Welcoming Remarks Made by Minister for Foreign Affairs Yohei Kono at the "Millennium Forum-Voice of Asia"

(Read by Chihiro Atsumi, Deputy Director-General of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, on behalf of the Minister for Foreign Affairs)

March 11, 2001

   I am extremely pleased that we have been able to hold this "Millennium Forum-Voice of Asia" under the joint sponsorship of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Okinawa Prefecture.

   Last July, the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit Meeting 2000 was held at the Bankoku Shinryokan here in Okinawa, which has historically had strong ties with Asian countries. At the G8 Summit, discussions were conducted from a global perspective while also giving consideration to the voices of Asian countries. Amidst the rapid progress of globalization, one of the keys to the prosperity for human beings in developed countries as well as developing countries will be IT (Information and Communications Technology). Based on the awareness of this fact, the IT revolution was one of the major themes discussed at the G8 Summit, and the results of these discussions were compiled into the "Okinawa Charter on Global Information Society." This Charter called for worldwide participation aimed at taking advantage of so-called "digital opportunities."

   Furthermore, in light of the fact that Asian countries had expressed interest in responding to the so-called "digital divide" even before the G8 Summit, Japan not only made efforts to raise this issue at the G8 Summit, but also to (1) improve the awareness that IT provides various opportunities and pledge intellectual assistance towards the creation of policies and systems related to IT; (2) provide assistance for human development focusing on training and the cultivation of human resources; (3) provide assistance for the development of an information and telecommunications infrastructure and a networked environment; and (4) provide a Comprehensive Cooperation Package worth approximately 15 billion dollars over the course of the next five years, focusing on promoting the use of IT in the area of development assistance. This cooperation package includes such specific efforts as the dispatch of missions to Asian countries and the holding of policy dialogue among government officials on IT in each country.

   Based on the results of the G8 Summit, at the ASEAN + 3 (Japan, People's Republic of China, the Republic of Korea) Summit Meeting held in Singapore last November, Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori announced that this forum would be held. At this forum, IT will be adopted as the main theme, and the "Voice of Asia" about Asia's prospects in the 21st century, when further progress of globalization and the IT revolution is expected, as well as modalities for an IT society in Asia, will be communicated to the world.

   Because the area of IT is one that is primarily promoted by private sector activities, the role of the government is to supplement the proactive efforts of the private sector through the development of an appropriate environment and the cultivation of human resources. This forum will be attended by various private sector experts from countries in Asia, such as people working in IT-related fields and journalists. I sincerely hope that the participants will be able to freely develop their discussions, and will be able to once again communicate the "Voice of Asia" from the Bankoku Shinryokan to the international community.

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