Foreign policy set to focus on NGOs

The government will step up its efforts to build partnerships with nongovernmental organizations and other groups and individuals to deal with new diplomatic challenges, according to the draft of an annual foreign policy report.

The draft, “2000 Diplomatic Blue Book,” obtained Wednesday by Kyodo, also reiterates Japan’s commitment to pursuing active bilateral and multilateral activities for “peace and prosperity” in the Asia-Pacific region.

The final version, summarizing Japan’s diplomatic activities last year and underlining its basic policy stance, is scheduled to be issued by the Foreign Ministry later this month.

According to the draft, the book highlights the importance Japan attaches to civic societies and NGOs.

“The role played by civic societies led by NGOs is becoming increasingly important in addressing the challenges of the international community,” the draft says.

The draft points to a greater need for “building a constructive partnership between the government and civic societies.”

The draft also spells out such new challenges as the detrimental aspects of globalization as well as the advancement of information technology.

It also addresses “human security” problems, including infectious diseases, the environment, cross-border organized crime, poverty and terrorism.

On measures to deal with such challenges, the draft calls for international cooperation to set up “safety nets” to help the socially weak and vulnerable.

The draft commits Japan to “playing an active role in increasing stability” in the Asia-Pacific region through bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

Japan will particularly continue a political and security dialogue to build confidence. It will also provide economic assistance, as well as help with conflict prevention and peacekeeping operations.

It will also maintain efforts to strengthen international regimes on weapons control, nonproliferation and disarmament, the draft says.

“Peace and prosperity in Japan is closely linked and inseparable from the peace and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region and the entire world,” it says.

On a bilateral basis, the draft stressed the importance of continuing to improve ties and advance cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, Russia, South Korea and the United States.

The draft also emphasizes Japan’s efforts to improve ties with North Korea, saying Tokyo is retaining its balanced policy of dialogue and deterrence to normalize bilateral ties.

Japan and North Korea held senior-level negotiations last week in Pyongyang on establishing diplomatic ties, resuming talks that collapsed in 1992. The two sides failed to make any tangible progress, but agreed to meet again in late May in Tokyo.

Summing up the major events of last year, the draft calls for sustaining focus on a number of problematic issues involving Indonesia and East Timor, Kosovo, North Korea and the Asian economic recovery.

The draft says Japan should “exert active initiatives” in promoting regional cooperation and economic reforms in Asia in a bid to “solidify stable medium- to long-term economic development” in the region in the wake of the financial crisis.

The draft also reiterates concerns of “an increase of protectionist pressure” in the U.S. should its robust economy falter amid its growing trade deficit.