Statement by Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahiko Koumura on the occasion of the Japan-ASEAN Ministerial Meeting
July 27 1999
It gives me great pleasure to see that Japan's cooperative relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are expanding both in terms of their breadth and depth. Japan and ASEAN, fully aware of their interdependence, have cooperated together to overcome the Asian economic crisis which broke out two years ago, and as a result we now see signs of recovery in the Asian economies. ASEAN is an important political and economic partner for Japan, and strengthening its relations with ASEAN is one of Japan's most important diplomatic priorities. In this statement, I would like to outline some of the points on which Japan focuses as it seeks to strengthen Japan-ASEAN cooperation.
2. Cooperation to Achieve Further Development of ASEAN
Now that ASEAN has realized ASEAN 10, which had been its long-held hope since its inception, and has become a regional organization covering the whole of southeast Asia, Japan believes that continued promotion of ASEAN's regional cooperation that leads to enhanced unity and further development will contribute to the peace, stability and prosperity in not only Southeast Asia but entire Asia. It is from that perspective that Japan is ready to extend appropriate assistance to ASEAN.
In this context, Japan highly values the Hanoi Plan of Action adopted in December 1998, which is a six-year plan that would enable ASEAN to achieve its mid-term goal of bringing to fruition the ASEAN Vision 2020. Within the Hanoi Plan of Action, Japan intends to cooperate with ASEAN in addressing important issues to build on the emerging signs of recovery from the Asian economic crisis and ensure a fundamental recovery of its economies and stable development. In particular, Japan attaches importance to such areas as assistance for building social safety nets, human resources development, environment including measures to address the haze issue and Mekong basin development among others. Japan looks forward to discussing specific forms of cooperation in these areas at the next Japan-ASEAN Roundtable on Development.
"Toward Vision 2020: Japan-ASEAN Consultation Conference on Hanoi Plan of Action", which Prime Minister Obuchi proposed at the last Japan-ASEAN Summit Meeting in Hanoi, is an important forum where eminent persons will discuss on Japan-ASEAN cooperation for the realization of "Hanoi Plan of Action" and "ASEAN Vision 2020." The concept and arrangements of this conference have already been agreed upon between Japan and ASEAN, and its first meeting is scheduled to be held in mid-October. The six members from Japan, including the chairman of the conference, have already been selected.
Now that ASEAN encompasses new members at different stages of economic development, it needs to narrow the disparities among the member states, and aim to strengthen regional cooperation by such means as achieving the early realization of ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and the ASEAN Investment Area (AIA), as well as to aim for balanced development in the region. From that point of view, Japan will, in promoting various economic and technical cooperation, strengthen cooperation to narrow disparities within ASEAN, by establishing Human Resources Cooperation Centers, the goal of which is to develop human resources that will play a central role in the market economy, and through assistance for improving the ability to formulate and implement economic policies and economic institution building in various economic fields, including macro-economic field.
Japan has attached importance to regional programs and projects. The development of the Mekong River basin, in particular, is a program that contributes to the development of the four newly admitted members of ASEAN - Vietnam, the Union of Myanmar, the Kingdom of Cambodia and the Lao People's Democratic Republic, - and Japan has placed much emphasis on it over the years. Japan believes that the "East-West Economic Corridor" project, in particular, has significant merits and intends to continue to cooperate actively in it. Japan wishes to take up other regional issues actively in consultation with ASEAN states.
3. Japan-ASEAN Cooperation to Realize the Vision for Asia in the 21st century
At the end of 1998, Prime Minister Obuchi delivered a policy speech on Japan's foreign policy toward Asia in Hanoi when he was participating in the Japan-ASEAN Summit Meeting. In his speech, Prime Minister Obuchi laid out his vision for Asia in the 21st century, in which he proposed that the 21st century be "a Century of Peace and Prosperity Built on Human Dignity." The initiatives he proposed for Japan-ASEAN cooperation at the Summit Meeting for the realization of the vision, are being implemented steadily. For example, under the New Miyazawa Initiative, approximately two-thirds of the US$30 billion in financial assistance have been implemented. As for the Special Yen Loan Facility with a ceiling of 600 billion yen over a three year period, governmental missions have been dispatched to the ASEAN states. Under this scheme, Japan recently announced that it would provide assistance for two projects to be developed in Vietnam.
