top of page
  • Writer's pictureKoki Toyama

Ishtar Diplomatic Series: A Spotlight on Jordan - Japan Relations

With the start of the new year, Ishtar MENA Analytics is exited to introduce its new diplomatic blog series. Designed to provide first-hand insight into the diplomatic relations within and around the MENA region, diplomatic series blog pieces highlight some of the manifold - and perhaps less well-known - aspects of a dynamic and challenging foreign policy landscape. They are exclusively written by young diplomats and members of the foreign service, and reflect the views of their authors. Ishtar MENA Analytics is committed to ensure a balanced and carefully selected authorship, but does not interfere in the contents of blog pieces.


The following piece on Japan-Jordan relations was written by Koki Toyama, second secretary at the Embassy of Japan in Jordan.


Japan and Jordan, which share common interests have developed their bilateral relations into a strategic partnership through close communication on issues of mutual concern. The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1954, which will mark its 70th anniversary next year.


There is a close link between the Japanese Imperial family and the Jordanian Royal family. His Majesty King Abdullah II has visited Japan more than ten times and His Majesty the Emperor, who was enthroned in 2019, visited Jordan twice in 1995 and 1999 as the Crown Prince. HM the King visited Nagasaki Peace Park and offered flowers to the victims of the nuclear bomb, and HM the Emperor has been to Umm Qais ruins, which is the vantage point overlooking Israel and Syria. Beyond mere formal visits, the two families have touched and appreciated the heart of the history and culture of each country.


Based on this high-level amicable bond, the two governments have been closely working on concrete issues in the international society. From the perspective of Japan, which hugely depends on the Middle East in terms of energy resources, the peace and stability in the region is critically important. Jordan, while being surrounded by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Israel and Palestine, has been maintaining its domestic stability, and is serving as the core of the peace and stability in this region. Japan has been providing Jordan with assistance to support its initiative of accommodating a large number of refugees, tackling several domestic issues and serving as a regional hub for the economic security and development. Especially, for the Japanese government, the importance of Jordan as a cornerstone of stability in the Middle East has increased more in February 2015, when the terrorist incident in Syria led to the murder of Japanese nationals. In response to this, the then Foreign Minister Kishida Fumio has listed “enhancing diplomacy towards stability and prosperity in the Middle East” among three pillars of Japan’s foreign policy (1).


Provision of humanitarian assistance constitutes an essential part to maintain stability in the region. Jordan now accommodates the second largest ratio of refugees to the population in the world (2), and its role is greatly appreciated in the international community. The influx of refugees has put an increasing burden on the Jordanian government and society, and the recent pandemic and the situation in Ukraine have heavily affected the country as a whole. As a part of its support, Japan has disbursed 100 million USD in emergency assistance loan to help Jordan rebuild its economy in 2021. More than providing mere assistance to the Kingdom, a corner stone of the program is the “Investment in People”-approach, which is to be found among the Kono Four Principles, the fundamental principles of Japan’s Middle East policy. Through the international organizations such as UNHCR as well, Japan has been supporting refugee community centers by providing vocational training as well as necessary protection services such as counselling and mental health support. At the grassroots level, the Japanese government provides support for three Japanese NGOs to carry out economic and social development projects and emergency humanitarian assistance to Syrian refugees.


Materializing sustainable economic prosperity requires cooperation beyond borders, especially for a country which is not large like Jordan. It is essential for such a country to integrate its economy with neighboring countries. Jordan has recently put more efforts to serve as a regional hub in the Middle East for the economic security and development as can be seen in several projects such as transmitting gas from Egypt to Lebanon through Syria as well as electricity from Egypt to Iraq. Appreciating Jordan’s efforts, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has dispatched experts to provide technical cooperation in the field of internationally connectable power grids with neighboring countries and provided customs equipment for border and airport facilities. In addition, Japan, Egypt and Jordan have held the trilateral consultations at the level of director generals twice (3) in 2022, where the future regional cooperation was discussed.


The two countries are working hand-in-hand on regional issues as well. As the previous Foreign Ministers of Japan such as Mr. Aso (4) and Mr. Kono (5) emphasized in their speeches, Japan sees the Palestine issue as an indispensable element for peace and stability in the Middle East. Japan has been making efforts to facilitate the Middle East peace process through confidence building among relevant parties. A representative example is the initiative called “Corridor for Peace and Prosperity” launched in 2006. This is the mid- and long-term effort of Japan to support economic and social development in Palestine through regional cooperation among Palestine, Israel, Jordan and Japan. This initiative aims to contribute to achieving the economic independence of Palestine. Its flagship project is establishing the Jericho Agro-Industrial Park (JAIP), where Palestinian companies and employees are working, and facilitating the distribution of its products to the Gulf region via Jordan. The role of Jordan which is able to talk with both Palestine and Israel, is imperative in this initiative, and Japan closely coordinates its efforts with it.


