Senior officials from Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on May 27 kicked off a two-day high-level meeting in Tokyo to discuss Japan-ASEAN ties as well as regional issues.

Foreign Ministry officials said the two sides are increasingly interested in forging stronger political ties, although discussions in the past were focused on economic cooperation and cultural exchanges. About 90 officials from the two sides are participating in the 15th Japan-ASEAN forum. The previous meeting was held in January 1995 in Thailand. The forum was first held in 1976.

In January, Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto proposed holding regional summits on a regular basis. The two sides are preparing to hold the first such meeting in December.

ASEAN members are Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. The two sides will also discuss regional issues such as the situation on the Korean Peninsula, the officials said.

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