Shigeki Sumi: “You don't need to worry about the unity of G7 on is­sue of Ukraine”

“You don’t need to worry about the unity of G7 on is­sue of Ukraine”

The Ukrainian Week - - CONTENTS - In­ter­viewed by Yuriy La­payev

Am­bas­sador Ex­tra­or­di­nary and Plenipo­ten­tiary of Ja­pan to Ukraine on the de­vel­op­ment of busi­ness ties be­tween our coun­tries and the place of Tokyo in the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in the Pa­cific re­gion

The Ukrainian Week dis­cussed with the Am­bas­sador Ex­tra­or­di­nary and Plenipo­ten­tiary of Ja­pan to Ukraine the de­vel­op­ment of busi­ness ties be­tween our coun­tries, ways to im­prove the im­age of the Ukraine and the place of Tokyo in the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in the Pa­cific re­gion.

Your Ex­cel­lency Mr. Sumi, in 2017, the Ja­pan In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion Agency (JICA) of­fice opened in Kyiv. What ex­actly is it fo­cus­ing on in Ukraine?

– In the end of last year, the JICA has opened its of­fice in Ukraine for the first time. They are fo­cused on sev­eral pro­jects. For most now, the Ja­pan and Ukraine have been car­ry­ing out big pro­jects such as the Bort­ny­chi Sewage Treat­ment Plant Mod­ern­iza­tion Pro­ject. That is a very big pro­ject, which would cost $1.1 bil­lion. So surely in or­der to ex­e­cute such big pro­ject we need of­fice here to look af­ter.

Ja­pan has been im­ple­ment­ing a lot of tech­ni­cal as­sis­tances. It means to de­velop Ukraine’s ca­pa­bil­i­ties in many fields, such as Ukrainian Pub­lic broad­cast­ing train­ing, which JICA is con­duct­ing now. They are work­ing on in­creas­ing of qual­ity, par­tic­u­larly in two ar­eas. First is the ed­u­ca­tional pro­gram, be­cause in Ja­pan NHK has a won­der­ful pro­gram for ed­u­ca­tional pur­poses. So the JICA send ex­perts to Ukraine for sev­eral times, it’s last for about one month here each time. They give train­ing on how to make good ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams. And in the case of the emer­gency you have to have a good net­work. For ex­am­ple, in case of Ja­pan, when the earth­quake hap­pens or heavy rain, like re­cently cause a lot ca­su­al­ties and NHK plays a big role to tell the peo­ple what they should do, whether they should stay at home or need to evac­u­ate. We call this emer­gency broad­cast­ing. It will cover all ter­ri­tory of Ukraine. Also the JICA gives the tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance for per­son­nel. So I hope that would re­ally up­grade the qual­ity of the pub­lic broad­cast­ing in Ukraine.

There are many other pro­grams, which JICA is con­duct­ing. In the last two-three years, so called de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion pro­ject in which JICA ex­perts came to Ukraine to train how to in­crease trans­parency. The same time the

JICA in­vites Ukrainian politi­cians to Ja­pan. As you know, the won­der­ful fruits of this train­ing are the in­tro­duc­ing of gov­ern­ment fi­nanc­ing law for the po­lit­i­cal par­ties’ ac­tiv­i­ties, which was made by Verkhovna Rada. It is very sim­i­lar to Ja­panese sys­tem. That means that as a party or politi­cian you can make a cam­paign no mat­ter where are you com­ing from, a poor fam­ily or rich – you still have a chance. Both for the Em­bassy of Ja­pan and for the Ukrainian gov­ern­ment it’s nec­es­sary to have JICA of­fice here in or­der to im­ple­ment those nu­mer­ous pro­jects.

As we dis­cussed be­fore, ma­jor part of Ja­pan’s low-in­ter­est lend­ing and fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to Ukraine ac­counts for the pro­ject to mod­ern­ize Bort­ny­chi Sewage Treat­ment Plant – prepa­ra­tion for the first stage is be­ing fi­nal­ized now in Kyiv. Are there any plans for more sim­i­lar pro­jects across Ukraine, or will this de­pends on the suc­cess of this one?

