Japan’s New Security Policy: Implications for Asia and the World

Posted in International Cooperation, News, Peace, Security and Counter-Terrorism, Transcripts

NEW YORK – Asia Society

3 February 2015

TOM NAGORSKI: Good morning everyone. No need to stop eating but we do want to get started. Delighted to have you here. I’m Tom Nagorski, Executive Vice President of the Asia Society. Thank you for coming, I know it’s raining a little bit so I really appreciate it and our thanks in particular to those in the diplomatic corps who have turned out today and our friends from Japan with whom we have been engaged in the planning not just for this even but a great many others for some time. This is an interesting day for the Asia Society for a couple of reasons beyond this event and I’ll just mention those briefly. First on all tonight Kevin Rudd, who will be on this stage in a moment, and I and our President Josette Sheeran and, our newest arrival, Vice-President of the Asia Society Policy Institute Wendy Cutler will be at a special reception in Washington celebrating Ms Cutler joining us not only as the Vice-President of the Policy Institute but also as the leader of our newly revamped, rebooted Washington office. We will be celebrating her arrival and that reboot tonight and we’re delighted to note that Ambassador Sasae from Japan will be joining us amongst the diplomatic contingent there.

It is a big day also because we formally launch with this event our ‘Season of Japan’. Those of you who know this institute should know that we typically build such thematic seasons around a country in both the culture and policy and business and current affairs space. This is no exception. You may have noticed the big banners hanging up outside this building, they just went up both for the Season of Japan and also for the 60th anniversary of this institution. And I do just want to say a word on the relation between those two things – the season and our anniversary. John D. Rockefeller III, as most of you probably know, was our founder and he began his global travels, which were extensive, in Japan. He made very many visits there as a young man, continued to visit almost annually with his wife in various capacities in the years that followed. And it is very clear for those of you who have studied the history of this institution, I’ve only been here a few years and I’ve been studying myself in advance of the anniversary, that Mr Rockefeller’s many visits to Japan were a prime inspiration for his belief that one-day, as he put it in his journal at the time, there ought to be what he called a ‘Pan-Asian Society’. Someone worked on that title a little bit, took out the ‘pan’ and here we are. Mr Rockefeller felt on those travels, and he documented this extensively, that Americans first of all were poorly informed then about Japan firstly about the culture and the current affairs of Japan and indeed the entire region. He founded the Asia Society in the Summer of ’56, 60 Summers ago, and we have been endeavouring to fill that void in information and understanding ever since.

 

Today we are delighted to open that Season of Japan with Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama who is here in the United States on a brief visit and we are so delighted that he is joining us as part of that visit this morning. You have biographies but I’ll just give you some highlights of the Deputy Foreign Minister’s really extensive resume in diplomacy and the service of his country. He has been in the Japanese diplomatic corps for almost 40 years, since 1977, and assumed his current position as Deputy Foreign Minister in 2013. Previously, he served as Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau as Ambassador for Global Issues, Deputy Director-General for both the International Cooperation Bureau and the Middle Eastern and African Affairs Bureau at the Foreign Ministry.

There is a great deal to cover beyond the title of tonight’s event ‘Japan’s New Security Posture’. There is also the recent nuclear test in North Korea, we were speaking a moment ago about that, and also the news that the North Koreans plan a rocket launch some time in February, this month. The new Trans-Pacific Partnership that, of course, our new colleague Wendy Cutler was instrumental in negotiating and its implications for Japan and the region. The tensions with China are always on the agenda and much more. The Deputy Foreign Minister will come up on the stage and give some brief remarks. Our moderator today or interlocutor is the President of the Asia Society Policy Institute, the Former Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd. Kevin will lead the conversation and as always we’ll take your questions. A reminder that we’re on the record and also that there are many viewers beyond this room. For those of you who are watching via the webcast, you may as always send your questions via email or via Twitter.

I do just want to say one other thing about the Season of Japan. Its signature element is an exhibition that opens in six days on the 9th of February – really spectacular examples of pieces of the Kamakura sculpture of Ancient Japan. Those of us who work here and wander around the building have had the nice serendipitous experience of actually seeing these pieces arrive on back elevators. Some of us have come in and seen some evidence ourselves. It is really something and it opens on February 9th so we invite you all back for that exhibition. Without any further ado, it is my great pleasure, please join me in a warm welcome for Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuka Sugiyama.

