Remarks by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi at
"The Future of Asia" Conference Dinner (May 25)
Hosted by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun

May 25, 2005

Your Excellency Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Prime Minister of Malaysia,
Distinguished conference participants,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Continuing its remarkable growth and as a source of vitality for the world, Asia is playing a key role for the stability and prosperity of the international community. Wide-ranging regional cooperation in such areas as economic partnership, finance, IT, the environment, and counter-terrorism is progressing, and the creation of an East Asian community in the future is becoming an important common agenda for the region. On the other hand, issues related to regional peace and security, such as the problem of North Korea's nuclear development, remain. Within this context, this opportunity for leaders of various countries from the public and the private sectors to meet at this international forum on "The Future of Asia" and discuss the future of the region is truly meaningful.

The theme for this year's conference is "Asian Economic Integration." In this regard, the building of a network of various economic partnerships is the basis of economic integration and the creation of a region-wide community. Japan has concluded an Economic Partnership Agreement with Singapore, and we have reached agreement in principle on major elements of an EPA with the Philippines. Just a short while ago, Prime Minister Abdullah and I confirmed the agreement in principle on major elements of the Japan-Malaysia EPA negotiations.

Japan will accelerate its negotiations on economic partnership agreements with Thailand and ASEAN as a whole, and we are preparing to begin EPA negotiations with Indonesia. It is also important to put the negotiations with South Korea back on track. Japan also intends to move forward with studies on enhancing economic partnership with India and with Australia. In order for Asia to achieve harmonious growth with the global economy, it must deal with issues related to energy, the environment, intellectual property rights, and economic disparities.

The massive Indian Ocean tsunami that caused unprecedented damage last year was an immeasurable tragedy. But at the same time, this crisis served to make us all acutely aware of the necessity of regional solidarity. With the entire world, including Asia, of course, extending a helping hand immediately after the disaster struck, the total amount of the pledged assistance reached five billion U.S. dollars. For its part, Japan pledged that it would dispatch Self Defense Force units and private-sector emergency assistance groups to the stricken areas, extend emergency grant aid to the affected countries, and contribute to the establishment of a tsunami early warning system. In addition, Japan announced at the Asian-African Summit last month that it would provide more than 2.5 billion U.S. dollars over the next five years in assistance for disaster prevention and mitigation, and reconstruction efforts.

Amidst these rapidly deepening partnerships and increasing cooperation in Asia, the historic first East Asia Summit will be convened in Malaysia this December. I will extend my utmost cooperation in support of Dato' Seri Prime Minister Abdullah, the Summit's chairperson, for the success of this Summit. Varied discussion is now being held on the concept and design of the Summit. Japan believes that the principle of open regional cooperation should be reflected, and we welcome the understanding that not only ASEAN and Japan, China, and South Korea, but also Australia, New Zealand, and India, which play essential roles in regional cooperation, should also participate in the Summit.

I would like to confirm in Kuala Lumpur with all the country leaders a basic concept of regional cooperation-one that envisages the creation of an East Asian community in the future. By the Leaders' Summit Japan will develop and bring together concrete measures for redressing of disparities in levels of development and promoting economic partnerships. We intend these measures to be useful for the building of new partnerships with the countries in Asia.

Last month I visited Banda Aceh to inspect the damage caused by the tsunami. The devastation was huge and still largely untouched, but, with their dance and song, we received a very warm welcome from children in these stricken areas. I even felt cheered by the sight of children distracting themselves with moments of play with hula hoops donated by Japan. I renewed my determination to do all I can to deepen Asian solidarity and make a peaceful and prosperous future in Asia a reality for those children, who will someday hold the future of this region in their hands.

Finally, I would like to offer my highest regards to this "Future of Asia" conference for providing a valuable forum for discussion on the future development of this evolving Asia. I sincerely hope and expect that this year's conference will prove to be as fruitful as all of the previous ones.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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