Statement by Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda
at the General Session of the ASEAN
Post-Ministerial Conferences

July 28, 1997
Kuala Lumpur

Your Excellency Datuk Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi,
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia,
Distinguished Foreign Ministers of the ASEAN countries
and dialogue partners,
Ladies and gentlemen,

1. Introduction

I would like to begin by offering heartfelt congratulations to the ASEAN member states, since this year marks the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). I would also like to pay my deepest respect to the Government of Malaysia, which has done so much to ensure this meeting's success, the Government of the Kingdom of Thailand, which has played the role of a coordinating country for Japan, and other officials from ASEAN attending this meeting.

For the past three decades the countries of ASEAN have achieved spectacular development, while maintaining both their diversity and harmony. The international environment surrounding ASEAN has also undergone tremendous changes over that period. The conflicts in Southeast Asia during the Cold War era have become things of the past, and, following the entry of Viet Nam into ASEAN, Laos and Myanmar have now officially become new members of ASEAN. Japan hopes that expansion of ASEAN membership will contribute to the peace and stability of Southeast Asia and that it will lead ASEAN to play an even greater role in the international community.

As regards Cambodia, in order to avoid a relapse in her peace process, which was achieved through tremendous efforts of the international community including Japan, the Government of Japan would like to continue the communication process with Cambodia's leaders for achieving a peaceful resolution of the situation,and Japan is prepared to cooperate with the ASEAN member countries toward that end.

2. Evaluation of ASEAN's Past Role in the International Community and Future Expectations

Ladies and gentlemen,

During these thirty years, thanks to remarkable economic development and intra-regional cooperation, ASEAN has increased the resilience of the region's countries and of the region as a whole and it has taken vigorous diplomatic initiatives in the international community. The ASEAN Post Ministerial Conferences (PMC) provide opportunities for a dialogue between ASEAN members and countries outside the region; the ASEAN Regional Forum(ARF) has facilitated a dialogue in the political and security fields in the Asia-Pacific region; and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), a historic initiative with strong symbolic attributes was launched last year to strengthen relations between Asia and Europe. All of these initiatives have helped the steady development of frameworks for dialogue and cooperation between ASEAN and other major players in the international community. Moreover, promotion of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) serves to increase trade and investment in the region, and it encourages the steady development of diverse ties of mutual interdependence. Moreover, the Ministerial Meeting on the Mekong River Basin Development was held in June 1996, and studies on the ASEAN Investment Area(AIA) have been implemented. These trends provide clear evidence that numerous positive efforts are being made for promoting intra-regional cooperation.

In welcoming new members into its fold, it is hoped that ASEAN will never set back its beneficial contributions to the development and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, but will further bolster them. I am confident in this respect that ASEAN membership will have a constructive impact on the two countries that have just joined the organization.

In other words, the basic principles, such as promotion of friendly relations with other nations, adherence to market mechanisms, free trade, and the rule of laws, all of which ASEAN has embraced while achieving resounding successes in the political and economic fields, are expected to facilitate efforts of the new members to introduce a market-oriented economy, which is open to the outside world. In light of its active diplomatic efforts, the ASEAN membership will greatly contribute to strengthening the ties between the new members and the international community. Likewise, the ASEAN-Mekong River Basin Development Initiatives will help the new members develop their economies, which still remain fragile.

3. Japan's Cooperation with ASEAN

Ladies and gentlemen,

Over the last thirty years, Japan has consistently built friendly, cooperative relations with all ASEAN countries. In January this year, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto paid official visits to ASEAN countries and agreed with his fellow ASEAN leaders to establish a broader and deeper partnership in a manner suitable for a new era. Concrete steps toward that end are, firstly, closer dialogues at the top level; secondly, multilateral cultural cooperation for the preservation and harmony of unique traditions and cultures; and thirdly, joint endeavors to address global issues. Bearing in mind these three pillars of cooperation, Japan and ASEAN will work together for a prosperous and open society in the Asia-Pacific region.

The expansion of ASEAN membership will require members to redouble their efforts in consensus-building, and to ensure flexibility. ASEAN will also have to face various new challenges, including economic disparities among members, and intensified regional competition in the fields of trade and investment. Nevertheless, I am confident that ASEAN will tenaciously overcome these difficulties through its members' consolidated solidarity, which has been nurtured over the past thirty years. And Japan on her part will spare no efforts to cooperate with ASEAN countries.

