Diplomatic Bluebook 2001

E. Regional Cooperation

Regional cooperation in the Asia-Pacific has developed at a slower pace than in Europe on both the political and economic fronts, reflecting the diversity of the region. However, in the last decade of the 20th century, East Asia and the Asia-Pacific saw regional cooperation gradually begin to widen, a trend which is beginning to gather momentum. This progress, together with the various bilateral efforts underway, will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the region. (For details on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum, please refer to Chapter II, Section 1-A-3)

1. Regional Cooperation in East Asia

a) Relations with ASEAN

With the assistance of Japan and other elements of the international community, as well as their own reform efforts, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members have rebounded from the shattering impact of the 1997 currency and financial crisis to demonstrate a steady economic recovery trajectory in 2000. Japan spent the year working with the ASEAN nations to build new partnerships toward the 21st century.

Firstly, at the ASEAN Post Ministerial Conferences (PMC) held in Thailand in July, a fund was established to provide new assistance from Japan to ASEAN.*17 Minister for Foreign Affairs Kono commended the role which ASEAN had played in realizing regional peace and prosperity, and announced Japan's intention to strengthen ties with ASEAN as a partner in this endeavor. He outlined progress with implementation of the Obuchi Plan,*18 comprehensive cooperation measures in regard to IT, and approaches to Mekong Basin Development as specific cooperation measures.

At the Japan-ASEAN Summit held in Singapore at the end of November, Prime Minister Mori lauded the report produced by the Japan-ASEAN Consultation Conference on the Hanoi Plan of Action*19 on a vision for 21st century Japan-ASEAN relations, and stressed the importance of the Japan-ASEAN New Partnership.*20 Drawing on recommendations by the Consultation Conference, he also proposed cooperation in regard to IT, the WTO, and the UN reform, taking the perspective that Japan and ASEAN should actively participate together in the construction of an international order. Further, noting the importance of personal exchanges in further strengthening Japan-ASEAN relations-and particularly exchanges among the young people who will be the bearers of the 21st century-he also proposed a new scholarship program whereby ASEAN senior high school students would be invited to Japan. This proposal was welcomed by ASEAN leaders.

b) ASEAN+3 (Japan, China, the ROK)

The way in which the currency and financial crisis triggered in the summer of 1997 rippled out to affect the entire East Asian region has lent the East Asian countries a strong awareness of their interdependence. The ASEAN+3 (Japan, China, the ROK) framework emerged from an increasing drive among the East Asian nations to learn from the crisis and strengthen regional cooperation.

The first ASEAN+3 Summit took place in December 1997, with leaders agreeing at the December 1998 Summit to regularize the event. The November 1999 Summit in Manila subsequently adopted the Joint Statement on East Asia Cooperation, which was the first joint statement produced by the Summit framework and declared the commitment of the East Asian countries to promote regional cooperation in a wide range of areas, including the economy, culture, and political security.

The first ASEAN+3 Foreign Ministers' Meeting took place on the margins of the ASEAN PMC in Bangkok in July 2000, with the main purpose of conducting an interim review of the implementation of the Joint Statement. At the meeting, Foreign Minister Kono called for "open regional cooperation" and a Japan-East Asia Partnership Initiative,*21 identifying human resources development and intra-ASEAN economic disparities as concrete areas for cooperation. Discussion also took place on the Korean Peninsula and Indonesian situations, with the meeting adopting the Joint Statement of the ASEAN+3 in Support of the Sovereignty, Territorial Integrity and National Unity of Indonesia.

Strengthening regional cooperation in East Asia was the central agenda item at the November 2000 ASEAN+3 Summit in Singapore, where Prime Minister Mori proposed three principles to guide the promotion of East Asian cooperation toward the 21st century, namely (1) building partnership, (2) open regional cooperation, and (3) comprehensive dialogue and cooperation including the field of political security. This sparked lively discussion among the participating leaders in regard to the future direction of regional cooperation in East Asia, with ASEAN proposing an East Asian Summit and an East Asian Free Trade and Investment Area. It was decided that the East Asian Study Group advocated by ROK President Kim Dae Jung would consider these proposals from a medium- to long-term perspective. The Summit also saw discussion on concrete cooperation measures to address globalization and the IT revolution, two challenges currently confronting East Asia, and it was agreed that in regard to IT in particular that Japan, China, and the ROK would engage in and cooperate with ASEAN efforts such as promotion of the e-ASEAN Initiative.*22 Prime Minister Mori proposed holding the "Joint Conference of Government Officials, Prominent Academics and Business Leaders in East Asia" in Japan in 2001 to consider East Asian IT cooperation measures, and this met with the approval of other members. Prime Minister Mori also put forward concrete proposals for Japanese cooperation toward promoting East Asian regional cooperation in such areas as anti-piracy measures and finance, which were warmly welcomed by other leaders. Japan will continue to actively present initiatives to further strengthen East Asian cooperation and dialogue.

c) Japan-China-ROK

At the ASEAN+3 Summit (Japan, China, the ROK) in November 1999 in Manila, the first dialogue among the leaders of Japan, China, and the ROK took place as a breakfast meeting at the proposal of Prime Minister Obuchi, an event which was subsequently repeated in November 2000 at the Singapore ASEAN+3 Summit. Leaders decided to hold regular Japan-China-ROK Summits on the occasion of the annual ASEAN+3 Summits, to be hosted in turn. Japan was chosen as the host for the 2001 meeting.