– First of all the Ja­panese as­sis­tance, par­tic­u­larly the loan pro­jects, has a big ad­van­tage, be­cause the JICA con­duct the pro­jects in the com­bi­na­tion of the fi­nan­cial as­pect. That means it is not sep­a­rated. For ex­am­ple, when you con­duct such big pro­ject, then the Ukrainian gov­ern­ment needs a loan and has to ten­der for the pro­jects. But in many cases it is sep­a­rated, com­pa­nies are ready to build some­thing, but it’s quite another story, who will give money for that. In case of JICA it is com­bined, so Ukrainian gov­ern­ment can dis­cuss in one pro­ject the es­ti­mates of a cost and who will give the fi­nances. Ja­panese loan has sev­eral ad­van­tages: it is long-term, it has a long grace pe­riod and the in­ter­est is low. So it’s much ef­fec­tive to use JICA as­sis­tance rather than get­ting money on com­mer­cial bases. The Bort­ny­chi pro­ject is un­der­way and it’s do­ing very well. Hope­fully, very soon there will be a pub­lic ten­der, which makes a de­ci­sion on which com­pany will ac­tu­ally do this. And some­time next year the real con­struc­tion and ren­o­va­tion work will start.

What we are dis­cussing doesn’t stop there. We al­ready have talks about pos­si­ble pro­ject for a bridge in Myko­layv. Myko­layv is a big hub for South­ern Ukraine, so if there is a new bridge, which crosses the river, will en­hance so much the ca­pac­ity of the port. And the waste man­age­ment is also very im­por­tant. In the past Ukrainian peo­ple thought, “We have waste ar­eas, where we can just dump it”. But you can’t con­tinue on that for many rea­sons. Nowa­days the en­vi­ron­men­tal as­pects are im­por­tant. JICA is dis­cussing now, what is a best way for Ukraine to deal with the waste. So if that could lead to another pro­ject, which would be another great one.

How much in­ter­est is there for Ukraine as busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment, ex­porter and a mar­ket for prod­ucts in Ja­pan? Have you seen any growth of Ja­panese busi­ness pres­ence in Ukraine in the past years?

– For­tu­nately, now the Ja­panese busi­ness is aware of busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties in Ukraine and that is good news. I al­ways tell busi­ness peo­ple, both from Ukraine and from Ja­pan, that you have sev­eral ad­van­tages. For mostly is a level of ed­u­ca­tion, it is very high in Ukraine, be­cause every­body can read and write. And also the wages are rel­a­tively low as for Europe. Thirdly, be­cause of Free trade agree­ment be­tween EU and Ukraine, so you can pro­duce some­thing here and ex­port to EU mar­ket with­out hav­ing any tar­iffs. So these are few ad­van­tages the Ukraine re­ally has. Based upon these ad­van­tages in a past few years new busi­ness, in­vest­ment came to Ukraine. Yazaki com­pany, which makeswiring de­vices for cars and we are calling it wire-har­ness, is here in your coun­try. Since Maid an on top of Yazaki, Fu­jikura, another au­to­mo­bile parts com­pany, which also make wires-har­ness, has started a big busi­ness, a fac­tory here. And also the Su­mit­omo Elec­tric came here few years ago. Al­though Ukraine is very well known in Ja­pan as an agri­cul­tural coun­try. One com­pany, called Third wave Cor­po­ra­tion, started here an agri­cul­tural busi­ness by get­ting land in lease. Now they pro­duce many agri­cul­tural prod­ucts like sun­flower seeds. What the Ja­panese com­pa­nies are re­ally pay­ing at­ten­tion is IT-busi­ness. Be­cause in Ja­pan we have a great de­mand for IT-ex­perts and Ukraine is very ad­vanced in this area. The prob­lem is a lan­guage. Be­cause the Ja­panese side want at least the Ukraini­ans, who speaks very good English. Of course, it re­mains to be seen, but we have a re­ally good fu­ture in this area. On


top of that trade is in­creas­ing, espe­cially the sales of Ja­panese cars. Af­ter Maidan it has dropped sharply, but now it is com­ing back. And this is a sign of re­cov­ery of Ukrainian econ­omy. We see that Ja­panese cars like Nis­san, Toy­ota, Mit­subishi, Honda are very pop­u­lar in Ukraine. Among other Euro­pean coun­tries the share of Ja­panese cars is high, above the 30%.

