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Interview with Takehiro Kano

Image credit: MOFA

Image credit: MOFA

In this interview – part of European Geostrategy’s now long-running interview series – Luis Simón discusses Japan’s growing relationships with the United Kingdom (UK), France, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the European Union’s (EU) Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), along with the future of Japanese-Russian relations, with Takehiro Kano, Director of the National Security Policy Division and Space Policy Division in the Foreign Policy Bureau of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


LS: Upon arriving in office, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has imprinted Japan with a more pro-active foreign and security policy. A sign of that pro-activeness is his attempt to strengthen Tokyo’s security ties with some Europeans. In 2013, Japan and the UK signed a bilateral security agreement that vowed greater military-to-military, intelligence and military-industrial cooperation. You have played an important role in that process. What is your assessment of UK-Japan security ties?

TK: 2013 was a perfect year to commemorate the four-hundredth anniversary since Japan and the UK first contacted each other. In July, Japan and the UK signed the agreement on a framework for joint development and production of defence equipment. At the same time, we signed an Information Security Agreement, which makes it possible to exchange classified information more smoothly between the two governments. The two agreements shall contribute to the national security of both Japan and the UK.

As Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated during his visit to the UK in May 2014, Tokyo and London are poised to have ties of a nature altogether different from what we have had until now in the area of security. Japan and the UK should work together more closely in many areas ranging from maritime security to outer space and cyber space.

Prime Minister Abe explained Japan’s Policy of ‘Proactive Contribution to Peace’ to Prime Minister David Cameron and welcomed the UK’s further commitment to the Asia-Pacific region. The British Prime Minister also welcomed Japan’s more proactive security role. In the UK-Japan Joint Statement, the two leaders expressed their determination to further strengthen their security cooperation, agreeing to hold a Japan-UK Foreign and Defence ministerial meeting, to start negotiations on an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) and to strengthen joint exercises between the UK armed forces and Japan’s Self-Defence Forces.

LS: In January 2014, Japan’s foreign and defence ministers met with their French counterparts in Paris. That meeting resulted in the approval of a Joint Communiqué that pledged greater security cooperation between the two countries, particularly in the areas of defence equipment and defence export controls. How much progress has there been in these two areas, and in Japanese-French security relations more broadly?

TK: At the first ever Foreign and Defence ministerial meeting between Japan and France in January 2014, both sides expressed their determination to strengthen their security cooperation. The two governments also decided to set up two bilateral committees on defence equipment and export control.

At the Japan-France Summit held in May 2014, Prime Minister Abe and President Hollande agreed to start negotiations on an agreement on defence equipment cooperation. Prime Minister Abe explained Japan’s policy of ‘Proactive Contribution to Peace’ and President François Hollande welcomed Japan’s determination and efforts to contribute to international peace and security. The two leaders also expressed their determination to strengthen wide ranging security cooperation including in Africa and the South-Pacific, as well as collaboration on anti-piracy off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden.

LS: Over the last few years Japan has shown increasing interest in developing greater ties to NATO, but also to the EU – especially the CSDP. In what ways can Japan benefit from closer ties with NATO? And with the CSDP?

TK: Japan, the EU and NATO share fundamental values, including their respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. We also have the responsibility to play an active role to guarantee global peace and stability. Critically, and in light of the increasingly unpredictable security environment in East Asia and Europe, we recognise that our security interests are intertwined.

The EU has launched security missions in Africa, the Middle-East and Asia under its CSDP. In turn, NATO is contributing to the security of  Afghanistan as well as addressing a wide range of global threats such as cyber security, counter terrorism and anti-piracy. Those activities are consistent with Japan’s policy of ‘Proactive Contribution to Peace’ based on international cooperation.

At the twenty-second EU-Japan Summit in Brussels, on 7th May 2014, the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the President of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, welcomed and supported Japan’s willingness to play a more expanded role in securing international peace and stability. In turn, Prime Minister Abe expressed that Japan would strengthen its cooperation with the EU’s CSDP.

Prime Minister Abe also met with NATO’s Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and proposed that Japan’s Self-Defence Forces engage in joint exercises with NATO’s Operation Ocean Shield. They also agreed to dispatch a Japanese female officer to NATO Headquarters. Both leaders signed the Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme (IPCP) between Japan and NATO and agreed to cooperate on a number of areas, including maritime security, cyber security as well as disaster relief and defence exchanges.

Japan will continue to explore more robust cooperation with both the EU and NATO, not just as ‘Natural Partners’ sharing fundamental values, but also as ‘Reliable Partners’ sharing concrete missions and contributing jointly and proactively to fostering international peace.

LS: Finally, I would not want to pass up on the opportunity to ask you about Russia. What is your assessment of the Russian-Japanese security relationship? And what are – in your view – the main challenges and opportunities for cooperation between these two countries?

As the security environment in the Asia-Pacific region has become even severer, the development of a security relationship with Russia has become increasingly important for Japan.  At the same time, given that the Russian armed forces have been more active in the Far East, it is necessary to enhance transparency and promote confidence.

Japan and Russia held the first ever Foreign and Defence Ministerial Meeting (2+2) last November. At the meeting, the two countries agreed to conduct a joint exercise on counter terrorism and anti-piracy, which was carried out last December.

Japan intends to enhance its overall relationship with Russia, including in the area of security by continuing political dialogues. In that process, Japan will engage with Russia tenaciously towards solving the issue concerning the four islands of the Northern Territory the most important pending issues between the two countries and towards concluding a peace treaty.

On the other hand, the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia clearly violates international law. Japan never accepts such attempt to change the status-quo coercively. Japan urges Russia to take actions respecting the sovereignty of Ukraine and its territorial integrity. Japan will also play active role towards peaceful and diplomatic resolution of this problem.

Vol. 6, No. 40 (2014)


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