In terms of concrete cooperation among Japan, China, and the ROK, leaders agreed to launch research among think-tanks in the three countries as trilateral joint research on economic cooperation. In regard to cultural and personal exchanges, Prime Minister Mori also proposed that exchange among the three countries be promoted as of 2002, which will mark the Year of Japan-ROK National Exchange and the 30th anniversary of the normalization of relations between Japan and China. Part of the initiative would entail a Japan-China-ROK Young Leaders' Program. In response to this proposal, Premier Zhu Rongji suggested that 2002 be designated the Year of Japan-China-ROK National Exchange, to which the other two leaders also agreed. In addition, leaders discussed IT and the environment, affirming the direction of concrete cooperation in each area. The steady development of the Japan-China-ROK process and trilateral cooperation will contribute to the peace and prosperity of Northeast Asia.


The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) draws attention as a unique form of regional cooperation which includes Asia, Oceania, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Russia in its broad and diverse membership. Since its establishment in 1989 with 12 members, APEC has steadily expanded to embrace 21 economies-57 percent of world population and 43 percent of world GDP-making APEC the world's largest example of regional cooperation. APEC has actively addressed a variety of activities geared toward the sustainable development of the Asia-Pacific region, shaping these activities around the three pillars of trade and investment liberalization, trade and investment facilitation, and economic and technical cooperation. The forum has also promoted the development of the Asia-Pacific region through the contributions it has made to sustaining and strengthening the open multilateral free trading system under its banner of "open regionalism." Designed for loose regional cooperation among member economies, APEC has maintained the principle of "concerted unilateral action."

The APEC Economic Leaders' and Ministerial Meetings in 2000 in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam saw forward-looking discussion focused on the steady implementation of APEC discussion to date, which reflects the fact that while member economies were breaking out of the Asian economic crisis, causes of instability such as skyrocketing oil prices were still evident. At the Ministerial Meeting, a vigorous exchange of views took place on the further promotion of the three pillars of APEC activities-trade and investment liberalization, trade and investment facilitation, and economic and technical cooperation-as well as strengthening market functions, the Information and Communications Technology (IT) revolution, and e-commerce in the context of advancing globalization. Drawing on the results of the Ministerial Meeting, the Leaders' Meeting discussed issues such as managing globalization and strengthening the multilateral trading system.

In terms of globalization, vigorous discussion ensued on the advance of the IT revolution and how to take advantage of the benefits it offers, as well as possible responses to the problems accompanied with globalization. As a result, leaders agreed to develop and implement a policy framework which will enable the people of urban, provincial, and rural communities in every economy to have individual or community-based access to information and services offered via the Internet by 2010, while establishing the goal of tripling the number of people within the region with individual and community-based access by 2005 as the first step in this direction. Prime Minister Mori announced that a significant portion of the approximately US$15 billion in the comprehensive cooperation package to be implemented over five years to address the international digital divide (announced in the lead-up to the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit) would be mobilized in the APEC economies, which was welcomed by other members.

Members agreed in regard to strengthening the multilateral trading system that a new round should be launched in 2001 based on a balanced and sufficiently broad-based agenda so as to respond to the interests and concerns of all World Trade Organization (WTO) member countries. Also, in the context of Japan's proposal entitled "Capacity-Building Related to the Implementation of the WTO Agreement," the Strategic APEC Plan, which analyzes the needs of developing member economies and suggests projects designed to meet these needs, was welcomed and approved by many members.

APEC member economies noted the development of regional trade agreements in the Asia-Pacific region in recent years and agreed that regional and bilateral trade agreements should serve as building blocks for multilateral liberalization in the WTO. They also affirmed that the existing and emerging regional trade agreements should be consistent with WTO rules and disciplines.


The Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM)*23 was launched in March 1996 as a forum for strengthening relations between Asia and Europe, traditionally weak compared to ties between North America and Asia and North America and Europe.*24 Belonging to Asia and also, as an advanced industrialized democracy, sharing values with European countries, Japan believes that it is positioned to play a key role in strengthening the dialogue and cooperation between the two regions, which is ASEM's goal, and will continue to participate actively in ASEM activities.

At the Third Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM 3), held in Seoul in October, leaders affirmed the direction of ASEM activities over the next decade and agreed to advance Asia-Europe cooperation toward the 21st century. The three ASEM pillars of politics, economics, and cultural and other issues were separately addressed, and active discussion was inspired.

