Jakarta, 14 October 2011

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Japan will deepen its decades-old partnership with ASEAN, through active efforts to support ASEAN’s disaster efforts as the group approaches its 2015 target of an ASEAN Community.

The commitment was made by Japanese Foreign Minister, Mr Koichiro Gemba, when he met the Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr Surin Pitsuwan here this morning.

“The Japan-ASEAN cooperation will continue beyond 2015, and Japan is committed to provide support, and Tokyo wants to see the partnership developing with great care,” said Mr Gemba.

He also outlined a four-point proposal to guide the partnership. This included Tokyo’s full support for ASEAN Connectivity; disaster management support including assistance for the ASEAN Co-ordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management, or AHA Centre and the disaster emergency stockpile; the continuation of the youth exchange programme, especially upon the expiry of the current JENESYS programme; and a joint statement on the partnership at the Japan-ASEAN Summit.

Thanking Mr Gemba, Dr Surin assured the Japanese Minister that Japan’s commitment is deeply appreciated by ASEAN.

The two sides have enjoyed excellent relations since the establishment of formal ties in March 1977. Japan’s relations with ASEAN have been shaped by the Fukuda Doctrine, which was named after then Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda.

The Japanese Leader had then told ASEAN Leaders that, “the peace and prosperity of Southeast Asian nations is a major concern of Japan, itself an Asian nation, and it is from this perspective that we intend to extend co-operation to their various efforts to develop themselves in the spirit of self-reliance as seen in the efforts by ASEAN through personal exchanges, active contribution to nation-building and other means.”

The relevance and importance of people-to-people exchanges are still crucial today, said Dr Surin, adding that increasing awareness among the youth should be a cornerstone in ASEAN’s relations with its Dialogue and non-Dialogue Partners. This is because they are the ones who will manifest the desire for better ties and cooperation between ASEAN and Japan.

As for the floods and bad weather that is currently threatening several ASEAN Member States, Dr Surin expressed his hope that ASEAN Member States will establish the AHA Centre soon to better respond to disasters within the region. AHA Centre will be launched at the sidelines of the 19th ASEAN Summit in Bali next month.

Commending Japan’s active support to assist ASEAN in the area of disaster management, Dr Surin pointed out that “a timely and early response by Japan on this matter, will be seen as a dramatic and well meaning gesture by Tokyo towards ASEAN.”

Dr Surin also pointed out that ASEAN is planning to deploy a rapid assessment team from the ASEAN countries, known as ASEAN-ERAT (Emergency Rapid Assessment Team), to Thailand within 24 hours. The team is expected to do a preliminary assessment of the situation on the ground, and assess the most needed assistance that can be deployed by ASEAN Member States and the Dialogue Partners for immediate relief and recovery for the survivors.

Both agree that ASEAN and Japan had been on the receiving end of natural calamities year after year. This provides the perfect platform for Japan to share its resources, as well as to showcase its expertise on disaster relief management, and concern for the people of ASEAN.

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Agreeing to look into the matter, Mr Gemba also thanked Dr Surin for leading the ASEAN Caravan of Goodwill, to express ASEAN’s solidarity with the survivors of the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami. The Caravan was a voluntary project funded by private partners of ASEAN, and Dr Surin. It included survivors of the 2004 Boxing Day earthquake and tsunami, who brought along their greetings and condolences, and also shared their experience in recuperation with their Japanese counterparts.