Speeches and Statements by Prime Minister Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet top page

Joint Press Conference by the Leaders of Japan
and the Mekong Region Countries
following the Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting

7 November 2009
[Provisional Translation]

Note: This transcript has been prepared based on the simultaneous interpretation into English provided during the press conference, with certain modifications made for clarity or completeness. As such, it is not a word-by-word translation of the record of the press conference found on the Prime Minister's Office Japanese-language homepage.

1. Opening statements

(1) Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama
We have met since late afternoon yesterday until this morning in the first Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting, convened here in Japan. Japan and the Mekong region have had very close contacts since about 400 years ago, and it is gratifying that in this manner we are once again able to build a relationship of mutual trust between the Mekong region and Japan. Over the past two days, we engaged in a very candid exchange of views. As the product of those discussions, we announced the Tokyo Declaration as well as the Mekong-Japan Action Plan 63.

As you know, various types of disparities still remain in the Mekong region, and regional cooperation is proceeding in order to redress them. I think a very important issue is what sort of role Japan should play in that connection. ASEAN's integration will proceed and I believe that with regard to the manner in which we redress intraregional gaps and develop jointly, the Mekong region will hold the key in the open and transparent East Asian community initiative that I have been advocating.

We share the view that we need to step up cooperation for the comprehensive development of the Mekong region and also work on environment and climate change, as addressed by the Hatoyama Initiative. Within that Initiative, the concept of a "Green Mekong" was proposed and adopted, to include for example addressing water resource management. Under this Green Mekong initiative, we will advance cooperation towards various projects, including for example water resource management projects, in Mekong countries that are working to address climate change. We also need to address the issue of overcoming vulnerabilities, and together we should expand cooperation and exchanges. I think we shared the recognition that we must build up these three pillars and establish a partnership for a future of common prosperity.

In order to further advance these endeavours, we regard the Mekong region as a priority area for Japanese ODA and intend to step up Japan's ODA for the region as a whole and in particular for the individual countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR and Viet Nam. We plan to implement ODA assistance to the tune of more than 500 billion yen in total over the coming three years for the region as a whole.

In this connection we shall mobilise the knowledge and know-how as well as the assets of the public and private sectors of Japan to further step up Japan's cooperation in the region.

The last point that was proposed and approved is to hold a Mekong-Japan summit meeting in Japan once every three years. We agreed that in the other two years in which we do not meet in Japan, we shall hold Mekong-Japan summits on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit meetings. The Foreign Ministers and Economic Ministers of the Mekong countries and Japan have also agreed to meet regularly, and in the interest of further advancement of cooperation between Mekong and Japan, we also have agreed that we shall make use of frequent Senior Officials' Meetings.

(2) Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh, Lao PDR
I would like to make a statement on behalf of the Prime Ministers of the Mekong region countries. I would like to congratulate Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama of Japan and the Japanese government for hosting this historic summit meeting, which is of great significance, and for bringing it to a successful conclusion. We highly appreciate the deliberations of the Japan-Mekong summit meeting.

This summit was convened in a frank and constructive atmosphere, and we were able to reach deep mutual understanding and consensus on the issues raised. We would like to support the summary of the meeting made by the Chair, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, as representing the consensus among us, and we would also like to fully support the Tokyo Declaration, as well as the Mekong-Japan Action Plan 63 which we adopted earlier.

The complete success of this summit meeting bears testimony to our joint commitment to further enhancing our cooperative relations in order to overcome various challenges and realise the points set forth in the Mekong-Japan Action Plan 63.

We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to the Japanese people for extending ODA to the Mekong region countries in past years. We are very grateful to the important role it has played. We would also like to express our thanks to Japan for extending 500 billion yen in ODA over the next three years, as well as for inviting 30,000 youth and others from Mekong region countries for study tours and training programmes in Japan. We would also like to express our gratitude to Japanese private sector entities for promoting trade with and investment in the Mekong region countries.

Japan and the Mekong region have common interests. We are grateful to Japan for its leading role.

2. Q&As

QUESTION: I have a question to Mr Hatoyama. For a long time, Japan has provided cooperation to the Mekong subregion in various fields, including politics, economics and culture. Meanwhile, China has been increasing its influence in every field, including trade and investment and also economic assistance. Moreover, the administration of Mr Obama in the US has reviewed its policy toward Myanmar as part of a strengthening of its engagement in Southeast Asia. Against this backdrop, what kinds of things are needed in your view for Japan to enhance its presence in this subregion? Where does cooperation with the Mekong subregion fit in the East Asian community initiative that you are advocating?

PRIME MINISTER YUKIO HATOYAMA: There has indeed been a change in the international environment, as you just mentioned. That is why there is such significance in convening annual Mekong-Japan summit meetings. Exchanges between the Mekong region and Japan go way back, and to further revitalise such contacts and exchanges, we shall for example be inviting 30,000 youths and others to Japan over the coming three years. I think that the expansion of such exchanges will serve to improve the sense of trust in Japan, and also I am sure that Japanese also will gain a greater sense of trust in the Mekong region through investment and other means. I think all this will be very important.

You also mentioned that China's engagement in the region is increasing. Japan and China have begun to discuss cooperation between them to assist the Mekong region. So it is not a matter of China's increased engagement in the Mekong being disadvantageous for Japan. I believe it is extremely important for Japan and China to create mutual benefits by cooperating with each other.

Greater US interest in the Mekong region is something I welcome. I stated during this summit meeting that I appreciate the efforts being made in Myanmar for greater democratisation and I stated my hope for the success of the general elections next year through the participation of all. In this regard, I believe the United States having greater interest in Myanmar and advancement in the democratisation of Myanmar would be of further benefit to the Mekong region as a whole.

The US and China enhancing their cooperation with Mekong region countries certainly will not be a negative for Japan. Rather, I believe it is desirable that we establish cooperative relations with very high expectations for the creation of a "win-win-win" relationship.

I stated earlier my belief that the Mekong region holds the key to the realisation of the East Asian community initiative that I have been advocating. Disparities remain large in the region in an economic sense, and as the countries in the region overcome these differences, their sense of belonging to a community will be strengthened. Also, I believe a sense of mutual trust will increase by undergoing that process. Now, I am not in a position at this stage to say which countries should be part of, or not part of, the East Asian community initiative, but I would like to reiterate that within ASEAN, the Mekong region is indeed a very important one that holds the key to my East Asian community initiative.

QUESTION: I'd like to ask Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung of Viet Nam, how would you evaluate the cooperation between the Mekong subregion and Japan?

PRIME MINISTER NGUYEN TAN DUNG: Ladies and gentlemen, at this meeting, the leaders of the Mekong subregion countries and Japan expressed their delight at having a practical cooperative relationship that is developing rapidly between the Mekong subregion and Japan. Viet Nam as well as the other Mekong subregion countries highly value Japan's relationship of cooperation with the countries in the Mekong subregion.

We highly value the initiative of Prime Minister Hatoyama in holding this Mekong-Japan summit. We are very glad to see that the leadership of the Chair, Prime Minister Hatoyama has led to the successful outcomes of this first summit. We deeply appreciate this summit's outcomes.

The leaders of the Mekong subregion countries and Japan share the same view that cooperation between the Mekong subregion and Japan will bring about practical benefits to all the countries concerned and this cooperation will contribute to the development of friendship and partnership between ASEAN and Japan. At the same time, the successful implementation of Mekong-Japan cooperation will foster the stability of the wider region.

It is my strong wish that Viet Nam will always be a reliable partner that contributes to the friendly cooperative relations between the Mekong subregion and Japan.