In the political dialogue, participants discussed various political and security issues, including the situation in Yugoslavia, East Timor, UN reforms, and UN peacekeeping operations (PKO). In particular, since the Summit was held in Seoul, lively discussion took place on the situation in the Korean Peninsula, which had shown such major developments as the inter-Korean Summit. Leaders adopted the Seoul Declaration for Peace on the Korean Peninsula, which called for efforts by both ASEM partners and North Korea to strengthen relations.

Looking at economic issues, leaders discussed IT, the WTO, globalization, oil prices, and the strengthening of economic and financial cooperation to prevent the recurrence of an economic crisis. In the context of IT, many partners commented on the need for measures to address the digital divide. In discussion on global issues such as launching a new WTO round, China's early accession to the WTO, and the strengthening of the international financial system, leaders concurred that global multilateral cooperation frameworks should be strengthened through further dialogue and cooperation between Asia and Europe.

In regard to cultural and other issues, many leaders noted the importance of human resources development in the context of cultural, intellectual, and educational cooperation in particular, and also pointed out the effectiveness of exchanges of persons in fostering mutual understanding. The role of the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) was highly commended in this area. In terms of strengthening cooperation in social issues, leaders identified cooperation in education and human resources development toward overcoming income disparities as particularly necessary.

Various initiatives (new projects) were also endorsed to allow ASEM to effectively address the digital divide (a joint proposal by Japan and the ROK), drugs, money laundering, and international organized crime, including trafficking in persons. Not a few of these initiatives were closely related to key themes at the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit, and Japan is seeking to actively address areas considered to be feasible also as a follow-up to the Summit.

The adoption of the Asia-Europe Cooperation Framework 2000 (AECF 2000) at ASEM 3 is significant in setting out a vision for ASEM activities over the first decade of the 21st century. AECF 2000 stipulates ASEM principles, objectives, priorities, and mechanisms, and also contains for the first time ASEM's guidelines on participation. It was also agreed that ministerial meetings currently held every other year would be held annually. In the Chairman's Statement, it was noted that the Fourth Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM 4) will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2002.

From the preparatory stages of ASEM 3, Japan extended various forms of cooperation and support to the ROK, which served as Chair of the meeting. Such cooperation and support were highly meaningful also in terms of Japan-ROK bilateral relations.


  1. Japan-ASEAN General Exchange Fund (JAGEF): Letters on the establishment of this fund were exchanged at the opening of the ASEAN+1 (Japan) Foreign Ministers' Meeting at the ASEAN PMC as a means of reifying the "extending of assistance for strengthening the functioning of ASEAN-related departments in the governments of new ASEAN member countries and strengthening the functioning of the ASEAN Secretariat," announced by Prime Minister Obuchi at the November 1999 Japan-ASEAN Summit.
  2. Plan for Enhancing Human Resources Development and Human Resources Exchanges in East Asia (Obuchi Plan): A comprehensive human resources and exchange program comprising 10 points designed to strengthen personal exchanges and human resources development toward the construction of human networks in East Asia. Announced by Prime Minister Obuchi at the ASEAN+3 Summit (Japan, China, the ROK) in Manila in November 1999. Aims to boost the development of expert personnel in the finance and tertiary education areas, strengthen personal exchanges at the public level, and bolster assistance for foreign student exchanges.
  3. Vision 2020: Japan-ASEAN Consultation Conference on the Hanoi Plan of Action: A conference of eminent persons from Japan and ASEAN announced by Prime Minister Obuchi at the Japan-ASEAN Summit held in Hanoi in December 1998. Comprising key private-sector figures from Japan and ASEAN countries, the group met three times before submitting a report to the November 2000 Japan-ASEAN Summit.
  4. Japan-ASEAN New Partnership: A Japan-ASEAN partnership based on the following five principles: (1) Equal partnership, shared ownership, and mutual respect; (2) Domestic reforms by ASEAN member states based on the Vision 2020: Hanoi Plan of Action; (3) Emphasis on the "third opening of Japan;" (4) Closing of the "ASEAN divide" as a common objective; and (5) Emphasis on the "coalition of the willing."
  5. Japan-East Asia Partnership Initiative: An initiative designed to build a partnership with the East Asian countries which have graduated from developing status through financial and technical cooperation from Japan (Singapore, the ROK) and those close to graduation (Malaysia, Thailand), primarily pursuing third-country cooperation in East Asia.
  6. e-ASEAN Initiative: An initiative designed to promote IT cooperation within ASEAN with the goal of realizing a free and integrated "e-space" and strengthen ASEAN's competitiveness in an IT-led world economy. Proposed at the ASEAN Economic Ministers' Meeting in September 1999, the meeting also decided to establish an e-ASEAN Task Force to carry out the initiative, and the ASEAN Summit later approved both decisions.
  7. ASEM comprises 10 Asian countries, 15 European countries, and the European Commission.
  8. Three Summits have been held to date (end of January 2001), as well as eight ministerial-level meetings (three among finance ministers, two among foreign ministers, two among economic ministers, and one among science and technology ministers).

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