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EXCLUSIVE: A future vision for Asean and Japan

Publication Date : 13-12-2013


In this special year of the 40th anniversary of Japan’s relationship with Asean, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, I have invited the leaders of all Asean countries to join me in a special summit to celebrate our cherished partnership. Ever since I assumed the office of Prime Minister at the end of last year, I have been conducting strategic diplomacy looking over the entire globe, and Asean has always been at the centre of my diplomacy as a special partner for Japan.

In promoting our partnership, I announced the Five Principles of Japan’s Asean Diplomacy in January this year during my visit to Jakarta, the very start of my one-year Asean 10-nation trip. In advancing the Five Principles, I visited all 10 Asean countries in a single year in order to candidly discuss the way forward on Asean-Japan relations with Asean leaders and people. It is my great pleasure and honor to be able to host the Asean-Japan Commemorative Summit in Tokyo tomorrow that will no doubt be the milestone in concluding and celebrating this 40th anniversary year of Asean-Japan Friendship and Cooperation.

Taking this opportunity on the eve of the Commemorative Summit, I would like to highlight the significance of the Asean-Japan partnership.

Asean and Japan friendship in the context of regional and global community
Even though we already have excellent bilateral relations with each Asean member country, why do we strengthen our cooperation between Japan and Asean as a collective entity?

First, in the area of economy, Asean has been the centre for manufacturing for Japanese companies, and both Asean and Japan have enjoyed economic growth thanks to the strong manufacturing industry of Asean. A single Asean entity with better inter-connectivity and intra-connectivity will bring about more efficiency, both in production and distribution of goods, and will greatly benefit both Asean and Japan’s sustainable economic growth and from economies of scale.

Asean has grown tremendously in the last 40 years and has now become the world’s market and a center for service industries. It is indispensable for Japan to tap into the energy and vitality of a growing Asean as the centre of growth for the revitalisation of the Japanese economy through its new economic policy, what many call, “Abenomics”. At the same time, I am confident to say that the revitalisation of our economy will bring about further mutual benefit both to regional and global economy.

Second, Asean and Japan share the high seas that stretch between the two. The same can be said for the air space above. There is no need to mention how significantly important it is for Asean as an entity to ensure and promote fundamental values such as freedom, democracy and human rights and rule of law in order to maintain peace and stability of the region. I believe that Japan and Asean, through their commitment to the renunciation of the threat or use of force or coercion, and to peaceful dispute resolutions, can play a more proactive role for peace, stability and prosperity of the whole global community. 

During the summit, I will take the opportunity to explain to the Asean leaders the concept of my policy of “Proactive Contribution to Peace” for regional and global stability and security based on Japan’s long-standing principle of international cooperation and building on Japan’s post-war endeavours as a peace-loving nation.

At the same time, I strongly believe in the potential of cultural exchanges in Asia to be conducted in a two-way and win-win style, and have committed to launch a new Asian cultural exchange policy, “WA Project” - Toward Interactive Asia through “Fusion and Harmony” -, to further promote cultural exchanges.

I already announced the JENESYS2.0 youth exchange programme in January of this year in Jakarta, which is currently underway, inviting and sending youths from both Asean and Japan. Through my travel to 10 Asean countries this year, I was enlightened with the diversity and richness of the cultures of each nation. For example, during my visit to Brunei, I visited Kampong Ayer, the water village, by boat and had heartwarming exchanges with a family living there. In Malaysia, I have very good memory of the hospitality that I received at the dinner reception despite being during Ramadan. I remember having the honour of singing along with First Lady Mrs Najib. As for my travel to Vietnam, I enjoyed seeing traditional dance that dates back to an ancient city with Prime Minister Dung. Through these wonderful experiences, I confirmed myself that Asean and Japan are able to understand each other from the bottom of our hearts and work hand-in-hand for a partnership that ties the hearts of the people.

Asean-Japan partnership for the future
I would like to emphasise once again that Asean-Japan partnership has great potential to be realised further. The summit will serve as a catalytic opportunity to deepen and enhance the future partnership between Japan and Asean.

Specifically, in the summit, I would like to have substantial discussions with Asean leaders on four aspects that are equally important for our future relationship, namely, peace and stability, prosperity, quality of life of the people, and people-to-people exchanges.

I believe that for the benefit of the regional and global interests, Asean and Japan should together engage further for the maintenance of peace and stability, greatly enhance our economic partnership in various areas by promoting trade in goods and services that are of mutual interests, and focus on the promotion of human resources development to overcome socio-economic issues. Last but not least, I expect this summit to be an invaluable opportunity to nurture the friendship between Asean and Japan that I myself have already witnessed throughout this year. I strongly believe that the mutual trust we have built, and will continue to enhance, will form a solid foundation for our ever-lasting partnership.

To respond to the warm hospitality from Asean countries that I received during every visit this year, I look forward to discussing ways to promote our cultural exchanges and give back the hospitality of Japan. In this context, I am pleased to host the Asean delegations at a Gala Dinner during their visit which will offer an opportunity for everyone to experience Japanese and Asean culture, drawing on the success of the Asean-Japan Music Festival that was held on Nov 28, 2013, in Tokyo which I attended and very much enjoyed. My wife, Akie, is also looking forward to exchanging views with Asean students who will be taking part in the JENESYS2.0 Japan-Asean Student Conference, and also inviting spouses of Asean leaders to experience first-hand Japanese tradition and culture. In addition, as Tokyo will host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics Games, I intend to promote sports and cultural exchanges even further, especially on youth football exchanges.

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My grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, visited Southeast Asian countries in 1957 when he was Prime Minister. It was the first official visit to Asia by a Japanese Prime Minister after the Second World War. More than half a century has passed since then. Now, an opportunity to bring the Asean-Japan relationship that my late grandfather initiated to a higher level is laid out in front of me. Succeeding my late grandfather’s wishes and dedication, I am committed to the success of the summit. Tomorrow will be remembered as a milestone that sets out a clear vision of a bright and promising future for Asean and Japan.  

This article was written by Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan for The Japan News


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