The “Future of Asia” Conference held in Tokyo, Japan on May 26 agreed to strengthen cooperation among Asian countries in overcoming challenges that the continent is facing.

Speaking at the conference, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai emphasised the great impacts of the earthquake and tsunami on Japan , one of Asia ’s leading economies, adding that the disaster’s impacts extended beyond a nation’s border and covered various fields such as economics, trade, social welfares and environment.

“Therefore, strengthening adaptability and mitigation of climate change impacts and at the same time seeking and gradually shifting to a sustainable economic development model are an urgent requirement for each country as well as the whole region,” he stressed.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak said that Asia can take the lead in the global economic recovery through coordination in using resources smartly.

Asian countries should continue cooperation through regional structures and mechanisms in order to make Asia stronger in the world economy, looking towards the building of a regional community, he noted.

The Malaysian PM called for strengthening the role of regional organisations, including ASEAN + 3 and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), in boosting the deeper and more sustainable regional integration.

ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan spoke highly of the reciprocal relations between Japan and Southeast Asia, saying that in 2010, ASEAN became Japan ’s second largest economic partner, only after China , while Japan was the bloc’s second largest partner after the EU.

This trend will continue in the near future, said Surin Pitsuwan, who expressed his belief that Japan will soon recover and continue to grow after the natural disaster, thus boosting investment and trade activities with ASEAN member countries.

Sharing the ASEAN Secretary-General’s views, Thailand ’s Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij said that recent events in Japan demonstrated the need for a stronger connectivity in the Asian region. He called for development of regional transport links, including a plan to connect express railways between China , Laos and Thailand via Malaysia .

During the conference, themed “Stronger ties and greater growth: keys to overcoming Asia’s challenges”, delegates discussed challenges faced by Asian economies following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan and measures to rebuild and maintain regional economic growth as well as the role of regional security.

The conference was co-organised by the Japanese daily Nikkei and the Japan Centre for Economic Research (JCER)./.