2017 was the year of Ja­pan in Ukraine. One of its land­mark pro­jects was the Imag­i­nary Trav­eler ex­hi­bi­tion at Art Arse­nal in Kyiv. How could Ukraine make it­self more vis­i­ble to Ja­panese so­ci­ety – what are your tips?

– For­tu­nately, the Ukrainian peo­ple al­ready have very good im­age on Ja­pan. And re­cent ex­hi­bi­tion in Arse­nal, “The Imag­i­nary Trav­eler: Ja­pan" at­tracted a huge num­ber of vis­i­tors. For Ukraini­ans Ja­pan is a pro­jec­tion of very modern with IT and au­to­mo­tive busi­ness, but also keep­ing the good old tra­di­tions, such as judo, karate, tea cer­e­mony. From their part, the Ukraini­ans need a

lit­tle bit ef­forts to en­hance their im­age in Ja­pan. They are al­ready known among Ja­panese peo­ple. It is a bread bas­ket of Europe. But Ukraine be­came in­de­pen­dent state only in 1991, so still Ja­panese peo­ple are con­fused Ukraine with the Soviet time. There are many things, which are ac­tu­ally Ukrainian, but they think this is a Rus­sian prod­uct. For ex­am­ple, in the field of cook­ing if you ask peo­ple from whom coun­try is borsch orig­i­nated, the half of Ja­panese would say that it is Rus­sia. Even the re­li­gious means. We know about Kyiv Rus, which ac­cepted Or­tho­doxy and was bap­tized. Only af­ter it goes to Rus­sia and Moscow. How­ever, many peo­ple think that this is a Rus­sian Ortho­dox and it has started in Moscow rather than Kyiv. So you need some ad­di­tional ef­forts, spend a lit­tle more on pro­mo­tion to let Ja­panese peo­ple know your his­tory bet­ter. But not only his­tory. Also some modern is­sues like opera or bal­let. Kyiv Bal­let and Opera come to Ja­pan al­most ev­ery year. This year Kyiv Bal­let has come even two times. The stan­dard and qual­ity of Kyiv Opera and Bal­let are the same as Bol­shoy The­atre and Mari­in­skiy. But un­for­tu­nately, Rus­sians are very well known in Ja­pan, and Ukraine has lack of pro­mo­tion. The same is for busi­nesses. I am al­ways telling your lead­ers, that to raise a good im­age of Ukrainian peo­ple in Ja­pan is very im­por­tant. Mak­ing Ja­panese peo­ple re­al­ize the im­por­tance of Ukraine is needed.



At the lat­est G7 summit, Don­ald Trump made re­marks on the need to bring Rus­sia back to the club. This po­si­tion is sup­ported by Italy’s new gov­ern­ment. How do you ex­pect this de­vel­op­ment to af­fect the po­si­tion of G7 on Rus­sia’s re­turn to the club and sanc­tions against Rus­sia for its il­le­gal ac­tions in Ukraine?

– First of all, any de­ci­sions of G7 are made by con­sen­sus. And there is no con­sen­sus to bring­ing Rus­sia back to G7. I do not think there is any chance for Rus­sia so far. Of course the po­si­tion of Ja­panese gov­ern­ment is to en­gage with Rus­sia, it is im­por­tant not just to iso­late Rus­sia, but also talk for the set­tle­ment of the is­sue of Ukraine. And I don’t think this could af­fect the po­si­tion of G7 on Ukrainian is­sue. If you look at the com­mu­nique, it is clear. Though Mr. Trump said that US could with­draw it, what he said was about eco­nomic area. And on Ukrainian is­sue the po­si­tion of US is the same that re­flected in a state­ment, that Crimea’s an­nex­a­tion is il­le­gal and G7 never ac­cept it. And also the im­por­tance of the Minsk agree­ments re­mains un­changed as Rus­sia should stop mil­i­tary and eco­nomic as­sis­tance to the rebels in eastern Ukraine. I don’t think there is any change among G7 to this area. On top of that, we have in Ukraine the G7 Am­bas­sadors' Sup­port Group. This group is very ac­tive at work­ing in close har­mony. With other Am­bas­sadors, we meet some­times twice a week. We dis­cuss al­most all agen­das re­gard­ing the re­forms. I think we are very united; you don’t need to worry about the unity of G7 on is­sue of Ukraine.

