Japan-ASEAN Relations

“Towards a new stage of cooperation in the spirit of Gotong-Royong”

January 10, 2020
ASEAN Policy Speech by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu1
ASEAN Policy Speech by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu2
ASEAN Policy Speech by Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu2

1 The philosophy of my foreign policy: “diplomacy with a sense of caring and robustness”

It is my great honour to have this opportunity to deliver my first policy speech outside of Japan as Minister for Foreign Affairs, here at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta.
 
In beginning my speech, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Dato Lim Jock Hoi, Secretary-General and many other officials of the ASEAN Secretariat for the hospitality extended to me on this speech.
 
First of all, I would like to extend my heartfelt sympathy for the great loss of precious lives and enormous damage caused by the floods that occurred in Jakarta and surrounding areas during the New Year holidays.
 
Just 15 years ago, in January 2005, the representatives of as many as 29 states, regions and international organizations gathered here in Jakarta. This is because the Special ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting was convened by ASEAN in response to the tragic earthquake and tsunami that hit this region at the end of the previous year.
 
Upon the outbreak of the earthquake and tsunami, Japan immediately announced its intention to provide 500 million US dollars in emergency relief assistance, while sending disaster relief teams and Self-Defense Forces comprised of 2,000 members to the devastated areas.
 
This was a clear demonstration of the solidarity between ASEAN and Japan to the world.
 
The year 2005 was also the year of the first East Asia Summit (EAS). In the fifteen years since then, the EAS has grown into a major framework for regional cooperation. This process is identical to ASEAN’s historic progress, with ASEAN itself as the driving force, in pursuit of ideal forms of cooperation which will enable all the nations in this region to benefit equally.
 
Japan, as an equal partner of ASEAN, has fully and consistently supported ASEAN’s untiring efforts to elaborate the EAS into an essential framework for regional cooperation, by jointly and sincerely considering and proposing what Asia’s ultimate goal should be.
 
I often summarize my basic posture as Japan’s Minister for Foreign Affairs as diplomacy with a sense of caring and robustness. And it is my unwavering belief that this concept fits best into Japan’s foreign policy towards ASEAN.
 
ASEAN is endowed with abundant diversity in its history, culture, ethnicity and religion, and Japan has never pushed ASEAN to accept any specific idea. We have maintained our unshakable respect for the history and culture you have fostered over a long time, and we have consistently deliberated, together with you, what is truly necessary for ASEAN’s growth and development.
 
In 2015, ASEAN declared the establishment of the ASEAN Community, and agreed on the “ASEAN Community Vision 2025”, which streamlined a set of guidelines for the embodiment of the Community. Now we are in 2020, halfway on the path to those goals, and we have huge momentum towards the success of ASEAN Community. 
 
In other words, ASEAN, as a regional community and as the hub of cooperation for an even wider scope, is now embarking on a new voyage to yet a higher stage. Here today, based upon this recognition, I would like to discuss with you what Japan can do for the benefit of ASEAN, as it marks a new chapter in its history.
 
Before getting to the main part of my speech, I would like to share with you my deep concern about the current tensions in the Middle East. Japan has been urging all parties concerned to make diplomatic efforts toward easing tensions. Escalation of the situation must be avoided. Japan will, in close cooperation with ASEAN and other countries concerned, continue such efforts to stabilize the situation in the Middle East.

2 ASEAN as the hub of the Indo-Pacific

Let me get back to the subject of this region. In June of last year, the ASEAN Leaders adopted the “ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific”, or the AOIP. Japan fully supports the goals presented in the AOIP and expresses its greatest compliments to the leadership demonstrated by Indonesia in creating this initiative.
 
Why does Japan support the AOIP? It is primarily because the future image of the Indo-Pacific indicated in the AOIP has much in common with what Japan envisions as the future of the Indo-Pacific.
 
The Indo-Pacific is the core of global dynamism, inhabited by half of the world’s population. At the same time, the balance of power is now rapidly changing there, with various actors interacting with one another in an intertwined manner.
 
If we are to seek a stable and predictable economic and social environment to fully enjoy prosperity in the Indo-Pacific, its regional architecture must be governed by clear rules with transparency.
 
Particularly, in the waters of this region, which are public goods for the entire international community, all states must act and their rights must be entitled in accordance with the basic principles of the international law of the sea, like freedom of navigation, and all disputes regarding the seas must be settled peacefully. It is only by meeting these preconditions that this region can enjoy genuine prosperity as the hub of the sea lanes.
 
Contemporary international law is the crystalized wisdom of humanity that is necessary for global peace, stability and prosperity, which has been built by overcoming the two World Wars. It is indispensable for building any regional order to firmly maintain the rule of law under the principles of international law. The AOIP is precisely underpinned by this unmistakable philosophy.
 
