Your Excellency Datuk Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi,

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia,

Distinguished Foreign Ministers of the ASEAN countries, and dialogue partners,

Ladies and gentlemen,

1. Introduction

I would first like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to the ASEAN member states on the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). I would also like to express my deep appreciation to the Government of Malaysia which has done so much to ensure this meeting’s success, to the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand for playing the role of a coordinating country for Japan, and to other officials from ASEAN attending this meeting.

For the past three decades, the countries of ASEAN have achieved spectacular development, while maintaining both their diversity and harmony. The international environment surrounding ASEAN has also undergone tremendous change over this period. The conflicts in Southeast Asia during the Cold War era have become things of the past. Following the entry of Vietnam into ASEAN, Laos, and Myanmar have now officially become new members of ASEAN. Japan hopes that expansion of ASEAN membership will contribute to the peace and stability of Southeast Asia and that it will lead ASEAN to play an even greater role in the international community.

With regard to Cambodia, in order to avoid backsliding in the peace that was achieved through tremendous efforts of the international community including Japan, the Government of Japan would like to continue to work with Cambodia’s leaders for ameliorating the situation and Japan is prepared to cooperate with the ASEAN member countries toward that end.

2. Evaluation of ASEAN’s Past Role in the International Community and Future Expectations

Ladies and gentlemen,

During the last thirty years3 ASEAN has increased the resilience of each country and of the region as a whole through remarkable economic development and intra-regional cooperation. It has also taken vigorous diplomatic initiatives in the international community. The ASEAN Post Ministerial Conferences (PMC); the ASEAN Regional Forum(ARF), a forum for discussing political and security issues in the Asia-Pacific region; and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), an initiative launched last year to strengthen relations between Asia and Europe which is full of historic and symbolic significance have all developed steadily as frameworks for dialogue and cooperaton between ASEAN and other major players in the international community. Moreover, promotion of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) serves to increase trade and investment in the region, and it encourages the steady development of diverse ties of mutual interdependence. The Ministerial Meeting on the Mekong River Basin Development which was held in June 1996 and consideration of establishing the ASEAN Investment Area(AIA) are clear evidence that numerous positive efforts are being made for promoting intra-regional cooperation.

I hope that welcoming new members into its fold will not stifle the beneficial contributions that ASEAN has made to the development and stability of the Asia-Pacific region, but will further bolster them. I am confident that ASEAN membership will have a constructive impact on the two countries which have just joined the organization.

In other words, the basic spirits which ASEAN has embraced while achieving resounding successes in the political and economic fields, such as friendly relations with other nations, market principles, free trade, and the rule of laws, are expected to facilitate efforts of the new members to introduce a market-oriented economy and to open their country to the outside world. In a light of ASEAN’s active diplomatic efforts, the ASEAN membership will greatly contribute to strengthen the ties between the new members and the international community. I expect that the ASEAN-Mekong River Basin Development Initiatives will help the new members develop their economics, which still stands on the fragile base.

3. Japan’s Cooperation with ASEAN

Ladies and gentlemen,

Over the last thirty years Japan has consistently built friendly, cooperative relations with all ASEAN countries. In January this year, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto paid official visits to ASEAN countries and agreed with his fellow ASEAN leaders to establish a broader and deeper partnership in a manner suitable for the new era. Concrete steps toward that end are, firstly, closer dialogues at the top level; secondly, multilateral cultural cooperation for the preservation and harmony of unique traditions and cultures; and thirdly, joint endeavors, to address global issues. Bearing in mind these three pillars, Japan and ASEAN will work together to create a prosperous and open society in the Asia-Pacific region.

As ASEAN welcomes new members and prepares to take a new step, ASEAN member will be required to redouble their efforts in building consensus, and taking initiatives. ASEAN will also have to face various new challenges, including. economic disparities among members, and intensified regional competition in the fields of trade and investment. Nevertheless, I am confident that ASEAN will overcome these difficulties through its members’ consolidated solidarity, as they have done in the past. And Japan on her part will spare no efforts to cooperate with ASEAN countries.

