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Speeches and Statements by the Prime Minister

Press Conference by the Prime Minister

October 21, 2020

[Provisional translation]

Opening Statement by Prime Minister Suga
First, I very much appreciate the heart-warming hospitality of the people here in Indonesia. As my first overseas trip since becoming prime minister, I have visited Viet Nam, the Chair of ASEAN for 2020, and here, Indonesia, which boasts the largest population, GDP, and national territory within the ASEAN region.

Japan and ASEAN have together walked a path of development as both longstanding friends and equal partners.

This April, when Japan saw the spread of the novel coronavirus disease and was in an extremely severe situation, Viet Nam delivered 1.2 million medical masks to us. Indonesia has been itself in a severe situation battling the novel coronavirus, and despite the fact that it had suspended exports of medical supplies, it has resumed the export of medical gowns to Japan. 

Japan has been providing medical equipment to the ASEAN region, including both Viet Nam and Indonesia, and advancing human resource development to enable that equipment to be fully utilized. In addition, we are extending full-fledged support to strengthen the foundation of medical and health services in the ASEAN region, through our assistance being provided for an ASEAN Center for emerging diseases and public health emergencies.

 We have not forgotten that our friends of the ASEAN countries extended a hand of assistance to us when Japan faced hardships because of the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011.

In Indonesia, while infections continue to spread, people are also exposed to the risk of earthquakes and tsunamis.  I informed President Joko that Japan will provide new ODA loans of 50 billion yen to further enhance disaster prevention measures directly linked to saving human lives.

Also, Viet Nam suffered enormous damage from last week’s typhoon, and in response we swiftly delivered emergency relief goods.

The reason why we are able to help each other and strengthen our "kizuna" (bonds) in such a way is because the ASEAN countries and Japan are together aiming to realize the fundamental principles of the rule of law, openness, and transparency here in the Indo-Pacific region.

With regard to this point, the “ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific” that ASEAN announced last year and the “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” that Japan advocates have many substantive points in common, and Japan thoroughly supports this Outlook.

In the summit talks I held with both countries during the visit, I expressed my intention to my counterparts that I want ASEAN and Japan to build together a peaceful and prosperous future for the Indo-Pacific region, and we agreed to push forward with cooperation in concrete terms towards that end.

Increasing the mutual connectivity of Japan and the ASEAN region will be the cornerstone of this region’s economic prosperity and also a free and open Indo-Pacific.

During this trip Japan reached agreement with Viet Nam to resume two-way regular passenger flights. Moreover, we agreed on a “business track” to revitalize traffic by business travelers among others.

With Indonesia as well, we will begin coordinating the early resumption of travel that allows people to engage in business activities immediately after entering the country, with testing as a prerequisite.

The spread of infectious disease this year brought the vulnerability of Japan’s supply chains to light.

Since this summer, we have been supporting the diversification of Japanese companies’ production bases. As a first step, we will support 30 cases of either establishing or expanding the capacity of production facilities in ASEAN countries.

The day before yesterday, I listened to the candid views of representatives of Japanese companies operating in Viet Nam regarding the coronavirus epidemic and other issues. After finishing this press conference, I am scheduled to listen to what the representatives of Japanese companies here in Indonesia have to say. We intend to fully incorporate those voices and make our supply chains more resilient.
We will also press forward with enhancing infrastructure in the Indo-Pacific as a whole and also infrastructure linking the region to Japan.

Here in Indonesia, we will support the construction of Patimban Port in order to build a smooth logistics route, as a new logistics base for industrial parks where many Japanese companies are located.

We intend to contribute to the improvement of traffic access within Indonesia through assistance for introducing a metropolitan train network within the capital city of Jakarta and other efforts.

In Viet Nam, last week a Japan-made fleet of railroad cars for the first metropolitan railway within Ho Chi Minh City arrived and the city is aiming to start operations next year.

In order to enhance regional connectivity further, we will welcome Prime Minister Phuc and other leaders of the Mekong region to Japan and hold the Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting next year, where I intend for us to hold thoroughgoing discussions on measures towards that end.

The Indo-Pacific is the stage for the maritime traffic connecting Japan and the ASEAN region. I believe it is only when the Indo-Pacific is free, open to all, and governed by the rule of law that regional peace and prosperity will be realized.

However, in the South China Sea, there has been some movement backwards, and we are keeping a careful watch on the situation, with some concern. Japan opposes any and all actions that heighten tensions in the South China Sea. I once again emphasize the importance of all parties involved in issues surrounding the South China Sea never using force or coercion but instead making efforts towards the peaceful settlement of disputes, grounded in international law.

Towards that end, Japan will continue to assist ASEAN countries, including the two countries I visited in this trip, through support for surveillance and policing activities targeting illegal fishing by providing patrol ships and other efforts. Japan will play a major role in capacity building by making use of the wealth of experience and the achievements of the Japan Coast Guard.

In order to ensure the peace and security of Japan and the region, we reached an agreement in principle with Viet Nam on an agreement concerning the transfer of Japanese defense equipment and technology, under appropriate control.

With Indonesia, we agreed to hold at an early date a meeting between our countries' foreign and defense ministers, a so-called “Two Plus Two” meeting, as the only such meeting Japan holds with a South East Asian country.

This was a visit held soon after I took office as prime minister, and despite the limited time for preparations, I received the most cordial welcome in both countries. I believe we have further deepened Japan’s relationship of trust with ASEAN, our friend and strategic partner.

I have renewed my own determination to continue to steadily realize a free and open Indo-Pacific while promoting summit diplomacy and acting in close cooperation with Viet Nam, Indonesia, and the other ASEAN countries.

I will end my opening statement here.

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