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The strategic environment of the Asia-Pacific region is undergoing significant change

Remarks by Seiji Maehara, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, at the Dinner with the participants of the 2nd Japan-US-Russia Trilateral Conference:

On behalf of the Japanese attendees, I would like to extend my heartfelt welcome to all of you who have come from the United States and Russia to attend the second round of the Japan-US-Russia Trilateral Conference. The organizers of this Conference, the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA), the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and the Institute of World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO), are think tanks each with acclaimed track records of more than 50 years in assessment and research activities, focusing on the areas of foreign policy and security. It is of much significance for such renowned think tanks to have an opportunity like this to discuss the overall security environment in the Asia-Pacific region. The fact that this Conference is being held so soon after last year's first round can be seen as evidence that all of you have a good appreciation of how trilateral cooperation should be pursued.

As you may know, a number of experts, including Dr John Hamre, President and CEO of CSIS, who gave me an opportunity to make a speech during my visit to the United States the other day, and Dr Alexander Dynkin, Director of IMEMO, are present at this Conference. I am truly encouraged by this as I have exchanged frank opinions with them from time to time on various occasions since I became a member of the Diet. With high expectations of an open and constructive exchange of views at this two-day Conference, I would like to express my ideas on the topics to be covered by this gathering.

First of all, let me make a few remarks on the basis of the trilateral cooperation between Japan, the United States and Russia in the Asia-Pacific region, which is experiencing such dynamic change. For Japan, its robust alliance with the United States and relations based on trust with Russia, one of the major players in the Asia-Pacific region form the basis of such trilateral cooperation. This Trilateral Conference is a forum where experts with profound insights discuss regional security issues from the mid- and long-term perspective, with the participation of government observers who deal with actual policy-making and diplomatic negotiations on a daily basis. I would like to emphasize the importance of this forum as an attempt to reinforce the basis of cooperation between the three countries and demonstrate a path for further peace and prosperity in the region.

The bilateral relations between Japan and the United States, Japan and Russia, and the United States and Russia have reached their current stage in the light of the respective historical backgrounds and world trends. In particular, the Japan-US bilateral relationship has become the most important alliance in the Asia-Pacific region, indeed in the whole world. Last week, I visited the United States and had a meeting with Secretary of State Madame Clinton for the fourth time since I assumed the post of Minster for Foreign Affairs. Having exchanged views with her several times, I feel that we were able to reaffirm the increased necessity for the two countries to cooperate in a wider range of areas for the development of the region on the basis of their alliance. The two leaders also confirmed, at the Japan-US summit meeting which took place during APEC in Yokohama, the importance of bilateral cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region and of addressing global issues as well as deepening the alliance.

Regarding Japan-Russia relations, the two countries have not concluded a peace treaty due to the differences in their positions on the territorial issue, and Japan and Russia should make all the more efforts for the genuine development of their relationship. The strategic environment of the region requires a higher level of cooperation between them. It is my wish that we should settle this pending issue based on mutual trust while moving forward our cooperation in the economic field as well as in international fora. Especially regarding economic relations, Japan has worked together with the Russian Federation since its inception, but there is room for improvement in the level of cooperation in the light of the economic potential of the two countries. There is considerable scope for promoting collaboration in areas such as the development of natural resources, the environment and energy conservation.

As for US-Russia relations, the Cold War that divided the whole world during the latter half of the twentieth century has ended. Last April, President Obama and President Medvedev signed a new START Treaty, which was approved by the US Senate in December. In November, the NATO-Russia Council agreed on future cooperation on missile defense. Japan welcomes the progress made in US-Russia cooperation.

If we could develop these three bilateral relationships into a framework of trilateral cooperation, the lines of collaboration would form a sphere and this would largely enhance regional cooperation. My feeling is that this trilateral cooperation has the potential to create a new order in the Asia-Pacific region. I am convinced that this Trilateral Conference will make a great contribution to such a process in the future.

Common Threats and Challenges confronting Japan, the US and Russia

I understand that the agenda for this Conference comprises North Korea, energy security in the Far East and East Siberia, and the maritime order in East Asia. All of these points are crucial elements when discussing Japan-US and Japan-Russia cooperation from the wide perspective of the Asia-Pacific region. Specifically, the item "Internal Affairs and Nuclear Issue concerning North Korea" is an extremely timely theme. I believe it is of great significance to analyze and discuss the security environment in the Asia-Pacific region, including the increasingly severe situation in the Korean Peninsula, from various aspects.

North Korea has recently carried out repeated provocations such as the sinking of the Republic of Korea's naval patrol vessel last March, the shelling of the Republic's Yeonpyeong Island and the publication of Pyongyang's uranium enrichment program last November. Through these incidents, it has become clear once again to Japan and indeed the whole world that unstable factors remain in the security environment of the Asia-Pacific region. As was affirmed at the Japan-US-Republic of Korea Foreign Ministers' meeting last December, in order to resolve the North Korean problem in a peaceful manner it is important for Pyongyang to cease such provocative actions immediately and take concrete steps to behave properly toward the international community. Japan for its part will make further efforts to this end. It is also important to cooperate with China and Russia, the countries which have influence over North Korea. Furthermore, for Japan the abduction issue with North Korea remains unresolved, and positive and sincere efforts are necessary on their part to resolve this problem. In addition to the tense situation in the Korean Peninsula, quite a few numbers of territory-related and maritime issues arose in Asia last year.