 

KEVIN RUDD: Just before we start can I say just how much Sugiyama-san, you are welcome here at the Asia Society. As Tom said, the Asia Society a long-standing, half-century-long friend of Japan. It has been our privilege to host so many exhibitions on Japanese culture and civilization and to have hosted so many Japanese political and diplomatic leaders and business leaders over the decades. Sugiyama-san is one of Japan’s most senior diplomats in the world and you do us a great honour by being here with us this morning. You reminded me earlier of the last time we met, given that climate change has been the subject of some discussion in the international community. It was in a very small negotiating room in Copenhagen in 2009. The Ambassador for his sins was the Sherpa for then Japanese Prime Minister, I think, Hatoyama. I was Prime Minister of Australia as we sought unsuccessfully to negotiate a binding climate change agreement. The reason for that was all Australia’s fault and nothing to do with Japan. But can I simply say that for anyone to survive the Copenhagen Conference intact and to go on to pursue a diplomatic career has my entire admiration. So Sugiyama-san I just turn to you to make whatever introductory remarks you wish, you can make them from the podium or the seat, whatever you’d prefer. And then let’s open it up for a discussion.

 

SHINSUKE SUGIYAMA: Well thank you very much indeed Mr Prime Minister. In our previous conversation before coming to this breakfast dining hall he really told me when I was about to speak up about what he just mentioned, “That part of the memory is just gone because that’s the worst part of my memory.” So I thought I shouldn’t touch upon that worst part of his memory which is the same to me. But since he mentioned it, it was really something. Since I only have ten minutes to talk about the current Japanese foreign policy postures so I don’t think I’ll spare much on totally failing or what happened from, I think, 7.30 at the Court when all the leaders were gathered by Her Majesty or His Majesty and then all of a sudden I was called by my leader. By the way, that happened to be the final day which I remember – the 17th, a Friday, of December which was supposed to be the end of the session but nothing really was there and then they decided – the leaders decided, 20 or 30 or something, the key players – they decided and of course Kevin seems to have been one of the core persons and being joined by then Prime Minister Hatoyama and of course Barack Obama was yet to arrive so he was replaced by then Secretary of State, the current –

 

RUDD: Her name is Hilary Clinton.

 

SUGIYAMA: Being supported by such guys like the current USTR and Todd Stern who is still there and who has become a very good friend of mine. Then Prime Minister Hatoyama was supported by me. But anyway it was really something. But I don’t think I’m going to just sit and keep talking about what happened until the Paris Agreement was successfully done thanks to French leadership and others willingness to make things happen. With that experience which was then to be followed by Cancun and then South Africa. Now we seem to be able to produce, if not 100% satisfactory, but quite nice. At that time no one would be able to think about the inclusion of everyone, including such countries as China, India, South Africa to be a part of – these figures are not part of a legally binding agreement but nonetheless the format, the way in which we replaced the Kyoto Protocol is something that we are really looking for. So it is in that context that I put emphasis upon the efforts being doing by the Presidency of France.

I don’t think this morning for ten minutes, I wanted to spend two or three or five minutes speaking about anything other than East Asia. Today I am being told that I’m expected to tell you some fundamental views on the part of Prime Minister Abe or Foreign Minister Kishida or some other Japanese leader about Japanese policies. In particular in my region in East Asia or in Asia in its entirety. Just before getting into a couple of salient points, including the recent move on the part of the DPRK who seem to have done some new nuclear detonation test and they are saying that they’ve tried to launch another missile or something. For them, they’re presumably celebrating the birthday of someone, but before getting into the specific sort of things allow me to say that the Prime Minister’s fundamental posture is really based upon something that he started, saying that for – not for the stretch that got started in the second term three years ago – but he made it clear that his fundamental posture is so-called proactive contribution based upon international cooperation from the panoramic viewpoint.

At first, I was not able to understand what that means in specific terms but I am the one who is supposed to be always with him inside as well as outside Tokyo when it comes time for him to meet with his opposite number from each country. My staff was good enough to give me how many leaders he met, how many trips he made – there are some here – but I don’t think I’m just going to give you ‘hundreds’ or something. The more he meets, the more he goes, the more he does, the more he’s been involved – naturally the leaders are learning. At the beginning of the second term that to a certain degree I would say that he was labelled hawkish or revisionist or a really nationalist person and leader. I would say, yes, about him. He’s not really a leftist or too liberal. But I would call him a moderate conservative. I think, being close enough to be there always when he receives foreign dignitaries outside and inside Japan, and what he’s spoken about and what he has been doing – I’m quite certain that, or at least my personal feeling is that, he’s none of these labels or this type of person.

