As ASEAN embarks on the journey towards a single community in 2015 and beyond, Japan is looking forward to firm its bond even further with the people of ASEAN. This message was conveyed at the reception in Jakarta today, celebrating 40 years of ASEAN and Japan friendship and cooperation.

From the fight against terrorism, maritime security cooperation, to addressing and promoting cooperation in disaster management, trade, and cultural exchange, ASEAN and Japan remain as significant partners today as for the past 40 years.

“As one of ASEAN’s oldest Dialogue Partners, Japan has shared interests on a range of potentials and challenges, and it is therefore natural for Japan to see ASEAN as a key partner for peace, stability, and prosperity,” says Secretary-General of ASEAN, H.E. Le Luong Minh. “The ASEAN-Japan friendship had been forged over time not only through our partnership for the region’s development in the political, economic, social, and cultural fields, but also through challenges and crises including natural disaster where both parties have shown compassion to help their peoples through hard times.”

Looking to the future, Mr. Minh said, “ASEAN very much welcomes Japan’s further engagement in the region as it would mutually benefit the economies and the expansion of ASEAN-Japan ties.”

ASEAN has over the years become a strategic partner for Japan in terms of its robust economic growth as well as the vast market it provides. Moreover, ASEAN and Japan have continued to be important trading partners where, as of 2011, Japan maintained its position as ASEAN’s second largest trading partner, with a total trade of USD US$ 273.35 billion.

Starting in 1973 with the establishment of a Forum on Synthetic Rubber, the ASEAN-Japan relationship grew and deepened with Japan’s commitment to work with ASEAN as equal partners in 1977 through a speech delivered by then Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda. Over the years, the relationship continued to blossom in various sectors, as well as establish the iconic symbol of the friendship, the ASEAN-Japan Centre in 1981. To further show their steadfast commitment Japan appointed a Resident Ambassador to ASEAN in 2010, followed by the establishment of the Mission of Japan to ASEAN in 2011.

A series of activities have been lined-up to commemorate the anniversary, including the Kick-Off Reception to Mark the 40th Anniversary of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation on 18 January 2013 in Jakarta and an ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit in December 2013 in Japan.