In the Asia-Pacific region, we have witnessed development of the private-sector economic exchanges and deepening of interdependence. In this region where there are diverse stages of development among various countries, the role of Official Development Assistance(ODA) still remains important for achieving socio-economic development. However, the environment surrounding ODA in donor countries has become increasingly constrained, and it is now imperative that we utilize limited funds in a even more efficient and effective manner. It is also essential that we make more effective use of private capital and promote South-South cooperation. Despite such difficulties, Japan is determined to support the socio-economic development of ASEAN member countries through its ODA and other forms of assistance in response to the needs of each country. More specifically, Japan is prepared to assist the reform efforts of the governments in their transition to market-oriented economics and to pursue institution-building including the establishment of legal systems and human resources development. Japan also believes that it is increasingly more important to cooperate in regional development projects that transcend national borders, such as the Mekong River Basin Development. Together with ASEAN member countries, Japan has launched joint endeavors with a view to facilitating socio-economic development of not only the developing counties in the region, but also in the African region. Japan intends to continue promoting these new approaches in economic cooperation.

4. Challenges for the, 21 st Century in the Asia-Pacific Region and the Role of PMC

Ladies and gentlemen,

When we reflect upon the international community which surrounds us, it is clear that the 21st Century will be a Century of greater hope and at the same time a Century in which we will face various challenges.

First, the Asia-Pacific region still faces various factors of instability, including the situation on the Korean Peninsula. As emphasized by Prime Minister Hashimoto during his visit to ASEAN, Japan believes that the Japan-US security arrangements provides solid basis for the maintenance of stability and economic prosperity in the region. Japan Intends to continue its efforts in enhancing credibility of the Japan-US security arrangements.

Second, in order for the Asia Pacific region to enjoy a high level of prosperity in future, we should keep our economies open to the other parts of the world and maintain a vigorous global economy, which is based on free and fair competitions. To this end, it is of vital importance for each country to contribute to preserving and reinforcing the WTO system through such measures as the steady implementation of the Uruguay Round Agreements, and to strengthen the competition for the promotion of trade and investment liberalization and facilitation within the APEC framework. In particular, as APEC is the only forum where all Asia-Pacific leaders assemble, I believe that maintaining and strengthening the momentum of APEC’s various activities will not only contribute to the region’s economic development, but also to its political stability.

Third, there exist the issues of global concern, which should be addressed by the whole international community. Such problems as the environment, energy, food shortages and population could worsen in the Asia-Pacific region as a result of rapid economic growth. For the resolution of those problems and others, including AIDS, narcotics, and terrorism, it is indispensable that all countries work hand-in-hand through various measures, including intensified cooperation in the United Nations organizations.

As the need to earnestly tackle those challenges for the 21st century grows in the Asia-Pacific, the Post-Ministerial Conferences assume special significance as the forum for dialogue between ASEAN and other major players in the world. Needless to say, the PMC to date has made an outstanding contribution to the creation of mutual trust among ASEAN and its dialogue partners. The PMC’s steady progress through a process of dialogues has established the foundation of the frameworks of regional cooperation, such as the ARF. Thus, the PMC is expected to continue playing a vital role in this regard in future.

With regard to the first issue that I mentioned, peace and stability in the region, the ARF has played a role as a forum for dialogue and cooperation, where confidence building among the countries in the region have steadily been promoted.

Consequently, I believe that the PMC should be a venue where we consider and discuss other issues of our common concern. From this point of view, Japan holds in high esteem the agenda of this session, which has rightly taken up both international political and economic issues, and global issues.

5. Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen,

Toward the 21st century, the Asia-Pacific region should maintain and expand the dynamism of economic growth, while ensuring political stability. This is of utmost importance not just for the region itself, but also for the peace and prosperity of the entire world. To this end, ASEAN and its dialogue partners, should fully recognize their respective responsibilities for the region and the world, and squarely address themselves to new challenges toward the coming century. I would like to stress in this context that Japan, together with ASEAN celebrating the 30th anniversary of its founding, is determined to make every possible effort to provide the driving force for further development of the Asia-Pacific region. Finally, let me express my firm belief that the spirit of trust and collaboration forged among the various nations through PMC participants will help lead us forward step by step into a new age filled with hope for us all.