27th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Ministerial Meeting
On September 12, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (Japan time), the 27th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Ministerial Meeting was held in an online format. Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, attended the meeting. The overview of the meeting, with a focus on Minister Motegi’s comments, is as follows.
1. Response to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
Minister Motegi stated that, “The development and delivery of vaccines are critical in turning the tide of the global fight against COVID-19. It is extremely important that fair access to vaccines is secured for small population countries and developing countries. Utilizing international frameworks will enable the developing countries or countries with small population to secure sufficient amount of vaccines and therapeutics. For this purpose, international frameworks such as the COVID-19 Global Vaccine Access Facility (COVAX Facility) are necessary and Japan will work together.”
Participants made statements about the importance of international cooperation in the response to COVID-19 and the development and delivery of vaccines.
2. North Korea
Minister Motegi stated that, “Japan’s policy of seeking normalization of its relationship with North Korea through comprehensively resolving the outstanding issues of concern, such as the abductions, nuclear and missile issues, and settling the unfortunate past, in accordance with the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration of September 2002, remains unchanged.” Minister Motegi expressed Japan’s strong hope that the U.S.-North Korea process will lead to concrete actions towards the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
In response, participants made statements including emphasizing the importance of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the full implementation of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
3. East and South China Seas
Minister Motegi stated that, “It is in our common interest to keep the vast sea in the Indo-Pacific open, free and peaceful sea,” and that “the situation in the East and South China Seas is deteriorating and Japan shares serious concerns with the ARF participating countries.”
Participants expressed concern over recent incidents in the South China Sea, and made statements on the importance of the freedom of navigation in and non-militarization, as well as on the necessity for the Code of Conduct to be consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
4. Situation surrounding Hong Kong
Minister Motegi stated Japan’s grave concerns over the recent situation surrounding Hong Kong and that the recent series of developments, including the enactment and subsequent implementation of the national security law, undermines the international community’s trust in the principle of ‘One Country Two System’ framework, it is important to uphold a free and open system in Hong Kong under the “One Country Two System” framework, ensuring that the freedoms and rights of the people in Hong Kong as well as people and businesses from all countries are respected, and ensuring the democratic and stable development of Hong Kong. Other participants also expressed concern over the situation surrounding Hong Kong.
5. Arms Control and Disarmament
Minister Motegi, joining hands with other countries, welcomed and expressed his desire to encourage China to continue its efforts to fulfil its responsibility as a nuclear weapon state and an important player in the international community, and engage in the bilateral dialogue between the United States and China on arms control, stating that, “The implementation of confidence-building measures among major nuclear weapon states is acutely needed now more than ever to secure a prosperous and safe environment in the region.”