BANGKOK – Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will express their resolve next month in Tokyo to bolster security ties for regional peace, with China’s growing maritime assertiveness in mind, a draft of their statement said Monday.
At a joint summit, Japan and 10-member ASEAN will vow to “further cooperate for the global interest to maintain peace and stability in the region and the world,” according to the draft, a copy of which was obtained by Kyodo News.
The document, tentatively titled “Medium to Long-Term Vision on Japan-ASEAN Friendship,” was drafted by Japan and proposed to ASEAN, a diplomatic source said.
Based on the draft, Japan and ASEAN will aim to strengthen cooperation as partners in four areas — “peace and stability,” “prosperity,” “quality of life” and their relationship as “heart-to-heart partners.”
To fulfill “more proactive roles” in regional and global peace, Japan and ASEAN will “comply with international law” and settle disputes peacefully, the document states, in an implicit reference to territorial disputes involving China.
Some ASEAN members, notably Vietnam and the Philippines, have conflicting territorial claims with China in the South China Sea. But China is also at odds with Japan over ownership of the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which China and Taiwan both claim and call Diaoyu and Tiaoyutai, respectively.
The overlapping claims have resulted in tensions in the South China Sea and repeated intrusions by Chinese vessels in Japanese territorial waters near the Senkakus.
Against this backdrop, the draft calls for Japan and ASEAN to cooperate further on maritime security. The draft also states they will work together on issues such as peacekeeping operations and cybersecurity.
The Japan-ASEAN vision statement is set to be issued at a special Japan-ASEAN summit from Dec. 13 to 15 to mark the 40th anniversary of their diplomatic ties.
Just weeks ahead of the summit, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wrapped up his visits to all ASEAN countries — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — less than a year since taking office last December.
Abe said at a news conference Sunday in Laos, the last leg his latest ASEAN tour, that he wants to present a “new vision” for Japan and Southeast Asian countries, expressing his desire to raise Japan’s profile in Asia.
On the economic front, the draft states Japan will help to establish an ASEAN Economic Community by 2015 by “strengthening connectivity and narrowing the development gaps” among ASEAN members, the draft said, referring to the financial disparities between more developed states, such as Singapore, and less developed ones, including Myanmar.
In other areas, Japan and ASEAN will seek to work together to address common challenges such as disaster management and promote youth exchanges, according to the draft.