Prime Minister NODA's BLOG

Over this past weekend and continuing into Monday, I was in Beijing, which hosted the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting. Without any opportunity to take a good rest upon my return, I visited Okinawa yesterday in order to attend the commemoration ceremony for the 40th anniversary of Okinawa's reversion to Japan.

Forty years have passed since diplomatic ties between Japan and China were normalized. And 40 years have passed since Okinawa's reversion to Japan. In light of this span of 40 years, a length which happens to coincide, I suppose that there were many people who reflected upon the path that Japan has traveled in the context of their lives led thus far.

The year was 1972. Had diplomatic ties between Japan and China not been normalized at that timing, then the framework of the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting, at which the leaders exchange views in a frank manner regarding the subtle matters of regional peace and stability, would surely not have been achieved, even now. And, had our exchanges on the economic front not progressed as much as they have until now, then surely we would not have agreed to launch negotiations on a trilateral Japan-China-ROK FTA. The Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Investment Agreement that was just signed is the first legal framework amongst our three countries in the economic arena, and thus a major achievement.

Of course, there are differences in our three countries' views and interests. I consider myself to have expressed very clearly to both Premier Wen Jiabao and President Lee Myung-bak those matters which I needed to convey. And yet despite that, I can state that the overall tone of the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting was extremely constructive. There is no doubt that this situation came into being on account of the efforts by so many people wishing for friendly relations among Japan, China, and the ROK over these 40 years, in both the public and private sectors.

Relations among our three countries have moved forward in a positive direction and we must advance them still further.

And then there is the other happening in 1972. How would things be now if there had been no reversion of Okinawa to Japan? I believe that currently a great number of people share the feeling that "the reversion of Okinawa to Japan was a very desirable occurrence." I included my own thoughts on these 40 years into the remarks I delivered yesterday at the ceremony.

Naturally, even within Okinawa itself there are various ways to react, and some people recall these 40 years with mixed emotions. Portions of the remarks made by Governor Hirokazu Nakaima, who spoke immediately after me, and by Mr. Kosuke Uehara, who truly spoke very frankly about Okinawa's history of suffering, resonated very deeply within me.

In the same way that the people of Okinawa have taken to heart the reconstruction of the disaster-stricken areas, Okinawa's issues must be taken up by all Japanese people as their own problem. Moreover, our nation must also accomplish the things it needs to do. We will accumulate tangible results in order to promote Okinawa and reduce the burdens that accompany the military bases without creating issues in Japan's security. I am confident that the government's sincere efforts towards that end will reach the hearts of the people of Okinawa as well.

This milestone of the 40th anniversary is also a time for us to focus on the future, taking the present as the starting point. In imagining what thing will be like 40 years from now, we must envisage efforts that span across generations.

At the Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting, we agreed to continue to promote the "CAMPUS Asia" university exchanges among our three countries. At the Great Hall of the People, which can properly be called China's parliament building, university students from our three countries came together and in front of the three national leaders enthusiastically introduced aspects of traditional culture in their home countries, namely the Japanese tea ceremony, the crafting of masks used in China's Beijing opera, and the Republic of Korea's traditional way to make kites.

I truly felt that we can expect a great deal from these young people burning with a passion to expand friendly relations as they respect the others' cultures.

At the ceremony in Okinawa, I heard the words of the powerful pledge made by two young people, Mr. Yoshihito Shimojo and Ms. Nagisa Nakamura, who said, "We will firmly maintain the pride of Okinawa and continue to send out a message of peace." With the opening of the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST), there are also great expectations towards Okinawa becoming a hub for human resource development.

At the reception, the clear singing voice of Ms. Rimi Natsukawa rang throughout the venue. Actually I am quite a great fan of Ms. Natsukawa and I have even been to one of her concerts before at the Narashino Culture Center. I couldn't help but be moved by her singing, which called to mind Okinawa's historical hardships one by one and seemed to wrap itself around all of them.

This weekend I will head to the United States once more, for the G8 summit. The week following, I will visit Okinawa again for the Pacific Islands Leaders' Meeting. In this way, I will continue to have very busy weekends. I also expect the bills related to the comprehensive reform of social security and taxation systems to be taken up for deliberation in earnest within the Special Committee.

We will create the 'history' of the future while keeping the history up until the present in mind. Step by step and one day at a time, I will carry out the duties of my office, fully cognizant of the weight that responsibility entails.

Yoshihiko Noda
Prime Minister of Japan
May 16, 2012

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