The second part of the rationale of Japan’s support of the AOIP that I would like to emphasize is that ASEAN Centrality is an essential driving force for the development of the entire Indo-Pacific, as you have already and successfully achieved by building multilayered frameworks for regional cooperation, such as ASEAN Plus One, ASEAN Plus Three, the EAS and the ARF.
 
Looking back at history, without exception, in the places where lines of communication for people and commodities intersect, economies and societies with abundant diversity have developed. For 1,500 years, Southeast Asia has enjoyed trade and people-to-people exchange through free and open seas, which spurred the creation of a global network that connected Europe and Africa to the west and Japan to the east.
 
With this history as a backdrop, a great crossroads is emerging in the Indo-Pacific, as bright as the Southern Cross in the sky, connecting the Pacific and Indian Oceans, and connecting the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Southeast Asia is located at its intersection.
 
ASEAN is destined to be the hub of the Indo-Pacific, and in the AOIP, it has clearly expressed its will to further enhance cooperation in connectivity and maritime security, which correspond to the roles to be played by ASEAN.
 
Since Japan has developed as a maritime and global trading nation, Japan’s prosperity also heavily depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific, in which an abundance of people, goods and information come and go. Japan will continue to create, hand-in-hand with you, this image of the future Indo-Pacific with an ever more vibrant ASEAN as its hub.

3 Three courses of ASEAN-Japan cooperation

To these goals, I would like to propose three courses of joint action towards the future I have just described: “nurturing people” together, “building institutions” together, and “amassing our wisdom.”    

(1) “Nurturing people”

The background of the first pillar, nurturing people, lies in my firm conviction that what maintains a prosperous and energetic society is, above all, the power and will of its people.
 
As a politician, my life’s work is to revolutionize human resource development. In the city of Ashikaga in Tochigi Prefecture, where I was born, there is a historic site called “Ashikaga School”, which is one of the oldest educational institutions in Japan.
 
The scale and level of education of this school was so impressive that, in the 16th century, a missionary dispatched from the Headquarters of the Society of Jesus, a Catholic organization in Europe, recorded it, with astonishment, as “the biggest and most famous academy in Japan.” My childhood in such surroundings may have fostered my devotion as a politician to education and human capacity development.
 
Among the various capacity-building assistance initiatives that Japan has provided to ASEAN countries, Indonesian people are most familiar with Japan’s initiatives for civil police capacity building.
 
Japan has been supporting Indonesia for almost 20 years in developing a civil police system that is independent from the military and responsible for dealing with ordinary crimes. In the course of this initiative, a new project launched in 2017 has already succeeded in training 122 Indonesian instructors of civil policing in 17 of the 34 Indonesian provinces. Hereafter, I am confident that the Indonesian Police will be able to dispatch civil police officers to every corner of Indonesia on its own initiatives and capabilities.
 
The Indonesian Police is also training police officers of Timor-Leste, taking advantage of the expertise they have learned from Japan. With all these achievements, I believe that Indonesia and Japan are now entering into a new phase in nurturing people “together.”
 
Another effort in Indonesia that I should mention is maritime security cooperation. The maritime law enforcement authorities that had been divided into several agencies in the past, is now integrated under the command and order of the single entity “Bakamla.” This year, the Japan Coast Guard will start providing training opportunities and sending its specialists to Bakamla at full scale, with a goal of sharing its expertise on the management of coast guard organizations and actual law enforcement activities.
 
Indonesia and Japan both consist of archipelagoes, with extensive Exclusive Economic Zones. One day, in the future, when Bakamla has amassed their own rich experience in law enforcement activities, Japan will have the chance to learn from our Indonesian counterparts, and we will be able to develop coast guard officers of the next generation together.
 
An imminent challenge for human resource development is to secure people equipped with advanced industrial capacities who can manage the digital economy or the upcoming “Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
 
In this regard, Japan announced the commencement of the “Industrial Human Resource Development Cooperation Initiative 2.0” at the 21st ASEAN-Japan Summit meeting in 2018. This initiative is making a steady progress towards the target of educating 80,000 people with industrial capacities by 2023.
 
Another pressing challenge for ASEAN is to narrow its “human resource gap.” To this end, Japan recently concluded a technical cooperation agreement with ASEAN as a community, in addition to existing agreements with respective ASEAN countries. This new agreement will enable us to embark on human capacity building for all of ASEAN. The first project under the framework of this new agreement, a training course on cyber security, which will be increasingly important, will take place at the end of this month.
 
