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Speech made by Ambassador Orita on the occasion of a Conference in memory of Ambassador Oku

On 21 April, Ambassador Orita delivered a speech at the opening of a Conference titled Japanese Foreign Policy: Some of the Challenges Ahead - in memory of the late Ambassador Katsuhiko Oku at St. Antony's College, Oxford University.

21 Apr 04

Sir Marrack, Dr Waswo, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

History is full of incidences of people dedicated to peace and human welfare falling victim to mindless violence. Ambassador Katsuhiko Oku was indeed such a person. About a year ago he was sent to Iraq on a temporary basis to co-ordinate the Japanese Government's liaison with the coalition forces and to identify potential projects in the context of Japan's provision of humanitarian and reconstruction aid to the Iraqi people. Last November, Mr Oku and fellow diplomat Masamori Inoue together with an Iraqi driver sacrificed their lives in an ambush near the city of Tikrit. During his time in Iraq, Ambassador Oku made quite an impact by setting the wheels in motion for a number of development projects using Japanese aid. He favoured a proactive, hands-on approach that got things done. Despite the tough conditions there, he relished the opportunity to give hope to the people of Iraq and worked to a punishing schedule to get projects under way as quickly as possible. His active involvement in Iraq's reconstruction demonstrated the direction that Japanese diplomacy should follow, and was praised by not only by the Japanese people, but also by the Iraqi people and many members of the Coalition forces.

I am very pleased to see so many people here today to take part in this conference in memory of Katsuhiko Oku. Mr Oku was sent by the Japanese Foreign Service to Hertford College, Oxford to study two years from 1982. He must have learned about many subjects concerning human activities. He was also a member of Oxford University Rugby Team. So it is most fitting for a conference to take place in his memory in Oxford. I'd like to thank the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies and the Middle East Centre, St Antony's College, Oxford for organising today's Conference.

The Middle East has provided Japanese foreign policy with various challenges and opportunities over the years. The Oil Shock of the 1970s clearly showed the vulnerability of Japan's dependence on imported oil from the Middle East. In fact, Japan still imports over 80% of its oil from the region. Although those conflicts in the Middle East up to the end of 1980s were regarded in Japan as regional conflicts in which Japan was not directly involved, the perception changed with the Gulf War in 1991. By that time, Japan's restrained profile in the security and diplomatic arenas seemed increasingly out of step with the country's status as the world's second largest economy. Although Japan made a huge financial contribution to the efforts of the US-led forces and also sent minesweepers to the region, there arose many arguments in Japan and abroad that Japan should play a much more positive role. Since then, that role has expanded considerably to embrace the dispatches of Self Defence Forces on peace keeping operations and the provision of humanitarian assistance in various regions. More recently, in connection with Allied operations in Afghanistan, Japanese vessels are refuelling British and American ships in the Indian Ocean. Now, the focus has shifted back to Iraq. The Middle East will continue to present the international community with daunting challenges, and Japan will not be found wanting in meeting them.

Japan's foreign policy toward East Asia naturally reflects an agenda even more closely linked to its national interest and security. Just across the sea from Japan lies North Korea whose activities cause worries in the region. Meanwhile, China provides Japan with both huge opportunities and challenges. Regarding the economy, there are some concerns in Japan about the �ߡ�hollowing-out �ߡ�of industry. At the same time, there are huge expectations for expansion of business activities in relation to China's fast economic development. On the other hand, China's military budget has been growing at a high rate, leading to disquiet among some people at the lack of transparency concerning the modernisation of China's military capacity. Furthermore, the Taiwan question still remains unresolved. Nonetheless, China is making efforts for the peace and stability of the region. This is particularly evident in its efforts to persuade North Korea away from confrontation over the nuclear issue. There is no doubt that China demonstrates far greater influence in the global arena than before. In this regard, one of the key policy issues to face Japan in the near future will be that of how Japan can play a leading and constructive role in the emerging trend of regionalism in East Asia, including the ASEAN countries.

I presume that many aspects of Japan's roles in Asia and the Middle East will be discussed later. Therefore I would just like to suggest a few general issues which may feature in the two sessions to come.

Firstly, how Japan co-ordinates its policy with the United States is a key issue. The Japan-US Alliance provides the solid basis for peace and stability in Asia-Pacific area and wider. At the same time, we need appropriate consultations with the US Government to solve international issues. How can Japan or should Japan play an appropriate role in this regard?

Secondly, there is the issue of nationalism. In East Asia, major security concerns emanate from areas in which history has left countries divided, that is to say the territories centred on the 38th Parallel and the Taiwan Strait. Meanwhile, the key to a fruitful relationship between Japan and China seems to lie in the successful management of nationalist sentiment on both sides. In the Middle East, the gap between the feelings and aspirations of individual states and the existing state of affairs is a source of tension.

Thirdly, there is the process of democratisation. It is sometimes emphasised that the international community should make every effort for the democratisation of a country, while attempting to achieve a stability of a country. However, how can we help maintain long-term stability in a country that has never experienced democracy and that has such a complicated ethnic make-up?

These issues all relate to one another. From the Japanese viewpoint, we cannot ignore the issue of North Korea when we consider our attitude toward Iraq. At the same time, though, each region has its own situation and background. Thus, the two situations need to be addressed in ways which are different but at the same time consistent with Japan's overall diplomacy.

As an active and responsible member of the international community, Japan finds it increasingly important to have both its own clear analysis of the international situation and the capacity and will to work towards its own agenda. What Japan thinks and how it acts is bound to have an impact on other members of the international community, including the United States. As the US's most influential allies in Europe and Asia respectively, the UK and Japan bear a great responsibility to address international issues appropriately and in ways that help direct the US along the most constructive path. This makes Anglo-Japanese collaboration more important today than it has ever been before.

I hope very much that discussions which will take place here today will be fruitful and stimulating and give a new insight to everybody. Thank you.



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