Mind you, his mother’s father used to be Prime Minister, Prime Minister Kishi, and Prime Minister Kishi was not that much of a far-right winger. But more so his father used to be a Foreign Minister who, when I was a very junior officer, I had a very good opportunity to work for him when the current Prime Minister was his private secretary. So I know him from that day. He’s only junior in terms of age. Mind you very few people know that his father’s father, I mean Shintaro Abe’s father, before the war was a kind of liberal law maker who was totally against militarism and primarily because of that he was not able to gain any sort of high public office. But he was a, I don’t know how many times, repeated elected law maker at that time. I am quite certain his fundamental kind of mindset is – if you like to say – I don’t try to say, “No, he’s not conservative.” I do believe that he’s conservative. I think he’s not liberal. But he’s not a hawk, he’s not revisionist, he’s not to say the least on the far right of the spectrum in political inclination.

For him the primary agenda is: number one, economy; number two, economy; number three, economy. To revive Japan.

 

RUDD: What’s his number four?

 

SUGIYAMA: Number four is the economy. So the prime objective for him in these three years in office – and everybody believes that his time in office should continue for some time more unless something extraordinary comes to end his time in office – but that alone shows you that over the past two decades or something, half-jokingly, half-seriously the Japanese Prime Minister has been replaced annually. When it comes to Foreign Minister they can be replaced half-annually. I’m exaggerating things but compared to the first one or two decades, Japan seems to be very much fortunately become very much more stable in terms of the political power network or the political power set-up. So focussing upon the revival of the economy to get rid of the deflationary mindset of business people and Japanese, I think by shooting three arrows of ‘Abenomics’ – by the way he was really joking that he used to be a member of the archery club when he was in university. He told some audience that he was very good at shooting three arrows at the target. I think he did that for the first round but he has to do that further to get the final goal done, which he seems to be doing. But apart from that – as Kevin Rudd rightly pointed out priority one, two, three, four, five and six are all economy – but at the same time as I told you at the outset he also places an emphasis upon a new Japan.

A new proactive contributor to the international community from the viewpoint of the panoramic scene. He has become a very good friend of the Jordanian King Abdullah and I’m sorry to say Kevin but he was also a very good friend of the Former Prime Minister of Australia.

 

RUDD: Full disclosure, my term did not overlap with Shinzo Abe’s – we might have become good friends.

 

SUGIYAMA: But also everybody let alone President Obama and Joe Biden. Because as I said, I’m instructed to be with him whenever he sees everybody abroad and even in Tokyo. Being with him at those so-called ‘summit meetings’, yes indeed, I see quite a point of difference departing from the traditional Japanese Prime Ministership. Of course I and we briefed him, I and we gave him talking notes and he read through them and he tried to make some comments and ask us why and that sort of thing. But he told me one time personally that if you try to be that much serious, say in G7 of some other meeting set up such as EAS or even bilats – if you try to be really serious, if you try to really push things to the opposite number or somebody else, two things are quite important. First, you don’t read anything. You speak up by your own words. And second, you must see the eyes of the opposite number or the counterpart. If you try to talk to Angela Merkel, well that’s exactly what he did – “Angela, I would like to say this and that.” If he tries to say something to Americans – when it comes to the Vice-President or the President – it’s, “Joe” or “Barack”. Try to see their eyes. Of course he tries to remember his talking notes but he tries to speak up by his own words. I mean 80% he remembers what we discussed but that’s the way. Normally, Japanese Prime Ministers just read. I don’t know who did that, I’m not saying who did that because I am a humble public servant so I’d be in danger if I named just a few. But I’m certainly talking about the current Prime Minister, which is really the case.

I don’t want to bog down into details about, say, such things as a comfort women agreement between ROK and Japan. It was at the very end of our last year that it was done by Kishida and Byung-se. Many might want to criticize in Seoul or in Tokyo or in New York or Washington but I do believe that the agreement is far better than nothing. Of course we will have to implement it on both sides sincerely. It might take some time but the fact that we seem to have come to an amicable agreement. That means something.

Of course on China there are some difficult points but all-in-all we do believe that the current situation in the Chinese economy is not good for anybody, including South Korea, us or even Australia or ASEAN. But it’s not only limited to their neighbours including us but to the whole international community – I mean, if the Chinese economy is continuously down. For instance, the figure of trade for China, import and export, seems to have come sharply down despite the rate of the economic growth seeming to be of course slightly down but still remaining at the level of 6%. But if this current trend does continue it is not only a matter for China. Of course, it must be a headache for the Chinese leadership but it is a matter for the international community as a whole. The point is, how are we able to let them be engaged on the basis of rules and laws being established in a more amicable manner is the point at issue.

Of course we have somethings we have to say about what they’re doing in East China Sea, South China Sea, DOD and COC and that kind of thing but maybe the fundamental main focus now is how we might be able to let them be engaged further so that the economy is going to reverse and get better. And at the outset I said something about DPRK, only one thing – the more we do in search of a formula like the Security Council Resolution, unfortunately the situation seems to be getting worse and we are discussing among our likemindeds – particularly ROK, Canada, Australia, European friends and Russians and Chinese because China seems to be playing the key role on this matter for a reason. I don’t think I’m able to bog down into details.

