The relationship between Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been developing toward a more profound and wide-ranging one, especially since the Japan-ASEAN summit meeting held last December. The recent Asian economic turmoil reminds us how profound and wide-ranging Japan and ASEAN depend on each other. In order to overcome the Asian economic difficulties, it is important for Japan and the ASEAN to further enhance the partnership. Toward the 21st century, the Government of Japan is determined to deepen the dialogue with ASEAN and thereby to promote steadily the cooperative relations with ASEAN in such fields as political and security, trade and investment, economic cooperation, cultural exchanges and global issues.
2. Promotion of Japan-ASEAN dialogue
At the Japan-ASEAN summit meeting last December, the leaders of Japan and ASEAN member countries, in line with the initiatives announced by Prime Minister Hashimoto, adopted an important joint statement that gave the future direction of the cooperation between Japan and ASEAN. One of the most important pillars of the statement is fostering dialogue in all fields and at all levels between Japan and ASEAN. A working-level meeting of the Japan-ASEAN Consultative Group was launched last March, followed by the Japan-ASEAN Forum, a vice foreign ministerial meeting. Thus, Japan-ASEAN dialogue is being deepened from the top-level to the working-level. The Government of Japan is determined to continue to take every opportunity to promote Japan-ASEAN dialogue. In this regard, if ASEAN officially invites Japan, Japan will seriously study the possibility to hold a Japan-ASEAN summit meeting on the occasion of the ASEAN summit meeting to be held this coming December, taking all the circumstances fully into account.
3. Political and Security Cooperation
Several political and security factors of uncertainty and instability, such as the instability in the Korean Peninsula, the nuclear development, the territorial and jurisdictional disputes, still persist in the Asian region. The political and security cooperation between Japan-and ASEAN becomes more and more important.
The nuclear tests conducted by India and Pakistan went against the trend toward the nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament in the post-Cold War era and it is necessary to urge both countries to implement what the relevant resolution of the UN Security Council calls upon.
The ASEAN Regional Forum, of which the purpose is to build confidence-building in the region, is steadily taking root through its activities as a forum for regional political and security dialogue. There was also progress in the Japan-ASEAN dialogue in this field since last year, such as bilateral politico-military talks and military-military talks between Japan and some ASEAN member countries.
Furthermore, the general elections were held in Cambodia on June 26 under the surveillance of the Joint International Observation Group. We expect that as the result of these elections a democratic government would be formed and that the political stability and economic prosperity in Cambodia would be realized.
4. Economic and Development Cooperation
Economic and development cooperation between Japan and ASEAN is more important than ever for overcoming the Asian economic difficulties.
In terms of trade and investment, it is imperative to maintain and strengthen the efforts made by ASEAN for liberalization of trade and investment in the region, such as AFTA, AICO and AIA. We hope that economic activities in the region will be more active through the active use of these systems by private sectors of Japan and other countries . The active role of ASEAN is also important in multilateral liberalization of trade and investment in the framework of the WTO.
In view of financial and currency stability, it is important to strengthen the regional efforts such as the Manila Framework. Japan is determined to continue to play an active role for financial and currency stability in Asia.
In the field of development cooperation, the Japan-ASEAN Round Table on Development was convened last May. At the meeting, the views were exchanged on the issues which should be addressed in Japan-ASEAN cooperation such as the impact of the Asian economic turmoil on the development of the region, human resources development, and the south-south development cooperation, and very interesting ideas were obtained concerning the Japan-ASEAN cooperation in the field of development.
In order to support the self-help-efforts of the ASEAN countries and other Asian economies to overcome the current economic difficulties, Japan has pledged its support worth more than 42 billion dollars, by far largest assistance in the world, despite its severe domestic economic situation. On this occasion we would like to explain three cases of the assistance of the government of Japan in the light of development cooperation.
The first is japan’s contribution of $20 million to the ASEAN Foundation in the form of of a “Solidarity Fund” pledged by Foreign Minister Mr. Obuchi last May. This Solidarity Fund will be utilized, in consultation with ASEAN side, for supporting social safety net, promoting ASEAN’s development strategy, and strengthening higher education etc, in view of ASEAN’s further development.
The second is assistance to help the socially vulnerable segments of the population hit severely by the current economic turmoil. Japan is actively implementing the assistance of about six hundred thousand tons of rice and of medicines to Indonesia, yen loan projects to strengthen the social safety Net, and other measures.
The third is the development of the competent human resources which play a key role in overcoming the economic difficulties. Japan is steadily implementing the “Japan-ASEAN Program for Comprehensive Human Resources Development,” of which purpose is to train 20,000 administrators, experts in the private sector, technicians and others over a five-year period, and other measures.
5. Cultural Exchanges
It is necessary to strengthen cultural exchanges, in addition to the above-mentioned cooperation in the fields of political and security, economy and development, in order to make the cooperative relationship between the ASEAN countries and Japan more profound and wide-ranging.
The ASEAN-Japan Multilateral Cultural Mission, which is a new and epoque-making project aimed at promoting exchanges among the ASEAN countries and Japan respecting the traditional and cultural diversity, presented last April Action Agenda Part II containing proposals which should be the future direction of the Japan-ASEAN cultural exchange.
The Japan-ASEAN Intellectual Symposium was also held here in Manila last March in order to discuss how to promote exchanges among the ASEAN countries and Japan. At the symposium, Philippines Foreign Secretary Mr. Siazon delivered a thought provoking keynote speech. Furthermore, we are now preparing to hold the “Intellectual Dialogue on Building Asia’s Tomorrow” later this year in Japan, which was proposed by Foreign Minister Obuchi in his speech May this year in Singapore.
6. Cooperation in Global Issues
We firmly believe that despite the Asian economic difficulties, it is necessary for us to tackle global issues on a step-by-step basis toward the 21st century with a close eye to the future. The Japan-ASEAN Counter-Terrorism Conference was held last October in Tokyo and made progress in strengthening the Japan-ASEAN cooperation in counter-terrorism. Regarding the anti-drug efforts, the Government of Japan welcomes the “Joint Declaration for a Drug- Free ASEAN” signed at the ASEAN Foreign Ministerial Meeting. Japan intends to earmark funds necessary to implement the “Project on the Operationalization of Action Plan of ATS in the Far East-South East Region” from its donations to the United Nations Drug International Control Programme. Japan thus is determined to cooperate with the ASEAN in addressing this problem.
Japan and the ASEAN are closely interdependent on each other. Whenever we encounter a serious problem, we should communicate more closely than ever with each other and cooperate to make our way toward the future.
I am firmly convinced that such steady efforts will enable ASEAN to enjoy a sustainable growth and thereby that the Asia-Pacific region will restore its dynamism and prosperity in the 21st century.