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Aug 03, 2021 / 20:51

ASEAN-Japan accelerate cooperation in Covid-19 response

Japan is considered a trusted friend of ASEAN in multisectoral cooperation, with that in Covid-19 response over the past three years.

Japan will continue to help ASEAN member states enhance preventative medicine capacity and provide more medical supplies as announced by Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi today [August 3].

 Representatives at the meeting on August 3. Photos: MoFA

The assistance covers a wide range of medicine, vaccines, cold storage freezers, and finance to accelerate the regional post-pandemic recovery plans.

At the ASEAN-Japan Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held via videoconference on August 3, Toshimitsu Motegi and ASEAN foreign ministers discussed response efforts, with Japan pledging to provide more vaccines and support the health care system in the ASEAN countries.

Tokyo has so far offered 9.6 million vaccine doses to the regional states, according to Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It has funded US$1 million to the ASEAN Covid-19 Response Fund and another $50 million to help establish the ASEAN Center for Public Health Emergency and Emerging Diseases (ACPHEED).

The ministers also exchanged views on matters of mutual concern, including security and navigation in the South China Sea (called East Sea by Vietnam).

 Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son at the meeting. 

Japan – a trusted friend

Speaking at the meeting, Vietnam’s Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son, who co-chaired the event together with Motegi, affirmed that ASEAN and Japan have become trusted friends supporting each other in a hard time for the past five decades.

Son noted that ASEAN and Japan have extended cooperation in Covid-19 response efforts and other pillars over the past three years for peace and prosperity of both sides.

Motegi affirmed that Tokyo attached importance to the ASEAN-Japan strategic partnership supported ASEAN Centrality, and highlighted the priority to implement the Joint Statement of the 23rd ASEAN-Japan Summit on Cooperation on the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP), through conducting practical cooperation in the key areas of the AOIP.

ASEAN and Japan’s cooperative partnership began in 1973. Through the years, relations have been forged towards peace, stability, development, and prosperity in Asia and the Indo-Pacific region as a whole.

In 1977, then Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda was the first Japanese Prime Minister to meet ASEAN leaders at the 2nd ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur. In the same year, during his visit to Manila, Prime Minister Fukuda enunciated the historic “Fukuda Doctrine”, and this “heart-to-heart” diplomacy became the anchor of the ASEAN-Japan relations.

Among fields of cooperation, ASEAN countries and Japan have established close business partnerships. So far, ASEAN member states are major foreign direct investment destinations for Japanese enterprises.

The ASEAN-Japan strategic partnership covers multilayered cooperation on ASEAN’s community building and connectivity in Southeast Asia as well as its leading role in ASEAN-centered regional institutions in Asia and the Indo-Pacific region.

According to the Japanese Foreign Ministry, Toshimitsu Motegi stressed Japan’s opposition to any attempts to unilaterally change the status quo of the Indo-Pacific by force but did not single out China.

“As we face the challenge posed by the coronavirus pandemic, it is important for us to maintain and strengthen principles of the rule of law and transparency in the Indo-Pacific region,” Motegi said in the opening remarks at the meeting.

Four of the 10 members -- Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam --, as well as Taiwan, have overlapping territorial claims with China in the South China Sea, through which much of Japan’s oil imports pass.

Motegi also reiterated Japan’s support for ASEAN’s bid to implement its five-point consensus on how to tackle the political crisis in Myanmar following the military coup in early February 2021, including the immediate cessation of violence and constructive dialogue among all parties concerned, the ministry said.

The Japanese minister invited the leaders of the ASEAN countries to Japan for a summit in 2023 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of building friendship and cooperative relationships between Tokyo and the regional bloc, according to Kyodo News.