Tonight saw the Society for International Affairs (SOFIA) welcome another ambassador for an evening of political discourse. Her Excellency Ms Mari Miyoshi addressed the audience on issues regarding Japan’s activities with the UN, a contentious issue now that the country’s prime minister has decided to revise their pacifist constitution.
Before the talk began, reading material was distributed by the Japanese Embassy celebrating the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Ireland. Miyoshi began the talk by outlining five major issues she believes are at the forefront of international politics: North Korea, China, terrorism, globalisation and cyber security. Illustrating how these “threats are creeping up” on us, she emphasised how the “increased sense of uncertainty” had necessitated a need to “secure global balance”.
Miyoshi’s address took on two parts, the first describing Japan and Ireland’s shared values and history within the UN. She recounted with evident pleasure the good relations between the two countries, reminding us of the Japanese prime minister’s visit in 2013 and Hisako, Princess Takamado’s visit in January of this year. Back in Japan, she told us that there are 14 St Patrick’s Day parades around the country each year.
The ambassador herself began working in Japan’s foreign affairs ministry in 1980, a ministry that “put emphasis on having good relations with our neighbours”. This was a sentiment carried throughout the evening, as many talking points arose from Japan’s relations with China, North Korea, the US and more. A question posed by an audience member towards the end of the evening asked about China’s military aggression and how Japan’s attitude towards them might change.
Miyoshi replied, with a not-so-subtle hint of humour, “we can’t move” and that they “hope to cooperate”. Making an apt comparison to Ireland’s location between the UK and the US, she continued to draw ties between the two countries.
Miyoshi continued with an articulate and comprehensive reflection on the history of the UN, and reminded us of the “last caretaker of the League of Nations”, Irish diplomat Seán Lester. Working up to the present day, she showed images of Sadako Ogata, former High Commissioner for Refugees, and Mary Robinson, former High Commissioner for Human Rights. Evidently, Miyoshi is proud of both Japan and Ireland’s shared involvement in the UN. Emphasising this, she said “Japan has always tried to be a good student” of the UN.
The second part of her address focused on UN reform, most notably the reform of the UN Security Council, of which Japan has been a part of 11 times. Some of the key issues she raised were how much the council should be enlarged by and the extent to which its working methods should be reformed. Global community is necessary in tackling the issues that face the UN, like climate change and terrorism, and “Trump cannot solve these issues alone” according to Miyoshi. Her biggest message, she repeated, was for those in the audience to “work at the UN”.
SOFIA’s ambassador interviews are staples of Trinity’s societal calendar and this is their second ambassador of the term to visit. Miyoshi was a particularly impassioned speaker, answering questions with a quick wit that consistently sent small ripples of laughter around the theatre. The interesting perspective of Japan, in the midst of North Korea’s missile testing and China’s growing militarisation, was as enlightening as the similarities that Ireland and Japan share.