"The World and Japan" Database (Project Leader: TANAKA Akihiko)
Database of Japanese Politics and International Relations
National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS); Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia (IASA), The University of Tokyo

[Title] Policy Speech by H.E. Ms. Yoriko Kawaguchi, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Building Bridges toward Our Future "Initiative for Reinforcing ASEAN Integration"

[Place] Phnom Penh, Cambodia
[Date] June 17, 2003
[Source] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
[Full text]

Ladies and Gentlemen, my fellow colleagues and friends,

It is great pleasure to visit your beautiful country exactly 50 years after Cambodia became independent and Japan and Cambodia established our diplomatic relations. I am honored to be here today to share with you the vision and hope about the future of our region. I find today's forum filled with the refreshed determination and exuberant energy of your nation on the way toward another sphere of progress and development.

Japan and Cambodia's relationship dates back to the 17th century. Japanese merchants and emigrants set sail to Cambodia and formed a Japan town in Ponhea Leu, a city near the kingdom's capital of the day. On a personal note, I feel a special kinship toward the location of this Chaktomuk Conference Hall, since my name "Kawaguchi" means "moat tonle" or riverside. Based on our historic and multi-faceted friendship, the Japanese people have cooperated with your country in advancing toward peace and reconstruction. As this year marks Japan-ASEAN Exchange Year 2003, it is my hope to further tighten our heart-to-heart ties and deepen mutual understanding between Japan and Cambodia as well as other ASEAN nations.

The negative ramifications of sporadic warfare on the Indo-China peninsula still persist today in the form of economic, social and political gulfs within ASEAN. At the same time, the nations in this region have been moving forward to build their own countries. You have joined ASEAN and striven to become a responsible member of the international community. It is one of the fruits of your tireless efforts that Cambodia is now hosting us all here as Chair of ASEAN. Today, ASEAN is experiencing dynamic progress with a population of 500 million, and a total GDP of 580 billion dollars, from its 10 diverse members. As a linchpin of regional stability and prosperity, ASEAN 10 needs to be united, not separated, in order to secure the well-being of not only ASEAN itself, but also of our whole region. Let me clarify that being integrated is one thing and being uniformed is another. I believe that the diversity and traditional spirit that each ASEAN member embraces produces the collective strength of ASEAN. I believe in the mathematical conclusion that 1 X 10 (one by ten) is more than 10. I believe in the wide-open window of opportunity that produces our success story. I believe that we will be living together in a community where goods, services and people move more freely, where our lives are more secured, where democratic values are more appreciated, and, where we enjoy a more respected position in the international community.

Now, the question is not whether we can succeed or not, but how we succeed and what obstacles we shall overcome for our success.

Today, I would like to take the liberty to announce the "Initiative for Reinforcing ASEAN Integration." In the spirit of "open and sincere partners" who "act together, advance together" outlined in the "Koizumi Initiative," we should think together, plan together and tackle together the important regional and global issues. In this regard, Japan is going to enhance our dialogue and multiply our mutual cooperation particularly with the new members of ASEAN, namely, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.

How should we address the challenges and obstacles which damage the integration of ASEAN? My "Initiative" is made up of three pillars, which is to say, "Filling economic gaps and enjoying prosperity," "Reassuring human dignity," and "Fostering democratic and stable governance."

Beginning with the first pillar, "Filling economic gaps and enjoying prosperity:"

Economic development should not be a half measure. In order to enhance our living standard through sustainable economic growth, we should remove disadvantages in the development of human resources, system and infrastructure. Japan has been resolved to contribute to the world's peace and stability in the post-war era by utilizing economic assistance. In particular, over the years, Japan has attached special importance to ASEAN through budgeting more than 30 % of its Official Development Assistance (ODA).

Japan is currently supporting two flagship projects in the ambitious Mekong Sub-region development. One is the East-West Economic Corridor which will benefit Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and Myanmar, and the other is the Second East-West Corridor which will connect Cambodia with its neighbors. A Mekong bridge completed two years ago has been named "Kizuna bridge" which symbolically means a strong heart-to-heart bond in Japanese. This symbolism is at work, not at all nominal. I would like to announce today that Japan is ready to start its feasibility studies on a construction plan for a new bridge at Neak Loeung, which is a pivotal junction of the Second East-West Corridor. In the not too distant future, goods, services and people will travel briskly across the borders throughout the Greater Mekong sub-region. Besides our bilateral schemes, Japan is encouraged by ASEAN's multilateral endeavors of its own to narrow the economic gaps, and would also like to renew its commitment to the "Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI)."

