Blueprint for progress
James Kon in Tokyo, Japan

ASEAN-Japan relations need to continue to be people-centred in order to enrich the peoplesí well-being in all aspects. This is to prepare the people for the social implications as a result of demographic changes, income gaps and the impact of climate change.

The call was made yesterday by His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam who added that over the past four decades, the people of the region have gained a better appreciation for each other and developed greater mutual trust and understanding that has contributed to the peace, prosperity and development of the region.

Efforts in promoting stronger people-to-people ties, especially in the socio-cultural areas and amongst the youth, should certainly continue.

The observation was made by His Majesty, who is the Chairman of Asean 2013, in a titah at the second session of the Asean-Japan Commemorative Summit held at the State Guesthouse, Akasaka Palace, Tokyo, Japan.

His Majesty is very pleased with the Vision Statement that charts the medium-to-long term direction of relations between Asean and Japan.

His Majesty who is the Co-chair of the Asean-Japan Commemorative Summit believed that the regional and global interests between Asean and Japan have converged. Cooperation has evolved into an enduring, comprehensive and strategic partnership characterised by a strong sense of solidarity, working together and for the mutual interests of the region which, His Majesty believed, will guide their work in the future.

His Majesty also wished Japanís government every success as it seeks to revitalise its economy.

Earlier in another titah, His Majesty noted that the relationship between Asean and Japan has developed substantively since the last commemorative summit ten years ago.

His Majesty underscored the importance of dialogue and suggested ideas on the way forward as more can be done in advancing the strategic partnership.

In the future, the region will be faced with tremendous challenges, particularly in sustaining economic development, ensuring rules-based trade, freer market access and equitable growth, as well as other issues and concerns affecting the livelihood and welfare of its peoples. In this regard, both sides need to work together in coming up with policy approaches and cooperative measures to respond to such challenges.

His Majesty welcomed Japanís continued active contribution in promoting regional peace and security, especially through counter-terrorism, anti-piracy and peace-keeping measures.

His Majesty underlined that it is imperative for Asean and Japan to cooperate closely in disaster management and reconstruction in view of recent experiences. Japan rendered timely assistance in the wake of the Asian tsunami of 2004 and expeditiously provided aid in response to the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan last month.

In moving forward, His Majesty suggested for consideration new ideas in advancing East Asia community building through the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and other processes such as the Asean Regional Forum (ARF) and the East Asia Summit.

Asean is committed to act together to realise an Asean Community and looks forward to Japanís continued support to achieve this goal.

As part of enhancing regional linkages, His Majesty noted that Japanís support in strengthening connectivity in the region, especially in implementing the Master Plan on Asean Connectivity, will provide much impetus to the community building process.

His Majesty firmly believed that a strong Asean-Japan relationship can contribute to Asia as an engine of growth. His Majesty stated that the comprehensive economic partnership is a vital component in further deepening and integrating the economies of East Asia.

His Majesty also welcomed the news that the Services and Investment Chapters of the Comprehensive Economic Partnership have been substantially concluded. This significant achievement represents a valuable landmark in the strong relationship and brings both Asean and Japan a step closer towards greater ambitions under the RCEP.

As the largest investor in Asean, His Majesty highlighted that Japan is naturally the regionís most important economic partner, where investments amounted to almost US$21 billion in 2012.

His Majesty said that Asean encouraged and welcomed further investments as it will contribute to the building of a stronger Asean that will benefit all of Aseanís partners and also the global economy.

In this regard, His Majesty said that Asean very much welcomed and supported the initiatives to revitalise the Japanese economy through the ďthree arrowsĒ policy Ė ďAbenomicsĒ.

In the first session, His Majesty also touched on the strong relations of Brunei Darussalam and Japan as well as Asean and Japan.

His Majesty highlighted that Japan is one of Aseanís oldest and most esteemed partners, not just with Asean as a region but also with individual member states.

In the context of Brunei Darussalam, His Majesty said that next year will commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Brunei Darussalam-Japan bilateral relationship.

His Majesty said that the 40th anniversary of Asean-Japan relations this year provided an excellent opportunity to reflect on the achievements and to look ahead into its future.

Asean and Japan have a strong, comprehensive and multifaceted relationship and it has benefitted both sides well, His Majesty said.

His Majesty is grateful for Japanís unwavering contribution and support to the regionís economic development and progress over the past 40 years.

Japan has been consistent in bringing forth many regional initiatives, especially the Fukuda Doctrine which has brought about economic transformation and progress in Southeast Asia. At the same time, Japan has strongly supported Aseanís Community building work and efforts to narrow the development gap.

Japan has also helped strengthen peace and prosperity in our region and contributed to the current dynamism of the Asia Pacific.

His Majesty added that more recently, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abeís own ďFive PrinciplesĒ of Japanís Asean diplomacy will also assist in bringing Asean and Japanís relationship forward.

Looking ahead, His Majesty said that the future of Asean-Japan relations must continue to be people-oriented, building upon the strong foundations that have already been established. Japan has been a pioneer in developing this special relationship between their peoples.

Over the past decade, around 15 million Japanese visitors came to the region annually. Asean welcomed Japanís recent initiative to relax visa requirements for some Asean member states.

His Majesty thanked Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for his support to continue initiatives such as the JENESYS 2.0, which will enhance youth exchanges and deepen mutual understanding amongst generations to come. This relationship between the people has withstood the test of challenging times. When the Asian financial crisis occurred in the 1990s, Japan embarked on assistance measures to help recovery in the region.

Since then, Asean has developed a robust and resilient regional economy, which can now contribute to the global economic revival. Thus, His Majesty looked forward to continuing such meaningful cooperation in areas that most benefit the people in the region and to the discussions during the summit.

Accompanying His Majesty were Pehin Orang Kaya Laila Setia Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Abdul Rahman bin Haji Ibrahim, Minister of Finance II at the Prime Ministerís Office; Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II; Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin bin Haji Umar, Minister of Energy at the Prime Ministerís Office; and other senior government officers. - Borneo Bulletin (15 December 2013)