yen loan for five years in a row. Our trade in 2007 increased by 22%, and FDI from Japan increased by more than two times.

You now have seen how close Japan is to other Asian countries economically. We simply cannot let the Asian economy go down the slippery slope.

Climate Change

Here Asian countries' views vary. For example, in July at Toyako, the G8 countries sought to adopt in the UN negotiations, the goal of achieving at least a 50% reduction of global emissions by 2050. Indonesia and South Korea, in the subsequent Major Economies Summit Meeting, responded positively. China and India, however, advocated that developed countries should first take the lead in achieving the long-term (80-95% below 1990 in 2050) and mid-term (25-40% below 1990 in 2020) reduction. We need these developing countries' participation. We cannot repeat Kyoto where these developing countries, as well as the US, decline to take part. Japan is ready to do more on its part than developing countries. But we have to say that we are already the most saving-oriented economy emerging in the world amongst major industrial countries. I will show you a chart. The objective must be more practical than what is now being asked. We think that we can find an ambitious but realistic solution together with the US.

Proliferation of WMD

First of all, Japan pursues the ultimate abolition of nuclear arms. To this end, Japan has been initiating resolutions in UNGA for more than ten years. This goes in line with the ideal of President-elect Obama in seeking a world in which there are no nuclear weapons.

We think that work towards such a goal, while of course not undermining deterrence, is what the nuclear powers should be engaged in. We would like to see the US in the CTBT as soon as possible.

Let us look at Iran and North Korea.

On Iran, we should continue the maximum use of the UN. Only multilateral action including Russia and China can be an effective measure against Iran. As a non-permanent member from next month, we look forward to working with others including the US on all issues including those related to Iran.

On North Korea, the Six Party Talks process should continue to play a main role. In this respect, we are encouraged by the stance taken by the President-elect and his foreign policy team. On October 11, when the US decided to de-list the DPRK from the list of terrorist countries, the President-elect issued a statement including the following remarks: "cif North Korea refuses to permit robust verification, suspension of energy assistance, as well as re-imposition of past sanctions or new restrictions needs to be considered. The US objective remains to be the complete and verifiable elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons programs including enrichment of uranium. North Korea must also resolve all questions about the abduction of Japanese (and others)."

At the last Six Party Talks, North Korea was not forthcoming. If the North Koreans are waiting for a change in the US administration, they should read this statement.

The Japanese Government is looking forward to working with the new administration. We are encouraged by the remarks of the President-elect stating that the US must dramatically improve coordination with allies like Japan and South Korea.

Terrorism

Japan has steadfastly participated in the fight against terrorism. Japan has always supported OEF by refueling the ships engaged in this operation in the Indian Ocean. On the12th of this month, the Japanese Diet decided to extend its activity until January 2010. We will be ready to discuss Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Middle East peace-related issues with the US. Japan, as a major dependant on Middle East oil, has critical interest in these issues. It is my belief that these issues should not be seen not in a piecemeal manner. They should be seen and treated from a regional point of view in the mid-term context. We will continue to do our best, especially in the field of the reconstruction of war-torn countries. Japan has also been assisting the capacity-building of Southeast Asian countries in combating terrorism and piracy. Coast Guard patrol ships were provided to Indonesia and seminars to train law enforcement experts in these countries are some of the examples.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Former German Chancellor Schmitt once said that Japan does not seem to have too many genuine friends in Asia. With all my respect to this great leader, I doubt the validity of such a comment. The Japanese have the tendency to seek after critical comments from outside. Sorry to Mr. Schmitt, but we do have many friends. Let us look at the charts again. According to an opinion poll on Japan in six ASEAN countries ( Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) in May 2008, more than 90% of the respondents in each country view their relationship with Japan as "friendly" or "somewhat friendly." This is exemplified by the fact that we have returned to UNSC 10 times in the last 30 years. This is more than any other country in the world. Germany 4 times, India 6 times... In the last election, which took place two months ago, we won by 158 votes to Iran's 32 votes.

Some may say, as the Chancellor states, that Japan has not squarely faced with its history issue. This is not true. Japan has directly faced the past with regard to World War II and has clearly expressed feelings of remorse and apology and its resolve to ensure that such an unfortunate history will never be repeated, as shown in the statement by the then Prime Minister on August 15, 1995.

We however cannot be complacent about the situation in Asia. On top of the above-mentioned efforts in coping with challenges, I would like to mention three points.

