Editor’s note: Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe writes this message exclusively for Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper ahead of the Seventh Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting, to be held in Tokyo on July 4.
I am pleased to welcome the leader of your country to Tokyo and hold the Seventh Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting on July 4, to further enhance the vibrancy and attractiveness of the Mekong region.
This year is a historic milestone that will mark the launch of the ASEAN community. In light of this, it is very important for me to hold frank discussions with leaders of the Mekong region countries on the partnership between the Mekong region and Japan, which will grow together, and mutually affirm that we will continue to work together even more closely. Based on the “New Tokyo Strategy 2015” that will be adopted today, I would like to convey Japan’s wholehearted support to the Mekong region countries, moving on to the launch of the ASEAN community.
From the airplane I saw vast lands with abundant greenery. Traveling to different towns, I witnessed vibrant markets and offices, as well as cultural elements and traditions that have been handed down over time. After being appointed as Prime Minister in 2012, my first international visit was to the Mekong region. On that occasion, and every time I have visited the Mekong Region since then, I am captivated by wherever I go.
The peace and stability of the Mekong region, which is in a key location for ground and marine transportation, is of great importance to Japan, and I hope that the Mekong countries will co-exist with Japan as partners that hold enormous potential for growth.
To date, our predecessors have spared no effort with regard to initiatives in the Mekong region, ranging from peace building to improving regional connectivity. Many people from Japan have worked on these initiatives, and have transferred capitals, technologies, and experience from Japan to this region.
Japan’s ongoing efforts in the Mekong region, such as the construction of Economic Corridors, have been making steady progress. Looking at this year so far, Noi Bai International Airport Terminal 2 and Nhật Tân Bridge were completed in the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam in January, and the Tsubasa Bridge was opened in the Kingdom of Cambodia in April. Going forward, Japan intends to provide the people of the Mekong Region with a wide range of experience and technologies in an even more proactive manner.
Cooperation, not only regarding infrastructure development, but also soft aspects is one of the pillars of the New Tokyo Strategy. Japan intends to proactively cooperate with each country in the areas of cultivating human resources and developing legal systems as well.
The Government of Japan has announced the “Partnership for Quality Infrastructure,” and will provide “quality infrastructure investment” in Asia, with a total scale of approximately 110 billion dollars over five years, in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The Mekong region will certainly be the top-priority region in this initiative. Let us continue to grow the fruits of these investment activities together.
I look forward to seeing the future of growth in the Mekong region. There is a need to upgrade infrastructure and social systems in order to respond to the expansion of energy demand and increase in automobiles. In order to cope with the pressing issue of the aging of society, it is essential to enhance the functionality of healthcare and medical treatment services. It will be important to address these numerous challenges in innovative ways.
Japan, as an island nation with few resources, has taken on challenges with regard to increasing energy efficiency. Japan has repeatedly dealt with natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis. We would like to share with you our experience in these areas. We hope to realize a “green Mekong,” and contribute to quality growth. This is our sincere wish.
Last year, Japan-Viet Nam relations were upgraded to an “Extensive Strategic Partnership,” under which cooperation has been expanding in a wide range of fields. I held a summit meeting with Mr. Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam, in Milan in October last year, and had a telephone conversation with him at the time of the Lunar New Year in February this year, and thus our countries have been cooperating closely at the leadership level. In addition, last year, the number of people visiting Japan from Viet Nam surpassed 120,000 to hit a record high, and the number of people visiting Viet Nam from Japan amounted to approximately 650,000. Thus exchanges between our peoples, which serve as a foundation for bilateral relations, have been extremely lively. On this occasion, I am scheduled to hold a Japan-Viet Nam bilateral summit meeting with Prime Minister Dung, and am looking forward to holding a meaningful exchange of opinions concerning cooperation in regional and international fora, cooperation in maritime security in the South China Sea and elsewhere, as well as cooperation aimed at “quality growth” in Viet Nam.
In conjunction with this summit meeting, the “Japan-Mekong U-15 Football Exchange Program” was held. In this event, soccer players aged 15 or younger were invited to Japan from Mekong countries, and engaged in exchanges with Japanese players of the same age. These athletes are part of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games generation. I strongly hope that many, if not all, of these players will return to Tokyo in 2020 as Olympic athletes.
I hope that Japan and the Mekong region can continue contributing to peace and prosperity in Asia and the entire international community, working hand in hand based on the friendship, trust, and cooperative relationships that we have developed up to now over many years. I look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Dung and other leaders of the Mekong countries to Tokyo.
Prime Minister of Japan