By the way whenever I’m told, “Don’t worry, this is based upon Chatham House rules – nothing is being recorded.” That time is the most dangerous time for me. But this morning I was told, “No, no, this is not the Chatham House rule. This is open from the start.” So I don’t have to be very much worried about what portion of my statement being leaked – everything is open. Of course I have to be careful but –

 

RUDD: Don’t be too careful.

 

SUGIYAMA: I think I’ve spent more than ten minutes or something. I do have a lot of things I would to say like UN reform, ASEAN, Japan-Australia and the recent really development and India.

 

RUDD: Let’s go to those in conversation if that’s okay, Shinsuke? Thank you for those very important and interesting insights into how Prime Minister Abe goes about high level diplomacy. I found that quite revealing and your observation about his view which is to engage and make a difference with international leaders means engaging personally, directly, in your own language as another human being, as another political leader. It just strikes me as so true. I think political leaders, if I might just make an observation to start with, often underestimate what they can do to change things and move the dial by that level of engagement. It is not simply pre-set courses determined by each other’s briefing notes. I remember myself in office meeting another head of government and after about three minutes saying, “Well why don’t I just give you my talking points, you give me your talking points and then let’s have a conversation?” And so we did. We exchanged notes and you should have seen the officials on both sides, they nearly died. I think it’s a very important observation so thank you for those insights.

Let’s go to the subject of today which is the DPRK, North Korea, and regrettably it is often the subject of the day. It comes and goes but there is almost a certain inevitability about the DPRK’s actions. We’ve seen this test. We have seen now the announcement of the proposed launch of a North Korean satellite. There is an active discussion now in the Security Council about what sort of “serious measures” need to be taken against the DPRK. From Japan’s perspective, what would you like the UN Security Council to do, what would you like our Chinese friends to do in terms of bringing about a change in Pyongyang’s behaviour?

 

SUGIYAMA: Well I have to explain myself and tell you that I’m not the responsible office in terms of the specifics of the negotiation and dealing. Even if I were, or if I were more, I don’t think I could get into details because we are in the midst of negotiations between, they say Washington and Beijing we joined of course on the American side and quite a number of others are too. To a great extent these days Russia is too. But the point of the matter is as I said, as I recall it, it got started in 1993. The first missile was launched and then they went through – I don’t think I’ll just read through, even my Prime Minister would read anything so as a humble public servant I should not read off any notes or paper. But this paper does show how many times we did, in terms of either a Presidential statement or a press statement, or more importantly four times in legally binding Security Council resolutions. Out of four, the first one was only saying the significance of acting under the special responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security – didn’t mention directly acting under Chapter VII. But the other three in the previous couple of years, I mean more than a couple of years, did start by the Security Council being mindful of blah, blah, blah, blah. Towards the end of that preamble it said, “Acting under Chapter VII”.

 

RUDD: Which is the call to collective action, for those who don’t follow the UN Charters.

 

SUGIYAMA: Yes, that’s right. Article 41, which is a non-military enforcement action. In the UN Charter if you say, “Acting under Chapter VII” if not endorsed or authorized to take necessary measures which automatically mean to allow the use of force. None of them did say that like, Security Council Resolution 678, at the time of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1991. But the Security Council has taken already, to say the least, three times enforcement action and Chapter VII. Not military enforcement action but non-military enforcement action which is a strong message indeed and quite strong measures being taken to warn them that must stop doing that. I think the last resolution at the time of the last nuclear detonation, the final paragraph that says, to read, “Expresses the Security Council’s determination to take further significant measures in the event of a further DPRK launch or nuclear test.”

 

RUDD: That’s the 2013 resolution?

 

SUGIYAMA: Yes. So surely the Security Council has already made a decision that the Security Council should take some further significant measures against the possible launch of new missiles or dealing with the detonation. The DPRK seems to have the first one and they are about to do the second one at more or less the same time. I’m not saying that these kinds of strong messages being sent by the Security Council which has the first and the most significant responsibility in terms of the maintenance of situation of international peace and security under the United Nations Charter. Nonetheless, these strong messages doesn’t seem to be able to change the attitude of the DPRK.

 

RUDD: What do you think might change their behaviour? And what’s your attitude what China could or may do?