Af­ter the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump US-Ja­pan re­la­tions started at a high note. Now, we see grow­ing dif­fer­ences be­tween the US and Ja­pan on trade is­sues. This seems to in­ten­sify Ja­pan-China eco­nomic in­ter­ac­tion and turn Ja­pan into a re­gional free-trade cham­pion. How do you ex­pect these de­vel­op­ments to af­fect Ja­pan-US re­la­tions over­all? Do you ex­pect them to im­pact Ja­pan-US se­cu­rity al­liance?

– Since Pres­i­dent Trump came to of­fice our re­la­tions are very good. Ja­panese Prime min­is­ter Abe has met him per­son­ally al­ready seven times and has nu­mer­ous phone con­ver­sa­tions. There is a very close sort of com­mu­ni­ca­tion es­tab­lished be­tween our lead­ers. Of course, there is a dis­cus­sion on is­sue of trade, be­cause some peo­ple say that why Ja­pan is keep to ex­port­ing so many prod­ucts to US rather to im­port­ing. But you should look also at in­vest­ment. The United States have nu­mer­ous Ja­panese com­pa­nies, nu­mer­ous fac­to­ries. You should look on the econ­omy over­all. Ja­panese con­tri­bu­tion into US econ­omy is enor­mous. So I’m not very much wor­ried about this trade is­sue.

And with re­gard to China, for Ja­pan it’s fa­vor­able sit­u­a­tion that China will be­come eco­nom­i­cally more pros­per­ous. And that is a very good sig­nal to the world. But, of course, what we are say­ing is that China needs to make it busi­ness in a more trans­par­ent man­ner. And then Ja­pan is work­ing on the free trade agree­ment for Asia-Pa­cific re­gion and also a FTA with China and South Korea. But even in that case US-Ja­panese al­liance is a key fac­tor, be­cause that brings sta­bil­ity to the re­gion. Like in case of North Korea, it’s very im­por­tant for Ja­pan to keep a strong Al­liance with the US.

Just re­cently, there were ac­tive dis­cus­sions of Prime Min­is­ter Abe’s in­ten­tions to change Ja­pan’s post-war Con­sti­tu­tion to abol­ish the con­sti­tu­tional ban on Ja­pan hav­ing a stand­ing mil­i­tary. In the cur­rent se­cu­rity en­vi­ron­ment of grow­ing se­cu­rity risks and in­creas­ingly un­cer­tain se­cu­rity al­liances, is the ap­petite for that change grow­ing in Ja­pan – in so­ci­ety and po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment?

– The Ja­panese Con­sti­tu­tion adopted in 1946, so it’s long time ago. Surely, the world’s sit­u­a­tion has changed since then. That’s why Mr. Abe made a pro­posal; it’s a high time to re­new at Ja­panese Con­sti­tu­tion. Here is no time or dead­line. And in the area of se­cu­rity and what we call Ar­ti­cle 9, we have al­ready the self-de­fense force and Mr. Abe still thinks that there is a need to have more dis­cus­sions to what ex­tend the Ja­panese self-de­fense force can do. If we say that self-de­fense force can do the work only for self­de­fense pur­pose, we need a clear­ance what that means. If East Asia, where Ja­pan is lo­cated, be­comes un sta­bi­lized due to the de­vel­op­ment of mis­siles by North Korea, how can we deal with this is­sue; whether this present Con­sti­tu­tion is good enough or not. Mr. Abe sug­gested dis­cussing ac­tively the is­sue of Con­sti­tu­tion, be­cause the gov­ern­ment is re­spon­si­ble for pro­vid­ing safety and se­cu­rity to the peo­ple of Ja­pan and the sit­u­a­tion in Asia is not the same as it was 60-70 years ago. Still we don’t know whether we would change it, but his sug­ges­tion make the dis­cus­sions not taboo any­more, and the is­sue needs to be dis­cussed among the peo­ple. And we will see whether we will have a con­sen­sus to change the Con­sti­tu­tion or not. Ja­panese peo­ple do rec­og­nize the im­por­tance, at least to dis­cuss this is­sue.

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