First, it is important to further solidify regional cooperation. In Asia, multi-layered frameworks of cooperation have been steadily developed. It has accelerated since the Asian Financial Crisis 11 years ago. It is essential that we expand and deepen the regional cooperation in Asia because

  • Asian countries are becoming more interdependent; and
  • Issues which have to be tackled jointly, such as finance, environment, infectious disease and organized crimes, are increasing.

In the framework of ASEAN +3, which is the main vehicle for regional cooperation, leaders have met every year since 1997. Since 2005, ASEAN +3 has enlarged meetings of the East Asia Summit to expand the East Asian Community to include India, Australia, and New Zealand. After NAFTA was concluded in 1994, Japan belatedly initiated negotiation for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Singapore and concluded it in 2002. As of today, 5 other bilateral EPAs have been signed between Japan and individual ASEAN countries: Malaysia (2005), the Philippines (2006), Thailand (2007), Indonesia (2007), and Brunei (2007). On top of these, Japan completed the negotiations on a Japan-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, EPA with 10 ASEAN countries collectively in April this year. Also, Japan reached agreements on major elements with Vietnam and is now under negotiation with India, South Korea, and Australia. Japan's economic relationship with ASEAN is expected to be further invigorated under these agreements.

Japan, China, and ROK trilateral relations are enhancing as well. Last weekend, a Trilateral Summit meeting among the three countries was held in Fukuoka, Japan. This was the first such summit to be convened independently. They talked about the international financial crisis, cooperation on disaster prevention, global issues such as environmental protection and non-proliferation, and of course, North Korea, among others. To better address the financial crisis in the region, the three countries agreed to fortify the Chiang Mai Initiative which is a cooperative currency swapping arrangement. Namely, the maximum amount Japan can provide from its reserve as a currency swap to Korea was increased from USD 13 billion to 30 billion and as for China to Korea, from USD 4 billion to 30 billion. The heads of the three countries agreed to hold this summit meeting once a year from now on and has set the next time and venue as China in 2009.

Here, I would like to stress one important thing. Dialogues may increase. EPAs or FTAs may flourish. However, Japan has no intention of excluding the US from any institution building in the Asia Pacific region. Pan Asia institutions without the US are not to our interest in the foreseeable future. We need the US to be engaged in Asia. In this regard, a more strategic use of APEC must be sought. Japan and the US, as successive hosts of APEC in 2010 and 2011, can and should cooperate to further invigorate this regional mechanism.

Secondly, it is vital to keep the US military presence in the Asia-Pacific region. There is a silent majority voice supporting the US presence. Why silent? Because they are happy with the situation. They do not want to offend others by coming out to support the US presence or to be asked to bear some costs. In this regard, I would like to touch upon the famous "oxygen theory" of Professor Nye of Harvard. The essence of which is contending that the US presence in the Asia-Pacific is as indispensable as oxygen. This is partly right. It is indispensable. We do need the presence of US forces, bearing in mind that instability and uncertainty persist in Asia: North Korea's development of WMD and delivery means, China's massive military buildup and modernization, and Russia's resurgence. U.S. forces in this region have been indispensable in providing deterrence against possible adversaries and assurance to its allies. However, oxygen does not smell nor give sound. The very essence of oxygen is that you benefit from it but you do not feel it. The military cannot be so. Providing the use of bases by Japan is what makes the security arrangements reciprocal. The US needs bases in Japan because they are the only significant Navy, Marine and Air Force bases between Guam and Diego Garcia. However, we have to always be sensitive to the feelings of local communities. This is exactly what both the Japanese government and the US government are working on everyday. We should continue to work along the Japan-U.S. Roadmap for Realignment Implementation agreed to in 2006.

The role expected of the US is to give assurances and predictability. Assurances that democracy and human rights, including freedom of speech, are respected and that use of force is not allowed. Japan shares the same values as the US in this regard. Although our ways of demarche may sometimes differ, Japan would like to work with the US to encourage the prevailing of such values.

We would like the US to understand that, in reality, many of us in Asia are comfortable with the status quo. They do not want to see one or two countries in the region alter strategic balances in the region. We would like the US to be there as a stabilizer. Yes, what we may be expecting is for the US to play an "anchor" role. Firm and steady. Is this asking too much?

Thirdly, it is necessary to enhance human contacts to foster trust relations and solidarity in the region.

As one example, last year, Japan announced a plan to invite about 6,000 young people to Japan, mainly from EAS member states (ASEAN, Australia, China, India, New Zealand, the ROK), every year for five years.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We are now just at the watershed in Asia. A turbulent economy, the military build-up of China, the DPRK, South West Asia in a hot situation, etc. We continue to need US engagement. Japan is ready to work with you.

