National

Japan's 'deep remorse' over war spelled out in Diplomatic Bluebook

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

Japan is actively contributing to world peace and stability based on the pledge of never waging war that grew out of “deep remorse” over World War II, according to the Foreign Ministry’s diplomatic policy report for 2015, which was released Tuesday.

“Japan has consistently followed the path of a peaceful country in the international community . . . based on its deep remorse over the last war,” the annual report known as the Diplomatic Bluebook notes at the beginning of the first chapter, titled “International affairs and development of Japanese diplomacy; taking 70 years of footsteps to the future.”

The document describes South Korea as “the most important neighboring country” and stresses that good relations with Seoul are critical to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

This is a departure from last year’s report, which said South Korea is “the most important neighboring country with which Japan shares fundamental values such as freedom, democracy and basic human rights as well as interests such as securing regional peace and stability.”

Stressing that the change was due merely to “periodic changes,” Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said the new wording is also in line with what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in his policy speech to the Diet in February.

He added that Japan will strive to build future-oriented ties with South Korea from a comprehensive point of view.

Kishida said the first chapter mentions Japan’s path as a peaceful nation because this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of war.

The phrase “deep remorse” is in line with past remarks by Abe, a Foreign Ministry official said.

There is keen interest both at home and overseas in what Abe will say in his statement in August marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

The bluebook states that the country’s path as a pacifist nation will never change as the idea “is deeply rooted in the public mind.”

“Japan will more than ever actively contribute to world peace, stability and prosperity in cooperation with individual countries from a standpoint of ‘proactive contribution to peace’ based on the principle of international cooperation,” the document says.

The entire bluebook will be translated into English for the first time in nine years in an effort to disseminate more information about Japan abroad, the ministry official said.

The report points to “three pillars” in Japan’s foreign policy — “beefing up the Japan-U.S. alliance,” “shoring up cooperative relations with neighboring countries” and “enhancing economic diplomacy to help with the revival of the country’s economy.”

Describing the Japan-U.S. security alliance as the “linchpin of Japan’s diplomacy,” the bluebook says Tokyo will enrich bilateral relations on every front, and cites revision of the defense cooperation guidelines, relocation of U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Okinawa and conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement as key topics between the two countries.

On relations with Seoul, the bluebook says: “From a broader perspective, (the Japanese government) continues to work steadily to build future-oriented and multilayered Japan-South Korea relations through bilateral efforts in all areas, including politics, economy and culture.”

Ties between Japan and South Korea have been strained over territorial and historical disputes. Abe and President Park Geun-hye have not held a formal one-on-one meeting since taking office, Abe at the end of 2012 and Park in 2013.

Tensions also linger over the case of the former Sankei Shimbun Seoul bureau chief now on trial for allegedly defaming Park. The journalist, Tatsuya Kato, 48, has been barred from leaving South Korea.

Referring to Japan-China ties as among Tokyo’s “most important,” the bluebook pledges to proceed with dialogue at various levels and in various areas.

While it says the international community, including Japan, will welcome China’s development as a responsible nation with aspirations of peace, it expresses concern over the lack of transparency in the country’s growing military power and assertiveness at sea.

It criticizes China’s continued attempts to “unilaterally change the status quo” in the East China Sea, referring to its maritime incursions around the Senkaku Islands, which are administered by Japan but claimed by Beijing.

“The government continues to address (the dispute) with a determination to protect Japan’s territorial sovereignty, seas and airspace,” the bluebook stresses.

Some other features in this year’s bluebook include new guidelines for foreign aid, which were revised in February for the first time in 11½ years, Japan’s assistance in the fight against a deadly outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, and the Hague Convention on cross-border child custody disputes, which took effect here last April.

On terrorism, the bluebook says extremists such as the Islamic State group pose a threat to global society and reiterates the importance of the international community working together to address the issue.

Following the murder of two Japanese nationals in Syria by the Islamic State group earlier this year, the government enhanced measures to protect Japanese citizens abroad and announced a fresh $15.5 million aid package to the Middle East and Africa to support “counterterrorism capacity-building assistance,” including border control and development of legal systems, the bluebook says.