Japan - ASEAN Relations

April 2006


ASEAN was founded in 1967 to facilitate economic growth, social progress, and cultural development in the Southeast Asian region. Starting from a core of five nations (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand), ASEAN has grown into one of the oldest and most successful regional groupings in the world. Approaching its 40th anniversary, ASEAN now encompasses 10 nations representing 500 million people with a combined GDP of USD 737 billion.

Japan's formal relationship with ASEAN dates back to 1977, when then Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda met with ASEAN leaders at the organization's second summit meeting in Kuala Lumpur. Since that time, Japan and ASEAN have forged a robust partnership that has contributed significantly to the region's economic, social, and political development. Japan's Official Development Assistance (ODA) program has played a particularly important role in the region's economic dynamism and continues to be a pillar of support for ASEAN's newest members. The "New Partnership for Peace and Prosperity" announced by then Prime Minister Nobuo Takeshita and his ASEAN counterparts in 1987 recognized the growing significance of private sector cooperation in the region's growth.

The 1997 Asian financial crisis highlighted the interdependence of the region's economies and led to the establishment of the ASEAN+3 (Japan, Korea, and China) Framework two years later. To assist ASEAN countries recover from the crisis, Japan created the Japan-ASEAN Solidarity Fund in 1999 and the Japan-ASEAN General Exchange Fund (JAGEF) in 2000. In 2001, the ASEAN-Japan Eminent Persons Group produced a vision for Japan-ASEAN Relations in the 21st Century that proposed expanding cooperation to include international issues such as UN reform and the WTO.

Dialogue Channels

Political leaders and officials from Japan and ASEAN engage at a variety of levels to advance common interests and mutual understanding. Japanese Foreign Ministers have attended the yearly ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference (PMC) since 1979 and annual summit meetings (ASEAN+1) have been held since 1997. The Japan-ASEAN Forum also facilitates regular interaction between Japanese and ASEAN officials at the senior official level.

Recent Developments

In recent years, Japan and ASEAN have turned their attention to tackling transnational challenges affecting the region. During his first meeting with ASEAN counterparts in 2001, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi urged greater cooperation on global issues such as counter-terrorism, anti-piracy, environmental protection, and preventing the spread of infectious diseases.

At the December 2003 ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit in Tokyo, the two sides unveiled the Japan-ASEAN Plan of Action, a comprehensive framework to address future relations in the fields of economics and finance, politics and security, as well as exchanges and cultural cooperation. Among the specific initiatives contained in the Plan of Action was a commitment by Japan to contribute USD 1.5 billion for the Mekong Region Development project within three years. In 2004, Japan acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), marking a milestone in Japan-ASEAN security relations. In the same year, Japan and ASEAN adopted the ASEAN-Japan Joint Declaration for Cooperation to Combat International Terrorism. In 2005, Prime Minister Koizumi pledged to provide USD 130 million for an initiative to combat infectious diseases, including the donation of 500,000 courses of Tamiflu. In March 2006, Foreign Minister Taro Aso participated in a signing ceremony to establish the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund (JAIF). The fund, to which Japan has contributed USD 70 million, was established to enhance ASEAN's efforts to address urgent regional issues such as terrorism and avian influenza.

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