I have attended the Tokyo Conference on several occasions since it convened for the very first time. Today I am participating once more in this format, and I very much appreciate having this opportunity to speak to you, the distinguished participants from think tanks representing the world.
The world now finds itself at a historic juncture.
The foundation of the international order has been built by the international community atop determined efforts and numerous sacrifices over a great many years, but that very foundation is now threatened by Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. This attempt to unilaterally change the status quo by force is an act that undermines the very foundation of not Europe alone, but rather the entire international order, including Asia.
Through the international community uniting in taking resolute actions, will we be able to overcome this crisis and fully defend the foundation of the international order? This is the question before us.
It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of democracy and multilateralism, the theme of today’s conference, ties in with how we respond to Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine.
The G7, a grouping of nations sharing the universal values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, is responding resolutely to this crisis in strong unity. I participated in the February 24 G7 summit meeting held by video conference, and the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting has also been held four times over the past two weeks. The G7, working in close cooperation, is leading the international community.
At the UN General Assembly, a resolution censuring Russia was adopted by an overwhelming majority of 141 votes, far surpassing the number at the time of Russia’s “annexation” of Crimea. Sanctions against Russia have also been unprecedented and powerful, including the freezing of assets of Russia’s central bank and the exclusion of Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system. Even Switzerland and also Singapore from South East Asia, which both exercise great caution before participating in international sanctions, are participating in various sanctions.
Out of a strong sense of crisis towards Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, the assistance to Ukraine from various countries has been robust, to a degree virtually unseen until now.
The EU has taken the measure of dispensing financial assistance towards the provision of weapons to Ukraine by its member states. This is the first time such military support has been provided to a country outside the EU. Germany has also decided to provide Ukraine with surface-to-air missiles and antitank weapons.
Japan, working in close cooperation with the G7 and the international community as a whole, has imposed stringent sanctions on Russia. Japan has frozen the assets of persons in leadership positions in the Government of Russia, including President Putin, as well as the assets of Russian business oligarchs, participated in excluding Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system, and taken export control measures on semiconductors and other items, putting our measures fully in concert with those of the United States and the countries of Europe.
In addition, with regard to assistance to Ukraine, in addition to emergency humanitarian assistance of US$100 million for Ukrainian people facing hardship whether in Ukraine or in neighboring countries, in view of the unprecedented assistance from other nations, Japan decided to provide bulletproof vests, helmets, and other Self-Defense Forces (SDF) equipment and has transported it to Poland using SDF aircraft. The acceptance into Japan of people who fled Ukraine for third countries has also begun.
In this way, Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine is already on the verge of dramatically transforming aspects of the international community. Perhaps the era that will succeed the post-Cold War era is about to begin. The touchstone foretelling the era to succeed the post-Cold War era is the matter of whether or not the international community will respond resolutely to Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine and fully defend the foundations of the international order.
Despite strong pressure from the international community, substantial support and solidarity from various countries towards Ukraine, and courageous and tenacious defensive warfare on the Ukrainian side, Russia is gradually expanding its influence in various areas of Ukraine. A large number of civilians have fallen victim to attacks by the Russian military on residences, schools, and hospitals. The G7 and the broader international community must unite and respond to this severe situation.
We cannot accept such unilateral changes to the status quo by force or coercion in the Indo-Pacific region, and particularly not in East Asia. This point is of critical importance also from the perspective of Japan’s future diplomacy and security.
In East Asia, which will be on the front line of competition between the U.S. and China, the security environment is rapidly becoming increasingly severe, with attempts by China to unilaterally change the status quo by force or coercion in the East and South China Seas, cross-Strait relations in which the military balance becomes increasingly lopsided, and repeated missile launches by North Korea.
What should be done so as not to allow this kind of unilateral change to the status quo by force or coercion in East Asia? Facing up to the increasingly severe security environment surrounding Japan and the various actions planning to change the status quo of this region with force or coercion in the background, what should be done to protect the lives and the property of our citizens?
In view of Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, after examining the situation in a purely practical way, we must revise our National Security Strategy and fundamentally reinforce Japan’s own defense capacities.
In addition, it is absolutely imperative that we further enhance the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance, which is the foundation of Japan’s diplomacy and security as well as the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region.
And now, more than ever, as we find ourselves in the midst of a serious crisis, we should uphold and reinforce democracy and other universal values and also multilateralism, which are the wisdom of humankind cultivated by our forebears over years upon years of effort. Today, I am unable to speak in great detail because of time limitations, but I wish to state that the New Form of Capitalism that I am advancing is an effort to squarely address the issue of how to protect the middle class, which is the basis for sound democracy.
Five years ago, when I delivered an address at the Tokyo Conference, I stated that a compass within foreign policy is essential during unpredictable times, and that compass is our freedom, democracy, and other fundamental values. Now, at this critical moment when the international order might collapse from its foundations, I have become even more assured of that conviction.
Japan will lay greater emphasis on the universal values of freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law and strengthen our unity with our partners that share these universal values.
Placing importance on multilateralism grounded in universal values, Japan will lead efforts by the international community to counter attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by force or coercion.
In particular, in the Indo-Pacific region, deepening our cooperation with our allies, like-minded countries, and partner countries, including the U.S., Australia, India, ASEAN and Europe, and more, and leveraging the Quad summit meeting among the leaders of Japan, Australia, India, and the United States that I will host here in Tokyo within the next several months, we will work strategically to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Our choices and our actions now will determine the trend of the future international order. As we move towards that major turning point in eras, we must unite in resolutely countering unilateral changes to the status quo by force or coercion.
As I conclude my remarks to you today, speaking on behalf of the Government of Japan and the Japanese people, I wish to state once more our strong solidarity with the people of Ukraine, who are doing their utmost in taking actions to defend their sovereignty and territory, as well as their homeland and their families, even in the face of a national crisis. Thank you very much.