Statement by His Excellency Yohei Kono, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan on the occasion of the Japan-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting

July 28 2000

1. Introduction

   I highly appreciate the tremendous effort that Viet Nam has put into developing relations between Japan and ASEAN, as the country coordinator for Japan. I should like to take this opportunity to emphasize that, in spite of the sudden passing of former Prime Minister Obuchi, Japan's policy of attaching importance to its relations with ASEAN remains unchanged. I should like also to elaborate on Japan's basic policy towards ASEAN.

   Japan has highly valued the significant role played by ASEAN and has made efforts to consolidate cooperative relations with ASEAN, as a partner for peace and prosperity in East Asia. Japan therefore believes that the dynamic development of ASEAN 10, by overcoming the differences in political systems and economic disparities, is important for the sake of Japan too and will make every effort to that end. It is based on this policy that, when ASEAN was hurt by the currency and economic crisis, Japan, in spite of its own difficult economic and fiscal situation, announced the Obuchi Plan as well as financial assistance amounting to approximately US$80 billion and has steadily implemented them. We should like to build a far-reaching and close relationship in both private and public sectors as we go into the 21st century.

2. Japan-ASEAN General Exchange Fund

   H.E. Mr. Nguyen Dy Nien, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam and I have just signed letters for the establishment of the "Japan-ASEAN General Exchange Fund (JAGEF)" and concrete cooperative relations based on the Fund will start by this. As for the projects for the first fiscal year, Japan is making efforts to formulate specific plans through feasibility studies. Such projects as the establishment of a telecommunication network connecting ASEAN 10, the ASEAN Secretariat, and Japan and the training of members of foreign ministries from new ASEAN member states are under consideration. Japan hopes that economic disparities between original and new ASEAN member states, one of the great challenges ASEAN 10 is faced with, will be bridged by making use of JAGEF.

3. Implementation of the Obuchi Plan

   As for the Obuchi Plan, Japan has been working hard to identify the specific needs of ASEAN countries and to prepare for its implementation, by dispatching government missions to ASEAN countries since this spring and will continue to implement it steadily. As the importance of human resources development increases with the rapid progress of globalization and the IT revolution, Japan wishes to reinforce cooperation by increasing the dispatch of the Overseas Senior Volunteers, for example by promoting tripartite cooperation through partnership between Japan and ASEAN member states.

   As for Overseas Senior Volunteers, we are preparing to dispatch them to Viet Nam, Cambodia, and the Philippines in addition to Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, and Malaysia.

   Regarding tripartite cooperation between Japan and ASEAN member states, Japan is beginning to provide assistance, with Singapore and Thailand, to new ASEAN member states. Japan considers ASEAN as its partner and has been strengthening cooperation with it while respecting its ownership. Japan intends to foster carefully cooperation that symbolizes the new relationship between Japan and ASEAN in the 21st century.

4. IT

   At the recent Kyushu-Okinawa Summit, Japan announced that it would prepare "Japan's Comprehensive Co-operation Package to Address the International Digital Divide" set on the following 4 specific pillars, with a view to extending a total of US$15 billion over the next 5 years, (1) Raising awareness of IT opportunities and contributing intellectually to policy and institution-building, (2) Developing and training human resources, (3) Building IT infrastructure and providing assistance for network establishment, and (4) Promoting the use of IT in development assistance.

   With increasing interdependence between Japan and ASEAN member states, the prosperity of Japan and that of Asia are inseparably related. Japan would therefore like to implement the afore-mentioned comprehensive cooperation package with special emphasis on Asia. In particular, active promotion of regional cooperation such as the e-ASEAN Initiative and e-Asia Initiative is key to the realization of prosperity in Asia in the 21st century. Japan intends to cooperate through the afore-mentioned comprehensive cooperation package.

5. Mekong River Basin Development

   On the Mekong River Basin Development, I believe that the stage of concept-making and organization-forming has already passed and that we should concentrate on the actual implementation of specific projects.

   On the occasion of the Japan-ASEAN Leaders Meeting in UNCTAD 10 in February, there was lively discussion on the Mekong River Basin Development. I welcome such mounting political momentum. On the other hand, discussions within ASEAN member states on the Mekong River Basin Development do not seem to have become mature enough to specify by consensus the challenges that ASEAN as a whole should address.

   Based on such a situation, the most realistic measure to take in future is not to build new organizations but for Japan and non-riparian ASEAN member states to make the most of the existing frameworks of ADB-GMS to achieve substantive cooperation between Japan and ASEAN.

6. ASEAN Promotion Campaign

   Last but not least, I should like to refer to the ASEAN Promotion Campaign ("ASEAN-Japan 2000: Meeting New Challenges"), which is under preparation so that it can be launched from the end of September to the end of November. Japan wishes to build far-reaching relations with ASEAN and intends to hold within Japan various ASEAN promotion events commemorating the Millennium, as projects of the ASEAN Promotion Centre on Trade, Investment and Tourism. As a part of these events, we shall be holding a symposium entitled "Globalization and future relations between ASEAN and Japan" in Tokyo at the end of September with the participation of important figures from ASEAN governments.

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