(Check Against Delivery)
Statement by H.E. Mr. Kazuyoshi Umemoto
Chargé d’affairs ad interim of Japan to the United Nations Deputy Permanent Representative
At the Open Debate of the Security Council On the “Maintenance of International Peace and Security:
War, its lessons and the search for a permanent peace”
29 January 2014
I am grateful that you have chosen a topic that touches a fundamental aspect of international peace and security. It also prompts our intellectual and academic curiosity. The current situation in Syria, South Sudan and the Central African Republic is a clear indication of the crucial importance that national reconciliation has for the achievement of permanent peace. As shown in these cases, the situation on the ground in each country is different, requiring deep understanding of all the characteristics peculiar to each case so that we should deliberate on a case by case basis. There is no one-size-fit-all solution.
The reality in today’s world shows that reconciliation is not an easy task. Thus, I believe, it would not be practical to discuss the issue in the abstract. In dealing with such important issue, we need the wisdom of all member states, and perhaps the Security Council, with only 15 members, may not be the best place. What the United Nations and the international community can do in practical and concrete terms to build an environment that encourages reconciliation should be something that the whole membership should address.
Japan has consistently followed the path of a peace-loving nation since the end of World War II.
During a certain period in the past, Japan caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those in Asian nations. The Government of Japan, squarely facing these historical facts, has expressed its feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology, and has also expressed feelings of sincere mourning for all World War II victims, both at home and abroad. The entire position outlined by previous administrations is maintained by the Abe Cabinet.
Peace, democracy and human rights constitute an important part of the Japanese people’s identity. Since the end of World War II Japan has continued to pursue the path of a peaceful country and will never change from this course. This point has been highlighted in the National Security Strategy which was approved by cabinet decision in December 2013.
Therefore, it is a pity that specific issues involving Japan and some neighboring countries are being raised recently and during this Open Debate. Japan does not believe that such actions are helpful in lowering tensions and enhancing the stability in the region. Although Japan doubts that this is the most appropriate forum for dealing with those specific issues, let me clarify our positions on the three issues which were raised by some delegations today.
Firstly, the Yasukuni Shrine is home to approximately 2.5 million souls who made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation not just in WWII, but also during domestic turmoil and other wars since 1853, regardless of their rank, social standing or nationalities.
In the statement entitled “Pledge for everlasting peace” which Prime Minister Abe issued upon his visit to the Shrine, he underlined that the purpose of his visit was to renew the pledge that Japan shall never again wage war. It was by no means to pay homage to Class A war criminals or to praise militarism.
Secondly, we are deeply pained to think of the comfort women who experienced immeasurable pain and suffering. Japan has extended its sincere apologies and remorse to all those women on various occasions. We established the Asian Women’s Fund in the 1990s to extend atonement to the former comfort women.
At this juncture, Japan’s position is that this issue should not be politicized or be turned into a diplomatic issue.
Throughout history, women's dignity and basic human rights have often been infringed upon during the many wars of the past. The Government of Japan places paramount importance and is committed to doing its utmost to ensure that the 21st century is free from further violations of women’s dignity and basic human rights.
Thirdly, Japan has recently revised the commentary of the courses of study for junior high school and high school, solely from an educational point of view. We have done so, because as do other countries, Japan also considers it natural to teach its own children about the country's territory.
Japan has been manifesting its remorse on the war through concrete actions. Japan wishes to build a future-oriented and cooperative relationship with Asian nations, especially China and the Republic of Korea. Prime Minister Abe stated that he wishes to build friendship with China and the Republic of Korea based on respect, and that he strongly would welcome direct dialogue with Chinese and ROK leaders.
As a country that upholds universal values, such as freedom, democracy, respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law, Japan has actively supported efforts toward democracy and national reconciliation in different countries, especially those in Asia.
One such action is Japan’s support to democratization, reconciliation and economic development in Myanmar, including through efforts by its Special Envoy of the Government of Japan for National Reconciliation in Myanmar, Mr. Yohei Sasakawa. In fact, Japan has recently decided to support up to 10 billion JPY (approximately 100 million USD) in order to achieve national reconciliation and improve livelihoods in conflict-affected areas.
Sri Lanka is also an important case in which Japan has actively engaged in national reconciliation and establishing lasting peace. Mr. Yasushi Akashi has tirelessly worked as the Representative of the Government of Japan for Peacebuilding, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction in Sri Lanka for more than a decade. Moreover, the Permanent Mission of Japan to the UN led a project titled “Observation of the Progress of National Reconciliation and Reconstruction in Sri Lanka” to encourage the progress of national reconciliation and reconstruction in Sri Lanka, presenting a report to the Secretary General last year.
Another project is the initiative called “Corridor for Peace and Prosperity”, launched in July 2006. This is an initiative that aims at contributing to creating a viable Palestinian economy by promoting economic development in the Jordan Valley to be achieved in cooperation with Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians. It shows Japan’s strong commitment to a deeper engagement in the peacebuilding efforts for the region. Its flagship project, the “Jericho Agro-Industrial Park (JAIP)” is expected to create 7,000 new jobs in the region.
Furthermore, during the recent Geneva II Conference, Japan announced its plan to extend additional assistance worth 120 million dollars in total to improve the humanitarian situation in Syria. Japan remains committed to providing both humanitarian assistance and contributing to the political dialogue so that the Syrian people can lead ordinary lives.
These are among other concrete recent actions that Japan has taken to support democratization and national reconciliation. Japan will continue to adhere as a peace-loving nation, and contribute even more proactively in securing the peace, stability, and prosperity of the international community, as a “Proactive Contributor to Peace” based on the principle of international cooperation.
Let me finish my remarks by quoting Mr. Nelson Mandela, former President of the Republic of South Africa, who passed away last year. Madiba said “Reconciliation means working together with your enemy”. What the international community and the United Nations should do is prepare the ground for such reconciliation. Japan stands ready to continue to proactively contribute to such endeavours together with the international community and the United Nations.
Thank you, Mr. President.