Furthermore, Japan wishes to advance to a higher level its partnership with ASEAN, which is expected to develop as it has entered a new era by the realization of ASEAN 10, in order to realize the vision of "a Century of Peace and Prosperity built on Human Dignity" with ASEAN. I would like to take this opportunity to propose Japan and ASEAN's "Commitment to Peace in Asia based on Respect for Dialogue and Harmony" and "Two Frontier Spirits for the Revitalization of Asia."
(1) Commitment to Peace in Asia based on Respect for Dialogue and Harmony
Japan views the realization of ASEAN 10 an encouraging development for the achievement of peace in Asia, an area where instabilities and uncertainties still exist despite the end of Cold War. Japan considers ASEAN 10 a partner for peace in Asia and intends to cooperate with it to ensure peace and stability in Asia. In particular, Japan appreciates the fact that ASEAN has been making ceaseless efforts to ensure peace in the region, overcoming differences in political regimes and in stages of economic development among the member states and maintaining its unity in an ASEAN style, respecting dialogue and harmony while maintaining diversity. Japan wishes to propose that Japan and ASEAN together announce to the international community their "commitment to peace in Asia based on respect for dialogue and harmony." Based on this commitment, Japan believes that it is important to have even closer dialogues between Japan and ASEAN at many different levels, ranging from summit level to working level such as defense and security dialogues. Japan also intends to cooperate with ASEAN, taking into account the achievements of this year's ARF to enhance the role of the ASEAN Regional Forum -- a forum inaugurated through an ASEAN initiative -- as the sole forum for political and security dialogue and cooperation in the Asia-Pacific Region.
(2) Two Frontier Spirits for the Revitalization of Asia
To achieve the vision for Asia in the 21st century, it is essential that Asia overcome the lingering influences of the currency and economic crises, revitalize itself, regain vigour and become "Vigorous Asia." Japan wishes to propose here today that Japan and ASEAN advance the Japan-ASEAN partnership to new fields with the two following frontier spirits for the revitalization of Asia.
(a) Frontier Spirit for Manufacturing
One of the causes of the Asian economic crisis was the creation of bubble economy by inefficient investment of short-term foreign capital in such areas as real estate, relegating the valuableness of manufacturing to the backseat. Asia must learn from these lessons and once again focus our energies on our capacity of manufacturing, which has provided the underpinning for Asian economic development. Japan intends to further advance industrial and technical cooperation together with ASEAN. It is particularly important to foster supporting industries, which comprises small and medium enterprises that support manufacturing industry, and Japan believes that there are many ways in which Japan can cooperate in this sector. Manufacturing has always been an area in which Asia has demonstrated strength, and Japan expects that great progress can be made toward realizing the recovery of Asian economies through cooperation in this sector between Japan and ASEAN both at the private level and in the form of dispatch of experts and volunteers.
(b) Frontier Spirit for Building Information Networks and Developing Information Technologies
In addition to focusing on manufacturing, it is important to prepare for the advanced information society, which will eventually reach Asia in the midst of wave of globalization. Japan wishes to propose "Frontier Spirit for Building Information Networks and Developing Information Technologies." The development of information technology is moving at an extremely fast pace, and Asian countries need to cooperate so that they will not get left behind. Japan believes it important that Japan and ASEAN establish this field as a new field for Japan-ASEAN cooperation and that ASEAN promote regional cooperation with this frontier spirit. Furthermore, as information becomes increasingly globalized, Asian countries must not simply acquire a swift and accurate understanding of the flows of information around the world. Rather, it will be increasingly important that the voice of Asia be heard and transmitted around the world. Japan would like to pool its thoughts together with ASEAN on how Asia can send out its own information and messages in a more proactive manner.
Japan notes that the Hanoi Plan of Action encompasses spirits focusing importance on "manufacturing", "building of information network", and "development of information technology". Therefore, it is very timely to advance Japan-ASEAN partnership to these two frontiers. The cooperation between Japan and ASEAN in these two fields will be taken up in consultations at government level between Japan and the ASEAN states, intellectual dialogue by eminent persons like "Toward Vision 2020: Japan-ASEAN Consultation Conference on Hanoi Plan of Action" and "Mission for Revitalization of Asian Economy", and I expect it to be discussed thoroughly in these fora.
In order to ensure that the 21st century be "a century of peace and prosperity built on human dignity," Japan and ASEAN are expected to play respectively more important roles. It is of great significance that Japan and ASEAN demonstrate to show the international community that they have agreed at this PMC to make joint efforts so that Asia could be revitalized as soon as possible, to become "Vigorous Asia." I should like to conclude by assuring all of you that Japan will make its utmost efforts to strengthen the cooperative relations with ASEAN.
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