I should also mention the “Attachment Programme” as a good practice for narrowing the human resource gap within ASEAN. In this program, young government officials from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam have been invited here to the ASEAN Secretariat to enhance their administrative abilities. Today in this room I see one of the alumni of this program, Ambassador Samnang from Cambodia, who, I believe, amplifies the significance of this program.
 
This program is funded by the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund, or JAIF. The objective of JAIF is to assist ASEAN in narrowing its internal gaps in a variety of terms, and thus reach an ever more substantially integrated community. The “Attachment Programme” is truly in harmony with the principles of JAIF.
 
Japan is the first country that has achieved modernization in Asia, and thus has been destined to be the first in Asia to face structural changes in our economy and society, such as urbanization and environment issues. Now Japan is confronted by a big challenge in the midst of a rapidly decreasing birthrate and an aging population and must develop people with high productivity.
 
Japan will share with ASEAN the knowledge and expertise it is obtaining in addressing this new challenge and support your efforts to develop human resources that can shoulder the responsibility of cultivating the coming era.

(2) “Building institutions”

The next cluster of cooperation is “building institutions.” Human resources should be coupled with social institutions that enable those people to make economic and social contributions, making the maximum use of their abilities.
 
The most salient aspect of “building institutions” is, I believe, rule-making for economic activities. Before I assumed the office of Minister for Foreign Affairs, I had already engaged in making regional and global economic rules in the capacity of Minister for Economy, Trade and Industry and Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy.
 
I have taken leadership particularly in the negotiations for the CPTPP (TPP11 Agreement) and the Japan-US Trade Agreement, in order to contribute to establishing free and fair economic rules in the international community. Now I am cooperating with ASEAN countries to realize the RCEP Agreement by 16 countries, including India. I have also endeavoured to realize economic rules that govern sectors on the forefront of the economy, such as those regulating the digital economy, and could guarantee the free flow of data, bearing in mind that it will certainly be a key to global economic growth in the coming years.
 
It goes without saying that free trade is indispensable for mutual economic growth and the improvement of welfare in the long run. For example, the ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement came into force for all signatories in 2010. That year, Japan was the second largest investor in ASEAN, next to the United States, with an investment flow of 13 billion US dollars. In 2018, the investment flow has risen to 21 billion US dollars, making Japan the top investor in ASEAN.
 
In addition, towards an even more vibrant ASEAN, it is also suggested to ceaselessly seek ever better democratic political institutions that can address and coordinate a wide spectrum of opinions and interest within each country.
 
Indonesia is a model of democratic nation building. It has experienced a series of changes in government through free elections, and has shared these experiences with other countries by convening and chairing the Bali Democracy Forum. 
 
At the same time, some ASEAN countries are in the midst of difficulties in the course of democratic nation building. Japan has never coerced countries under such circumstances to accept self-righteous idealities of a certain society or condemned the discrepancy between such idealities and realities. Rather, Japan has always contemplated together and walked along with them to find ways for a better society.
 
Japan has abundant experiences of helping confidence-building among conflicted parties and improving humanitarian situations during political instability. Here in ASEAN, Japan is inviting young Cambodians involved in politics to Japan so that they can enrich their views of the process of Japan’s democracy, including electoral processes on the ground.
 
Also in Myanmar, while tackling the issue of Rakhine State, we are supporting the peace process in ethnic minority areas.
 
The rationale behind these initiatives is our firm conviction that humanity can obtain a genuine trust in others only after being freed from violence and poverty and acquiring dignity. Without such trust, no one can find a true solution to political and social confrontations.
 
With this conviction, Japan is determined to move forward with ASEAN, engaging in long-sustained efforts, even though it may look like a detour, so that diverse and vibrant states and societies with mutual trust can become inherent to this region.

(3) “Amassing our wisdom”

Now, with human resources and social institutions developing, how can we take advantage of them for the sake of the common interests between ASEAN and Japan, and the entire Indo-Pacific, as well as of the global community? 
 
To answer this question, what I would like to emphasize today is my aspiration to make and deepen a relationship between ASEAN and Japan that “amasses our wisdom” towards our common goals.
 
What is the imperative fundamental of a free, fair and vibrant society? My answer is simple: alternatives. Whether making personal life choices, making business strategies in a company or making policy choices for a state, true “self-fulfillment” becomes possible only when there are options to choose from. On the contrary, if you have only one option, then you cannot realize your full potential.
 
ASEAN is gifted with enormous possibilities to create various options, as it is endowed with diversity in a variety of areas such as ethnicity, culture and religion. I believe that new approaches and best practices will emerge from ASEAN’s wisdom born by its diversity, and that Japan should not be complacent by only suggesting its wisdom to ASEAN.
 
When I think about amassing our wisdom, what comes to my mind is the initiatives jointly taken by Indonesia and Japan for disseminating maternity handbooks, which is well known to the Indonesian people. 
 
