Jakarta, 9 April 2011

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ASEAN and Japan today reiterated the deep and strong bonds between the two, as well as their commitment to an enduring friendship.

Japanese Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto met his ASEAN counterparts, as well as the Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr Surin Pitsuwan, at the ASEAN Secretariat today. The historic meeting was opened by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Indonesia is the Chair of ASEAN this year.

Minister Matsumoto also shared Japan’s experience in tackling the Fukushima nuclear crisis. Developments at the crippled nuclear plant have hogged news headlines, as officials tried various methods to try to contain radiation leak.

Recalling Japan’s readiness to assist and aid ASEAN nations – particularly in times of natural calamities – the President urged ASEAN Member States to display solidarity with Japan in their reconstruction efforts.

“I hope we can work together, and that those countries which have similar facilities can offer their assistance towards Japan. We have all experienced disasters in the past. We all have expertise and wider experience,” said the Indonesian President.

His call was strongly supported by Dr Surin.

“This is a highly significant gathering. Thirty-four years after its inception, the ‘heart-to-heart’ engagement which was central to the Fukuda doctrine, remains just as relevant in the ASEAN-Japan relations today,” said the Secretary-General.

A brainchild of former Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, the 1977 doctrine outlined Tokyo’s three commitments to Southeast Asia. Namely, that Japan rejects the role of a military power; Japan will do its best to consolidate the relationship of mutual confidence and trust based on “heart-to-heart” understanding; and last, but not least, Japan will be an equal partner of ASEAN.

Relations between the two sides have deepened, while economic cooperation blossomed. Japan is one of ASEAN’s most important trading partners, with total trade between the two exceeding US$ 160 billion in 2009. Japan has also been one of the top investors in ASEAN, with close to US$ 6 billion in the same year.

The triple tragedy of the Great East Japan earthquake, which triggered the devastating tsunami, and led to the current nuclear crisis, has been described as the worse tragedy since World War II.

Another area which the meeting explored was the role of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance (AHA Centre). The triple crises had further reinforced the importance of the operations of the Centre, particularly in risk identification and monitoring, as well as joint disaster relief and emergency responses.

As ASEAN reaffirms its commitment to cooperate with Japan, the triple crises will be seized to strengthen the bilateral relations between the two sides.

“Through even closer cooperation and coordination, ASEAN and Japan can work together in the areas of disaster prevention and management and disaster relief operations,” said Dr Surin, adding that ASEAN and Japan are natural regional partners, in meeting future challenges.

Like Japan, several ASEAN Member States are also vulnerable to natural calamities.

Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam are regularly hit by typhoons, floods and cyclones, while Indonesia and the Philippines are also regular victims of earthquakes and other disasters.

Please click here for the translation of the address by the President the Republic of Indonesia.