As Christmas approaches, I hope you are all getting into the mood for the Festive Season.
I arrived in London on 26 November to take up my new position as Ambassador of Japan, the third time I have assumed this role. Seven years ago I was appointed Ambassador to the Netherlands, and recently served as Ambassador in the Republic of Korea, just before I was assigned to the UK. I would like to stress my determination to do my utmost to further strengthen Japan-UK relations.
My attachment to the UK runs deep. In 1978, my second year in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, I was sent to study Politics and Economics at Oxford University for two years as an attaché at the Embassy in London. In the mid-1990s I was involved in policymaking aimed at promoting Japan-UK relations in my role as a Director of the European Affairs Bureau. From 2001 to 2002 I was here at the Embassy, where I served as Minister in the Economic Section, and for a time doubled as Minister in the Political Section as well. From 2013 to 2016 I was Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs in charge of economic affairs, and during this period I had several opportunities to deliberate closely with aides to former British Prime Minister David Cameron concerning preparations for the G7 and G20 summits. Furthermore, as the chief negotiator in the talks on the Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement, I was involved in forging the course of economic relations between Japan and the EU.
I feel deep emotion about my posting to the UK and the responsibilities it entails. Clearly the imminent departure from the EU will have a considerable bearing on this country’s future. Moreover, as the Brexit process unfolds it cannot but influence Japan’s relations with the UK, and indeed with the EU as well.
In these circumstances, at the outset of my mission as Ambassador, I have identified five goals. As I carry out my duties, I will always keep an eye on whether they are being achieved.
The first goal is the perhaps obvious one of expanding and deepening every aspect of the already excellent ties between Japan and the UK. We are global strategic partners who share universal values, notably freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and adherence to the rule of law. I would like to make our relations yet closer, based on mutual trust between our two governments.
The second point is to forge firm economic ties with the UK. Around 1,000 Japanese companies are based in this country, having created more than 180,000 jobs. The activities of these firms have contributed hugely to the British economy. It is therefore very important for our commercial relations that the UK’s departure from the EU is conducted in a transparent and predictable manner. I will carefully monitor the situation and do my best to support Japanese companies based here with accurate information and whatever assistance they may find useful.
My third objective concerns expanding our cooperation on global issues. I would like us to work together even more closely on matters with implications for security around the world and counterterrorism measures as well as climate change and other environmental issues.
Fourthly, I am eager to promote private-sector and grassroots exchange. Japan’s hosting of the Rugby World Cup in the autumn was the catalyst for a huge rise in tourism from overseas, with the number of British visitors during the tournament 80 per cent up on the same period last year. With Japan gearing itself up for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, the Japan-UK Season of Culture is currently under way, aimed at fostering further exchange in culture and sports while promoting mutual understanding and cooperation between our two nations.
Finally, the Japanese community in the UK is more than 60,000 strong. It is my aim to help ensure that they are able to pursue their activities in a secure and agreeable environment.
These are my thoughts as I embark upon my duties here. To achieve my goals I will have to visit every part of the UK, where I look forward to exchanging views with as many people as possible. I am open to your advice and suggestions, and hope to meet many of you in the months and years ahead.
May I close by wishing you a Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.