The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Foreign minister’s visits underline Japan’s focus on ASEAN nations

- By Kazusa Yoda

KUALA LUMPUR — Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi has concluded his visits to major countries of the Associatio­n of Southeast Asian Nations with a meeting with Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.

Hayashi and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida had been visiting ASEAN nations to demonstrat­e Japan’s focus on the region ahead of the “50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperatio­n” next year.

At Sunday’s meeting, the two foreign ministers con rmed that their countries would strengthen cooperatio­n in a wide range of areas, including security and economy.

“Cooperatio­n with ASEAN is vital for maintainin­g and strengthen­ing the internatio­nal order,” Hayashi said to reporters at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur a er the meeting. “We want to steadily develop bilateral relations and address various issues facing the internatio­nal community,” he stressed. Hayashi also visited Singapore during his travels.

Hayashi and Kishida have separately visited seven of the 10 ASEAN countries since March. ey went to six countries that are considered to be key members due to their economic strength and other factors — Singapore, Malaysia,

ailand, the Philippine­s, Vietnam and Indonesia — and to Cambodia, which is currently the ASEAN chair.

Japan-ASEAN cooperatio­n started in 1973 with a ministeria­l meeting to discuss the issue of Japanese synthetic rubber exports putting pressure on ASEAN’s natural rubber exports. Next year will mark the 50th year since this meeting.

In 1977, then Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda announced the Fukuda Doctrine in the Philippine­s. e doctrine consists of three principles, including Japan’s stance to consolidat­e the relationsh­ip of mutual con dence and trust based on “heart-to-heart” understand­ing with the countries of Southeast Asia, which deepened cooperatio­n between the two sides.

Since then, Japan has been building a trust-based relationsh­ip by respecting each country’s position without forcing ASEAN nations to lean toward the Western camp even when providing assistance, according to a government o cial.

ASEAN nations want to distance themselves from the battle for power between the United States and China, and their expectatio­ns are high regarding Japan, which does not force them to take sides.

During the foreign ministers’ meeting between Japan and Singapore on Saturday, the ministers agreed to strengthen security cooperatio­n, including the early conclusion of a defense equipment and technology transfer agreement that will allow Japan to export defense equipment.

Japan plans to hold a special ASEAN-Japan summit next year. A senior Foreign Ministry o cial said: “Each country has a di erent sense of distance from the United States and China, but there is shared trust toward Japan. Japan can play a major role in preventing China’s unilateral penetratio­n [into the region].” (Oct. 12)

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