Japan, ASEAN discuss South China Sea tensions
Phnom Penh: Foreign ministers from Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations held a meeting on Wednesday to discuss recent tensions in the South China Sea and a potential free trade agreement.
Among other issues, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba, who arrived in Phnom Penh in the morning, also showed a strong interest in boosting cooperation on disaster prevention and increasing interregional transport links, partly because many companies from Tokyo and elsewhere have factories in the fast-growing region.
Additionally, Gemba announced Japan's intention to host a special summit with ASEAN next year to coincide with the 40th anniversary of their relationship and his proposal was supported by other foreign ministers, a Japanese official said.
"Considering that the situation is fluid regionally and internationally, we need to cope in a concerted manner," Gemba said.
Indonesia's Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, who co-chaired the meeting with Gemba, said, "Without doubt, ASEAN-Japan relations contribute immensely to the wider region's peace, stability and prosperity."
"We must find ways and means to explore further ways and means to enhance cooperation between ASEAN and Japan," Natalegawa said.
The 10-member ASEAN, which has seen a threefold increase in its combined gross domestic product over the last decade, has collectively become Japan's second-largest trading partner after China.
The foreign ministers, who are in the Cambodian capital to attend a series of ASEAN-related meetings, also agreed to step up their efforts to launch talks on a new regional FTA, called the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, by the end of this year, the official said.
The partnership is likely to encompass ASEAN, Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. (Kyodo)