 

SUGIYAMA: In theory, what Chapter VII does give to us is to go for military action under Article 42. But under the current circumstances in this region, no one thinks about doing that kind of military thing. It’s not like Syria, it’s not like Yemen, it’s not like anywhere else. With reasons. On the part of Japan, we have none whatsoever option, at least as far as the Japanese are concerned, to go for something otherwise. Then Kevin’s question is hitting upon the nail. I mean, we’ve done three times or four times and we are just going to strengthen the measures gradually but this crying baby wouldn’t listen to others, including the Chinese. I’m quite certain that the Chinese used to be slightly different but now over the past half a decade or more, Chinese attitudes towards DPRK seems to have been, maybe I would say drastically changed. But I repeat – no-one, fortunately or unfortunately does think that we want to go to the area of Article 42.

 

RUDD: Number 42 being the provision for collective military action.

 

SUGIYAMA: Yes. Without having that kind of an option in mind and pushing through, based upon peaceful negotiation and talks and pressures by not military ways but only economic ways or diplomatic ways, how can we get the necessary and comfortable outcome from Pyongyang is a question.

 

RUDD: What is your analysis of the regime itself? I’ve been to Pyongyang a couple of times and I returned on both occasions. It is an interesting place. It’s one of the most difficult analytical questions anywhere in the international relations community as to what goes on in the internal regime dynamics. Do you see this as possibly an assertion of power by the KPA, the Korean Peoples’ Army, over the leader Kim Jong-un? Or do you see it as fully embraced by Kim Jong-un? Because Kim Jong-un in some respects in terms of domestic economic liberalization, a flurry of diplomatic activity in other parts of the world like Europe and beyond, has sought to convey an impression in the last year or so of them reaching out and beginning to take tentative steps towards what might be described as small-n normalization. Then bang! So your thoughts on what is happening in the regime?

 

SUGIYAMA: My frank answer to Former Prime Minister of Australia is really stupid but I don’t know. I explain to you, unlike Kevin and fortunately or unfortunately I have never been to North Korea or Pyongyang. But I have quite a number of contacts to meet with – people like him or in the diplomatic corps like Brits and some of the Northern European reps who are resident in Pyongyang to give me a sort of read out about what he or she has seen or experienced. One thing for Korea is that, even to them, of course they can smell the air and they can find out normal type of hamburger shops newly opened and that sort. But to say the least, this is applicable not only to DPRK. Of course, Kevin Rudd, when he was a Prime minister he must have had his own powerhouse inside the Prime Minister’s office. We do too – my Prime Minister has created his own powerhouse inside what we call ‘Kantei’, the official residence. But that means his powerhouse. The White House is a powerhouse and Zhongnanhai, the Chinese leadership residential area – seven leaders and 25 collective leaders and some more living inside that particular palace. The Kremlin, there are key players. Downing Street too. So each place in terms of how the decisions are being made – of course in a democracy the decision must go through a Diet debate place or a parliamentary decision when it comes to the passage of a new law or anything, and the selection of a Prime Minister or leader as Kevin Rudd went through. As my Prime Minister is about to, based on both the two-chamber election and the local election as well as inside the parliamentary election to select the leader.

We are not that much fully aware of what’s going on inside say cabinet’s powerhouse or Prime Minsiter’s powerhouse. But the degree of our knowledge and sense is too fair different between us and Pyongyang. First of all, no one is even able to touch upon this leadership – who is doing what in which way. We can guess but one thing for sure is – as I said, I don’t know for sure – but one thing presumably everyone can share is that something odd seems to be going on and the system seems to be totally different. Not in the sense that Canberra is different from Tokyo or London is different from Washington. No. The differences are really something far. Hopefully we are going to be able to see something and hopefully we are going to be able to have a better kind of leadership and a better kind of decision. Hopefully we are going to be able to let them know how they should behave but so far I have to say we are failing to do that.

 

RUDD: Any role for second track diplomacy with the North Koreans, given the difficulty of interstate contact?

 

SUGIYAMA: First I have to tell that at this particular function, I am not the person who is dealing day to day in relation to dealing with this most difficult entity. Yes, I was dealing with them directly. I was a person who was able to resume government talks three years ago or something. I remember the day when we met with my opposite number in a bitterly cold Ulan Bator in November or something. We try with all sorts of resources. Mind you that we have North Korean residents, as many as a quarter of a million of North Korean residents in Japan. Of course, South Korean origin Koreans are bigger, something like 300 000 or something. Anyway, we have some routes to indirect contact but nonetheless none of them seem to bear fruit.

 

RUDD: You mentioned before – and I’ll make this our last question in this format before we throw it open to the floor – you mentioned the Kremlin. Last October, I understand, you were engaged with Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister, on peace talks between Russia and Japan given the circumstances which arose in 1945 which have not been fully concluded and the question of the Northern Territories. Where does your relationship with Russia now stand and where do you want to take it?

