Tokyo (VNA) – Japan reiterated its support for the central role of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in the regional architecture at the 33rd ASEAN-Japan Forum held in Tokyo on June 13.

The annual deputy ministerial forum, part of the ASEAN-Japan dialogue relations, aimed to review bilateral cooperation and discuss measures for enhancing their strategic partnership.

The ASEAN countries and Japan applauded the outcomes in their strategic partnership and cooperation through the implementation of the 2017 Revised Implementation Plan of the Vision Statement on ASEAN-Japans Friendship and Cooperation.

Japan is currently the fourth biggest trade partner and the second largest FDI investor of ASEAN.

Japan affirmed that ASEAN is an important partner of the country, and it will continue cooperating with and assisting ASEAN in building its community, enhancing connectivity, and narrowing development gap.

In particular, Japan will further cooperate with ASEAN in trade, investment, developing businesses, especially micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), transport, energy, environmental protection, sustainable development, poverty reduction, health care, and care for the elderly. It will also boost people-to-people exchanges and strengthen ties in coping with climate change, fighting terrorism and extremism, and stepping up cyber security.

The two sides agreed to expand cooperation to make use of technological achievements in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, such as those relating to e-commerce, digital economy and smart city building.

Japan highly valued the initiative of setting up an ASEAN network of smart cities and expressed its readiness to co-sponsor this idea.

To mark 45 years of ASEAN-Japan ties in 2018, they will work closely together to successfully organise a summit commemorating the ASEAN-Japan dialogue relations in November. They will also mobilise resources to effectively carry out the Revised Implementation Plan of the Vision Statement on ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation, soon sign a protocol amending the ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, and actively implement the 10-year Strategic Economic Cooperation Roadmap.

The two sides are set to make efforts to soon approve the draft ASEAN-Japan technical cooperation agreement to further promote regional integration. They will also press on with collaboration to develop the Mekong region through practical projects within the framework of the Japan-Mekong Connectivity Initiative.

With regard to the East Sea situation, both ASEAN and Japan underlined the importance of peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation and aviation in the East Sea. They voiced concerns about the recent developments that could negatively affect the negotiation on a Code of Conduct (COC) of parties in the East Sea.

They stressed the need to exercise restraint, not have unilateral actions that complicate the situation, not militarise the East Sea, peacefully resolve disputes on the basis of international law, ensure the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC), and soon finalise a meaningful and effective COC.

Addressing the forum, Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Dung, head of the Vietnamese delegation, spoke highly of Japan’s contributions to the region and welcomed the country’s commitment to supporting ASEAN’s central role and assisting the bloc in building its community, developing the Mekong region, stepping up connectivity, narrowing development gap, and developing human resources.

He emphasised that both sides need to coordinate closely to realise their leaders’ decisions and actively implement the Revised Implementation Plan of the Vision Statement on ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation through concrete and practical projects.

Regarding international and regional issues, Dung hailed the recent progress in the Korean Peninsula, including the inter-Korean summits and the US-Democratic People’s Republic of Korea summit, affirming Vietnam’s support for peace, stability and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

He echoed the view on the worrying developments in the East Sea and stressed that the relevant sides must exercise self-restraint, thoroughly comply with international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, and not have unilateral actions that complicate the situation or running counter to international law, thereby ensuring a favourable environment for peace and stability in the East Sea and the negotiation on the COC.

Vietnam will work as a coordinator of ASEAN-Japan dialogue relations from August 2018 to August 2021, Dung said, affirming that the country will work closely with Japan and other ASEAN countries to bring their strategic partnership to a new height, thus benefiting the two sides as well as peace, security, stability and prosperity in the region and the world.-VNA