The Fifteenth Meeting of the Japan – ASEAN Forum was held in Tokyo, Japan, on 27-28 May 1997.

The Meeting was attended by H.E. Mr. Kazuo Ogura, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan; H.E Pehin Dato Lim Jock Seng, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Brunei Darussalam; H.E. Mr. Nugroho Wisnumurti, Director-General for Political Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs, Indonesia; H.E. Ambassador Dato’ Abdul Majid bin Ahmad Khan, Director-General of ASEAN-Malaysia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia; H.E. Ms. Rosario G. Manalo, Undersecretary for International Economic Relations, Department of Foreign Affairs, the Philippines; H.E. Mr. Chew Tai Soo, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore; H.E. Mr. Saroj Chavanaviraj, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thailand; H.E. Mr. Nguyen Tam Chien, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Vietnam; and their delegates.

The Meeting was co-chaired by H.E. Mr. Kazuo Ogura and by H.E. Mr. Saroj Chavanaviraj, representing the country coordinator of the Japan-ASEAN Dialogue.

The Meeting discussed the relations between Japan and ASEAN, and a wide range of issues relating to the situations surrounding Japan and ASEAN.

The Japanese Co-Chairman expressed felicitation for the thirtieth anniversary of the foundation of ASEAN and congratulated them on their remarkable achievements through these years of cooperation in both political and economic fields. The Thai Co-Chairman was pleased to note that this year also marks the twentieth anniversary of Japan-ASEAN dialogue relations. In this context, both sides recognized that throughout these years, Japan and ASEAN have worked closely together to strengthen their relations and have contributed to peace, stability and prosperity of the region.

ASEAN welcomed the significance of the policy speech, presented by Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto in the Singapore Lecture of January 1997, and both sides expressed their commitments to open a new chapter of Japan – ASEAN relations, at the dawn of the 21st Century, by developing initiatives along the lines proposed in Prime Minister Hashimoto’s speech in order to further strengthen the partnership between Japan and ASEAN.


Political and Security Cooperation

ASEAN welcomed Prime Minister Hashimoto’s proposal to foster closer policy-level dialogue between Japan and ASEAN, particularly among leaders. In this regard, ASEAN informed the Meeting of the preparations for “ASEAN + 3″ and “ASEAN-Japan” Summits in conjunction with informal ASEAN Summit commemorating the thirtieth anniversary of its foundation which will be held in Kuala Lumpur in December this year. Both sides thus agreed to strengthen the present policy dialogue mechanism. In this context, Japan-ASEAN Forum, which will play the key role in this policy dialogue, will be held in principle annually, at some appropriate time prior to the ASEAN Post Ministerial Conference

The Meeting had in-depth discussions on regional political situations and stressed the importance of both sides cooperating even more closely to contribute to the progress of the ARF process.

International Trade and Related Issues

Regarding international economic issues, both sides exchanged their views on current discussions undertaken in such fora as APEC and WTO and confirmed strong commitments to work closely together in order to uphold free market principles and to promote an open trading system based on international rules. Both sides noted the importance and necessity of reforms to make our trading system more suitable to an increasingly competitive and interdependent global economic order as well as to sustainable development.

Both sides exchanged information on their respective economic situations as well as their economic cooperation with other countries. ASEAN explained the schedules of reduction of tariffs and other barriers among the members under the scheme of ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and other forms of economic cooperation such as ASEAN Industrial Cooperation (AICO) Scheme, which aim to enhance trade and investment climate in ASEAN countries, while making clear that the cooperation among ASEAN members will be promoted in accordance with relevant multinational trade arrangements.


Economic Cooperation in a New Era

The Meeting shared the view that Japan and ASEAN have been working closely for the development and prosperity of the region through useful and effective assistance provided hitherto by the Japanese Government. Both sides noted that there still remains need for continuous Japanese assistance. At the same time, the Meeting recognized that the changing situation in ASEAN economies calls for the differentiated approach in some cases, thus better responding to current economic needs in each country when providing Japan’s ODA. In this context, ASEAN welcomed Japan’s new assistance initiatives, particularly a support for involvement of private sector initiative in infrastructure development. Both sides agreed to continue discussions for even more efficient and thus effective ways of economic cooperation on the occasion of upcoming ASEAN-PMC or next Japan-ASEAN Forum.

Japan seen ASEAN as a model of successful development and proposed to have enhance programmes of South-South cooperation including tripartite cooperation with ASEAN. Both sides wished to collaborate closely in assistance to LDCs by providing ASEAN’s experiance to them.

Both sides agreed to review the mechanism of development assistance funds provided by Japan, including ASEAN – Japan Development Fund, by appropriate officials and agencies concerned, for the purpose of effective utilisation of those funds.


Cultural Exchange

Japan and ASEAN shared their intention to enhance their cultural relations so as to further upgrade overall Japan-ASEAN relationship. Both sides confirmed that cultural exchanges as well as exchanges of people in various levels undoubtedly contribute to creating a firm basis for deeper mutual understanding. Both sides noted the importance of enhancing youth exchange programmes, as well as cultural exchanges between Japan and ASEAN.

Japanese side explained the concept of the Multinational Cultural Mission, proposed by Prime Minister Hashimoto and both sides decided to coordinate closely in the preparation for this Mission.


Global Issues

While Japan-ASEAN cooperation deepens in many respects and the Asia-Pacific region is said to have a promising future, the Meeting recognized that there still exist many challenges to overcome in coming decades in order to secure bright future for generations to come. Problems concerning the environment, terrorism, narcotics, infectious diseases and social welfare are among the first group of challenges to be met. Both sides were firmly convinced of the needs to gradually move forward in their cooperation in these global issues, which should be addressed in a coordinated and systematic manner

On the issue of international terrorism ASEAN congratulated the Government of Japan and Peru on the resolution of the hostage crisis at the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in Lima and Japan promised to share the experiences of this case with ASEAN. Both sides welcomed that the discussions are now underway between Japan and ASEAN for the establishment of a network for an exchange of information and opinions in tackling international terrorism, another proposal of Prime Minister Hashimoto. Both sides agreed to continue the preparation for such networks with a view to contributing to the world’s efforts against terrorism.

The Meeting expressed satisfaction with the results of fruitful discussions and agreed to hold the next meeting in ASEAN. ASEAN expressed appreciation to japan for its excellent arrangements for the Meeting and its warmest hospitality extended to the delegations.