I hope you are all feeling invigorated after the New Year break. In the Oriental zodiac this is the Year of the Monkey, represented by a Chinese character that suggests growth. The notion of a monkey brings to mind a famous wooden carving at Tosho-Gu, in Nikko, Tochigi Prefecture, which is a shrine built in the 17th century and dedicated to Ieyasu Tokugawa, a founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate, and is one of a number of UNESCO World Heritage sites in Japan. It shows the famous Three Wise Monkeys in poses variously illustrating the proverb Mizaru
(“See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil”). Of course, as members of the diplomatic service, we should “see, speak and hear” in an energetic and proactive manner, and I trust that this will be the case for my colleagues and me during the New Year!
Although the year has scarcely begun, I have already been back to Tokyo for the Second Japan-UK Foreign and Defence Ministerial (“2+2”) Meeting
, which can be said to have kick-started Japan-UK relations in 2016. Our Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Fumio Kishida, and Minister of Defence, Mr Gen Nakatani, had talks with the UK’s Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, The Rt Hon Philip Hammond, and the Secretary of State for Defence, The Rt Hon Michael Fallon. It should be noted that the two British Secretaries of State were the first high-level official foreign visitors to Japan in the New Year. The participants welcomed the progress in defence and security co-operation over the year and reaffirmed the dynamic strategic partnership between Japan and the UK, as set out in the Joint Statement during Prime Minister Abe’s visit to the UK in May 2014. They emphasised our shared values of democracy, the rule of law, human rights and open and transparent markets, and noted that Japan and the UK continue to deepen their cooperation aimed at upholding the international system and norms. The UK recognises Japan as its closest security partner in Asia and has welcomed Japan’s recent Legislation for Peace and Security. Japan appreciates the UK’s firm commitment as a global power to tackling international security challenges including the fight against international terrorism, and would welcome a greater presence by the UK in the Asia-Pacific. The two sides also discussed the situation in the East and South China Seas, Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, North Korea’s nuclear test and United Nations Security Council reform, and the ministers made a courtesy call on Prime Minister Abe after the meeting.
Thereafter the Fifth Japan-UK Foreign Ministers’ Strategic Dialogue took place, at which Foreign Minister Kishida and Foreign Secretary Hammond confirmed their cooperation regarding the G7 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Hiroshima in April. Mr Hammond remarked that he highly valued the substantial investment by Japanese companies in the UK, including the favourable influence of Japanese management methods. The ministers also reiterated their determination to work together for the success of the Japan-EU EPA negotiations.
At these meetings both Japan and the UK stressed the importance it places on the forthcoming G7 Ise-Shima summit
in Mie Prefecture, in central Japan. This will be the first G7 Summit in Asia since that in Toyako, Hokkaido in 2008, and the G7 leaders will discuss the most pressing issues confronting the world. Against this backdrop, I sincerely hope this year will be another fruitful one for Japan-UK relations.