The 28th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Ministerial Meeting
On August 6, from 8:00 p.m. (Japan time) for approximately 3 hours and 40 minutes, the 28th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) Ministerial Meeting was held in an online format. Mr. MOTEGI Toshimitsu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan, attended the meeting. The overview of the meeting is as follows.
- Japan’s opening remarks
Minister Motegi stated that Japan has been providing support in the health and medical fields, including through co-hosting the COVAX AMC Summit, provision of vaccines both on a bilateral basis and through COVAX as well as development of cold chains, and will continue to lead international efforts to achieve equitable access to safe and effective vaccines. He also stated that August 6 was the day when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima 76 years ago, and expressed his determination that Hiroshima and Nagasaki must never be repeated.
- Free and Open Indo-Pacific
Minister Motegi stated that it is important to maintain and strengthen the principles of the rule of law, openness, transparency and inclusivity in the Indo-Pacific region because of the difficult situation of COVID-19. He also stated that Japan will proceed with projects that take shape the principles of the ASEAN outlook on the Indo Pacific (AOIP) in line with “the Joint Statement on Cooperation on AOIP” issued at Japan-ASEAN summit meeting last year.
- East and South China Seas
Minister Motegi stated that unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force are continuing and intensifying in the East and South China Seas and that Japan strongly opposes this. He also emphasized that the Arbitral Tribunal's award in 2016 is final and legally binding on the parties to the dispute, and that the Code of Conduct (COC) should be consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and should not prejudice the legitimate rights and interests of all the stakeholders that use the South China Sea.
In response, participants spoke about the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, and the importance of peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, in particular UNCLOS.
- 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 dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea will resume and concrete actions towards the complete denuclearization will advance. Minister Motegi also stated that Prime Minister Suga’s policy remains unchanged that he is determined to meet directly with Chairman Kim Jong Un without any preconditions.
In response, participants pointed out the importance of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and full implementation of UN Security Council resolutions.
Minister Motegi expressed grave concerns about the situation in Myanmar and that the Five-Point Consensus represents is required a positive step towards the cessation of violence and the initiation of dialogue. He welcomed the appointment of Minister Erywan as ASEAN Special Envoy to Myanmar, expressing Japan’s full support for Special Envoy Erywan’s activities, and conveyed the hope that these activities will begin soon and lead to developments in the near term, including dialogue between the parties concerned.
In response, participants welcomed the appointment of ASEAN Special Envoy and spoke about the importance of implementing the “Five-Point Consensus”, and supporting ASEAN’s efforts to improve the situation in Myanmar.
- New Arms Control
Touching upon the extension of the New START Treaty between the United States and Russia, Minister Motegi expressed his desire to encourage China, joining hands with other countries, to continue its efforts to fulfil its responsibility as a nuclear weapon state and an important player in the international community, and engage in bilateral dialogue between the United States and China on arms control.
- Tokyo Olympics
Regarding the Tokyo Olympics which are currently being held in Tokyo, Minister Motegi stated that he would like to use it as an opportunity to deepen global ties while the world is fighting to overcome COVID-19.