Japan, ASEAN Begin Special Summit Commemorating 50th Year of Friendship, Cooperation

Pool photo
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and his wife Yuko attend a gala dinner with Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders in Tokyo on Saturday.

Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Saturday began a special summit in Tokyo to commemorate 50 years of friendship and cooperation.

The two parties are expected to issue on Sunday a joint statement setting out a vision for future cooperation that will include interpersonal exchanges and economic collaboration, among other goals.

The Japanese government aims to further bolster its relationship with ASEAN countries against a background in which China is increasing its maritime expansion.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo — the current ASEAN chair — and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are cochairing the gathering.

The summit, which is set to feature numerous events, kicked off with a gala dinner hosted by Kishida and his wife.

A joint statement and an implementation plan outlining specific areas of cooperation are expected to be issued with a focus on human and cultural exchanges, economic partnerships and enhanced security cooperation between Japan and ASEAN.

The implementation plan is likely to urge stronger ties vis-a-vis the production of next-generation transportation, including electric vehicles. Japan is set to support ASEAN countries by helping them formulate basic plans for next-generation vehicles and strengthen supply chains in the automobile sector.

The implementation plan also is expected to affirm that Japan and ASEAN will reinforce cooperation aimed at maintaining maritime order based on the rule of law.

The Japan-ASEAN relationship dates back to 1973, when a ministerial meeting was held to address concerns that Japan’s synthetic rubber exports were putting pressure on ASEAN’s natural rubber exports.

Kishida is slated to hold a series of meetings with ASEAN leaders on the sidelines of the summit through Monday.

On Saturday, the Japanese leader met with Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and agreed that Japan will provide Malaysia with rescue boats and other equipment for surveillance and other purposes under the official security assistance (OSA) framework. Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa and her Malaysian counterpart Mohamad Hasan also attended the meeting. The framework is intended to provide free defense equipment to the militaries of countries with which Japan shares values.

Kishida also met Saturday with Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Laotian Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone.

On Monday, a summit of the Asia Zero Emission Community (AZEC) will be held for the first time to discuss efforts toward decarbonizing Asia, with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese slated to participate online.

The leaders are expected to affirm stronger cooperation on a shift toward energy usage that does not harm the environment.