Message of Prime Minister of Japan Junichiro Koizumi
Commemorating ASEAN-Japan Exchange Year 2003

Prime Minister of Japan Junichiro Koizumi

This year is ASEAN-Japan Exchange Year 2003. At the Japan-ASEAN Summit Meeting in November last year, the leaders of ASEAN and Japan formally declared that this Exchange Year would start from January 2003.

Relations between Japan and the ASEAN region have a long history. As early as the 14th century, the Kingdom of the Ryukyu, the previous name for the islands of Okinawa, traded with Thailand. In the 16th century, the sea-borne trade in vermilion seals was active, and as many as one thousand Japanese lived in Ayuthaya, the Thai capital of that period, and similar number in Hoi An, a port town in central Vietnam which prospered in the east-west trade. Japan and ASEAN have deepened their relations since the early stage of the establishment of ASEAN. Specifically, since then-Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda expressed Japan's policy of attaching importance to ASEAN, Japan-ASEAN relations have been smoothly developed and a friendly relationship has been forged. In the quarter-century since then, when the global situation is still undergoing tremendous changes, Japan's policy of placing importance on ASEAN has never changed. In terms of economic relations, 14% of Japan's global trade and 32% of Japan's total bilateral ODA concern ASEAN countries. People-to-people exchanges are also active. The number of students from ASEAN countries studying in Japan is increasing. Based on such relationships, I proposed that in the 21st century, as sincere and open partners, Japan and ASEAN should strengthen their cooperation under the basic concept of "acting together--advancing together."

Now, Japan is vigorously working with ASEAN for the realization of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership which would build up cooperation in various areas including liberalization and harmonization of trade and investment. Japan also intends to strengthen cooperation with ASEAN on securities, including transnational issues such as terrorism. My proposal for ASEAN-Japan Exchange Year 2003 is based on such concepts.

In the Exchange Year in 2003, each of the ten ASEAN countries and Japan has been designated as a key coordinator for each month so they can fully contribute to the Exchange Year. I hope that exchange programmes in a wide range of areas, such as politics, economy, security, education and science, as well as culture and arts, will deepen Japan-ASEAN mutual exchanges and enhance the vitality of both ASEAN and Japan.

In order to promote the activities of the Exchange Year under government/private partnership, an Organizing Committee headed on the Japanese side by Mr. Hirosi Okuda, Chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren), has been established. In December 2003, the Japan-ASEAN Commemorative Summit Meeting is to be held in Japan, with all ASEAN leaders invited. I sincerely hope that ASEAN-Japan Exchange Year 2003 will serve to give further thrust to the construction of a sincere and open partnership between ASEAN and Japan as they act together and advance together.

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