 

SUGIYAMA: I know the time is limited to three minutes or something so I’ll try to be as short as possible. One coin – bad side and good side. Now start from the good side. The relations between the two leaders, Putin and Abe cannot be better. They meet with us and make a phone call conversation until my Prime Minister has jokingly told me the number of conversations seem to be quite surely exceeding the number of conversations with Barack Obama – “I mean I’m talking to him more than to the most important single ally of Japan?” And the reason is quite simple, that we don’t have to. The US and Japan are on good times while Russia and Japan have to address this very difficult issue of concluding finally the peace treaty after the conclusion of the Territories issue. Nonetheless, the frequency and the quality of the conversation is quite good. So that’s a good side of the coin.

The other side of the coin which I was sort of mentioning is that, even though the frequency of conversations and the characteristics of the conversation are not at all bad, but that doesn’t assure us to come closer to the solution in the end. At one point in time Putin – he is a judo player and he knows Japan well – at one time he said ‘hiki-wake’ which means draw. Both sides win and both sides, in a sense, lose. That was a good sign and that showed his willingness to be engaged himself in a serious way to find a way to satisfy both and not satisfy only one part, or to give 100% to one part but to satisfy both. Since then, it’s been only three years or four years, I wouldn’t say nothing happens because I’ve been directly involved in the negotiations and I happen to know Mr Lavrov since the time that he was here. I can say in front of the camera nothing but it is so difficult. That’s the other part of the coin. But my Prime Minister and hopefully Putin too and we altogether – Lavrov or Mr Kishida, Mori, our newly appointed Special Envoy Ambassador Harada – everybody really share the view that we must do something in the near time to come.

 

RUDD: Do you think President Putin wants to settle it?

 

SUGIYAMA: At least as a representative on behalf of my Prime Minister and my government at least I hope he does.

 

RUDD: Okay, now we have some time for questions from the floor. I can see some hands going up. Give us your name, rank and serial number and then hop to the question. Questions rather than comments otherwise I’ll be brutal.

 

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Hi, my name is Allan Jurman. Thank you very much and it’s an honour to hear from you. My question is on the issue of energy. How does the global oil situation and now the US’s expanded ability to export oil and gas affect power dynamics in your region?

 

SUGIYAMA: Of course. I mean in daily life if you try to talk about, say, today or tomorrow or a week from now, the cheaper oil would help us a lot. The price of gasoline that you might try to buy at the gas station turned down quite sharply because it used to be up above 100 and then I saw on my iPhone, telling me it had slightly gone up and then its goes beyond the point of 30. It used to be something as low as 26, 27 or something. So in the short-run there are some elements that help countries’ economies, not only Japan but maybe the US or elsewhere. But in a long-run if it goes that much down and nothing seems to have been done by countries like Saudi, it has been looked at in such a way that that would damage altogether the entire economic system. Presumably, the US is the least affected country because of the new source of energy but countries like Japan which don’t have any sort of natural resources, that are depending upon oil – and by the way we have a serious problem about how we are going to go through nuclear. So in the long-run the other side is quite likely to exceed the first side. So what we would want to see it at a certain level – stable – not much of a fluctuating situation. But stable at a certain level. Some economists do say that a stable level and a really equitable sort of level must be somewhere between 40 and 50. I’m not an economist so I don’t say the specific number by myself. But to say the least this current situation seems to be producing a long-run, not the first aspect for a long period of time but the latter.

 

AUDIENCE MEMBER: My name is David Sutcliffe.

 

RUDD: Where are you from David?

 

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Sports Technology. You opened the conversation with the global warming problem and Kevin pointed out that it is raining today. It’s also 58 degrees in February. So the battle on global warming is not over. I hope you two continue to press to do more faster. Then turning to Fukushima. What is the President going to do to close down Fukushima and fix the problem that some people consider the biggest industrial accident in the history of the world? Thank you Mr Minister.

 

SUGIYAMA: Let me first get back to you on the general question about climate change. I think you are quite right in saying – I’m quite certain that people like Kevin Rudd who was not only Prime Minister of Australia but specifically, as you know, involved in this particular field, negotiating and leading. I presumably join you and Prime Minister Rudd that the Paris Agreement, as such, was something well done. It’s far better than Copenhagen and it’s far better than nothing. At least the Paris Agreement can be something to replace the Kyoto Protocol which was not fair and did not cover everybody – it does cover something like less than 20% of total emissions of CO2s and other gasses, excluding US and excluding China. These are the two big emitters, and of course India and others. But now this Paris Agreement, by the time they are going to sign presumably in April or so, does cover everybody. It does involve the biggest emitter – China. Not in an ideal way to bind them legally about a number of the percentage of the reduction of the emission. But in the sense that everybody, including the biggest emitter and everybody, must be in a position to submit their goal. This is not a 100% complete agreement but in comparison to the Kyoto Protocol or in comparison to the failed Copenhagen Accord, this is something one or two or three steps further. It is not something complete. So I would say this is something very good as a kind of beginning trial to reduce the entire emission of CO2s and other gasses involving everybody in slightly different ways but involving everybody including these developing countries. I don’t think I’m going to get down into details, I think, such as to finalize that and how to make the better certain ways of dealing with adaption. But all in all this is much better than nothing.

