The Seventh East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

August 7, 2017

Foreign Minister Mr. Taro Kono attended the Seventh East Asia Summit (EAS) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting which was held in Manila, the Philippines, on Monday, August 7 from 1:10 to 3:25 p.m. (local time). The overview of the meeting, focusing on Minister Kono’s comments, is as follows.

1 Review of EAS Cooperation and its Future Direction

(1)Opening remarks

Minister Kono emphasized that the EAS member states must halt the global trends of opaqueness and uncertainty and deliver a strong message in order to ensure peace and stability based on the rule of law in political and security field, as well as to promote free trade in economic field.
Furthermore, Minister Kono stated that a free and open maritime order based on the rule of law is a cornerstone for peace and prosperity of the international community. He also explained that it is essential for the international community as a whole to promote free and open seas as a global commons in the Indo-Pacific region which is the core of the vitality of the world, and call on the member states for their cooperation

(2)Strengthening the EAS

Minister Kono expressed Japan’s support for the initiative to add “maritime cooperation” and “counter terrorism” as new priority areas of EAS cooperation. He also proposed to consider making EAMF a formal EAS maritime cooperation forum, and holding Track 1 meetings in conjunction with the Track 1.5 meetings.  
Many participating countries emphasized the importance of further strengthening the EAS as the premier forum of the region. A number of countries also voiced their support for adding “maritime cooperation” as the new priority area for EAS cooperation.

(3)Countermeasures against terrorism and violent extremism

Minister Kono stated that Japan places great emphasis on measures to counter terrorism and violent extremism in Asia and that in the past one year, Japan has provided support to Asian countries, amounting to about 295 million US dollars. Minister Kono announced that Japan will continue to provide support for initiatives, such as capacity building of law-enforcement agencies, youth education, and reintegration of former combatants. He expressed full support for the Philippines’ efforts to fight against terrorism in Mindanao and stated that in addition to the decision to extend an emergency grant aid of 2 million US dollars for displaced people of Marawi City, Japan also funds the support through Disaster Emergency Logistic System for ASEAN (DELSA).
Many participating countries expressed their concern over the situation in Mindanao and emphasized the importance of counterterrorism measures.

(4)Promoting free trade systems

Minister Kono claimed that, on economy, with the rise of protectionism, it is extremely important for East Asia to voice its support for maintaining free and open economic order and trade systems. He also stated that free and open markets backed by high-level economic partnership agreements, as well as enhancement of connectivity through quality infrastructure, will increase East Asia’s competitiveness as a part of the global supply chain and are the key to economic growth of East Asia and the world. In addition, he expressed that with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) in East Asia as the two inseparable pillars, Japan will work towards realizing a Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific (FTAAP).
Many participating countries emphasized the importance of measures to dispel protectionism and promote free trade.

(5)Engagement of the United States

Minister Kono emphasized that as East Asia pursues peace and prosperity engagement of the United States is indispensable. He welcomed the participation by President Trump in the EAS summit meeting, and expressed his appreciation for the strong commitment by the United States. He emphasized the importance of realizing a free trade zone in the Asia Pacific region in the future with U.S. participation.

2 Exchange of views on regional and international issues

(1) The South China Sea

Minister Kono expressed serious concern over the continuing rapid and large-scale building of outposts in the South China Sea. He emphasized that Japan strongly opposes any unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force or coercion, including those through threat or use of force. He expressed his view that ensuring peace and stability by a free and open maritime order based on the rule of law is important, and to that end it is significant for the international community to collaborate with each other and expressed his support for the freedom of navigation operations by the United States. He stated that the award by the Arbitral Tribunal between the Philippines and China regarding the South China Sea is final and legally binding on the parties to the dispute and that it is indeed a useful basis for further efforts toward peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea.
With regard to the Code of Conduct (COC) in the South China Sea, Minister Kono stated that dialogues between China and ASEAN should be conducted on the premise that demilitarization and self-restraint on the ground is maintained based on the international law and that he expects for an early conclusion of a legally-binding and effective COC.
Almost all participating countries raised the issue of the South China Sea, and many referred to the freedom of navigation and overflight and peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Multiple countries expressed concerns about recent developments in the South China Sea and reiterated the importance of demilitarization and self-restraint. Multiple countries also referred to the Arbitral Tribunal between the Philippines and China.

(2) North Korea

Minister Kono stated that two ICBM-class missile launches by North Korea showed that North Korea is a top priority of the international agenda and that it is a significant and real threat to the region and the international community. Against this backdrop, he insisted that now is not the time for dialogue with North Korea and that EAS countries need to raise the level of response and that effective pressure on North Korea must be further enhanced.
To this end, he called for the vigorous and full implementation of all relevant United National Security Council (UNSC) resolutions including the resolution that was newly adopted. In addition, he strongly urged China and Russia to play constructive roles.
Furthermore, he stressed that the EAS should send a strong message concerning human rights and humanitarian situations in North Korea, especially the abductions issue.
Many participating countries stated that the series of nuclear tests and ICBM-class missile launches by North Korea violate UNSC resolutions and pose a threat to regional stability, calling on North Korea to comply with all relevant UNSC resolutions.