As it moves into the 21st century, Japan is ready to take on a larger role in the global arena, Japanese Ambassador to the United States Ryozo Kato said Thursday.
At a talk at the Yale Law School, Kato presented a general history of Japan’s involvement in the world community and described possibilities for future expansion of its global role. Speaking to an audience of about 70 students and professors, Kato discussed relations between Japan and the United States and what he views as Japan’s successes in garnering international respect after World War Two. Several students who attended the talk said they were pleased that the ambassador highlighted Japan’s diplomatic progress over the past 60 years, but some said they think Kato left major topics undiscussed.
Kato began his remarks by discussing the legalistic approach Japan took in its foreign policy after the war, focusing on the San Francisco Peace Treaty between the Allied Nations and Japan — the cornerstone of Japan’s relations with Western nations, he said. The treaty enabled a division of labor between the two countries and contributed to East Asia’s security against the Soviet Union during the Cold War, Kato said. Signed by a total of 49 nations, the treaty paved a way to Japan’s acceptance into global community — its first appearance in the legal order internationally, Kato said.
“And the approach worked,” he said. “To this day, Japan remains to have the most stringent nuclear policy, the U.S.-Japan military alliance is very strong, our economy is three times as large as the Chinese economy. We have also deterred threats of terrorism within our borders.”
In addition to establishing mutual confidence with many other countries, Kato said, later treaties allowed Japan to normalize relations with its closest neighbors, China and Korea — perhaps the two countries most affected by Japanese imperialism during the war.
In response to audience questions regarding North Korea and recent six-party talk, Kato said Japan’s relations with North Korea may be improved only after the resolution of North Korea’s nuclear proliferation issue and its abduction of Japanese citizens.
“It depends on what kind of stance North Korea will come up with,” he said. “Japan has been consistent in efforts to normalize relations with North Korea, working towards peace and security in the Korean peninsula. We will continue to strive for a close consultation with key countries like the U.S., China and South Korea, but in the end, it really depends on North Korea itself.”
In the conclusion to his talk, Kato said Japan can achieve success in normalizing postwar foreign relations by establishing common values with other nations and seeking respect from the global community. Japan hopes to have opportunities to actively negotiate with China and Korea, he said.
Students who attended the lecture said they were impressed by the depth with which the ambassador covered United States-Japan relations.
“[Kato] covered the topic in its historical aspects as well as its contemporary aspects,” Jeff Hartsough ’11 said. “I came because I wanted to hear what motivated the transformation of a country that used to be so inward-looking.”
But other students said they were disappointed in Kato’s failure to speak more about Japan’s relations with countries other than the United States and East Asian nations. They also said they would have liked to hear more about controversial issues, such as historical accountability for war crimes.
But most students said they appreciated Kato’s forward thinking.
“It showed the direction, the vision of where Japan’s going in foreign affairs,” Hisashi Kubodera ’11 said.