Your Excellency Mr. Prachuab,
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand,
Distinguished delegates,

ASEAN, commemorating its thirtieth anniversary this year, began as a means to foster confidence among the countries within the region and to strengthen the national and regional resilience, and has developed in a unique process of deepening cooperative relationship through a body of agreements. It has thus gradually contributed to building an order in today’s Asia-Pacific. While region continues to demonstrate dynamic developments while having its own share of elements of instability, the role of ASEAN should be highly appreciated.

The conflicts in Southeast Asia under the Cold War framework now being the thing of the past, Laos and Myanmar have now become the member, following the formal admission of Vietnam in 1995. Japan hopes that the enlargement of ASEAN membership will contribute to the peace and stability of Southeast Asia and that it will provide impetus for ASEAN to play an increased international role.

With regard to Cambodia, Japan intends to continue to encourage its leaders toward improvement of the situation so that the peace once achieved by major efforts on the part of the international community, including Japan, will not see a set back.

As ASEAN continues the process of deepening and enlargement to become a major actor in international relations in the backdrop of economic growth of each member country, Japan-ASEAN relations have also seen deepening and enlargement in recent years- Japan and ASEAN countries have long been building close relationship: Japan was the first dialogue partner and has been engaged in Foreign Ministerial dialogues since the creation of the post Material Conferences.

In the early stage of the dialogue, the main focus of the attention on both sides was economic and cultural cooperation between Japan and ASEAN as well as issues concerning former Indochina. Today, our cooperation has become multi-layered in variety of areas, reflecting broader international perspective.

Prime Minister Hashimoto’s initiatives in January for wider and deeper relationships between Japan and ASBAIN, and his proposals to ASEAN leaders for strengthened dialogues and exchanges, enhanced cultural cooperation, and cooperation on global problems faced by the international community, are all intended to accelerate such developments and thereby promote further mutual understanding and policy coordination. I am happy to note that Prime Minister Hashimoto’s proposals have been welcomed by ASEAN countries and that there have already been some concrete progress made: a decision to hold the Japan- ASEAN Summit at the end of this year to enhance dialogue at the leaders’ level, the preparation for the dispatch of the Multinational Cultural Mission, and the establishment of the network for exchanging information on terrorism. The Japan-ASEAN Summit Meeting to be held in December not only symbolizes the maturity of cooperative relations between Japan and ASEAN but it is also significant in that it marks the starting point of our search for a new relationship fitting for a new era,

The details pertaining to the direction of cooperation will have to be thoroughly considered by both sides but we believe that cooperation in the following areas are important,

In the political area, we hope to together maintain peace and stability, both regional and global, through our exchange of views on Japan-US security arrangements which form the basis for regional security, enhancement of the ASEAN Regional Forum process and cooperation for the Korean Energy Development Organization.

In the economic area, through strengthened market links by economic cooperation such as ASEAN’s promotion of AFTA and its implementation of AICO, it is hoped that environment for corporate activities will be improved and trade and investment relations will be further solidified.

As regards economic cooperation, it is important to join forces for the development of regional economy and eradication of poverty through such means as support for elimination of economic differences within ASEAN, continuing cooperation toward enhanced human resources development, infrastructure improvement through private sector initiatives, and the promotion of tripartite cooperation to underdeveloped regions within ASEAN in conjunction with some of the ASEAN countries. Japan also intends to assist ASEAN countries’ cooperation to countries of other regions; in particular, we will together address poverty in Africa, drawing on the outcomes of the Second Asia-Africa Forum which was held in June in Bangkok as we prepare for the Second Tokyo Conference for African Development.

Furthermore, not only do we cooperate actively for the preservation and development of each country’s own culture, we also promote understanding of each other’s culture so that we may live together in better harmony. Also, we will make efforts to build broad and rich friendly relations by way of promoting cultural and artistic exchanges, exchanges of people including students, Intellectuals, businessmen and expanded exchanges at the local community level.

It is also important for Japan and ASEAN, partners in the international community, to pursue policy coordination in the context of the UN, WTO, APEC, and ASEM with a view to developing systems of political and economic cooperation in regime and global communities.

In dealing with the problems faced by the international community, we should identify areas of higher priority and initiate cooperative efforts wherever possible. The environments and terrorism, both of which I have referred to earlier are among such areas. As we promote the “Initiatives for Sustainable Development toward the 21st Century (ISD)” which Japan unveiled at the UN Special Session for the purpose of an overall review and appraisal of the implementation of the Agenda 21 last June, we intend to work with ASEAN thorough such cooperation projects as the Acid Deposition Monitoring Network in East Asia and the promotion of environmental education. This coming December, when the Third Conference of Parties, to the Framework Convention for Climate Change convenes in Kyoto, it will provide an occasion to decide on the international efforts after 2000 for the prevention of global warming. Preventing global warning takes efforts of the entire international community; we seek ASEAN countries’ cooperation in making the Kyoto Conference a success.

With regard to such issues as international crime including illicit trafficking of drug and arms, which we have proposed to discuss under the APEC, we will also explore the Possibility of first working together between Japan and ASEAN. We also intend to pursue our cooperation in variety of areas including the follow up of the East Asia Ministerial Conference on Caring Society held last December in Okinawa to improve health and welfare of the entire world.

These elements pertaining to the direction of our further cooperation have been conveyed to the ASEAN side on several occasions at the officials level. I hope that we will come to share common perspectives through our discussions today, and will establish the basis for our officials’ further discussion on the concrete items of cooperation.

In closing, I would like to express our most heartfelt appreciation for the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand for its devoted efforts as a coordinating country for Japan.