Opening Remarks by Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu at “Indo-Pacific Region: Converging India-Japan Interests” organized by Observer Research Foundation (February 13, 2017)

Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu made Opening Remarks at “Indo-Pacific Region: Converging India-Japan Interests” organized by Observer Research Foundation on February 13.

Honorable Minister Kiren Rijiju,
Deputy National Security Advisor Arvind Gupta,
Mr. H. K. Dua,
Mr. K. V. Kesavan,
It is my honor to deliver opening remarks at this very timely conference.

I wish to express my sincere appreciation to ORF for organizing this conference with the excellent list of speakers and beautiful stage settings.
I said this is a timely conference because the Indo-Pacific region will be a center of gravity in the years to come and there are two countries which will play crucial roles – Japan and India. Japan and India share common values such as democracy and the rule of law. Prime Minister Modi said that Japan and India enjoy spiritual ties. There are also complementarities between the two countries. Japan has capital, innovation and technologies. India has vast human resources especially talented young people. India is now going through very dynamic economic growth. We are hoping that this growth will continue for the years to come. Two leaders also enjoy mutual respect and confidence. Reciprocal arrangements of visits of the two Prime Ministers are already made every year. We have Special Strategic and Global Partnership. Every time when the two Prime Ministers meet I feel that we share more strategic values and are getting more closely. We are also becoming more action oriented to come up with concrete results such as high speed railway, civil nuclear cooperation, and defense technology and equipment transfer to India. I really feel that the relationship has entered into a new era.
Of course it is not that Japan and India alone can make this region peaceful and profitable. We need countries like the United States. Indeed, the United States will continue to play a vital role in this region. Its commitment to the region was clearly demonstrated last weekend, when Prime Minister Abe and President Trump had the first summit meeting as well as when Defense Secretary Mattis visited Japan and South Korea earlier.
I would like to briefly touch upon the recent visit of Prime Minister to the United States. Prime Minister Abe and President Trump spent two days together. They had very extensive and wide-ranging discussions to include not only security issues but also economic agenda. I am sure that they formed friendship, trust and confidence during the course of two day meetings not only in Washington but also in Florida. In their meetings, they affirmed their strong determination to further strengthen the Japan-US alliance and the economic relationship. It was mentioned in the joint statement. It is actually the first joint statement which was agreed by two leaders after President Trump assumed the presidency.
With regard to the Japan-US alliance, this is a linchpin and cornerstone of our relationship and the entire security and safety of this region. I can easily say that this is common goods for this region. The statement says “The unshakable Japan-US alliance is a cornerstone for peace, prosperity and freedom of the Asia-Pacific region.” “The US commitment to defend Japan through the full range of US military capabilities, both nuclear and conventional, is unwavering.” The statement also says that “The United States and Japan will further enhance cooperation with allies and partners in the region.” Of course, India is one of them. “The two leaders underscored the importance of maintaining international order based upon the rule of law.” We really cherish this sentence because the rule of law is a fundamental value Japan and India share. We would like to make sure that the rule of law will prevail in this region, especially in the maritime domain.

