Right before the conference entitled “Role and perspectives of the new Japan in Asia – Pacific”, held last May 25th at the Institute of Japanese culture and organized by IsAG in collaboration with the Institute of Japanese Culture and with the Japanese Embassy in Rome, Valentina Gullo interviewed the Ambassador of Japan H.E. Kazuyoshi Umemoto on Issues regarding Japanese National Security, bilateral cooperation and on the reforms ongoing in Japan.
VG: Today it will be held at the Institute of Japanese Culture in Rome a symposium about the role and perspective of “new Japan” in the Asia Pacific Region, just few days after the framework of the new Japanese legislation for peace and security have been submitted to the Diet by the Cabinet. So, if it will be approved, how will the role of Japan prospectively change, internationally and regionally?
H.E.KU: Well, there’s a long answer and a short answer. Short answer is that there will be no dramatic change, but we – Japan – will be able to do more in international cooperation in the political and security areas. As you know very well, the security environment surrounding Japan has been changing quite dramatically. In the light of that, no one can secure its own security alone. So countries will have to work much closely together with allies, friends and the international community. So this is why the current Government has been conducting diplomacy that takes panoramic perspective. But at the same time, the basic position of Japan, Japan’s peaceful orientation, where Japan tries to solve all international issues by peaceful means, by dialogue, never resorting to use of force, those orientations will remain. What we intend to achieve by the new set of laws, would be to have “more tools” for our participation in the international efforts so that we can play a proactive role both in the alliance with the U.S. and in the international security cooperation.
VG: 2016 will be the 150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Italy. Japan and Italy historically have a strong ties, especially regarding mutual interest about culture, language and humanities. Due to the recent changes and reforms happening in Japan, in Europe in general and in Italy in particular people are getting more interested also about Japanese politics, international relation and economics too. Can this be already considered a success of new political addresses of Japan? Could you give us some comments about it?
H.E.KU:Yes. Since the beginning of nineties – Japan was going through a difficult time. As a result of that, Japan sort of “disappeared” from the international scene. But now Japan is back and is in the front line of many issues such as aging society, which all other countries face eventually. Japan’s reform, particularly in the form of Abenomics to revitalize Japanese economy, has seen some tangible results. It has changed people’s mentality. Now, Japan is back and more willing to project itself in the world. It is a very important step forward towards implementation of all the reforms in economy or to be able to be more active in the international community.
VG: Regarding Japan – Europe relations, do you think it could be useful to strengthen the effectiveness of multilateral interregional forum such as ASEM? And in this context what role could have the Free Trade Agreement between EU and Japan?
H.E.KU:First of all Asia- Europe meeting, ASEM, is a unique forum which connects Asia and Europe – plays a very important role in different areas. ASEM has been very successful in connecting these two areas, so we attach a great importance to ASEM. Japan will continue to be very active in dialogue between Japan and Europe. As for Japan-EU EPA, we have to be mindful of the fact that Japan and EU combined constitute 30% of global GDP and a little bit more – 35% – of global trade. So if Japan and EU can strengthen and promote trade and investments by lowering the border measures and improving the investment rules, it will be not only good for Japan and Italy in terms of employment or making companies more competitive, but it could also be good for economic growth of both Japan and Europe as a whole. Also Japan and EU are quite mature market economies and it would be very important to work together to create more modern international rules not only about tariffs or investment rules but also about intellectual property rights or non-tariff barriers. Japan and EU have to play a leadership role in creating better set of rules. In that sense Japan- EU economic partnership is also very important and we are looking forward to an early conclusion of Japan- EU EPA. And of course, Italy being a very important member of the EU, Japan thinks that the agreement would be very good also for the bilateral relations.
We thank the Japanese Embassy in Rome and the Institute of Japanese Culture in Rome for their kind availability