40th year of ASEAN–Japan friendship and cooperation

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Exchanges between Japan and ASEAN started in 1973 with the establishment of the ASEAN–Japan forum on synthetic rubber. Thus 2013 marks the 40th anniversary since exchanges began. Through diplomatic routes, Japan and ASEAN have come to an agreement to conduct commemorative events throughout 2013.

The Ministry of Defense, for its part, aims to further strengthen and develop ASEAN–Japan relations through cooperation and exchange projects at various levels and in different fields.

Q&A ASEAN–Japan defense cooperation and exchange

Q1 Tell us about the significance of defense cooperation and exchange with the ASEAN countries.

A1.The ASEAN countries are located in a strategically important area for maritime traffic connecting Japan with the Middle East and Europe. They have long been traditional partners, having close economic relations with Japan.

Promoting trust and cooperative relations for issues in various security challenges with the ASEAN countries is meaningful for both Japan and these countries. Moreover, as the ASEAN countries are core members of the ADMM-Plus and ARF, it is important to build relationships of trust and cooperation with each country, with a view to cooperation in multilateral frameworks.

It is particularly important for Japan to build stronger relationships with the ASEAN countries’ defense officials through bilateral and multilateral cooperation frameworks in order to develop a stable security environment across the region.

In particular, along with the interaction with Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore and the Philippines, which are detailed in Q2 through Q5, Japan is engaged in active exchanges of opinions with Cambodia, Malaysia and Thailand at various levels, concerning approaches to defense cooperation and exchange, and frameworks for regional security cooperation. Furthermore, Japan is also striving to strengthen relationships with Myanmar, Brunei Darussalam and Laos.

(Notes)The ADMM-Plus is the first Government-hosted defense ministers’ meeting in the Asia-Pacific region and is an expansion of the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) by adding eight non-ASEAN countries, including Japan, to the ADMM. The first ADMM-Plus was held in October 2010, and the second meeting is scheduled to be held in August 2013. Although originally held once every three years, it is scheduled to be held once every two years beginning this year. It consists of a total of 18 countries including the 10 ASEAN countries as well as Australia, China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Russia, and the United States.

*ARF stands for the ASEAN Regional Forum, which is a framework for regional security cooperation concerning the ASEAN countries.

Q2 Tell us about Japan’s relationship with Indonesia.

Statue of General Sudirman (Ichigaya, Tokyo)
Statue of General Sudirman (Ichigaya, Tokyo)

A2.Indonesia accounts for 40% of the land and population of Southeast Asia and is a major power in the region, as well as being the largest island country in the world.

Indonesian Defense Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro visited Japan in January 2011, and, at the Shangri-La Dialogue in June 2012, then Parliamentary Senior Vice-Minister of Defense Shu Watanabe and Defense Minister Purnomo exchanged opinions regarding the holding of regular discussions between the defense ministers of the two countries, as well as concerning a memorandum on defense cooperation and mutual cooperation in the framework of the ADMM-Plus.

In addition to this, great progress has been made in defense cooperation and exchange through the visit to Japan by the Indonesian Vice-Minister of Defense in September 2011, as well as talks held at the chief of staff level.

In particular, when Mr. Purnomo visited Japan in January 2011, Indonesia presented Japan with the gift of a bronze statue of General Sudirman, who had close links to Japan. This statue of the General symbolizes the development of friendship and amicable cooperation between Japan and Indonesia.

Q3 Tell us about Japan’s relationship with Vietnam.

Then Defense Minister Ichikawa and Vietnamese Minister of National Defense Thanh signing the memorandum on Japan?Vietnam defense cooperation and exchange
Then Defense Minister Ichikawa and Vietnamese Minister of National Defense Thanh signing the memorandum on Japan–Vietnam defense cooperation and exchange

A3.Vietnam is a major power in Southeast Asia, and is one of Japan’s strategic partners for peace and prosperity in Asia. The two nations are strengthening cooperation in the area of not only economy but also security and defense.