In the short term about how we are trying to deal with the biggest tragedy, indeed that was a big strategy and indeed that was because of the tsunami. But I think in a hard way we should admit that that was not god’s hand but that was at least partially a man-made tragedy. A tragedy done. What we are making real efforts to contain the problems and to resume more safe and clean nuclear. But of course that is not that much easier, first, in terms of the public opinion and, second, it is more important for the government to get full understanding from the local people which is really – naturally you can imagine, difficult. But nonetheless, I think as you might realise that, we have already started resuming Sendai in Kyushu too. In my memory is correct a couple of days ago a fourth one or a fifth one got resumed using MOX types of fuels, meaning including plutonium. So yes indeed we have still been faced with a serious question in containing what happened and also trying to resume what we have. We have altogether 54 pipelines. We haven’t said in public how many units we are going to try to resume but two things in that relation I can say in public. We’ve decided, I think by a Cabinet decision, that the nuclear is to remain one of the basic sources of energy for Japan’s economy. Second, the percentage to depend upon nuclear is somewhere around 22%. From that you can calculate how many units we are trying to resume. But the government hasn’t yet disclosed which ones and what extent in terms of number. Because we have to be careful about the typical location of those who can be resumed. But in terms of number we made all of this public by the cabinet decision – something between 20 and 22% of energy resources should be based upon nuclear in the near future to come.

 

RUDD: Shinsuke, we’ve had quite a number of questions coming in by email so here’s one for you from Noah: “President Park of the ROK is considering visiting Iran following Xi Jinping’s visit to Tehran just recently. It is also reported that Prime Minister Abe is mulling over the idea as well. Where do you see Japan’s relationship now lying with Iran?” And please work on your subsequent questions.

 

SUGIYAMA: First, we will most certainly support the recent agreement between P5+1 and Iran. And we celebrate the implementation day which was set I think, if my memory is correct, 16th of January was kept. Sometimes some people were sceptical whether or not they would keep to their sayings but they did. So to that extent I think there is a bright side of one coin. And also plus, by the way, Japan-Iran bilateral relations have been historically not bad with some reasons. So there certainly bright aspects once again of one coin. As a principle of course there must be another side, which means these days – by the way, that pact is only for the next ten years. So I should say it’s not a complete kind of solution but it’s a suspension for a period of ten years from now on. Which is really good if you think that nothing has been done.

The other side is that of course the Iranians wouldn’t say yet to what I say but after that the Iranians seem to be trying to expand its influence over such countries as GCC or trying to expand their influences over such places as Yemen or trying to do something through such entities as Hezbollah. So, yes, that part of the coin is good enough to stabilize the really fragile situation in the Middle East. Of course, Iran is not a part of the Arab world but in its broader sense is a part of the Middle East. So there’s the other side of the coin which we have been warned about. Yesterday I met with the newly arrived Ambassador in Washington DC who seems to be very much in close relation to the King and the two Muhammads, Crown Prince and Deputy. Together with my Prime Minister when the Prime Minister I think for the first time met with the current King, the second Muhammad, the younger one, was with him and the meeting was really interesting. But anyway the situation all-in-all in relation to Syria, in relation to their [INAUDIBLE], everything seems to be interconnected.

 

RUDD: In an otherwise gloomy era of international relations it does stand out as the high point of 2015 and in a business which you’ve engaged in as a professional diplomat I think we do have to recognize this quite remarkable achievement of diplomacy by Secretary of State Kerry, Lavrov the Russian Foreign Minister and others in the midst of all the chaos we face.

 

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Thank you. My name is Masud, I’m from the Bangladesh Mission in the UN and I recently served in Tokyo. Sugiyama-san mentioned in his introductory remarks about Prime Minister Abe’s main priority which is ‘Abenomics’ and economic prosperity. So if we assume that the way things are moving and we hope that he succeeds, now if that is positively correlated to Japan’s more aggressive posture in the region or would you like to see Japan as a kind of peacebroker not only for the region but for the entire world?

 

RUDD: Thank you very much – excellent question.