Japan began to assist these initiatives in Indonesia in 1994, and since then, the maternal mortality rate in Indonesia has drastically dropped from 446 to 177 per 100,000 expectant and nursing mothers, and the infant mortality rate has dropped from 84 to 26 per 1, 000 infants.
 
Since 2018, Indonesia and Japan have been conducting a new project, aiming to further disseminate maternity handbooks at a national scale, pivoting on Centers of Excellence in several cities scattered around the nation. Unlike the uniform approach throughout Japan, wisdom provided by Indonesian people has been playing a vital role in choosing core Centers of Excellence to spreading the handbooks, in accordance with actual social situations in local communities.
 
In addition, ASEAN and Japan will amass our wisdom to find solutions to a number of global issues as well.
 
When it comes to global issues, the most significant and outstanding one that ASEAN and Japan have addressed by sharing wisdom is natural disaster management. Approximately 30 percent of world earthquakes of a magnitude of 6.0 or greater occur in the area extending from Japan via the Philippines to Indonesia.
 
ASEAN and Japan have thus been facing the common enormous threat of natural disasters, and have also shared expertise for disaster mitigation and emergency response. In 2011, ASEAN launched the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management, known as AHA Centre, and have jointly been enhancing its roles and capabilities.
 
I have heard the AHA Centre has now grown into an indispensable basis for ASEAN’s emergency response to natural disaster, and is now being ceaselessly asked to provide its knowledge to disaster management authorities in other regions.
 
Japan and ASEAN have also begun to establish a relationship of “amassing our wisdom” in addressing the new issue of marine plastic waste. Japan has considerable experience in addressing marine plastic waste. I strongly believe that Japan and ASEAN will find truly effective ways of addressing marine plastic waste in this region, by collecting and merging concrete information from ASEAN, such as the lifestyle of each local community and actual situations on the outflow and disposal of such waste in ASEAN.
 
Last October, Japan established the “Knowledge Center” under the ERIA here in Jakarta as an information gathering base for the issues of marine plastic waste to “amass our wisdom” and share best practices from each country. 
 
This region has complicated coastal forms compared to other parts of the world, and needs highly advanced knowledge and close cooperation among countries in the region to protect the maritime environment. If Japan and ASEAN amass their wisdom and materialize it into effective measures, I am convinced that the experience gained will be of great help to other regions in the world.
 
The concept of “amassing our wisdom” is common to infrastructure cooperation as well. Japan’s infrastructure cooperation is not merely investing money and building structures; it is always arranged from a long-term point of view so that the building of infrastructure can be a driving force for the autonomous growth of local communities by creating jobs and developing human resources, as well as for promoting local community-building.
 
Today I took a ride on the Jakarta MRT to come here. It is funded by Japan, and is in fact an illustration of Japan’s philosophy of infrastructure cooperation. The MRT is operated by Indonesian engineers who have learned the railway management system of Japan, and its on-time performance rate is as high as 99.8 percent. It has met a number of strict requirements for mitigating the impacts of disasters such as earthquakes and inundations. The positive effects of the MRT are not limited to the construction of the subway itself, as it will also contribute to higher connectivity within the greater Jakarta metropolitan area by establishing bus routes and park and ride facilities connected to rail stations.
 
For such cooperation on quality infrastructure to be implemented, it is insufficient for the donor to just provide money and technology. The prerequisite of quality infrastructure is that the country and communities who will use and maintain a facility should proactively offer ideas that represent local realities.
 
As an embodiment of economic cooperation based on the philosophy I have elaborated, today I would like to take this opportunity to express Japan’s intention to mobilize 3 billion US dollars from the public and private sectors over the next three years (2020-2021), including a total of 1.2 billion US dollars in overseas loans and investment for ASEAN by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, or JICA.

4 In the spirit of “Gotong-Royong”

The future course of action taken by ASEAN as the hub and intersection of the vast Indo-Pacific will fundamentally affect what the future course of the entire Indo-Pacific will be. Japan firmly believes that the directions indicated in the AOIP are the best choices for ASEAN and accordingly for the Indo-Pacific region.
 
In 1945, at the dawn of Indonesian independence, President Sukarno, the Founding Father of modern Indonesia, presented the spirit of “Gotong-Royong”: to work ourselves to the bone together, to perspire together, and to struggle together.
 
The word “Gotong-Royong” is exactly the unswerving attitude that Japan shares with ASEAN.
 
With this expression in mind, let us together make this year the first year of robustly promoting further cooperation between ASEAN and Japan, an effort that will surely bring about a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific.
 
Thank you very much for your kind attention.
 
Terima kasih (Thank you in Indonesian)

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