Tokyo, Jan. 18 (Jiji Press)–Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi laid out a policy to expand to wider areas the framework of cooperation for promoting an initiative to realize a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” in a foreign policy speech to parliament on Monday.
Japan hopes to encourage European, Middle Eastern and African countries to join the initiative, Motegi said in the speech to both chambers of parliament at the start of an ordinary session.
The initiative has been promoted by Japan, the United States, India and Australia to bolster cooperation based on the rule of law, apparently with the aim of maintaining a buffer against China’s assertiveness.
Motegi said Japan regards its alliance with the United States as a cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and hopes to work with the administration of next U.S. President Joe Biden to strengthen the bilateral alliance.
Also in the speech, the Japanese foreign minister expressed regret over an order given by a South Korean district court earlier this month for the Japanese government to pay compensation to former wartime comfort women, calling it “an unimaginably unusual development under international law and in the bilateral relationship.” Comfort women, mostly Koreans, were forced to provide sex for Japanese troops before and during World War II.
Motegi said Japan-South Korea ties, which have deteriorated sharply also over the issue of wartime labor, “have fallen into an even harsher situation.”
Meanwhile, the minister stressed the importance of close cooperation between Japan and the United States and among the two plus South Korea in dealing with the North Korean situation, which has become increasingly uncertain. He said Japan will work on denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and resolving the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by Pyongyang decades ago, through cooperation with related countries, including China and Russia.
Commenting on Chinese government ships’ repeated intrusions into Japan’s territorial waters near the Senkaku Islands in the southernmost Japan prefecture of Okinawa, Motegi said, “Unilateral attempts to change the status quo cannot be tolerated.” To ensure stability in the region and the international community, Japan will urge China, through leaders’ and foreign ministerial dialogue, to act in a responsible manner, he added.
The Japanese-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea are claimed by China, which calls them Diaoyu.
Motegi also touched on Japan’s stalled negotiations with Russia on their territorial row over four Russian-held northwestern Pacific islands, which were seized from Japan by the former Soviet Union at the end of World War II.
He expressed his resolve to continue dialogue tenaciously with Moscow, taking on former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin to accelerate the bilateral negotiations based on the 1956 Japan-Soviet joint declaration. The declaration stipulated that two of the four islands–the Habomais and Shikotan–be handed over to Japan after the conclusion of a peace treaty to formally end the two countries’ wartime hostilities.
Looking to the post-coronavirus era, Motegi said Japan will strive to play an enhanced leadership role in establishing a free and fair international order and also in related rule-making. He added that Japan will work on reforming the World Trade Organization and increasing the number of Japanese nationals working at international organizations.