Japan, ASEAN summit to advance 'security cooperation'

Japan, Asean summit to advance ‘security cooperation’

/ 01:32 PM December 16, 2023

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FILE PHOTO: A worker adjusts an ASEAN flag at a meeting hall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, October 28, 2021. REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng

Tokyo, Japan — Southeast Asian and Japanese leaders in Tokyo on Saturday will commit to strengthening “maritime security cooperation”, according to a draft statement seen by AFP, at a summit focussed on boosting economic ties but also China’s growing regional assertiveness.

Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea, a vital trade corridor, and its increasingly aggressive behaviour in disputed areas has riled nations across the region as well as Washington.


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Close US ally Japan, which also has competing territorial claims with China, is upping its military spending and has boosted security cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.


According to the draft of the summit’s final statement, Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will commit to “(strengthen) security cooperation, including maritime security cooperation”.

The leaders are also expected to stress the need for a “rules-based Indo-Pacific region that is free and open”, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and respect for territorial integrity.

Japan last month agreed to loan the Philippines — which has seen a spate of incidents involving Chinese vessels in recent weeks — hundreds of millions of dollars for new coast guard vessels and to supply a radar system.

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Japan and the Philippines, whose President Ferdinand Marcos was due in Tokyo, also agreed to start talks on a Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) that would include provisions for the deployment of troops on each other’s soil.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will use the summit to talk with Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim about providing Malaysia with rescue boats and drones under a new security framework, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported.

In September, militaries from ASEAN nations held their first-ever joint exercises, although host Indonesia insisted they were non-combat drills, focusing on areas such as disaster relief and maritime patrols.


Asked about the ASEAN summit, China’s foreign ministry said Friday that Beijing “believed that any cooperation should be conducive to advancing mutual trust among regional countries and promoting common development.”

“We hope that relevant countries can truly do things conducive to regional peace and stability. At the same time, any cooperation should not target third parties,” spokeswoman Mao Ning told a regular briefing.

‘Zero emission community’

Japan is also expected to use the summit to push energy cooperation, with a meeting of its Asian Zero Emission Community (AZEC) initiative scheduled for Monday that will be attended virtually by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, officials said.

Tokyo is boosting its renewables sector but has also come under fire from environmental groups for providing large-scale public financing for fossil fuel projects around Asia.

Japan has also been seeking to push the export of tech aimed at reducing emissions by coal plants, such as co-firing with ammonia and carbon capture. But critics say these methods are unproven and expensive.

“This push to lock in fossil fuel-based energy across the continent is delaying the transition from fossil fuels to renewables,” the Climate Action Network said this month.

Ammonia “fails to meaningfully reduce emissions, jeopardises the decarbonization of Japan’s energy and any possibility of phasing out fossil fuels,” it said.

ASEAN’s 10 member states are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Myanmar. The summit marks 50 years of ties with Japan.

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While Myanmar is a member, the leaders of its junta have been banned from the bloc’s high-level meetings since failing to implement an agreed five-point peace plan following the 2021 coup in which they took power.

TAGS: Asean, Japan, maritime, Security

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