Japan-ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting

photo photo

November 28, 2004

The following is an overview of the Japan-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Foreign Ministers' Meeting held in Vientiane, Lao People's Democratic Republic, on November 27. Minister for Foreign Affairs Nobutaka Machimura and Minister of Foreign Affairs Dato' Seri Syed Hamid Albar of Malaysia, which is the country assigned to coordinate with Japan, served as co-chairpersons.

1. Overview

(1) Ministers vigorously discussed two points, Japan-ASEAN relations and the international situation. Regarding Japan-ASEAN relations, the ministers adopted two documents: the Executive Report of progress of implementation of the Japan-ASEAN Plan of Action, which was adopted at the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit Meeting held in 2003, and the ASEAN-Japan Joint Declaration for Cooperation to combat International Terrorism. The main topics concerning the international situation included North Korea, Iraq and reform of the United Nations (UN).

(2) The two abovementioned documents will be submitted to the Japan-ASEAN Summit Meeting scheduled to be held on November 30 and will be released upon approval by the leaders.

2. Japan-ASEAN relations

(1) Progress in Japan-ASEAN relations after the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit

In its main statements, ASEAN reflected on the 30-year friendly history of Japan-ASEAN relations. ASEAN also expressed gratitude for Japan's cooperation to date, and for the excellent results attained in the historic ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit in December 2003, and the various kinds of cooperation Japan has offered in accordance with the Japan-ASEAN Plan of Action. Furthermore, ASEAN appreciated Japan's accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in Southeast Asia in July 2004.

Foreign Minister Machimura expressed his gratitude that ASEAN highly appreciated Japan's cooperation, particularly the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit in 2003 and the Tokyo Declaration for the Dynamic and Enduring Japan-ASEAN Partnership in the New Millennium and the Japan-ASEAN Plan of Action, both of which were announced at the ASEAN -Japan Commemorative Summit. Foreign Minister Machimura also expressed his gratitude that ASEAN strongly welcomed Japan's signing of the TAC.

(2) Assistance for Mekong Region Development and human resource development

ASEAN expressed gratitude for Japan's cooperation to provide US$1.5 billion over three years in assistance for the areas of Mekong Region Development and human resource development respectively, which Japan is committed at the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit in 2003.

Foreign Minister Machimura stated that Japan had steadily implemented approximately US$500 million in assistance for each area in the past year. (This was incorporated into the Executive Report, adopted at this meeting, as the most important point.)

(3) Economic partnership with ASEAN

ASEAN explained the importance of promoting Japan-ASEAN economic partnership, particularly the Japan-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, for which negotiations are scheduled to begin in April 2005.

Foreign Minister Machimura stated that Japan was advancing negotiations for economic partnerships with the Republic of the Philippines, Malaysia and the Kingdom of Thailand. Foreign Minister Machimura also stated that strengthening partnerships with ASEAN would serve as the basis of regional cooperation and expressed his intention to continue negotiations in a swift manner. Regarding the comprehensive economic partnership with ASEAN as a whole, Foreign Minister Machimura stated Japan's intention to work together with ASEAN as much as possible with a view to launching negotiations in April 2005.

(4) Vientiane Action Programme

Foreign Minister Machimura stated that developments to advance integration within ASEAN, such as the Vientiane Action Programme (VAP), would serve as a major driving force for future cooperation in East Asia. Foreign Minister Machimura expressed Japan's intention to vigorously provide assistance for the VAP in parallel with the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) and Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

Laos and the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam at the ASEAN Summit expressed their wish to obtain Japan's support for the Vientiane Action Programme, which aims to promote ASEAN integration.

(5) Second Japan-ASEAN Security Symposium

Both sides appreciated the Second Japan-ASEAN Security Symposium that was held in view of the importance of Japan-ASEAN cooperation in counterterrorism, piracy issues and other non-traditional security areas, and that an extremely important proposal was announced at this symposium.

(6) Others

Foreign Minister Machimura stated the importance of reforming the ASEAN-Japan Centre. Foreign Minister Machimura also explained the importance of strengthening the disarmament and non-proliferation regime for weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their delivery means. Foreign Minister Machimura made statements concerning the steady progress in Japan-ASEAN cooperation in the Japan-ASEAN working-level consultations for building an international order by law, in addition to a wide range of areas including economy, finance and information and communications technology (ICT). Foreign Minister Machimura also expressed his expectation that many people from ASEAN countries will visit Japan on the occasion of EXPO 2005 Aichi, and that exchanges will be held in various fields.

3. International situation

The following is an overview of Foreign Minister Machimura's statements.

(1) North Korea

For the nuclear issue of North Korea to be resolved in a peaceful manner, it is vital to resume the Six-Party Talks before the end of this year if possible. This would be to North Korea's benefit, as well as Asia as a whole, and as such, Japan would like ASEAN to continue its cooperation on this front. Regarding the abduction issue, Japan would like to ask for ASEAN's continued understanding and cooperation as difficult issues remain unresolved, such as confirming the facts concerning the people whose whereabouts remains unknown.

(2) Iraq

Stability in the Middle East including Iraq is critical. It is essential for the international community, including the UN, to unite and continue assisting Iraq's reconstruction, as the Iraqi people themselves are currently striving to reconstruct their own country.

(3) UN reform

There is growing momentum for reform of the UN and UN Security Council. Japan is paying close attention to a report to be submitted by the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change on December 2. Particularly with respect to Security Council reform, which constitutes the core of UN reform, it is necessary to expand the number of both non-permanent and permanent seats in the Security Council to include both developed and developing countries, boosting the effectiveness and credibility of the Security Council and strengthening its function.

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