Address by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi
At Dinner for International Conference on "The Future of Asia"
Organized by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun

3 June 2004

Distinguished leaders of ASEAN countries,
Honored guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It gives me a great pleasure to be able, once again, to attend this dinner for the International Conference -- "The Future of Asia". This is the fourth time I have participated in this event, and I strongly feel that, since my first attendance, the relationship between Japan and Asia, as well as regional cooperation in Asia, has developed tremendously.

The ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit held in Tokyo last December was a historic event, in which the special ties cultivated between Japan and ASEAN over many years were reconfirmed, and new directions in Japan-ASEAN relations in wide-ranging fields were announced. Based steadily on the results of this Summit, including Japan's commitment to enhance support for the development of the Mekong Region, as well as human resources development, Japan is determined to further develop its friendly and cooperative relationship with ASEAN in the future.

In this region, various kinds of regional cooperation are rapidly being developed and expanded, with the involvement not only of Japan and ASEAN, but also of China, Republic of Korea (ROK), Australia, New Zealand and India. Economic Partnership Agreements, in particular, will solidify the foundation for future regional cooperation. At present, Japan is holding bilateral negotiations with ROK, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines. Furthermore, Japan is also continuing consultations with ASEAN as a whole, and intends to contribute to the formation of economic partnership networks in this region. Efforts to increase the actual amount of trade and investment based on this strengthened economic partnership, are also important. We will further strive to make Japan an attractive market for foreign enterprises.

In the field of finance, a network of bilateral currency swap arrangements is being formed to prevent the recurrence of currency or financial crisis. This network has reached the scale of 36.5 billion U.S. dollars to date. Of this amount, Japan has contributed 16 billion U.S. dollars. As seen in the holding of the first Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crimes in Bangkok in January this year, regional cooperation on terrorism, human trafficking and smuggling of people, and piracy is progressing at a rapid pace.

Exchanges of culture and people are also gaining strength. Last year, which was designated the "ASEAN-Japan Exchange Year 2003," cooperative relations began to flourish among young artists in Asia. Japan and ROK have decided to seek more active exchanges of culture and people in the year 2005-designated the "Japanese-ROK Friendship Year." Japan is addressing the promotion of tourism, with a view to increasing annual visits from overseas guests to 10 million by 2010. Based on such efforts, yearly visits between Japan and China have reached about 3.5 million and those between Japan and ROK have amounted to over 3.7 million. Among these people are many Korean tourists visiting Japan to enjoy golfing and bathing in hot springs. The number of Japanese travelers to Vietnam, meanwhile, has increased by about 80 percent over the previous year because Vietnam recently exempted Japanese tourists and business visitors from entry-visa requirements.

Against the background of such developments and deepening of exchanges in extensive areas, discussion on an "East Asian community" has recently been activated. I myself called for the building of "a community that acts together and advances together" in an address in Singapore in 2002. In the Tokyo Declaration, issued on the occasion of the ASEAN-Japan Commemorative Summit of December last year, I confirmed jointly with the leaders of the ASEAN countries our aim of seeking "to build an East Asian community." It is important that an East Asian community be transparent and open to the outside. While universal rules and principles should be respected, Asian traditions and values should also be lovingly maintained. Efforts to build a community have just begun, but Japan intends to play an active role in such areas as the work of envisioning the future community and the promotion of functional cooperation, in cooperation with the leaders attending this conference.

Recently, I myself have become keenly aware of this increased sense of unity of the entire Asian region. Last year, NHK's singing contest was held in Singapore, and a female Singaporean university student, who was studying Japan, sang a song by MISIA, a Japanese singer, and won the championship. Mr. Bae Yong Joon, a Korean actor, who played the leading role in "Winter Sonata," a Korean drama, is hugely popular among Japanese women who refer to him as "Dear Mr. Yong." While cherishing such a sense of closeness in Asia, as well as the attractiveness of the region, I would like to strive hereafter to build a "community that acts together and advances together," based on the harmony and sympathy resulting from this sense of closeness.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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