Ryozo Kato, Japanese Ambassador to the United States
October 18, 2005
Sharing a Global Mission
I am enjoying being around K-State students. You are much more interesting than the diplomats I normally deal with, so thank you for inviting me.
And before I do anything else, I want you to know something right up front. The United States is Japan's best friend in the world. And while Japan has long been America's best friend in Asia, we are learning how to be a friend of the United States in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, which I will come to in a few minutes. Japan and the United States work more closely together in Asia, and that is what I'd like to focus on this afternoon, on that part of the world, that is far from the home of the Wildcats.
Here on the plains of Kansas I want to talk about geopolitics in Asia and East Asia particularly. In East Asia the tectonic plates of political history are shifting. The rumblings you hear are forces of the past bumping against the future. Japan, whose economy remains three times that of China, has emerged from its post-war introversion and is becoming a much more internationally outward looking country. China has emerged as a country with impressive economic growth and it is developing the military power to match.
Then we have North Korea, that mysterious black hole of freedom, a country that has emerged from stable dictatorship to unpredictable dictatorship. Meanwhile, countries like South Korea and the Philippines remain part of the global trend toward the democracy and capitalism. China is the only factor that might change their long-time stratification, so let us start here.
China has been increasing its military budget by 10 percent annually for the past 10 years. Beyond the nuclear missiles and the high tech conventional weapons on land and in air, China also plans to build a blue water Navy, capable of operating outside coastal waters. This clearly worries neighboring countries. What does it intend to do with all this power. We do not know.
In March China approved a law authorizing military action if Taiwan edges too close to formal independence. The United States has said at various times it would protect Taiwan if attacked. Where might that lead? Tensions have increased in the Japan-China relationship. A Chinese submarine intruded into Japanese waters. Desperate for energy, China began drilling for natural gas just a couple of miles from Japan's exclusive economic zone. Violent anti-Japanese demonstrations have erupted in various cities, including Beijing. Such things are not happening in China without the government's permission.
Is China going to stand against the United States and Japan? No, not necessarily. China has a great deal at stake economically. You frequently see headlines in the United States newspapers now that say things like, "U.S. flooded by imports from China."
With annual growth that has averaged nine percent for the first 25 years, with a population of 1.3 billion people, China is on a fast economic treadmill. In order to sustain its current level of progress, China needs a world environment conducive to its economic development and trade.
Since Japan and the United States are China's two largest trading partners, there are powerful economic forces that we will hope will restrain any military impulse. The greatest unknown in East Asia is North Korea. We have seen hopeful signs in the nuclear talks in recent weeks, and let me tell you why this is so important.
There's a remarkable satellite photo taken at night of the Korean peninsula. South Korea glows with light emanating from the activities of its cities and towns. There is life. There's evidence of a civilized modern society. In dramatic contrast the satellite photo shows that North Korea is totally dark. Not only because it does not have electricity to give its people light.
Symbolically it is dark because of repression of its people. It is a land of labor camps the size of cities. It is a land where hunger affects millions and despotism affects all. It is also a dark land because of the secrecy surrounding its intentions.
North Korea fired a missile over Japanese territory in 1998. As I often tell people, imagine if Cuba fired a missile over Florida. The North also fired a short-range missile into the Sea of Japan, and hundreds of North Korean missiles can reach every major city in Japan. Another reason Japan remains suspicious of North Korea is because over the years it has kidnapped Japanese citizens from their very own land and secretively taken them to the north.
One writer in the Wall Street Journal, went so far as to propose that China should invade North Korea on humanitarian grounds. This, the author argued, would reduce global tensions, bring justice to millions, and cement China's emergence as a great power. While no one takes such a proposal seriously, it indicates the level of frustration over the North's intransigence and repulsion over its disregard for humanity.