There is also a pressing need to tackle global issues such as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, international terrorism and piracy. Moreover, we must address new security challenges such as risks to the peaceful utilizations of the oceans, space and cyber space.

The strategic environment of the Asia-Pacific region is undergoing significant change, and Japan, the United States and Russia are all faced with major challenges. Recognizing the challenges to Japan, last December the Government of Japan, led by the Democratic Party of Japan, revised the National Defense Program Outline for the first time since the change of government. The new Outline sets out the following as Japan's core principles: firstly, the building of a dynamic defense force as the foundation at home; secondly, the deepening and further development of the Japan-US alliance in a manner which accords with the current security environment; and thirdly, the strengthening of multilayered security cooperation in the international community, focusing on cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.

Although the strategic environment of the Asia-Pacific region features the challenges I have mentioned, it could also be said that we are entering an era of opportunity. The swift growth of China and India is providing a large market and an opportunity for growth not only to the Asia-Pacific region but also to the entire world. I would like to remind you that the share of world energy demand accounted for by Asia is on the rise and is projected to reach about 40% in 2030.

As the Asian economy becomes more active and energy demand increases in the region, resource competition is likely to escalate. In this regard, we can say that the territorial and maritime issues that have recently arisen are rooted in tension over resources. It may be no exaggeration to say that a key part of our three countries' future is to manage this tension properly.

From this standpoint, the promotion of Japan-Russia cooperation in the resource development and production project in the resource-rich Far East and East Siberia is a good example of a way to ensure a stable energy supply for the whole Asia-Pacific region. Japan will promote the exploitation of alternative energy, while paying attention to the development of the Far East and East Siberia, which could become a stable energy supplier. I suppose that Russia also, for its part, requires the development of that area for the purposes of contributing to the remarkable economic development of the Asia-Pacific region and of enjoying the economic benefits arising from it. Furthermore, I assume that the promotion of cooperation with Japan will be useful for Russia as it pushes forward its reform program geared to economic modernization, in a move away from a resource-dependent economy. Japan's energy efficiency is among the highest in the world, and 17 times higher than that of Russia. For instance, in Russia 17 times more energy than in Japan is required to achieve the level of illumination that we have in this room. Based on recognition of this point, when I met Foreign Minister Lavrov last November I suggested to him that Japan-Russia cooperation in the region served the strategic interests not just of Japan but also of Russia.

At the same time, in order to secure a stable and long-term energy supply, it is necessary to precisely grasp the global energy situation and take appropriate measures for the future from a strategic perspective. The exploitation of unconventional forms of natural gas such as shale gas in the United States is forcing both importers and exporters of natural gas to review their policy on energy security. I dare say there will be a frank exchange of views tomorrow on the various factors which affect future energy security and on the measures adopted by each country. I also expect that the participants will study concrete ways of bringing about trilateral cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region in this regard.

Now, what roles will Japan, the United States and Russia play to overcome the various security challenges mentioned earlier and to attain regional peace and prosperity? My answer to the question is that an important role of the three countries is to cooperate, among them and with other countries concerned, to ensure freedom of maritime navigation and thereby make the sea of the Asia-Pacific region a peaceful sea. We are required to achieve free and open trade routes and to realize the economic development of the Asia Pacific region, which is the center of world economic growth. We should also strive to establish and bolster supplementary and cooperative relations among our three countries in which each country takes proactive initiatives in the areas of its own comparative advantage. For its part, Japan hopes that all the countries in this region of rich diversity will develop through active collaboration. To that end, Japan will play a leading role in establishing regional order by improving the institutional framework on the basis of key factors such as the rule of law, democracy, respect for human rights, free and fair trade and investment regulations and intellectual property protection.

I welcome the decisions made by the United States and Russia to join the East Asia Summit (EAS), which were announced last year, as they indicate the two countries' resolve to engage positively in the region's peace and stability. I expect that, within the framework of the EAS, regional cooperation in the political and security areas as well as the economic field will see progress with the participation of the two countries.

As to regional economic cooperation, at APEC in Yokohama we achieved a concrete outcome in the form of the "Yokohama Vision" which focuses on "regional economic integration," "growth strategy" and "human security". The three countries must deepen their cooperation so that these achievements can be built on by the United States and Russia, the hosts of APEC this year and next year respectively, and be steadily implemented. It is important to strengthen our cooperative and supplementary trilateral relations in a wide range of fields including the economy, politics and security geared to the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. It is also significant not only to our three countries but also the whole region that our trilateral cooperation should develop into a format which plays a leading role in establishing a new order in the Asia-Pacific region.

Ladies and gentlemen, I do not wish to take up more time during the wonderful dinner, so I will finish here. Tomorrow's sessions may well be grueling. In Japan it is often said that the belly carries the legs. Please continue to enjoy a relaxing dinner before tomorrow's tough schedule. I look forward to receiving valuable policy recommendations after the third round of this Conference, which is to take place next year. Such recommendations could be a recipe for much creative endeavor in the diplomatic field. Finally I would like to propose a toast to the further development of our three countries and to the friendship among us, as well as to the health and prosperity of everyone here.

Thank you very much.

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