Contributed Article "Co-creating the future of the Indo-Pacific based on trust" by Prime Minister KISHIDA Fumio to Japan Forward on the Occasion of The Commemorative Summit for the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation

December 13, 2023


  1. This year marks the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation. In the half century since Japan initiated dialogue with ASEAN in 1973, ahead of the rest of the world, ASEAN has expanded, integrated, and developed dramatically. ASEAN has now become a global growth center. I myself have visited ASEAN countries 32 times since I visited there on my first trip as Foreign Minister 11 years ago. Every time I landed at the airport of each country, I was amazed at the development of each country. At the same time, I have been touched by the warmth of the people, and I have felt good to be back in a place full of vitality. A partnership based on mutual understanding and trust over the years has been the hallmark of the Japan-ASEAN partnership over the years.
  2. Japan has walked alongside ASEAN on its path of development and integration, not only as a major trade and investment partner, but also as true friends. Although the path has not been a smooth one, Japan has supported the development of the ASEAN region through development cooperation in various fields. Japan and ASEAN are each other's major trading partners, and Japan is the second largest direct investor in ASEAN after the United States. In recent years, Japanese direct investment in ASEAN has averaged about 2.8 trillion yen annually. Japanese companies have approximately 15,000 business establishments in ASEAN, bringing the vitality of the fast-growing ASEAN region into the Japanese economy and also creating products, services, and employment in ASEAN countries, thus contributing to their economic development.
  3. Japan-ASEAN relationships go beyond business. The foundation of Japan-ASEAN relations as true friends is a relationship of mutual trust with "heart-to-heart" connections. It has been nurtured over the years through "people-to-people" exchanges in a wide range of fields. For example, the Government of Japan has sponsored some 40,000 international students from ASEAN countries. The Sakura Science Program, which is a youth exchange program in the field of science and technology, has hosted about 15,000 students. The ASIA KAKEHASHI Project has hosted about 1,000 students. The total number of members of the ASEAN Council of Japan Alumni (ASCOJA), a council of alumni associations in ASEAN countries for former international students in Japan, now exceeds 50,000, making it a valuable network of friendship. Moreover, some 13,000 people have participated in the Ship for Southeast Asian and Japanese Youth Program (SSEAYP), and 47,000 people have participated in the JENESYS youth exchange program, fostering friendship. In addition, JICA has sent more than 8,000 Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers to ASEAN countries, and the Japan Foundation has dispatched about 3,000 NIHONGO (Japanese-language) partners to educational institutions in Asia under its "WA project.” Many other exchange programs have been implemented by the private sector over the years.
  4. In addition, Japan and ASEAN have reached out to each other and have been "trusted partners" through many challenges such as the 1997 Asian currency crisis, the 2004 Sumatra earthquake and Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, and the COVID-19 pandemic from 2019. In a survey of public opinion in ASEAN countries by the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, a prominent ASEAN think tank, Japan has been voted the most trusted major power for ASEAN countries for five consecutive years.
  5. The international community is now at a turning point in history, and the free and open international order based on the rule of law is under serious challenge. Russia's aggression against Ukraine is not a matter for Europe alone, but a challenge to the very principles on which the entire international community as a whole depends. The Indo-Pacific region is also facing challenges, such as attempts to unilaterally change the status quo by force in the East and South China Seas, North Korea's increasing nuclear and missile activities, and the situation in Myanmar. We also face complex and compounding challenges such as climate change, inequality, public health crises, digitalization, and AI governance.
  6. The economic prosperity of ASEAN, the world's growth engine, can only be achieved if the peace and stability of the region are protected. The stability and prosperity of ASEAN is directly linked to the peace and prosperity of the world. At a time when the world is facing many difficult issues to resolve, and divisions and conflicts are deepening in various parts of the world, what role can Japan play for the benefit of the world? I believe it is to further develop this consistent and close relationship with ASEAN based on our long-standing trust, to seek and co-create solutions to various challenges together with ASEAN, to contribute to peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region, and to create a world where all people can enjoy prosperity and human dignity is protected. I believe that we must find and share solutions to the challenges we face. I look forward to working more closely than ever before with the people of ASEAN on the basis of strong "trust" to "co-create" a peaceful and stable world where everyone can live in dignity and enjoy a sustainable and prosperous future.
  7. Japan and ASEAN share the fundamental principles enshrined in the ASEAN Charter, including the renunciation of the threat or use of force contrary to international law, the rule of law, good governance, democratic principles, fundamental freedoms, human rights, and social justice. ASEAN is also the key for the realization of Japan's vision of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP). To ensure that the division of ASEAN is not promoted by the division of the world, Japan consistently and strongly supports ASEAN Centrality and unity, and also supports the "ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP).” Japan will also support the mainstreaming of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP).
  8. This year, ASEAN and Japan have held 13 ministerial meetings, including several special Ministerial meetings, and launched many joint projects. In the private sector, business leaders’ meetings, including young leaders from both sides, and commemorative events have been held in various places. At the conclusion of the 50th Year of ASEAN-JAPAN Friendship and Cooperation, I would like to summarize the past half century of ASEAN-Japan relations, and to set out a new vision and concrete cooperation for the future at the Commemorative Summit that will welcome the leaders of ASEAN countries to Tokyo on December 16-18, 2023. I would like to make this historic Commemorative Summit a "Golden Opportunity" to carry our "Golden Friendship" into the next generation.

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