ASEAN foreign ministers held bilateral meetings with their counterparts from New Zealand, Australia and Japan on July 11 to discuss efforts to promote ties and international and regional issues of mutual concern.

At the talks with Japanese FM Koichiro Gemba, they touched upon the enhancement of maritime security and safety.

Gemba emphasised the importance of ensuring the freedom of navigation and maritime safety in the East Sea , saying that the stability of sea lanes is vital for economic development of each country in the region.

He said that all sides must respect international laws, end all unilateral actions and settle disputes through peaceful dialogue.

The Japanese diplomat also showed a strong interest in boosting cooperation on disaster prevention and increasing inter-regional transport links.

FM Gemba announced Japan 's intention to host a special conference with ASEAN next year on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of their relationship.

Talking with the press following the meeting with the ASEAN counterparts, New Zealand FM Murray McCully affirmed that ASEAN is playing an increasing role in New Zealand ’s economy, especially in the context that Europe is now facing many difficulties because of financial crisis.

ASEAN is a big market with many opportunities for New Zealand , he said.

Also on July 11, ASEAN FMs met their Australian counterpart Bob Carr to discuss the regional security situation and other issues of mutual concern.

ASEAN FMs affirmed their efforts to accelerate cooperation between ASEAN and their partners.-VNA