18th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Ministerial Meeting

July 27, 2011

The following is an overview of the 18th ARF Ministerial Meeting held on July 23, 2011, in Bali, the Republic of Indonesia.

1. Significance of the Meeting

(1) The participating Ministers exchanged views in a candid manner regarding the issues of North Korea and the South China Sea, the two subjects considered as the meeting's main topics, deepening understanding of one another's position on these issues.

(2) The participating countries reached a common understanding on furthering regional efforts for cooperation on specific issues such as disaster management, keeping step with the outcome of the EAS Foreign Ministers' Consultation held the previous day.

(3) On the sidelines of the ARF Ministerial Meeting, Minister for Foreign Affairs Takeaki Matsumoto of Japan held a trilateral meeting and bilateral meetings with his counterparts of the U.S. and the Republic of Korea (ROK), confirming closer cooperation among the three countries.

2. Regional Situation

Minister Matsumoto's comments on key regional issues are as follows.

(1) Korean Peninsula

Minister Matsumoto welcomed the North-South contact on July 22, expressing his hope that the contact would lead to concrete results. He also called for North Korea's faithful observance of the 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks and relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions, reiterating the need for North Korea to make specific moves toward resumption of the Six-Party Talks.

Concerning the abduction issue, Minister Matsumoto pointed out the importance for North Korea to put the August 2008 agreement into practice without delay, demanding North Korea's positive actions. (In response to North Korea's remarks that the abduction issue has already been solved,) Minister Matsumoto clearly reiterated Japan's position that the abduction issue remains unresolved.

(2) South China Sea

Minister Matsumoto welcomed the agreement between China and ASEAN on the guidelines for implementation of the Declaration of the Conduct (DOC) in the South China Sea, expressing hope that the guidelines will be put steadily into practice. He noted that disputes over the South China Sea should be discussed and solved in accordance with international law, saying Japan would be interested in and keep an eye on the situation in the South China Sea.

(3) Myanmar

Referring to Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Makiko Kikuta's recent visit to Myanmar, Minister Matsumoto took note of recent developments in that country, expressing expectations to see the Myanmar side make further efforts.

3. Regional Cooperation (Disaster Management)

The Ministers shared the view to promote regional cooperation for disaster management, following in the footsteps of the EAS Foreign Ministers' Consultation held on July 22. Minister Matsumoto said that as the country hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake, Japan would play an active role in cooperation for disaster prevention and response, taking advantage of regional forums such as the EAS and ARF.

Minister Matsumoto told reporters after the ARF meeting that the participants expressed readiness for cooperation and high hopes regarding the ASEAN Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre), to which Japan has been providing assistance, with the conviction that it would play a central role in building a network of disaster-related information across the region and working out concrete measures for disaster management. He said Japan would continue to offer steady assistance, adding that he mentioned the above during the Japan-ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting and that he received words of welcome from the ASEAN countries.

< Appendix > Minister Matsumoto's summary of ASEAN-Related Foreign Ministers' Meetings

Summarizing the outcome of his visit to Bali, Minister Matsumoto told reporters that he exchanged views with his counterparts in a very frank manneer during the series of meetings associated with ASEAN+3, the EAS and the ARF and during talks with individual participants, finding them very useful. He said this region was becoming the focus of attention in terms of political, security and economic aspects. Noting that Japan had had a very long and deep relationship with the Southeast Asian countries, he expressed belief that Japan needed to play its role in the best possible manner. Minister Matsumoto found it very significant through the candid exchange of views to have a framework of regular consultations in the form of ASEAN-related foreign ministerial meetings. He added that the EAS in particular, joined by the U.S. and Russia for the first time this year, would carry greater weight.

Minister Matsumoto said he had the impression that there was a growing feeling about the EAS being a good place to discuss various issues, producing a good atmosphere of cooperation. He expressed belief that he was able to have substantial discussions on such issues as maritime security that is attracting attention now and nuclear nonproliferation that is a major source of concern to Japan. He also noted that Japan and ASEAN had a very close relationship, as exemplified by the ASEAN-Japan Special Foreign Ministerial Meeting held at the proposal of the ASEAN side less than a month after he took office. Minister Matsumoto said he found the meetings and consultations very fruitful in the sense that the two sides were able to agree on and produce opportunities for promoting meaningful cooperation in areas such as disaster management, economic cooperation and development of human resources.

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