Interviews & Articles

December 15, 2023

I would like to extend warm greetings to the people of the Kingdom of Thailand. I am KISHIDA Fumio, Prime Minister of Japan. This weekend, I will be hosting the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit marking the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation. On this historic occasion, it is my great pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Srettha to Tokyo, since Thailand is an original member of ASEAN and the birthplace of ASEAN through the "Bangkok Declaration". Thailand is currently playing an important role as the ASEAN Country Coordinator for Japan in ensuring the success of the 50th anniversary.

Japan initiated dialogue with ASEAN in 1973, ahead of the rest of the world. Since then, Japan has walked alongside ASEAN including Thailand on its path of development and integration. Japan has supported the development of the ASEAN region through development cooperation in various fields. Japan and ASEAN are each other's major trading partners, and Japan is the second largest direct investor in ASEAN after the United States. In recent years, Japanese direct investment in ASEAN has averaged about 2.8 trillion yen annually. Japanese companies have approximately 15,000 business establishments in ASEAN, bringing the vitality of the fast-growing ASEAN region into the Japanese economy and also creating products, services and employment in ASEAN countries, thus contributing to their economic development. Among the ASEAN countries, Thailand is a particularly important base for Japan, with approximately 80,000 Japanese residents and 6,000 Japanese companies operating in the country. Investment by Japanese companies in Thailand has totaled approximately 3.5 trillion-baht over the past 40 years, accounting for about 40% of all foreign investment, and the economic relationship between the two countries is extremely strong.

Japan-Thailand and Japan-ASEAN relationships go beyond business. The foundation of Japan-ASEAN relations as true friends is a relationship of mutual trust with "heart-to-heart" connections. It has been nurtured over the years through "people-to-people" exchanges in a wide range of fields. Both the public and private sectors have continued to make concrete efforts in various youth and international student exchanges.

In addition, Japan and ASEAN have reached out to each other and have been "trusted partners" through many challenges such as the 1997 Asian currency crisis, the 2004 Sumatra earthquake and Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, and the COVID-19 pandemic from 2019.

The international community is now at a turning point in history, and the free and open international order based on the rule of law is under serious challenge. We also face complex and compounding challenges such as climate change, inequality, public health crises, digitalization, and AI governance. I look forward to working more closely than ever with the people of ASEAN based on strong "trust" to "co-create" a peaceful and stable world where everyone can live with dignity and also a sustainable and prosperous future.

At the conclusion of the 50th Year of ASEAN-JAPAN Friendship and Cooperation, I would like to summarize the past half century of ASEAN-Japan relations, and to set out a new vision and concrete cooperation for the future at the Commemorative Summit that will welcome the leaders of ASEAN countries to Tokyo.

In particular, Japan would like to propose a comprehensive exchange program to connect and strengthen "heart to heart" partnerships for the next generation, new initiatives to co-create solutions to the challenges shared by our economies and societies, efforts to address climate change such as further promotion of the Asian Zero Emission Community initiative, and industrial cooperation.

I would like to make this historic Commemorative Summit a "Golden Opportunity" to carry our "Golden Friendship" into the next generation. In addition to Japan-ASEAN cooperation, I would like to take this opportunity of Prime Minister Srettha's visit to Japan to further develop our close economic relationship, including cooperation in the energy sector, and to frankly exchange views on issues facing the region to further deepen the friendship between Japan and Thailand, which has a history of exchange spanning 600 years.

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