Mr. Matsubara is the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan in Luxembourg
AMCHAM: Mr. Ambassador, please introduce yourself to our members so they better understand your background and the values which guide you.
I come from the private sector with 39 years’ experience of insurance business, which focuses on delivering risk solutions to clients and providing continuity in times of business disruption. I had several foreign assignments including Los Angeles, USA, Shanghai, China and Sao Paulo, Brazil. I was in Tokyo before I came to Luxembourg as the newly appointed Ambassador last October. I have been committed to carrying out our business activities fairly, honestly and transparently and I hope this policy will help me make up for my lack of firsthand experience as an ambassador. I am very much excited about the challenges ahead of me.
What were your first observations about Luxembourg when you and your wife first arrived?
Luxembourg is a country of multicultural richness that we immediately found very welcoming. From the very first day, my wife and I were impressed by the friendship and kindness offered to us by the people we met. I believe that open-mindedness and a positive attitude is a winning trait of the people here. Luxembourg has a good mix of urban areas and nature, with its forests and vast green spaces even in the midst of cities. Moreover, I was fascinated by the star-studded night sky, which is rather rare in Tokyo.
Please explain to our readers the experience of presenting your diplomatic credentials to the Luxembourg Grand Duke.
I was of course extremely nervous when I presented my credentials to H.R.H. the Grand Duke on October 26. I was not familiar with diplomatic protocol and I needed to pay the closest of attention to the procedure. Furthermore, H.R.H. the Grand Duke was very well knowledgeable about political and economic issues in Japan, which led to a very delightful discussion. I found myself fascinated by His charming personality.
What objectives are you hoping to accomplish during your tenure in Luxembourg?
Japan and Luxembourg have been successful in maintaining a long-term relationship with close exchanges between the Imperial House and the Grand-Ducal family. Last year, H.E. Prime Minister Xavier Bettel visited Japan twice, although one of his visits was on the sad occasion of the state funeral of the former Japanese Prime Minister ABE Shinzo. Prime Minister Bettel furthermore attended a summit meeting with our Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio. At this meeting, Luxembourg and Japan reinforced their commitment to strengthen economic relations, focusing on three areas: space, financial and pharmaceutical sectors. A next milestone highlighting our friendship will be the Expo 2025 Osaka, Kansai, Japan, and we are very much looking forward to the Luxembourg pavilion, which will demonstrate Luxembourg’s know-how in circular economy. Taking advantage of this opportunity, I would like to organize a variety of activities to enhance economic and cultural relationships for the future. I want to further promote exchanges for younger generations by way of national scholarships and joint research. Luxembourg has successfully transformed itself into a thriving hub for the financial sector, and is a great example of economic diversification. Space and Fintech sectors are characteristic examples of such pursuits. Japan, I believe, has a lot to learn from their future-oriented attitude, and focusing on developing exchanges between younger generations is, to me, the right way to go forward.
Please share with our readers the perspective of your government on the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine and how Japan is involved.
Russia’s ongoing aggression against Ukraine is an outrageous act undermining the very foundation of the international order. Unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force cannot be tolerated under any circumstances. Therefore, we must steadily implement assistance to Ukraine and sanctions against Russia in order to restore the peaceful world order based on the rule of law of international law, including the UN Charter. Since the start of the aggression, Japan has announced a total of US$7.6 billion of assistance to Ukraine, including about US$1.6 billion of humanitarian assistance, assistance for recovery and reconstruction, as well as financial support. While demonstrating leadership as the G7 Presidency this year, the Government of Japan will continue to provide support for and stand by the people of Ukraine in cooperation with the international community.
What sanctions has Japan imposed on Russia and North Korea who currently challenge the existing world order?
Japan is implementing tough sanctions against Russia with the aim to stop its invasion of Ukraine. The sanctions are financial and trade related, and are also designed to reduce reliance on Russia for energy. Japan will continue to align its sanctions with the international community, including the G7 countries, to strengthen diplomatic and economic pressure on Russia.
Since last year, North Korea has intensified its escalatory actions through a record number of ballistic missile launches that pose a serious and imminent threat to the security of Japan, as well as to the entire international community. Japan has strengthened sanctions against North Korea to seek comprehensive resolutions of issues of concern such as nuclear and missiles issues. Several entities involved in nuclear, missile development, which is prohibited by the Security Council Resolutions, will be additionally subjected to asset freezing based on the Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Act. We will continue to work toward the complete denuclearization of North Korea in coordination with the international community.
Please explain the Japanese perspective on the territorial disagreement between Japan and Russia concerning the disputed pacific islands.
The Northern Territories are islands over which Japan has sovereignty, and are an inherent part of the territory of Japan. Japan-Russia relations are currently in a difficult situation due to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, but there is no change to the Government of Japan’s determination to keep our policy of resolving the Northern Territories issue and concluding a peace treaty through negotiations with Russia. However, we are currently not in a situation in which we can speak about the prospects for the peace treaty negotiations.
What is the current state of prosperity of the Japanese economy and what steps are being taken to enhance Japan’s national prosperity?
The Japanese economy in 2022 has recovered to its pre-pandemic levels in terms of consumer spending and private sector capital investment. On the other hand, global prices continue to rise and an economic slowdown is globally expected, which is not only a challenge for Japan, but also worldwide. More than ever, it is necessary to stimulate the economy by encouraging Japanese companies to expand their operations overseas and by attracting investment to Japan. I am confident that the recent signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation between Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and the Luxembourg economic agencies will further develop trade and investment between the two countries. Furthermore, as mentioned above, we hope to promote economic relations between Luxembourg and Japan in the lead-up to the Expo 2025 to be held in Osaka, Kansai, Japan.
How important is the military alliance with the United States to ensure the safety and prosperity of Japan and how has it changed over the years?
Due to the security environment in the regions surrounding Japan, which is becoming increasingly unstable, it is indispensable to strengthen the Japan-U.S. Security Arrangements and to enhance the deterrence of the Japan-U.S. Alliance. This is necessary not only for the peace and security of Japan, but also for the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region. The strong Japan-U.S. relationship has a significant role to play in regional peace and stability and beyond. It is important to work together to ensure peace and prosperity in the region and in the international community, by further strengthening the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance and promoting efforts to realize a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.”
How is the current situation regarding the exchange of universities and schools between Japan and Luxembourg?
The relationship between Japan and Luxembourg in this field has been significantly revitalized after the COVID-19 crisis. Sophia University, Waseda University, Kyoto University, Hokkaido University and Tohoku University have partnership agreements with the University of Luxembourg and they regularly exchange students with Luxembourg. Most notably, Sophia University has its branch office in Belval and works as a hub of information for Luxembourgish students who want to study in Japan. Looking at the secondary education level, the Lycée Classique de Diekirch and Kijimadaira Junior High School in Nagano have restarted their exchange program after three years of pause and the students from Diekirch visited Kijimadaira in October last year. The schools have kept a close relationship for over 20 years. Furthermore, there is also another new developing relationship: several Japanese language students from the Lycée de Garçons de Luxembourg participated in Japanese language seminars in Higashikawa in Hokkaido last summer. I hope that these active exchanges will help the younger generation of both countries to learn from each other as well as to further develop our bilateral friendship.