I thank you.

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Start of Entries for the Third International MANGA Award

- Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Release
(December 4, 2008)

 

(photo) trophies awarded for the International MANGA Award
The trophies for the Foreign Minister's Award (left) and Encouragement Award (right) of the International MANGA Awards take the shape of speech bubbles.

The following is the press release announcing the start of entries for the Third International MANGA Award. To read more about the award, please see the Ministry of Foreign Affairs' page on the International MANGA Award. To find out how to enter, please see the application form and procedures for the Third International MANGA Award.

 

  1. The Third International MANGA Award Executive Committee will start to accept entries for the Third Award from December 5 (Fri). Guidelines for application and entry forms will be available on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

  2. The Award was established to honor MANGA artists who have contributed to the promotion of MANGA overseas. On November 25 (Mon), the meeting of the Third International MANGA Award Executive Committee was held and it formally decided on a third event.

  3. The Golden Prize of the Third International MANGA Award will be given to the best MANGA from all the entries and about three distinguished works will receive the Silver Prize. In addition, the Japan Foundation will invite the prize winners to Japan to attend the award ceremony. They will also meet with Japanese MANGA artists and visit publishing companies, etc., in Japan.


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Japan's Anime Ambassador Makes U.S. Debut

-Susan Laszewski
(Embassy of Japan)

 

(photo) children with poster of Doraemon
Children choose one of Doraemon's futuristic gadgets from his 4-dimensional pocket.

 

To read about the Anime Ambassador's March 19, 2008 inauguration, click here.

On November 14th, JICC was pleased to screen a very special film in which a certain Japanese ambassador, played by himself, travels back in time with his friends to return their pet dinosaur to its family. Most ambassadors would probably not have the time to star in a children's film. But this film's leading man (robot, actually) is not just any ambassador; he's Doraemon, the lovable blue animated robo-cat from the future. His manga and animated television series remain popular decades after they first appeared. He possesses a four-dimensional pocket in which he keeps his 22nd century tools, like the time machine used in the film, to help his human friend Nobita get out of trouble and learn valuable life lessons. But perhaps most impressive of all is that in March of this year Doraemon was appointed Japan's first Anime Ambassador by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

At the inauguration ceremony on March 19th, former Foreign Minister Masahiko Koumura charged the robotic cat with traveling around the world using anime as a means to spread knowledge of Japan. Doraemon was quoted as saying, "I hope through my cartoons I will be able to convey to people overseas what ordinary Japanese people are thinking, what sort of life we are leading and what sort of future we are trying to create!"

Long a favorite character with children the world over, the charismatic cat was a shoo-in for the position. His anime series has been translated into over 20 languages and broadcast in more than 30 countries around the globe. Yet neither his television show nor feature length films had ever been screened in United States until the screening of "Doraemon the Movie: Nobita's Dinosaur" at JICC.

In the 2006 re-release of the original 1980 film, Nobita finds a new friend when he discovers and hatches a dinosaur egg. But as the little dinosaur grows and begins to wreak havoc on the town, Nobita realizes he must return the dinosaur to its own time. With Doraemon's help, a group of their friends set off to the cretaceous period. 140 children and adults came to watch Doraemon and Nobita navigate prehistoric dangers in their United States debut.

As a special treat that evening, children could pick a card depicting one of the gadgets from the four-dimensional pocket on a life-sized poster of Doraemon and exchange their card for Doraemon goods such as pens, notebooks, and folders. The gadgets included the time machine, the "take-copter," a kind of helicopter hat that allows Doraemon to fly, a door that can lead anywhere you want to go, and other tools that those of us still stuck in the 21st century can only dream of.

Due to the curious absence of Doraemon cartoons in the United States, many of the evening's guests were unacquainted with the beloved cat before the show. To help kids get to know him, the JICC sent out packets to some schools in the area explaining who Doraemon is and giving teachers ideas for fun Doraemon activities to engage in with their students. As a result, even many of those guests who were seeing Doraemon for the first time had some background knowledge as they watched the film.

But even without being familiar with Doraemon, his message of friendship is a universal one that children and adults of all ages can identify with and enjoy. The auditorium was filled with the excited whispers and uncontained laughter of children as Doraemon and his friends befriended a T-rex and made fools of evil dinosaur hunters while JICC staff tiptoed through the dim auditorium to set up extra seating for the growing crowd. Guests went home having forged a new friendship with Doraemon that, for some, may lead to more exploration into the world of anime and Japanese culture. All in all, it was a good day for anime diplomacy and a job well done for Japan's first Anime Ambassador.

 

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