Opening Statement by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at the Press Conference Following the ASEAN+3 Summit Meeting
November 6, 2001
This was my first attendance to the ASEAN+3 (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations plus Japan, the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Korea) meeting, and I was very gratified to be able to take forward dialogue toward affirming and strengthening our cooperation into the future through consultation in this forum.
Regional issues cover various areas. In particular, different countries face different situations. Japan attaches importance for cooperation with each other based on an awareness of these differences, and highly evaluates each country's efforts. We also recognize that different countries will pursue different reform courses in line with their domestic circumstances and national strength. It was useful to conduct a frank exchange of views on how Japan can tailor its assistance and cooperation to specific needs, and how Japan's assistance can be utilized more effectively in host countries. It was truly useful to affirm the shape of future cooperation through this discussion. Japan has maintained its emphasis on ASEAN for more than 20 years. Even if the Japanese Prime Minister changes-and, after all, I am the tenth Prime Minister in the last decade or so-the importance which Japan places on its relationship with ASEAN will not change. That was highly appreciated by my ASEAN colleagues in the ASEAN+1 session, who were kind enough to express their gratitude for continued Japan's support. I believe we were not wrong in placing emphasis on our relations with ASEAN. I feel it was significant that we reaffirmed our commitment to cooperate in the interests of the peace, development, as well as prosperity of the region and the rest of the world.
I discussed trade and investment-related matters, and held discussion on such issues as the cooperation in the IT sector - in which Japan has been implementing a policy of becoming a world's most advanced information technology (IT) nation in the coming five years -, Mekong basin development, human resource development and education. We discussed how we can mutually cooperate in the area of human capacity building so that contributions can be made to the development of the ASEAN member countries. Japan, over the years, has heavily invested in human resource development and education, which is important for the alleviation of poverty. I think we were able to strike a common understanding on that point, which I believe is very significant.
A trilateral meeting, namely the working breakfast between Japan, China and the Republic of Korea, was also held at which we engaged in an exchange of views on trilateral cooperation. I met with my Chinese and ROK counterparts on the 8th and 15th of last month respectively, and also held talks with them in the fringe of the Shanghai Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting. The working breakfast was an opportunity for further discussion and a frank exchange of views with Premier Zhu Rongji and President Kim Dae Jung, and we agreed to hold a foreign ministers' meeting in addition to existing ministerial meetings such as those of finance ministers. We also reached the understanding that pursuing friendly relations and cooperation among the three countries in regard to such cross-border issues as the environment and international crimes, as well as in cultural exchange and a range of other areas, is vital not only for ASEAN as a whole but also for the world. Our three countries shared views on cooperating toward the stability, economic development and prosperity in Asia-Pacific, which was, I believe, extremely significant. I am delighted and heartened to have been able to develop such a sense of closeness and harmony with the leaders of China and the ROK through our string of meetings over short period, as well as being able to speak frankly and sharing a sense of the importance of friendly relations among our nations. I was most encouraged by this outcome, and I am confident that Japan-Korea and Japan-China cooperation as well as Japan-China-Korea and ASEAN plus Japan-China-Korea cooperation are very important bilateral as well as multilateral relations for Japan.
Further, the trilateral meeting was a chance to affirm that we would cooperate in taking a resolute stance against terrorism, and that we have to work together in a number of areas, including not only the freezing of terrorist funds, but also civil aviation safety, piracy, and infectious diseases. This understanding among Japan, China and the ROK was also shared with ASEAN. In promoting cooperation among ASEAN and Japan, China, and the ROK, I believe that the trilateral Summit was an excellent and extremely meaningful event, conducted in a relaxed, open atmosphere that invited sincere smiles. I believe that Japan-China-Korea friendship and cooperation would be certainly most conducive to the furtherance of cooperation among ASEAN+3.
The ASEAN+3 also provided an opportunity for me to speak with Prime Minister Than Shwe of Myanmar and Prime Minister Boungnang Vorachith of Laos. Both countries face difficult situations and I was able to hear from them that both are truly struggling and making efforts in their process of nation-building. In terms of determining the kind of assistance which Japan can provide for these countries, it was most significant to hear about their struggles firsthand, as well as their strong intention for reform, while this kind of firsthand exchange among leaders is always most valuable in itself. As they say, seeing is believing, and, while phone conversations have their place, directly meeting and exchanging views, looking at and listening to your counterpart in the same room, is an excellent way of affirming friendly relations and mutual determination to pursue cooperation. Both bilateral meetings were in this sense a reminder of how important face-to-face meetings are.
Over the past six months, I was able to meet a number of leaders at the Japan-ASEAN meeting, the Shanghai APEC, and the Genoa Summit in July. It was a short period of time in which to conduct so many bilateral, multilateral and international exchanges of views. Through these meetings I have been impressed afresh with the importance of diplomacy and the great significance of firsthand contact among leaders. It has been a most valuable experience for me personally, while affirming the need for Japan's greater diplomatic efforts at both bilateral and multilateral levels has been an important lesson for me, as well as for Japan.
Thank you for your attention.
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