Yohei Sasakawa

Yohei Sasakawa
The Nippon Foundation

Your Excellency President Enkhbayar, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It is a great honor to be given this opportunity to share a few words in celebration for the 10th Anniversary of the establishment of the Mongolian Development Research Center. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to President Enkhbayar, Chairman Batbayar, members of the National Mongolian Ulan Bator Forum Executive Committee, and all those who have contributed to the running of the center since its founding.

Last August, I had the opportunity to meet with President Enkhbayar. We talked about the history and culture of our two countries, and about how to maintain the good relationship that exists between Mongolia and Japan as we move into the future. I remember that it was a delicate time when misunderstandings over cultural differences between Japan and Mongolia, with respect to Sumo wresting, were causing friction between the two countries. Fortunately, I was able to meet and speak with His Excellency and I believe this helped to achieve understanding between the two countries. I was deeply impressed, not only by the president's patriotism and his passion to develop his country, but also by his profound knowledge and understanding of the surrounding countries, including Japan. His appreciation of Japanese writings such as Daisetsu Suzuki’s “Zen and Japanese Culture” was a clear sign of His Excellency’s deep understanding and knowledge of the cultures of the surrounding Asian countries.

Since the end of the Cold War, Mongolia has found its place in Asia, and has begun to participate actively in building political and economic relationships throughout the region. I believe that the international community is in agreement that the democratic reforms and market economy introduced by the president have brought significant change to Mongolian society and raised the living standard of the people. The exceptional foreign policy that he has been promoting has also been well received.

In their long history of interaction, Japan, Mongolia, Russia, China, and Korea have built close ties, mutually influencing each other. Of course, there have sometimes been periods of antagonism. However, if we take a step back and look at history from a broader perspective, we can see that these differences and confrontations have clearly triggered mutual development and have laid the foundations for cooperation. These foundations have given rise to this gathering of experts and intellectuals from around North East Asia, to seek new relationships among countries that share so much in terms of culture and traditions.

In the 21st century, the world has become increasingly globalized, and information technology has become an essential component of everyday life. At the same time, we are faced with environmental degradation, global warming, infectious diseases, refugee-related issues and other problems that transcend national boundaries.

Security around the globe is, as always, under constant threat from terrorism. At the same time, military expansion, including nuclear armament, is becoming ever more complex and widespread.

These problems cannot be solved by the efforts of one country alone.

The situation in North Korea is unsettling the whole of North Eastern Asia; therefore, bringing stability to this region is a vital factor in guaranteeing its peace and security. The question of nuclear development in North Korea is currently being addressed through six-party talks. While some progress is being made on the road to non-proliferation, it appears there is still a long way to go before a real and lasting solution can be found.

I am convinced that, without close partnership and the establishment of cooperative regional mechanisms among all countries concerned, there can be no improvement in North East Asia's situation.

As has been pointed out by several speakers in last year’s forum, there are still no region-wide cooperative political or economic mechanisms at work in North East Asia, although such mechanisms are clearly needed. In regions where the last vestiges of World War II and the Cold War remain, it is important to establish a multi-country framework through which we can build mechanisms of regional cooperation.

The problems on the Korean Peninsula represent a vital security issue in North East Asia. Mongolia, which has drawn attention from around the world because it enjoys a good relationship with both North Korea and South Korea, will surely play a significant role in the establishment of a regional cooperative mechanism by acting as a mediator in North East Asian security.

For a number of years, The Nippon Foundation has supported Mongolia's efforts in becoming self-sufficient and coexisting with the international community, while paying close attention the country's role in North East Asia. In order for Mongolia to achieve its goals, we at The Nippon Foundation believe it is necessary to nurture young people with outstanding potential, who will be the leaders of the next generation of Mongolians. With this in mind, we created The Ryoichi Sasakawa Young Leaders' Fellowship Fund at the Academy of Management in 1993 and have supported the education and development of over 240 young leaders to date. I sincerely hope that these exceptional students will become the driving force in creating a regional mechanism for collaboration.

Mongolia has also been very successful in reaching out to the world, through the WHO, to promote the value of traditional medicine. Last August, an international conference on traditional medicine hosted by the WHO and The Nippon Foundation was held in Ulan Bator. At the conference, we introduced a joint program between the Nippon Foundation and Mongolia to supply the nomadic people of Mongolia with traditional medicine. The program utilizes a 300-year-old Japanese methodology whereby "medicine boxes" that contain traditional Mongolian medicine are distributed to individual households and the families pay only for the medicine they use from the box. Currently over 10,000 households are using this service and has achieved an astonishing 100% recovery rate for the medicine fees. This bilateral project has received international acclaim as a highly successful model case.

With impetus provided from Japan, a country sharing similar cultural traits with Mongolia, the people of Mongolia have rediscovered the benefits of traditional medicine, and its power to improve the level of healthcare.

This is a success model of collaboration between two nations. It is based upon a strong foundation of mutual trust and similar value orientations. People from Mongolia and Japan have worked together. They have maximized each other’s knowledge and experience and resolved a crucial health issue.

I firmly believe that this powerful and flexible model can be used to address the security issues of Northeast Asia. With it, we can build a regional framework for cooperation. Mutual trust and a shared sense of commitment are the keys to its success.

Needless to say, relationships between countries are not quickly or easily formed. It takes a large investment of energy and time to build trust and a shared commitment. However, the bonds that exist between people on an individual level can be used to build an international society where we can all live in peace and prosperity.

Our mission at The Nippon Foundation is to nurture human resources and create relationships in which people help each other. There is an old saying that claims, “It takes a decade to nurture trees, but a century to nurture human beings.” When cultivating relationships between countries, even more time may be necessary.

The Mongolian Development Research Center is in its 10th year since its establishment. During the past 10 years, the center has produced human resources with long-term vision and an international perspective, who have reported discoveries from their research activities to the world. It is my hope that the participants in this program continue to contribute to the peace and prosperity of North East Asia, transcending national borders building good bilateral relationships.

Let me end by saying that I hope for the continued progress and success of the Mongolian Development Research Center.

Thank you.

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