A Japan–Vietnam Joint Statement was released when Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung visited Japan in October 2011; in addition, in the same month, Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh visited Japan, marking the first visit to Japan in 13 years by a Vietnamese Defense Minister. He held talks with his Japanese counterpart and the two ministers exchanged opinions concerning the international and regional security situations including maritime security. Following the talks, the two ministers signed the memorandum concerning Japan–Vietnam defense cooperation and exchange, and agreed to promote high-level exchanges, regular dialogue at the vice-ministerial level and cooperation in such areas as humanitarian aid and disaster relief, making it an important visit in terms of the development of thestrategic partnership. Moreover, in November 2012, Administrative Vice-Minister of Defense Kanazawa visited Vietnam where the first Japan–Vietnam vice-defense ministerial level consultation was held. During the consultation, opinions were exchanged regarding defense cooperation and exchange between the two counties, which included capacity-building support and the security of the Asia-Pacific region.

Q4 Tell us about Japan’s relationship with Singapore.

A4.In December 2009, Singapore became the first country in Southeast Asia with which Japan concluded a memorandum on defense cooperation and exchange, and cooperative relationships between the two nations are progressing steadily based on this memorandum.

In terms of high-level exchange, in October 2012, Singaporean Defence minister Dr. Ng Eng Hen visited Japan where he held talks with then Defense Minister Morimoto. At the talks, they agreed to promote cooperation in logistics support between Japan and Singapore; in addition, they agreed to further promote defense cooperation and exchange such as bilateral training and training conducted under the framework of the Western Pacific Naval Symposium (WPNS). Moreover, both ministers announced support for the ADMM-Plus exercises to be held in Brunei in 2013. Japan and Singapore have the longest history of any of Japan MoD’s talks with defense establishments of Southeast Asian countries; in November 2011, 12th MM Talks was held in Singapore and various issues including the regional situation and security issues were discussed.

The 2nd EWG meeting (Tokyo)
The 2nd EWG meeting (Tokyo)

Regarding ADMM-Plus activity, the 2nd EWG on Military Medicine meeting, co-chaired by Japan and Singapore, was held in Tokyo from July 18 to 20, 2012, at which opinions were exchanged regarding cooperation among the member nations in the area of military medicine in the event of a disaster outbreak. Military medicine experts from the 10 ASEAN countries as well as Japan, the United States, China, the Republic of Korea, Russia, Australia, New Zealand and India participated in this meeting.

Singaporean Permanent Secretary for Defence Chiang Chie Foo visited Japan to deliver the opening remarks for the EWG meeting and held talks with Administrative Vice-Minister of Defense Kanazawa.

Q5 Tell us about Japan’s relationship with the Philippines.

A5.As well as high-level exchanges with the Philippines, such as the September 2011 visit to Japan by the Undersecretary of the Philippine Department of National Defense and the June 2012 visit to the Philippines by then Parliamentary Senior Vice-Minister of Defense Shu Watanabe, there have been frequent exchanges among the working level officials, including visits by naval vessels and discussions between the defense authorities of the two countries.

In the Japan–Philippines Joint Statement signed at the summit meeting between the two countries in September 2011, the two leaders welcomed the Japan–Philippines Dialogue on Maritime and Oceanic Affairs, and agreed to promote exchange and cooperation between the defense authorities of the two countries, through such initiatives as reciprocal visits at the naval chief of staff level and a port call in the Philippines by the MSDF vessels. Having been mentioned in the Joint Statement, the MSDF Chief of Staff visited the Philippines in November 2011, while the Flag Officer of the Philippine Navy visited Japan in April 2012.

In July 2012, the Philippines’ Department of National Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin visited Japan, marking the first visit to Japan in 11 years by a Defense Secretary, and held talks with Japan’s Defense Minister. The two leaders signed the statement of intent for Japan–Philippine defense cooperation and exchange, and agreed to step up their bilateral cooperation and exchange to a new level on this occasion.

Then MSDF Chief of Staff Sugimoto and then Flag Officer of the Philippine Navy Pama
Then MSDF Chief of Staff Sugimoto and then Flag Officer of the Philippine Navy Pama
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