August 7, 2017
On Aug 7, Mr. Taro Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs, attended the 24th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Ministerial Meeting which was held in Manila, the Republic of the Philippines. (Chair: H.E. Mr. Alan Peter S. Cayetano, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Philippines).

1 Significance of the Meeting

(1) Against the backdrop of the provocative actions by North Korea including the launch of multiple ballistic missiles and continued unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the South China Sea, participating Ministers candidly exchanged views mainly on regional issues. At the meeting, Minister Kono explained Japan’s views on the issues of North Korea and the South China Sea.

(2) As the number of cyberattacks is growing rapidly worldwide and cybersecurity has become increasingly important, it is essential for the ARF member states to work on cyber security collectively through the framework of the ARF. From this viewpoint, Japan, together with Malaysia and Singapore, proposed the establishment of ARF Inter-Sessional Meeting on Security of and in the Use of Information and Communication Technologies. The establishment was unanimously approved at the meeting.

2 Regional and international issues

(1) North Korea

(a) Minister Kono emphasized that Japan’s policy remains to seek to comprehensively resolve issues of concern, which include the abductions, nuclear and missile issues. Minister Kono stated that North Korea's continued nuclear and missile development programs and repeated launches of ballistic missiles including the two launches of ICMB-class ballistic missiles in July are clear provocations to the region and the international community and are totally unacceptable. Minister Kono once again urged North Korea to refrain from taking actions that increase tensions in the region, including their nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches, and comply with the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and other international commitments. On the abductions issue, Minister Kono urged North Korea to implement the agreement made in Stockholm and to return all abductees at the earliest possible date.

(b) In connection to this, almost all countries expressed concerns that North Korea's nuclear and missile development programs violate successive UNSC resolutions. Meanwhile, North Korea stated its own position that it has presented thus far.

 (2) South China Sea

(a) Minister Kono stated that the large-scale building of outposts in the South China Sea continues even after last year’s Ministerial Meeting and that Japan is seriously concerned on this situation. He expressed his opposition to any unilateral attempt to change the status quo by force or coercion, including those through threat or the use of force. In addition, he reiterated that the Award decided by the Arbitral Tribunal between the Philippines and China regarding the South China Sea, which was rendered one year ago, is final and legally binding on the parties to the dispute and it indeed provides a useful basis for further efforts toward peaceful settlement of disputes in the South China Sea. He also expressed his hope for continued discussions toward an early conclusion of a legally binding and effective Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) on the premise that demilitarization and self-restraint will be maintained on the ground based on international law.

(b) Many Ministers underscored the importance of peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with the international law including the 1982 United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and self-restraint, full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and the early conclusion of an effective COC.

3 Contributions to the ARF

(1) The ARF has been contributing towards the improvement of the security environment in the Asia-Pacific region through the candid exchange of opinions that we have here today. Additionally, the ARF has facilitated confidence building through a number of specific cooperation projects. In this regard, from 2014 to 2017, Japan co-chaired the ARF ISM on Maritime Security. Japan will continue to contribute to the efforts in numerous fields, for example through co-chairmanship of the ARF ISM on Non-proliferation and Disarmament from 2017 to 2020.

(2) At the meeting, Minister Kono explained the significance of the ARF member states’ collective effort on cybersecurity through the framework of the ARF, given the increasing importance of cybersecurity. He then proposed, together with Malaysia and Singapore, the establishment of the ARF Inter-Sessional Meeting on Security of and in the Use of Information and Communication Technologies, which was unanimously endorsed at the meeting.

(3) Many countries appreciated the ARF as an appropriate forum not only for confidence building among the members but also for candid exchanges of opinions on non-traditional threats such as terrorism, refugees and climate change.

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