Takashi Koizumi: Bulgarian Rose Becoming Increasingly Popular in Japan
Novinite has asked Japan's Ambassador to Bulgaria Takashi Koizumi to comment on international nuclear affairs and also on bilateral relations, in a month when the world marked the 70th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings.
Mr Koizumi's first diplomatic appointment was to the Japanese Embassy in Bulgaria, where he was Third Secretary for Cultural, Political and Economic Affairs from 1979 to 1982, and that was followed by a term as Second Secretary at the same embassy in 1988-1991.
Apart from having obtained a degree from a Tokyo university, he graduated in 1978 from the Sofia University where he studied Literature - and is quite fluent in Bulgarian.
Your Excellency, given recent international developments, for example Russia's plans to boost its nuclear forces and the time it took for Iran and the 5 + 1 group to strike a deal, do you think the world has actually learned any lessons from the dreadful events of August 1945?
We could say that the world has not learned yet its lesson after the tragedy in August 1945. On the contrary, we could say there are still countries wishing to possess nuclear weapons because they know about the horrors of nuclear weapons.
Japan and the Japanese are the only country and people who have experienced the atomic bombings and know very well how cruel and inhumane nuclear weapons are. They caused the death of 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 90,000 in Nagasaki. Heat rays of the atomic bomb which killed hundreds of people reached 40000 C. The effects of radiation have been severe. Subsequently, approximately 290 000 people died of cancer and other diseases after effect by the radiation. Nowadays, 70 years later, over 190 000 people are still suffering from the aftereffects. Whatever the motives were, nuclear weapons are the ones that should not be reused never again. I think that Japan and the Japanese have the mission to continually warn about the horrors of nuclear weapons all over the world.
Some countries are lobbying for a total ban on nuclear weapons. What do you think: will this ever become reality?
There are now a total of about 16,000 nuclear warheads across the globe. While that may be a sharp reduction from the 70 000 at the peak of the Cold War, it seems that progress in eliminating them has been much slow and that it is very difficult to become reality in the near future.
Under such situation, Japan as the only country to have experienced the tragedy of nuclear devastation in the war, has an important mission of realizing "a world free of nuclear weapons" by steadily carrying out a succession of realistic and practical measures. This year especially is the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings. At the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), held from April to May in New York, interregional group on Non-proliferation and Disarmament Initiative (NPDI), led by Japan, submitted to the UN Secretariat a draft final document containing specific steps toward realizing a “world free of nuclear weapons” and enforced efforts among individual states to reflect its content in the final discussions as far as possible. Regrettably a draft final document could not be adopted. However, Japan remains determined to make even greater efforts towards realizing a “world free of nuclear weapons”, as continuing to call for the cooperation of both nuclear-weapon States and non-nuclear-weapon States. The Government of Japan will submit a new draft resolution on the total elimination of nuclear weapons at the United Nations General Assembly this autumn, as an expression of that determination.
On the other hand, when it comes to progress in eliminating nuclear weapons, it is important not only to be taken initiatives by the states or governments, but also to be transmitted by words of people, regardless frontiers and generation’s gap, concerning the real threat of nuclear weapons. This year in August an exhibition dedicated to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was opened in Sofia Municipal Library, and a ceremony in memory of the victims of the atomic bombing was held in front of the exposed "Stone of Hiroshima", being part of the tramway pavement of that time in Hiroshima city, at the "Earth and Man" National Museum. In this regard, I would like to highly evaluate the strong interest against the devastation power of nuclear weapons among the people in Bulgaria.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is working to revise the country's constitution and to allow a more active role for the army. Does this mean Japan's 70-year-long pacifist policies are also being revised? Judging from reports of international media there was much social opposition to the legislation allowing troops to fight abroad.
Currently the draft of the new legislation for peace and security is under discussion in Japan's Diet. The new legislation aims to allow more effective responses for prevention of conflicts arising including response to aggression which does not reach to an armed attack and response to exercising the right of collective self-defense. In addition, the "Proactive Contribution to Peace" policy by Abe Administration will permit Japan’s participation in a wide range of U.N. Peace-Keeping Operations (PKOs) and other internationally coordinated efforts.
There will be no change in Japan’s basic posture and orientation as a peace-loving nation maintained in the past 70 years. Japan will keep exclusively dedicated defense - oriented policy, without becoming a military force, posing a threat to other countries. Its main policy adheres firmly to the observance of the Three Non-Nuclear Principles. As for exercising the right of collective self-defense which is allowed under the Constitution of Japan, it is permitted under the conditions much more stringent than those permitted under the international law. The conditions refer to viewpoint of securing Japan’s survival and the lives and peaceful livelihood of the Japanese people.
Enacting the legislation for peace and security which enables seamless response to any situation is of essential importance, while the security situation surrounding Japan becomes more and more severe. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expresses his willingness to explain to the people in a polite and understandable way through discussions in the Japanese Diet.
