As this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, I believe that Japan should take this as an opportunity to renew its pledge to build lasting peace and step up its efforts to contribute to stability and development throughout Asia. Strengthening of cooperation to address environmental problems and disaster risk reduction is a particularly urgent priority.

In November last year, the heads of government of China and Japan held their first meeting in 2½ years. Having called for normalization of Sino-Japanese relations as early as 1968, and as someone who has long sought and worked for friendship between the two countries, I was deeply gratified to see this first step toward the improvement of bilateral relations following a sustained chill.

In the wake of that meeting, the Japan-China Energy Conservation Forum was restarted in December, and consultations were held on Jan. 12 regarding the Japan-China Maritime Communication Mechanism. This mechanism can play a crucial role in preventing the escalation of any incident, and I hope that efforts to begin operation within the year as agreed to by the two leaders will proceed smoothly.