Contributed Article to the Khmer Times by Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio on the Occasion of His Visit to Cambodia
November 11, 2022
Starting today, I am visiting Phnom Penh to attend the ASEAN-related Summit Meetings. Indeed, these are the first face-to-face ASEAN-related Summit Meetings in three years after the COVID-19 pandemic. As the Prime Minister of Japan, I am very pleased to be able to visit Cambodia again as I did this March, and to attend these meetings and engage in direct discussions with the leaders of the participating countries.
These Summit Meetings are being held today thanks to the great efforts of this year’s ASEAN Chair, Cambodia. Under the leadership of Samdech Techo Prime Minister Hun Sen, Cambodia, as the Chair, has cooperated and coordinated not only with ASEAN countries but also with relevant countries outside the region, and has provided a forum for the leaders of the participating countries to gather and discuss the most pressing issues facing the international community. Cambodia has also made significant contributions to the resolution of the worsening situation in Myanmar by taking a leading role as the ASEAN Chair. In this regard, I would like to pay tribute to the considerations made by Samdech Techo Prime Minister Hun Sen and other officials of the Cambodian government as well as all the people in Cambodia. Looking ahead to next year, which marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Cambodia, Japan intends to further strengthen its bilateral cooperation and partnership with Cambodia, in addition to responding to these regional and international situations.
Next year is not only a milestone for Japan and Cambodia, but also a vital year for Japan and ASEAN. As is well known, Japan is ASEAN’s oldest friend, and next year we will finally mark the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation. As I look back over the half-century history of our cooperation, I renew my admiration for the developments achieved by the ASEAN countries during this period. I am proud that Japan has walked together with ASEAN on its path of development and integration. One of the ASEAN initiatives that Japan has long supported is the Attachment Programme, which aims to train young diplomats and government officials from the least developed countries among ASEAN Member States. It is quite gratifying and encouraging to see many of its graduates currently working at the center of their respective governments.
Encouraged by the dramatic development of the ASEAN countries, our region has become the center of the ever-expanding global economy, with its share of nearly 35%. Having ASEAN which upholds its unity and centrality at its core, this region is expected to continue growing with diversity and inclusivity and to be the driving force in the world economy. It is becoming increasingly critical that we, ASEAN and Japan, build the "Era of the Indo-Pacific” together.
Unfortunately, on the other hand, it is also true that the international community is at a very difficult historical crossroads. Russia’s aggression against Ukraine has shaken the very foundation of the international order. It is extremely alarming that Russia is indicating the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine. The threat of the use of nuclear weapons is utterly unacceptable, much less their actual use.
Furthermore, looking at the Indo-Pacific region, we are faced with multifaceted challenges such as North Korea’s intensifying nuclear and missile activities, attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by force, as well as economic coercion.
As these examples show, we find ourselves in a situation where we are playing a leading role in the global economy while confronting extremely daunting international circumstances and at the same time addressing the various issues facing the region. At this unprecedented juncture in our history, what we should jointly pursue is to preserve the international order based on the rule of law that has sustained our economic growth and prosperity and to realize a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP).” FOIP is a vision that Japan has been promoting, for which it has gained broad support and endorsement from the international community. Cooperation with the ASEAN countries is especially critical. ASEAN has also developed its own ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP), which shares the same basic concepts with FOIP and should thus cooperate with each other. For the sake of Japan, the members of ASEAN and the international community at large, Japan will further strengthen its cooperation with the ASEAN countries. Specifically, we will continue to work on maritime cooperation in areas such as maritime traffic safety, connectivity support through quality infrastructure investment and others, and cooperation contributing to the SDGs in fields such as health including universal health coverage, climate change countermeasures, and disaster reduction. Moreover, on the economic front, we will further strengthen the broad cooperation between ASEAN and Japan in a wide range of areas such as enhancing supply chain resilience, addressing social challenges through the use of digital technology including smart city initiatives which shares the idea of a Vision for a Digital Garden City Nation, and strengthening food and energy security.
At the ASEAN-Japan Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in August, the catchphrase “Golden Friendship, Golden Opportunities” was jointly announced by ASEAN and Japan, along with the official logo to commemorate the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation. ASEAN-Japan ties, backed by active people-to-people exchanges and a strong relationship of trust over the years, are full of “golden” possibilities as this catchphrase suggests. Next year, a landmark year that commemorates the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation, I sincerely look forward to welcoming the leaders of the ASEAN countries including Samdech Techo Prime Minister Hun Sen to Japan and to launching a new vision for ASEAN-Japan cooperation at the commemorative summit meeting.