Asean and Japan’s senior officials participating in the 33rd Asean-Japan Forum in Tokyo last week reaffirmed the importance of the Asean-Japan Strategic Partnership and renewed the commitment to further strengthen their close ties. The officials also discussed regional and international issues of common interest and concern and agreed to work together to address emerging challenges and promote peace and stability.
Acknowledging the good progress in advancing Asean-Japan cooperation over the past year, which includes the positive outcomes of the Asean-Japan Summit last November, both sides also agreed to work closely to ensure the effective implementation of the revised work plan of the Vision Statement on Asean-Japan Friendship and Cooperation.
Japan has always been a key trade and investment partner of Asean and cooperation has also been strong and vibrant in other fields. Japan is a leading partner in enhancing regional connectivity with a list of flagship projects to support the implementation of the Master Plan for Asean Connectivity 2025. Japan has also been actively working with Asean in addressing climate change and natural disasters through financial and technical support to strengthen the Asean Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre). A large number of projects and activities have also been implemented under the Japan-Asean Integration Fund to foster closer cultural ties and people-to-people contacts.
Welcoming the initiatives to commemorate the 45th Anniversary of Asean-Japan Dialogue Relations this year, both sides also stressed the need to explore new areas and identify future targets to enhance cooperation and maintain the dynamism of the partnership.
A joint statement is expected to be issued at the Asean-Japan Commemorative Summit in forthcoming November to renew priorities of both sides in advancing the relationship. The meeting also welcomed Japan’s support for priorities of Asean to strengthen resilience and innovation, including the Asean Smart Cities Network initiative to be established later this year.
Strengthening the economic partnership is a priority as both sides agreed to intensify efforts to achieve the targets of the Asean-Japan 10-Year Strategic Economic Cooperation Roadmap (2012-2022) to double trade and investment flows by 2022, including through the signing of the Protocol to Amend the Asean-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEP) Agreement expected this year, as well as enhancing cooperation on emerging areas such as e-commerce and MSMEs, etc.
Asean and Japan also shared the importance of upholding the rules-based multilateral trading systems, and the need to make progress in the negotiations for a quality Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Asean also noted Japan’s initiatives aimed at promoting prosperity in the region, such as its plan to provide $50 billion over the next three years under the Expanded Partnership for Quality Infrastructure initiative to finance high quality infrastructure projects in Asia with Asean as one of the priority regions.
The meeting had a candid exchange of views on regional and international issues of common interest and concern. Both sides welcomed the recent developments in the Korean peninsula including the outcomes of the United States-Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Summit held on June 12 in Singapore as a significant step towards denuclearisation and permanent peace in the Korean peninsula.
Both sides also emphasised the importance of maintaining peace, stability, freedom and safety of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea. Japan reiterated its support for Asean’s ongoing efforts to realise full and effective implementation of the declaration of the conduct of parties (with regard to the South China Sea) and early conclusion of the code of coduct.
Asean also noted Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” through which Japan aims to promote peace, stability and prosperity across the region through upholding the rule of law, enhancing connectivity and fostering economic partnership in the Indo-Pacific. Both sides also agreed to strengthen cooperation in addressing non-traditional security challenges, particularly transnational crimes including terrorism and cybercrime.