The Sixth East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting
July 27, 2016
The Sixth East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was held in Vientiane, Lao PDR, on July 26 from 1125 to 1415 (local time). Fumio Kishida, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan attended the meeting. The overview is as follows.
1 Review of EAS cooperation and its future direction
(1) Countermeasures against terrorism and violent extremismMinister Kishida began by offering his condolences to all of the victims of terrorist incidents in Nice, France and Dhaka, Bangladesh as well as other places around the world. In addition, Minister Kishida stressed that Japan condemned such terrorist attacks emphatically. Furthermore, Minister Kishida expressed his will to make further proactive contribution to support activities by EAS participating countries for counter-terrorism capacity building, including those for border controls, and to address root causes of terrorism, for the purpose of countering terrorism and violent extremism. Many participating countries also strongly condemned series of terrorist attacks, and emphasized the importance of counter terrorism measures.
(2) Strengthening the EASMinister Kishida stated that the institution of the EAS should be further strengthened as the premier forum in the region, while the security environment in East Asia has increasingly become severe. Furthermore, Minister Kishida welcomed the regular holding of the EAS Ambassadors' Meeting and establishment of the EAS Unit in the ASEAN Secretariat from the standpoint of steadily moving to implement the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on the Tenth Anniversary of the EAS. Minister Kishida also urged that such measures should be further promoted.
Many participating countries also welcomed the trend of strengthening the EAS, such as the regular holding of the EAS Ambassadors' Meeting and establishment of the EAS Unit in the ASEAN Secretariat, and stressed the importance of further strengthening the EAS as the premier forum in the region.
(3) Maritime cooperationMinister Kishida indicated that Japan supported a proposal to add maritime cooperation as the EAS priority area of cooperation, and stressed the importance of deepening discussions regarding maritime cooperation, following the EAS Statement on Enhancing Regional Maritime Cooperation agreed upon last year. Furthermore, he stated that the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF) was an extremely important maritime cooperation framework for EAS participating countries, and suggested that ideas such as making EAMF a formal EAS maritime cooperation department and holding Track 1 meetings in conjunction with the Track 1.5 meetings ought to be given consideration in the future.
Some participating countries stated that they supported the proposal of adding maritime cooperation as the EAS priority area of cooperation.
(4) Sustainable Economic Development in East AsiaMinister Kishida stated that realizing sustainable economic development was crucial for peace and prosperity in East Asia. In light of this, Minister Kishida indicated that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement had a substantial significance to become a basis for discussion of the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP) rules and the global standard in the 21st century and that Japan would also like to make its utmost efforts toward early entry into force of the TPP. Furthermore, with regard to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Minister Kishida expressed his will that Japan would like to continue to promote negotiations vigorously to conclude a comprehensive, balanced and high-level agreement in cooperation with other Parties.
In addition, Minister Kishida emphasized that promoting connectivity was the key to sustainable economic development in East Asia, and that, based on the Principles agreed upon at the G7 Ise-Shima Summit, measures such as Quality Infrastructure Investment and human resource development with careful consideration on needs of respective countries were important to promote connectivity. Minister Kishida also referred to the Japan-Mekong Connectivity Initiative he proposed in May, and reiterated that he would like to cooperate with countries concerned to enhance ''''vibrant and effective'''' connectivity. Also, Minister Kishida affirmed Japan's support for the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) as an international organization that engages in policy research that contributes to the integration of East Asia, and his hope that each nation would make use of ERIA.
2 Exchange of views on regional and international issues
(1) The South China SeaMinister Kishida stressed that ASEAN's unity has faced a number of challenges regarding the South China Sea issue, but that Japan has consistently supported unified response by ASEAN on the issue. In this context, Minister Kishida noted that ASEAN showed its strong will and capability to unite in one voice on the South China Sea issue by agreeing on the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Joint Communique, and expressed his respect for Lao PDR, the ASEAN Chair, as well as countries concerned for their efforts. Minister Kishida also indicated that the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Joint Communique expressed their serious concern over recent developments in the South China Sea, and explicitly mentioned peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, the importance of non-militarizaion and self-restraints in the conduct of all activities, as well as full respect for legal and diplomatic processes. Minister Kishida demonstrated that such points would form a basis of overcoming the concerning situation at this point in time.
In addition, Minister Kishida stated that Japan was serisouly concerned over the current situation in the South China Sea. Minister Kishida also reiterated his view that the award by the Arbitral Tribunal as to the disputes between the Philippines and China was legally binding on the parties to the dispute, and expected that the parties' compliance with this award would eventually lead to the peaceful settlement of disputes. In light of this, Minister Kishida emphasized that all countries concerned should abide by international order based on the rule of law, not force or coercion, and that Japan's stance of supporting ASEAN's unity would not change in the future.
In response, almost all partinipating counrties touched upon the South China Sea issue, and many of them referred to elements such as ensuring freedom of navigation and overflight, peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). In addition, some countries expressed their serious concern over recent developments, and urged the importance of non-militarizaion and self-restraint. Many countries mentioned the arbitration between the Philippines and China, or acknowledged the importance of full respect for legal and diplomatic processes. Some of those countries stated that the Tribunal's award was final and legally binding on the parties to the dispute.
(2) North KoreaMinister Kishida stated that it was totally unacceptable that North Korea not only conducted its fourth nuclear test and a series of ballistic missile launches, but also launched a ballistic missile presumed to be Musudan, and has been pursuing the development of SLBMs since the EAS held in November last year. In addition, Minister Kishida called on EAS participating countries to take united actions in urging North Korea to refrain from any further provocation, comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions (UNSCR) and the Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks, and take concrete actions toward denuclearization and other goals. Furthermore, Minister Kishida stated that it was necessary to put pressure on North Korea through ensuring strict implementation of UNSCRs, and that the EAS should issue a strong message regarding North Korea's human rights and humanitarian issues, including the abductions.
In response, many participating countries stated that the series of nuclear test and missile launches by North Korea were violation of UNSCRs and undermined regional stability and urged North Korea to comply with UNSCRs.
3 Closing words
While expressing his appreciation to Lao PDR Chairmanship for fruitful discussions, Minister Kishida reiterated the importance of continued efforts to strengthen the EAS next year and into the future, and expressed Japan's resolution to continue making a contribution in the lead up to the EAS in September this year, while respecting the ASEAN centrality.