It also indicates the hope for China becoming a stabilizing power in the region. So we have an emerging China and an erratic North Korea. Meanwhile we see increased terrorism in Southeast Asia. Where does Japan fit into this picture? A Japan-U.S. alliance was formed during the Cold War. A European friend said that the end of the Cold War is like the final act of Mozart's Don Giovanni. In that final act after Don Giovanni is drawn into hell by the stone knight, Zerlina and Mazetto sing, "Let us go home and take supper."
But in the aftermath of the Cold War, in the aftermath of September 11th, we cannot simply go home and take supper. Our alliance remains more relevant than ever. Let me put Japan's role into historical perspective. This year is the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. Prime minister Koizumi recently again voiced Japan's profound remorse and heartfelt apology. I believe Japan is finally emerging from its post-war shock.
Do you remember the famous photograph during the Vietnam war of a Vietnamese girl walking down the road from her village, her arms out and having burned off all her clothes? It is a searing photograph. That is the way Japan felt after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. After our independence in 1952, Japan retained only a small-scale force, totally relying upon America to repel any major invasion. Japan also unequivocally chose to be a non-nuclear state, dependent upon the United States nuclear umbrella for deterrence, and we remain so to this very date.
Never in history has a major economic power like Japan, the second largest economy in the world, solely relied upon another country for its protection. That indicates the trust we have in America.
Japans military posture has remained exclusively defensive. For example, all of our 200 F-15s are interceptors. In retrospect, the Gulf War back in the early '90s was the turning point away from our isolation. Since almost 90 percent of Japan's oil comes from the Gulf, Japan felt obliged to do something. So we raised the tax on gasoline and contributed $13 billion to the war effort. $13 billion. The result was a severe international criticism. The lesson was clear. Blood cannot be soothed by money. Money alone is not the substitute for the risk and sacrifice.
Even before we Japanese became aware of it, the world had come to view us as a great power. This required a commensurate amount of international responsibility. As a result of all this Japan began to rethink its global view. While keeping within our constitutional constraints and the passivism of the people, the Japanese government began to expand Japan's international role in security matters.
We have since been evolving from an introverted country to a more internationally confident one.
First, since 1992, Japan has now participated in seven United Nations peacekeeping missions. Japan sent peacekeeping forces to Cambodia, Rwanda, Mozambique, Istanbul and the Golan Heights of Syria, where they remain.
Second, Japan has begun to share more responsibility for maintaining stability in East Asia. Relieved of the burden to defend against an enormous Soviet army close to our northern border, Japan could now look around its archipelago 360 degrees. If a conflict should break out anywhere in the vicinity, Japan would now assist the United States forces in non-combatant activities.
Third, September 11th hit. It was a dark day for our friend and ally. Japan did not hesitate, we passed the necessary law and broke a half century tradition, we deployed naval vessels and aircraft in support of U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan. This was the first time since World War II that we dispatched forces to assist a military operation. In face, we have supplied approximately 30 to 40 percent of all fuel consumed by U.S. and allied naval vessels in the campaign. And we are in the fight against terrorism in numerous other ways. Japan has frozen assets of over 4,000 terrorists or terrorist organizations.
And fourth, in Iraq, we are working to help the devastated country get back on its feet politically, economically and structurally. In addition to being the second largest donor of Iraqi reconstruction aid after the United States, we have sent Japanese self-defense forces. They provide medical and other humanitarian assistance, repair schools and roads, and help in other non-combatant activities to rebuild Iraq.
Some are skeptical that freedom and democracy will work in the Middle East. The same was said of Japan, but the skepticism was proven wrong, and I believe it will be proven wrong in the Mid East, too.
And, ladies and gentlemen, no matter how their people live, they want freedom. They yearn for it. That yearning is universal. Japan and the United States share a global mission to spread the values of democracy, free markets and human dignity. We also will continue to firmly maintain the Japan-U.S. security alliance, which is a key to peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region.
The world that Japan and the United States today inhabit is a world that would be much less than stable if not for our alliance, our partnership and our friendship.
And, ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of my government I want you to know that Japan is proud to be America's ally, and we are proud to be America's friend. Thank you very much.