October was another busy month in Japan-UK relations. Two events in particular stand out.
In the middle of the month I returned to Japan for about a week to attend the annual meeting of Japanese Ambassadors to the European region. Among the topics we discussed was the importance of strengthening Japan’s ties with the European Union and its member states as well as other European democracies, with whom Japan shares key core values such as democracy and free trade. We noted Europe’s economic weight and its importance for Japan’s economic revitalisation, as well as Europe’s major role in rule-making for global affairs and in influencing world public opinion. These latter attributes offered Japan the opportunity to convey its message not only “to” Europe but also “through” Europe and beyond. On the subject of the economy, we reaffirmed the significance of accelerating the negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
While I was in Japan, British Foreign Secretary William Hague arrived there as part of a trip to Japan, South Korea and Mongolia. The main purpose of his visit to Japan was to conduct the second UK-Japan Strategic Dialogue with his Japanese counterpart. During the discussion Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida outlined Prime Minister Abe’s “Active Pacifism” doctrine, which calls for a more proactive Japanese contribution to peace and security in the world. Like the UK, Japan will establish a National Security Council to explore how it can play a more effective role in the international community. Mr Hague expressed strong support for Japan’s attempt to play a greater role in global peace and security. The two foreign ministers discussed their countries’ ever closer defence ties following the recent signing of the Defence Equipment Cooperation Framework and the Information Security Agreement, as well as pressing global issues including Syria and East Asia. In addition, they reviewed the state of commercial relations, including Japan’s role as the second biggest source of new inward investment in the UK last year.