 

SUGIYAMA: Well the first part the Ambassador pointed out is something that I repeatedly told you and it is right. Particularly under this particular season in the debate place, the most emphasized thing is to deal with the economy. First to pass the budget – the supplementary budget done and then the real budget. And then try to tackle some of the related legislations. You seem to go on to say that more, with your terminology, aggressive intervening in order for us and you to get stabler and a more peaceful situation in the region or in its entirety in the international community. Well I don’t think I tried to use ‘aggressive’ or ‘interference’ in something. What he tries to do is, up until now Japan’s diplomacy is too un-proactive, to non-active. Only to respond to what we should respond to.

But the fundamental hunch on the part of my Prime Minister and the part of my Foreign Minister and the part of our political masters under Abe’s Administration and in Abe’s Cabinet is that to change that attitude not that far to intervene or interfere or something, but to do what we can do not only trying to give some sort of money for assistance of people in need from the humanitarian perspective. But from also the viewpoint of something which we can do on the basis of a proactive contribution to peace. So the fundamental nature and the fundamental posture is not that much altogether changed in the sense that, for instance, as the Prime Minister has been repeatedly been telling every one of you that the fundamental notion of a “peace constitution” – if comes to the use of force we will do that only to defend Japan fundamentally. We’ll not sway. So maybe what we are going to do is try to be to take more proactive in order to help the person’s concerns, the party’s concerns to be on the right path for the peaceful settlement of any dispute.

 

RUDD: Before I call for the last question, one of the things that we have observed – those who have been friends of Japan for a long time – is just the level of foreign policy activism we now see from Japan. You neglected to read your briefing note before about the number of times Prime Minister has been abroad. But I follow this relationship very closely and you have certainly entered into a much more active phase. I understand the basis for the question which has been asked by my Bangladeshi colleague because it is important for the region and the world to hear Japan’s voice. It really is. A final question from – I’m conscious of gender equity so I’m going to call upon my friend here.

 

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Jackie Gaspar, journalist from Brazil. My question is about whether Japan is taking any Syrian refugees?

 

SUGIYAMA: Yes, indeed, I have to admit I don’t have off hand the most recent renewed number. But I think that the number for last year or for one year before the number was eleven. Eleven. Not one million. Yes, indeed, we try to increase the number of refugees and those people who are badly needed but one thing is that some say there are some applicants, at the level of 1000 or so, and with reasons authorities seem to be controlling rather too tightly. We try to make it slightly easier but one thing which you might and we might want to consider is that the whole amount of these applicants and the whole amount who want to come to Japan as a refugee is no comparison whatsoever in terms of the amount of the numbers than trying to go other places or nearest places or more liveable places for them. For those who try to come from Syria I haven’t checked everything out but basically with a Japanese wife or something to do with Japan. So in general the number is very low I have to admit and eleven is too low so we would have to increase the number but I don’t think we can reach as people like America are doing because of the geopolitical location.

 

RUDD: Thank you so much Shinsuke. This has been a great presentation today. We’ve ranged widely from Prime Minister Abe’s use or non-use of briefing, his ability to stare his interlocutors in the eyeballs (not stare but to engage), we’ve reflected on some of the things that you yourself have done in your career and we’ve talked about the DPRK, China, Russia, the Middle East and beyond as well as climate change. If I could close and thank, of course, our good friend Ambassador Takahashi from the Consulate. Thank you so much for making it possible for the Deputy Foreign Minister to be with us this morning – you’re a good friend to the Asia Society. We’d like to see you and your colleagues more. This is always an open platform for our friends and partners across Asia, because our mission as a society is to hear the voices of the region and to understand policy positions and what underpins them. That’s very much part of our historical mission.

My son at present, he’s 21 going on 12 – any of you have a 21 year old son? You can admit to it later. He’s having a terrific time in Japan at the moment. He’s just finished first-year university, not in Japan but in Australia, and he’s decided to spend his Australian Summer in the Japanese Winter for two months. He is having a terrific time. If he runs into trouble just let me have your telephone number because he is my son.

And if I could just remind you all of what we’re about to unleash on you here in the Asia Society which is this extraordinary exhibition. Our arts and culture team at the Asia Society are second to none in the United States. We have done hundreds of such exhibitions over the years but our next big blockbuster is this from Kamakura in Japan. This is the period, from memory, from the 12th or 13th century Japan, high point in Japanese culture and civilization, extraordinary statuary, extraordinary ceramics and extraordinary cultural achievements. We’re going to have that exhibition opened involved the US Ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, and Ambassador Takahashi. We’re looking forward to that event, I think it’s next week? It’s part of our ongoing celebration of the cultures of the region and the high culture and civilization that is Japan. So, Shinsuke Sugiyama Vice Foreign Minister of Japan, thank you for being with us. Please express your appreciation.