Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Wednesday pledged to strengthen cooperation with ASEAN to achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific region in response to China’s assertive territorial claims and military build-up.
After attending a series of meetings with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and other countries, Kishida told reporters he raised concerns about the rights situation. human rights in Hong Kong as well as the Xinjiang region in northwest China and stressed the importance of peace and stability. in the Taiwan Strait.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attends an ASEAN-plus-three virtual summit on October 27, 2021. (Photo courtesy of the Public Relations Office) (Kyodo)
The Japan-ASEAN summit, which was held virtually in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, was Kishida’s first opportunity to attend an ASEAN rally after replacing Yoshihide Suga as prime minister earlier this month. .
Referring to his past efforts to strengthen Japan’s ties with ASEAN during his tenure as foreign minister between 2012 and 2017, Kishida said he continued to value relations with the 10-member bloc.
“This time, as Prime Minister, I will work closely with ASEAN and strongly encourage efforts to achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he said.
He also said that Japan will regularly encourage cooperation for the ASEAN Indo-Pacific Outlook, an initiative aimed at maintaining peace, freedom and prosperity in the region, and that it shares the same values. as Japan’s vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. Peaceful.
As 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the ASEAN-Japan friendship and cooperation, Kishida said Japan plans to hold a special summit at that time to take the relationship to a “new stage.”
Kishida and ASEAN leaders exchanged views on the situation in the East and South China Seas, where China is increasingly assertive, as well as in North Korea and Myanmar, Premier minister telling reporters that he “explained Japan’s firm stance on these pressing regional issues.”
Kishida was quoted by the Foreign Ministry as telling his ASEAN peers that Japan shares the group’s deep concern over any initiative challenging the rules-based maritime order in the region and strongly opposes to such acts, in a veiled critique of Beijing.
He also said that North Korea was threatening the peace and security of the region and the international community by launching ballistic missiles, and called on members for their help in resolving past kidnappings of Japanese nationals by North Korea, which members have expressed their support for.
Prime Minister said Japan supports ASEAN action on Myanmar coup in February, including a five-point consensus calling for an immediate end to violence and a visit by the special envoy. of ASEAN for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.
Kishida urged Myanmar’s military leaders to respond constructively.
At their annual summit on Tuesday, ASEAN leaders expressed concern over Myanmar, an ASEAN member state, and explored a balanced approach to dealing with political unrest in the country.
The ASEAN summit was held without a representative from Myanmar, as its military leader was excluded by the group.
ASEAN includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
At a three-plus ASEAN virtual summit later Wednesday, Kishida, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and South Korean President Moon Jae In underscored their respective countries’ commitment to help ASEAN fight the new coronavirus pandemic.
Kishida said Japan has provided 5.5 billion yen ($ 48 million) to the ASEAN Center for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases, which was launched last year, and that Tokyo will continue to give full support to the installation.
Kishida added that Japan has also donated more than 16 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine to the ASEAN region.
Moon said South Korea has committed to allocate $ 5 million this year to the ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund to facilitate the supply of vaccines to the region.
Li said China has offered the COVID-19 vaccines and medical supplies needed to respond to the coronavirus and called for further strengthening of long-term cooperation with ASEAN while taking measures to contain the pandemic.
Kishida attended the ASEAN-related summits as part of the general election campaign in Japan on October 31.
ASEAN holds summit without Myanmar, explores balanced approach
ASEAN invites senior Myanmar foreign ministry official to summit
ASEAN leaders urge Myanmar to allow emissary’s visit for mediation