Creating “the corridor of tourism” to bring more tourists to this region is also one of the essential elements of this initiative. Palestine, Jordan and Israel are rich in tourist attractions, and promoting the sector of tourism can not only stimulate the respective economies but also lead to the regional cooperation in this sector. Inside Jordan, Japan has been contributing in several cities including Salt and Petra. In Salt, JICA has helped the city develop as the ecomuseum, which attaches an importance to the original culture and history of residents and place, leading to the registration of Salt as a World Heritage Site in 2021. In Petra, the Petra Museum was constructed with the cooperation of the Japanese government, and currently a Tourism Development Master Plan in Petra region is being developed to make the economy of the region more resilient and sustainable.


Whether the stability can be secured also depends on the capability of military force. The two countries signed the memorandum on defense cooperation and exchanges in 2016, to enhance mutual support. Alongside, they have been exchanging views on bilateral security cooperation and regional issues through the Politico-Military Dialogue, which were held four times (6) by the end of 2022. Needless to say, a smooth military-level communication is of great importance to protect Japanese nationals not only inside Jordan but also in the Middle Eastern region. In December 2022, in cooperation with Jordan Armed Forces, the Noncombatant Evacuation Operation training was implemented by Japan Self-Defense forces and Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under the scenario of an emergency situation which requires rescuing Japanese nationals in one country (7). The exercise, held for the first time in the Middle East, has helped Japan to be better prepared for such contingency in any country in the region.


These are examples of inter-governmental cooperation, but they would not have been materialized and maintained without people-to-people communication at the grassroot level. To this date, interactions such as cultural exchanges have taken place in various ways. In an academic field, several Jordanian students are sponsored by the government of Japan to earn a degree in a Japanese university every year. As for cultural exchanges, the Japanese film festival is held every year to screen Japanese movies including anime. Besides, the first Japan autumn festival initiated by Jordanians took place in October 2022, where the chef of Okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) came from Hiroshima to cook the Japanese local cuisine in front of Jordanian people and served to them. These steady efforts have been promoting mutual understanding and adding to the foundations of the bilateral relationship.


As can be seen in the aforementioned examples, Japan and Jordan have been closely engaging with each other through multi-layered channels from the Royal family to the general public, which has not only decreased the risk of misunderstanding but also expanded the room for the bilateral cooperation. On top of this, at the regional and international platforms, the two countries, sharing the common interests, have been well coordinating their efforts in a multi-faceted manner on the basis of the solid bond and contributing to solving international issues. However, there is potential yet to be realized. Amid many unprecedented crises occurring in the world, the role Japan and Jordan can play together is expanding. I am certain that Japan will keep making the utmost efforts to further enhance the bilateral relationship, paving the way for the peace and stability not only in the Middle East but also in the world.



Koki Toyama entered the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan in 2017 and is currently a Second Secretary at the political and cultural desk at the Embassy of Japan in Jordan. He studied economics at the University of Tokyo and Political Economy of the Middle East at King's College London. Koki lives and works in Amman, Jordan.



References:



(1) 3-Pillar Foreign Policy in Response to the Terrorist Incident Regarding the Murder of Japanese(https://www.mofa.go.jp/press/release/press3e_000031.html )



(3) The Second Japan-Egypt-Jordan Trilateral Consultations on the Middle East (https://www.mofa.go.jp/press/release/press3e_000447.html )


(4) Middle East Policy As I See It: An Address by H.E. Mr. Taro Aso, Minister for Foreign Affairs Organized by the Middle East Research Institute of Japan (https://www.mofa.go.jp/region/middle_e/address0702.html )


(5) Speech by Foreign Minister Kono at the first-ever Japan-Arab Political dialogue (https://www.mofa.go.jp/files/000288921.pdf )


(6) The Fourth Japan-Jordan Politico-Military (PM) Dialogue (https://www.mofa.go.jp/press/release/press3e_000522.html )


(7) Carrying Out the Noncombatant Evacuation Operation Training (https://www.jordan.emb-japan.go.jp/files/100435769.pdf )

47 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page