Passing on to Japan and Bulgaria's bilateral relations: compared to the exchange of Bulgaria with other major economies, trade with Japan has been rather modest over the past years. What is it that could improve bilateral trade?
We can hardly say that the trade volume between Japan and Bulgaria is high, compared with such major trading partners of Bulgaria as Germany and Turkey. On the other hand, we have seen the expansion of bilateral trade relations over the past few years. According to statistics of the Japanese Ministry of Finance, Japan's export to Bulgaria amounted to 5.3 billion yen [EUR 38.9 M] in 2011 and rose to 8.4 billion yen [EUR 61.7 M] in 2014. Respectively, Bulgaria's export to Japan amounted to 7.3 billion yen [EUR 53.6 M] in 2011 and rose to 11.3 billion yen [EUR 83.07 M] in 2014.
The main items of bilateral trade are likely to be changed every year, but the export of Japan to Bulgaria in 2014 consists primarily of chemical products, engines, semiconductors and electric components. On the other hand, Japan’s imports from Bulgaria mainly clothes, bags, essential oils and other items. Bulgarian rose, including the category ”essential oils” become increasingly popular among the Japanese. Moreover, Bulgarian wine won gold medal in prestigious wine competition in Japan, so awareness of Bulgarian wines in Japan is gradually increasing. Besides, last year Bulgaria exported for the first time to Japan sunflower oil even in small quantities. All these can be seen as a factor to increase Bulgarian exports to Japan, but there is still scope to expand export mainly of commodities in food processing, agriculture and light industry. For this purpose, the businessmen of the two countries should make efforts to actively exchange and share necessary information in the future.
Bulgaria's Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Kuneva met earlier in August a Japanese delegation and discussed with officials a prospective EU-Japan free trade agreement. Which areas do you think hold the greatest potential for Japanese investment into Bulgaria if the agreement is reached?
Japan and the EU have been developing close relations in both of trade and investment. Therefore, it is expected that the conclusion of so called “Economic Partnership Agreement” (EPA) between Japan and the EU would improve the conditions for business between the companies from both sides and will boost trade and investment. In my view, Bulgaria has hidden potentials in agriculture, food processing, manufacturing, tourism, etc. as an EU member-state. I hope Japanese companies to discover these opportunities as much as possible in Bulgaria and establish mutually beneficial relationships with Bulgarian companies.
I would like to point out that one of the possibilities for expansion of economic relations in the future is to promote the cooperation in the field of SMEs based on the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the agencies for small and medium enterprises of the two countries in March last year. Japan’s SMEs represent more than 99% of all enterprises in the country and possess high technologies and know-how in various fields. I know that the development of SMEs is a task of national importance in Bulgaria. I hope we could expect expansion of bilateral cooperation in this area possessing still unrealized potentials.
Japan recently allowed the import of Bulgarian poultry products. As Bulgaria is looking for new markets to place its output - and given Japan's high food standards - what does it take to boost cooperation in the food industry?
As you’ve been noting, this year in May the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan lifted a ban on imports of fresh poultry products from Bulgaria. I hope it will give positive effect and boost further bilateral economic relations.
As you may know, Bulgarian yogurt was introduced for the first time in Japan at the World Expo in Osaka in 1970. Later, the company "Meiji" imported Bulgarian bacterium and launched manufacture and sale of Bulgarian yoghurt in 1973. We celebrated the 40th anniversary of the sale of Bulgarian yoghurt at the Japanese market in 2013. And today, all Japanese, young and elder, men and women know about it. I am convinced that the good image of Bulgarian yogurt will impact positively appearance of other Bulgarian products at the Japanese market. On the other hand, I think that Bulgaria should actively provide more information about the various possibilities of Bulgarian food industry, including sunflower oil and wines, mentioned before. At the same time, in my view, another important factor, as seen from the successful example with Bulgarian yoghurt, is if Bulgarian manufacturers establish close cooperation with distinguished companies in good relations with the food industry in Japan.
In a previous interview with Novinite you said Bulgaria could draw on Japan's experience in disaster prevention and response. A year after Bulgaria was hard hit by floods, has there been any attempt at sharing experience?
Bulgarian side didn’t forward specific request for assistance to our side in last year’s floods in Bulgaria. As you know, Japan is a country experiencing various natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, landslides, heavy snowfalls, etc.
Japan hosted the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in the city of Sendai in this March. Thus, Japan is actively engaged in international cooperation for disaster risk reduction. At this Conference Bulgaria was represented by Bulgarian Ambassador to Japan Mr. Georgi Vassilev. I hope that, we, Japan and Bulgaria, would share Japan’s experience and lessons with respective Bulgarian authorities on various occasions.
In this respect a lecture on the Risk Reduction in case of Earthquakes was held in Sofia and Pernik, in November 2012, with the assistance of the municipality of Yokohama. The lecture was devoted to the importance of earthquake resistant building constructions and prevention training in case of potential disaster. The lecture was held immediately after the earthquake in Pernik and I was strongly impressed by the active exchange of views between the lecturers and participants in the lecture.
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