The document also says that “The two leaders affirmed that Article V of the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security,” an obligation on the part of the United States to defend Japan, “covers the Senkaku Islands. They oppose any unilateral action that seeks to undermine Japan's administration of these islands.” This is an important message to the world. It also says “The two leaders underscored the importance of maintaining a maritime order based on international law, including freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the sea. The United States and Japan oppose any attempt to assert maritime claims through the use of intimidation, coercion or force. The United States and Japan also call on countries concerned to avoid actions that would escalate tensions in the South China Sea, including the militarization of outposts, and to act in accordance with international law.” This is a very clear and important message to the world.
With regard to North Korea, two countries strongly urged North Korea to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. However, on the 12th of February, North Korea launched a ballistic missile which has a range of 500 km. It was another provocation on the part of North Korea. The press conference was organized at midnight of the day when the missile was launched. Prime Minister Abe and President Trump appeared in front of the press corps. Prime Minister said very clearly that this launch of a ballistic missile was intolerable and North Korea should strictly abide by the UNSC resolutions. President Trump said “I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, which is a great ally, 100 percent.” We work very closely with the United States and the countries in the region such as South Korea to urge North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambition and to commit to the UNSC resolutions. President Trump said in the joint press conference that “The bond between our two nations, and the friendship between our two peoples, runs very, very deep.” “We are committed to the security of Japan and all areas under its administrative control, and to further strengthening our very crucial alliance.” He also said “We will work together to promote our shared interests, of which we have many in the region, including freedom of navigation, and defending against the North Korean missile and nuclear threat, both of which I consider a very, very high priority.”
In these meetings – both formal meetings and informal discussions – I am sure they could affirm our strong commitment to further strengthening the Japan-US alliance and the economic relationship. We have a good basis. We had a good beginning with the new Trump administration. We would like to work based on this basis.
Countries like India also share the same value. I think Prime Minister Modi and President Trump had a good telephone conversation. Based on that, we would like to have more trilateral cooperation between Japan, India and the United States.
I would like to touch upon our strategy in the Indo-Pacific region. The Indo-Pacific region is blessed with opportunities encompassing the fast growing region including India, and Africa with full potentials. At the same time, this region is vested with challenges. Japan and India must work together to maximize the opportunities and address the challenges. We must maintain the Indo-Pacific as a region of open and stable seas. Otherwise, regional and international stability and prosperity will be jeopardized.

Prime Minister Abe’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” is Japan’s response to such challenges and opportunities. It was announced last August in Kenya, at TICADVI or the 6th Tokyo International Conference on African Development. In essence, this strategy treats the Pacific region and the Indian Ocean region as one big strategic domain (Indo-Pacific), and improve inter- and intra- region connectivity through the free and open Indo-Pacific. The strategy is also a statement of intent that Japan is ready to play a greater role in the Indian Ocean with the banner of “Proactive Contribution to Peace.” In his speech, Prime Minister Abe said, and I quote: “Japan bears the responsibility of fostering the confluence of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and of Asia and Africa into a place that values freedom, the rule of law, and the market economy, free from force or coercion, and making it prosperous.” “Let us make this stretch that is from Asia to Africa a main artery for growth and prosperity.”

As you must be aware, we can find close affinity between this Strategy and Prime Minister Modi’s “Act East” Policy. In fact, Prime Minister Abe and Prime Minister Modi have “recognized the potential for deeper bilateral cooperation and synergy between” our respective Strategy and Policy during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Japan last November.

Japan and India are two major democracies that share values and strategic interests, and it is only natural that our national strategies converge.
I would also like to highlight some of our bilateral and trilateral cooperation. One is connectivity agenda – not only connectivity between India and neighbouring countries but also connectivity within India. We are very happy to cooperate with the Indian Government to support projects in the northeast region. It is a very important region of India and is strategically important to connect India with Southeast Asia through Myanmar and Bangladesh. Japan stands ready to support projects to connect northeast with other parts of India and with neighbouring countries. We are also working very closely with the Indian Government to support connectivity projects in countries such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh among others.
With regard to maritime security, we would like to expand our coast guard cooperation and military exercise like Malabar, which is a very important trilateral exercise.
Not just bilateral but trilateral with the United States, Australia or even quadrilateral cooperation are important. Japan, India and the United States have started Director General level discussion in 2011. I led a delegation for four times from its inception.

I really understand the value of the trilateral dialogue. Under the President Trump’s administration, we would like to start trilateral cooperation as soon as possible to deepen our joint commitment in this region.

Japan, India and Australia share the importance of the Indian Ocean Region. We already have two Vice Foreign Ministerial level dialogues among the three countries. It will eventually evolve to a quadrilateral type of cooperation between Japan, India, the United States and Australia. This multi-layered approach to have more collaboration among main players in this region is very important.
I would like to conclude my remarks by reiterating our commitment to work with India and other like-minded countries in the bilateral, trilateral and regional settings, with a view to achieving the free and open Indo-Pacific.

I hope that today’s conference will be productive and fruitful to this end.
Thank you very much.