Another approach between us is our attempts to remove various barriers to trade, investment and the movement of people across borders, which is represented by Japan-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Partnership. After the FTA with Singapore, Japan is currently pursuing a high level of economic liberalization including an FTA with the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand so that a network of economic partnerships will prevail throughout the region.

Among the new ASEAN members, Vietnam's Investment Agreement with Japan is expected to catalyze this move with all ASEAN members. Please be reminded that Japan always keeps its door open to every ASEAN member. No country should be left alone in our joint endeavors. Japan helps the new members to catch up and share prosperity with its original colleagues under a free and market-oriented economy. In this respect, Japan has been collaborating with Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar to create a package of policy recommendations to assist their economic reforms.

The second pillar of my Initiative is "Reassuring human dignity" which is a universal agenda to be addressed. The ASEAN countries have thousands of innocent citizens who have experienced the carnage of warfare, mass murder, unexploded bombs and terrorism. They are tragedies that used to tear apart the community and the peoples of ASEAN. Even in our time, the human dignity of every single person is threatened by landmines, small fire arms, unexploded bombs, the fear of being a refugee, human-trafficking, such infectious diseases as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, SARS, and illicit drugs produced in so-called "Golden Triangle," and a myriad of other transnational problems. These emerging challenges are deeply rooted in chronic conflicts, poverty and, a lack of necessary equipment and expertise, or the combination of all of these. Eradicating these problems needs our robust and enduring efforts. Once again, let us reinforce our solidarity to overcome these common challenges so that every single person can live in a secure and rewarding society.

In the same vein, Japan stands fast with Cambodia's commitment to bring the Khmer Rouge Tribunal into being, since it will not only resuscitate human dignity and social justice, but also ensure stability in the whole region. On the 6th of this month, the agreement on cooperation with the UN was signed here in Phnom Penh. It is our hope that your Cambodian Parliament will ratify it and start the judicial procedure as soon as possible. Japan will continue fulfilling a central role in this process by sending a judge and secretariats as well as by supplementing the necessary expenditure of the UN.

The third pillar is "Fostering democratic and stable governance." Taking into full consideration the diversity of ASEAN countries, Japan endorses your painstaking efforts to foster good governance in accordance with such fundamental values as freedom, democracy and the rule of law, which my country also embraces as its guiding principles. On this topic, I would like to call on the Myanmar Government to rectify the current situations and initiate its genuine efforts toward national reconciliation and democracy, and to take steps in becoming a responsible and respected member of the international community.

It is always easier said than done to foster democratic and stable governance. In the darkness of seemingly endless confusion, Japan held the Tokyo Meeting on Cambodia in 1990 that eventually led to the Paris Peace Agreement. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces and civilian police joined the UNTAC peace-keeping operations and supported the mission at great sacrifice. Furthermore, Japan has observed Cambodia's efforts to promote a broader participation of the people so that democratic governance takes firm roots in your country. Japan is poised to dispatch an election observation mission in July this time again in the hope that the elections will be conducted in a free and fair manner without any intimidation or violence. We are very proud that Cambodia's case has set a good precedent to Japan's contemporary diplomatic initiative of "Consolidation of Peace," which is currently unfolding in East Timor, Sri Lanka, and Afghanistan. Sharing those basic values as ASEAN's common guiding principles will contribute to the integration of ASEAN.

Today, I saw the Mekong River for the first time in my life. The river seemed to deposit human deeds of the past and appeared to reflect human lives of our time. The Mekong River crosses borders, brings fresh water, rich soil and possibilities for progress to its people, and eventually flows into the bright sea. When faced by a river, we feel urged to cross it and build a bridge to the other side of the river, no matter how wide the gulf of water may appear.

Let us build a bridge between the past, the present and the future.

Let us build a bridge between each of us.

Let us build a bridge to promote friendship based on our mutual respect and understanding.

Let us build a bridge to fill the economic gaps based on our ownership and partnership.

Let us build a bridge to share the prosperity and stability that our integrated community could produce.

Let us build a bridge so that Japan and ASEAN will represent an open and beneficial community in our global society.

We are now on a springboard for bridging the internal gulfs within ASEAN and expanding the window of opportunity toward the progress of ASEAN as a whole. I am convinced that the future generation will hear the lively sounds of our bridge-building as tolling the dawn of our success story.

Ladies and gentlemen, my fellow colleagues and friends, it is my great privilege if we shared today here in Phnom Penh our common vision, hope and determination for our bright future. Thank you very much for your attention