Text of Ambassador Koji Tsuroka’s article in The Daily Telegraph on 5 June 2018

UK-Japan relations are set to reach a new high

Japan and the UK are two island countries at opposite ends of the Eurasian land mass. Nevertheless, we share fundamental values, including the rule of law, human rights, free trade and a market economy. Our partnership is like no other, and Japan and Britain are playing a leading role in promoting those values in the international community.
Both countries regard it as vital to maintain the rules-based international system. It is particularly pressing for the international community to deal with North Korea in an effective manner. Following the historic Inter-Korean summits, a US-North Korea summit may be held on June 12 in Singapore.
In light of our past experience, it is important that North Korea takes concrete actions for the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles of all ranges, and that the summit will be held to achieve that end. It is also important that substantial progress is made on the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea.
In this regard, we are grateful for the British Government’s support for our efforts to resolve the plight of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s. Although five abductees returned to Japan and were reunited with their families in 2002, at least 12 more are still unaccounted for.
Moreover, there are many other missing persons for whom the possibility of abduction cannot be ruled out. Without a comprehensive resolution of this issue, as well as the nuclear and missile issues, the normalisation of relations with North Korea is impossible.
Our cooperation with Britain in security and defence is making notable progress. It is gratifying that the British Government recently deployed HMS Albion and HMS Sutherland to the region to join the international effort to deter sanctions violations at sea, and to prevent “ship-to-ship transfers”. These vessels are taking part in joint training and exercises with ships from the Japan Maritime Self Defence Force.
Japan and the UK also share a commitment to free trade and a market economy. The critical economic issue facing the UK at present involves Brexit. Most Japanese businesses operating in the UK were attracted, in the 1980s and subsequently, by this country’s appeal as a “gateway to Europe”.
There are now more than 1,000 Japanese companies doing business here, and they have created around 160,000 jobs. In the automotive sector, for example, about half of the cars produced in the UK are made by Japan’s “Big Three” car companies. Of the cars produced in the UK, 80 per cent are exported and 54 per cent of these exports are bound for the EU market. More than 60 per cent of the car parts assembled in the UK come from overseas, including the EU.
I sincerely hope that negotiations between the UK and the EU will provide the basis for Japanese companies to maintain smooth operations in Europe, all the more because this will affect not only Japanese companies but also the British economy. We are very encouraged by Prime Minister Theresa May’s reiteration that Brexit does not signal a retreat into isolation, but rather opens the way for a global Britain reaching out to the whole world.
The UK has certain fundamental strengths which Japan highly values. Leading British universities, three of which are ranked among the world’s top 10, have continued to attract international talents and created an environment that enables high-level research and development to flourish. This will continue to provide a favourable setting for Japanese companies to co-operate with British ones in the development of cutting-edge technology.
Life science, in particular, is a field in which Britain has led the world. The establishment of an office in London by the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development (AMED) in February last year, through which the Japanese government can fund joint research projects in this area, amounts to an endorsement of the UK’s economic prospects which will remain buoyant even after Brexit.
London is one of the world’s great cultural centres. As such, it is the perfect location for Japan House, which will open to the public on June 22 in Kensington High Street. This new cultural and information hub will showcase the attractions of contemporary Japan, some of which have never been seen abroad before. Japan is also now preparing two major sporting events: the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
When Mrs May came to Japan last August, in her first official visit to east Asia, she agreed to bridge these two events with a series of concrete measures to further enhance cultural and people-to-people links, which we are calling the “Japan-UK Season of Culture”. And so, over this season, you will witness a series of Japan-related events held throughout Britain.
As the Japanese Ambassador to the UK, I am determined to oversee an explosion of interest in Japan among the British people.
Koji Tsuruoka