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Friday, May 23, 2008

Fukuda pledges full support for planned ASEAN unified market


Staff writer

Echoing his late father's message more than three decades ago, Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said Thursday that Japan will seek closer ties with Southeast Asian countries by supporting the planned creation of a single integrated market in the region.

News photo
Yasuo Fukuda KYODO PHOTO

In his speech to a symposium in Tokyo, Fukuda reconfirmed Japan's support for the establishment of an economic community by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations by 2015, while noting Japan's alliance with the United States will continue to provide security in the Asia-Pacific region.

Fukuda's father, the late Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda, is best remembered for his Fukuda Doctrine of 1977, which declared to Southeast Asian countries that Japan would build closer ties with the region and never again become a military aggressor.

"My first promise to you is that Japan will emphatically support ASEAN's efforts to realize a community," Fukuda told the "The Future of Asia" symposium, which was attended by several leaders from Asian nations, including Thailand, Malaysia, Laos and Indonesia.

"I am determined to cooperate with the efforts of ASEAN, which is aiming to establish the ASEAN Community by 2015," he said.

Fukuda meanwhile argued that the security situation in Asia remains unstable, singling out North Korea as one example.

The Japan-U.S. military alliance thus helps stabilize the region and "serve as the cornerstone for Asian prosperity," he argued. "The Japan-U.S. alliance is now much more than a means for ensuring the security of Japan; rather, it also serves as an instrument for the stability of Asia and the Pacific as a whole."

The 1977 Fukuda Doctrine was warmly welcomed and is believed to have favorably altered the sentiment of ASEAN countries toward Japan.

At that time, memories of Japan's wartime aggression were still fresh in the region, which saw Japan's postwar rise into an economic powerhouse as a cause for concern.

Fukuda also pledged Thursday make Japan a "peace-fostering nation."

He cited Japan's Indian Ocean refueling support for U.S.-led antiterrorism operations in Afghanistan, the fight against terrorism and pirates in the Strait of Malacca, as well as Japan's contributions to regional efforts to cope with natural disasters and the spread of avian influenza.



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