While Japan’s alliance with the United States benefits the stability of the Asia-Pacific region, close ties with China will also be needed if Japan wants to reap the benefits of its neighbor’s booming economy, new Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba said Monday.
During a group interview at the foreign ministry, Genba, who was appointed by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda last Friday, said Japan will abide by a 2006 U.S.-Japan accord on relocating U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma farther north in Okinawa, while working to mollify local residents fiercely opposed to the plan.
In the meantime, Genba — who at 47 is the youngest foreign minister since the war — said Japan must create a “strategic partnership of mutual benefit” with China and consider ways to gain from the Asia-Pacific region’s robust growth.
“We face a dwindling birthrate and an aging population — Japan’s population is expected to shrink below 100 million by 2046,” Genba said.
“In this situation, we must find ways to maximize growth opportunities, and consider demand in the Asia-Pacific region to be Japan’s demand. There are 4 billion people living in this area,” he said.
Genba, who served as state minister for science and technology policy as well as state minister for space policy under former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, has little known background in foreign policy. But the Fukushima native did graduate from Matsushita Institute of Government and Management before entering politics, a distinction he shares both with Noda and his predecessor, Seiji Maehara.
In addition to handling key disputes with the U.S., including the Futenma relocation issue and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade liberalization talks, Genba will have to calm tensions with China, which spiked last September when a Chinese fishing boat collided with Japanese Coast Guard vessels near the disputed Senkaku islands.
Noda, a fiscal hawk and former finance minister, appears willing to participate in the TPP, and Genba as well seems to be an advocate of the talks.
“We basically need to move forward with high-level economic partnerships, but domestic problems will need to be addressed for the TPP to be successfully implemented,” Genba said, explaining that efforts will need to be made to prevent harmful rumors from further hurting agricultural exports.
A growing number of countries are restricting imports of Japanese farm produce, alarmed by the threat of leaking radioactive material from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant contaminating the local food chain, and the lack of prompt government disclosure.
Genba said it was also important for the government to set up a system that can compensate farmers for any economic losses they might suffer as a result of joining the TPP, while working to increase farm exports and its share of GDP.
“As foreign minister, I intend to make full use of overseas diplomatic missions to prevent harmful rumors, or else we won’t be able to export farm produce,” he said.
Regarding nuclear policy, Genba said the nation should work to gradually reduce the number of nuclear reactors while simultaneously replacing old ones with new ones to improve safety.
Shibano found hanged
A former lawmaker charged with fraud and tax evasion apparently hanged himself Monday, hours before the Tokyo District Court was to rule on his case, police said.
An executive of Nippon Chuyu Corp., a Tokyo-based biofuel developer, found Taizo Shibano, a 60-year-old former House of Representatives member and former company president, hanging in his office at around 9:15 a.m. He was taken to a hospital, where he was confirmed to have suffocated.