Keynote Address: Shinzo Abe

Jun 1, 2014News

2014-06-01 12.23.03 pm

(Photo Credit: The IISS Asia Security Summit)

(BGF) – The IISS Asia Security Summit has posted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s keynote address from the Shangri-La Dialogue 2014 on their website. An excerpt of the keynote address is provided below. Click here to read the full keynote address or visit the IISS’s website.

Your Excellency Mr. Lee Hsien Loong, Director-General Dr. John Chipman, Ladies and gentlemen, “Peace and prosperity in Asia, forevermore.” In order to make that a reality, what should Japan do and how should Japan contribute? That’s what I am standing here to speak about.

I think all of us in the room here share a common mission. The mission is one of pursuing better living standards and economic prosperity. It’s a mission of bringing into full bloom the latent potential of this great growth centre and the people living there, stretching from Asia and the Pacific to the Indian Ocean. We must build and then hand over to the next generation a stage on which each and every individual can prosper still more and certainly benefit from the fruits of growth.

“Asia” is a synonym for “growth”and another name for “achievement.”

Take TPP. The Trans Pacific Partnership will surely bring an overwhelming economy of scale to the Asia Pacific economies. Just as a rocket picks up even greater acceleration in its second and third stages, the RCEP and the FTAAP as it were, the momentum sparked by the TPP will expand our free and creative economic sphere, enabling us to soar even higher, and to propel the world economy forward.

And just for Japan to seek a winwin synergy with the growing Asia Pacific region, my economic policy is now advancing at full throttle.

If you imagine how vast the Pacific and Indian Oceans are, our potential is exactly like the oceans, i.e., limitless, isn’t it?

In order to have the generations of our children and our children’s children share in this bounty, it’s absolutely imperative that we make peace and stability, something absolutely rock-solid.

To achieve this, all countries must observe international law. Ladies and gentlemen, Japan will offer its utmost support for the efforts of the countries of ASEAN as they work to ensure the security of the seas and the skies, and thoroughly maintain freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight.

Japan intends to play an even greater and more proactive role than it has until now in making peace in Asia and the world something more certain.

As for Japan’s new banner of “Proactive Contribution to Peace,” Japan already enjoys the explicit and enthusiastic support of the leaders of our allies and other friendly nations, including every leader of ASEAN member countries as well as the leaders of the United States, Australia, India, the U.K, France and others.

So let me just repeat. Japan for the rule of law. Asia for the rule of law. And the rule of law for all of us. Peace and prosperity in Asia, forevermore. That’s what I wish to state to you today.

My perception of the circumstances
May I now tell you firstly how I perceive the situation that surrounds us in the region.

This region has achieved tremendous growth in the span of a single generation. However, a large and relatively disproportionate amount of the fruits of that growth is being allocated to military expansion and arms trading. To me, this is extremely regrettable. We also find ourselves facing the threat of weapons of mass destruction and attempts to change the status quo through force or coercion. Clearly there exist elements that spawn instability. And yet nowhere do we find a need to be pessimistic. That’s my approach.

Recently President Barack Obama of the United States and I mutually reaffirmed that the U.S.-Japan Alliance is the cornerstone for regional peace and security.

President Obama and I also mutually confirmed that the United States and Japan are strengthening trilateral cooperation with likeminded partners to promote peace and economic prosperity in Asia and the Pacific and around the globe.

When Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott visited Japan at the beginning of April, we reaffirmed this exact stance, namely that in security affairs, we will further the trilateral cooperation among Japan, the U.S., and Australia. We clearly articulated to people both at home and abroad our intention to elevate the strategic partnership between

Japan and Australia to a new special relationship.

In India, Mr. Narendra Modi has become Prime Minister through another free and fair election. I am absolutely certain that when I welcome Prime Minister Modi to Tokyo, we will successfully confirm that Japan-India cooperation, as well as trilateral cooperation including our two countries, will make the “confluence of the two seas,” that is the Pacific and Indian Oceans, peaceful and more prosperous.

Last year, I visited all ten ASEAN member countries, and my determination grew increasingly firm with each country I visited.

This is because these visits taught me that we share common groundwork regarding our commitment to valuing the rule of law, and that we enjoy a consensus in our respect for freedom of navigation and freedom of overflight.

Indeed, in most of the countries of the region, economic growth has steadily brought freedom of thought and religion and checks and balances to the political systems, even though the speed of these changes varies from country to country.

The sheer idea of the rule of law, which is one great pillar for human rights, has taken deeper root.

Freedom, democracy, and the rule of law, which undergirds these two, form the Asia-Pacific’s rich basso continuo that supports the melody played in a bright and cheery key. I find myself newly gripped by that sound day after day.

The importance of international law
I have now shared with you how I perceive the circumstances that surround us.

Now, my first central point for today, that is that we must observe international law. International law prescribes the order governing the seas. Its history is long indeed, stretching back to the days of ancient Greece, we are told. By Roman times, the seas were already kept open to all, with personal possession and partitioning of the sea prohibited.

Ever since what is known as the Age of Exploration, large numbers of people have come together by crossing the seas, and marine-based commerce has connected the globe.

The principle of freedom on the high seas came to be established, and the seas became the foundation for human prosperity.

As history moved on, the wisdom and the practical experiences of a great many people involved with the sea, who were at times literally caught up in rough and raging waves, accumulated into common rules. This is what we now know as the international law of the seas.

This law was not created by any particular country or countries, nor was it the product of some sort of group. Instead, it is the product of our own wisdom, cultivated over a great many years for the well-being and the prosperity of all humankind.

Today, the benefits for each of us lie in the seas from the Pacific to the

Indian Oceans being made thoroughly open, as a place of freedom and peace.

All of us should find one common benefit in keeping our oceans and skies as global commons, where the rule of law is respected throughout, to the merit of the world and humankind.

The rule of law at sea: Three principles
Now, when we say “the rule of law at sea” — what exactly do we mean in concrete terms? If we take the fundamental spirit that we have infused into international law over the ages and reformulate it into three principles, we find the rule of law at sea is actually a matter of common sense.

  • The first principle is that states shall make and clarify their claims based on international law.
  • The second is that states shall not use force or coercion in trying to drive their claims.
  • The third principle is that states shall seek to settle disputes by peaceful means.

So to reiterate this, it means making claims that are faithful in light of international law, not resorting to force or coercion, and resolving all disputes through peaceful means.

So that is all about common sense, pure and simple. And yet these very natural things must be emphasized.

I urge all of us who live in Asia and the Pacific to each individually uphold these three principles exhaustively.

Take a look at Indonesia and the Philippines. They have peacefully reached agreement of late on the delimitation of their overlapping EEZs. I welcome this as an excellent case in point that truly embodies the rule of law.

Ladies and gentlemen, my government strongly supports the efforts by the Philippines calling for a resolution to the dispute in the South China Sea that is truly consistent with these three principles. We likewise support Vietnam in its efforts to resolve issues through dialogue.

Movement to consolidate changes to the status quo by aggregating one fait accompli after another can only be strongly condemned as something that contravenes the spirit of these three principles.

Would you not agree that now is the time to make a firm pledge to return to the spirit and the provisions of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea that all concerned countries in the Sea agreed to, and not to undertake unilateral actions associated with a permanent physical change?

The time to devote our wisdom to restoring peaceful seas is now.

Click here to read the full keynote address.