In the Asia-Pacific region, we have witnessed development of the private-sector economic exchanges and deepening of interdependence. The role of Official Development Assistance(ODA), on the other hand, remains as important as ever for achieving socioeonomic development, taking into account the diverse stages of development of the countries in the region. However, the environment surrounding ODA in donor countries has become increasingly constrained, and it is now imperative that we utilize limited funds in a more efficient and effective manner. It is also essential that we make more effective use of private capital and promote South-South cooperation. Despite such difficulties, Japan is determined to support the development of ASEAN member countries through its ODA and other forms of assistance in response to the needs of each country. More specifically, Japan is prepared to assist the reform efforts of the governments in their transition to market-oriented economies and to pursue human resources development and institution-building including the consolidation of legal systems. Japan also believes that it is more important than ever before to cooperate in regional development projects that transcend national borders, such as the Mekong River Basin Development. Together with ASEAN member countries, Japan has launched joint endeavors with a view to facilitating socioeconomic development of developing countries, including the African region, and Japan intends to continue promoting these new approaches in economic cooperation.

4. Challenges for the 21st Century in the Asia-Pacific Region and the Role of PMC

Ladies and gentlemen,

In the international community to which we all belong, the next century will offer hope as a century of greater promise for the Asia-Pacific region, but at the same time it will be an era of several challenges.

First, the Asia-Pacific region still faces various persistent factors of instability, starting with the situation on the Korean Peninsula. As emphasized by Prime Minister Hashimoto during his visit to ASEAN, Japan believes that the Japan-U.S. security arrangements provide solid basis for the maintenance of stability and prosperity in the region. Japan intends to continue her efforts in enhancing credibility of the Japan-U.S. security arrangements.

Second, in order for the Asia-Pacific region to enjoy a high level of prosperity in the future, we should keep our economies open to the other parts of the world thereby maintaining a vigorous global economy, which is based on free and fair competitions. To this end, it is of vital importance for each country to contribute to preserving and reinforcing the WTO system through steady implementation of the Uruguay Round Agreements, and to promote trade and investment liberalization and facilitation within the APEC framework. In particular, APEC is the only forum where all Asia-Pacific leaders assemble and, in order to maintain and foster the momentum of its activities, APEC is, therefore, expected to contribute not only to the region's economic development but also to its political stability.

Third, there exist the issues of global concern, which should be addressed by the whole international community. Such problems as the environment, energy and food shortages, and population growth could worsen in the Asia-Pacific region as a result of rapid economic growth. For the resolution of those problems and others, including AIDS, narcotics, and terrorism, it is indispensable that all countries work hand-in-hand through various measures, including intensified cooperation in the United Nations organizations.

As the need to tackle those challenges for the twenty-first century grows, the Post-Ministerial Conferences assume special significance as the forum for dialogue between ASEAN and other major players in the world. Needless to say, the PMC to date has made an outstanding contribution to the creation of mutual trust among ASEAN and its dialogue partners. Its steady progress through a process of dialogues has established the foundation of the frameworks of regional cooperation, such as the ARF, and the PMC is expected to continue playing a vital role in the future.

With regard to the first issue that I mentioned, namely the preservation of peace and stability in the region, the ARF has constantly played a role as a forum for dialogue and cooperation, starting with the area of confidence-building measures. Consequently, I believe that the PMC should be a venue where we consider and discuss other issues of our common concern. From this point of view, Japan holds in high esteem for the agenda of this session, which has rightly taken up both international political and economic issues, and global issues.

5. Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen,

Toward the twenty-first century, the Asia-Pacific region should maintain and expand the dynamism of economic growth, while ensuring political stability. This is of outstanding importance not just for the region itself, but also for the peace and prosperity of the entire world. To this end, ASEAN and its dialogue partners,fully recognizing their respective responsibilities for the region and the world, should squarely address themselves to new challenges toward the coming century. I would like to stress in this context that Japan, together with ASEAN celebrating the thirtieth anniversary of its founding, is determined to make utmost efforts to provide the driving force for further development of the Asia-Pacific region. Finally, let me express my firm belief that the spirit of trust and collaboration forged among the PMC participants will help lead us forward step by step into a new age filled with hope for us all.

Back to Index