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National Day  February 11

His Excellency Mr Koji Tsuruoka
Embassy of Japan
101-104 Piccadilly
London W1J 7JT
T: 020 7465 6500
Japan’s new Ambassador Mr Koji Tsuruoka has made two clear observations since his arrival in June: “London is a fabulous place with no comparison when it comes to cultural and intellectual life. It is also a stable capital, because it represents the UK, one of the globe’s strongholds of democracy, law, stability and a voice of reason.”

Mr Tsuruoka was thrown in at the deep end so to speak, arriving two weeks before the referendum’s unpredictable results. On the other hand, he recalls “a festive period celebrating Her Majesty’s 90th birthday.” He found these events to be “encouraging signs of the unity and support that the public has for the monarch. Having one leader that can unite the country is important for any sovereign state.”

The son of a diplomat, Mr Tsuruoka explains that one of his father’s great regrets was being unable to stop Japan going to war. This fact inspired his work: “I’ve pursued this career in the hope I can make a contribution to ensuring that humanity never goes to war again.” He accordingly entered the foreign ministry 40 years ago, and his early career focused on treaties and “overseeing the legality of diplomatic actions and decision-making.” More recently he’s been tasked with what he calls “non-traditional diplomatic issues.” As the first Director-General for Global Issues (2006-08), he worked on a combination of matters like climate change and infectious diseases – “issues that cannot be confined to one border.” As Deputy Vice Minister in charge of Foreign Policy (2010-12), and Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs (2012-13), his work focused on reform of the permanent membership of the UN Security Council. He explains, “The world has dramatically changed since the UN’s conception, and it’s impossible to maintain the same system that was conceived 70 years ago. Japan believes it could contribute better to global security if it were allowed to be a permanent member of the Security Council. A great deal of effort has been devoted to move this process forward, but UN consensus is difficult to come by, so this task is ongoing.”

Roles followed as Chief Negotiator for the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement (2013-16). Mr Tsuruoka held extensive talks with external negotiating partners, travelling around the globe’s capitals in the hope of producing “mutual understanding.” A resounding success, the TPP was signed in February 2016.

When it comes to Japan’s relationship with the UK, the Ambassador proudly conveys that the two countries have over 100 years of diplomatic relations. “Today, I believe Japan and the UK have a solid basis for a good relationship, which is a commitment to democracy, free market economy and free trade. This is based on the rule of law, a principle that is universally common to both Japan and the UK,” he says.

Much of his work as Ambassador will be centred around the consequences of the referendum result, which Mr Tsuruoka describes as “a sign of the unpredictability facing the world today.” With his vast experience in trade negotiations, Mr Tsuruoka will be carefully observing the UK’s separation from the EU. “The UK and EU have been presented with a historically unprecedented challenge. By nature of the system, the UK has not required the trade expertise that it now needs, because these issues were handled in Brussels. First, the UK government must equip itself with the necessary capacity to address this. Furthermore,” he continues, “Japan is a major investor in the UK with over 1,000 companies operating here, generating over 140,000 jobs. But private companies must make a profit in order to continue operating here. My task is to work with the UK to ensure that a favourable business environment is maintained in order for private companies to continue to invest, employ their resources and be active in the market. We believe this is the common objective for the UK, EU and also Japan.”

This international cooperation is also essential to address what he believes is Japan’s greatest diplomatic challenge. “As the third largest economy in the world, we need to maintain this prosperous economy. We are not a major military power or a permanent member of the UN Security Council, but Japan cannot survive without a peaceful world or a free trading system. It is essential to keep this peaceful environment that allows countries like ours to prosper. But this can only be done by working with partners like the UK.”

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