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Selasa, 13 Oktober 2009

Japan woos RI over East Asian Community initiative

Meet the press: Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada (left) briefs media, on Tuesday, during his visit to Jakarta while his Indonesian counterpart Hassan Wirajuda looks on. Okada will leave for Padang on Wednesday to visit earthquake-hit areas in West Sumatra.

Japan will involve Indonesia in efforts to establish the East Asian Community that would bring Tokyo closer to its historical rivals China and South Korea.

After a meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Hassan Wirajuda in Jakarta on Tuesday, Japanese
Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada said Tokyo would like to discuss further the concept of the East Asian Community with Jakarta, which he said “had boasted mature democracy and a firm economy in recent years”.

“Indonesia is an important partner for Japan in efforts to achieve integration in East Asia,” Okada said through an interpreter.

“Indonesia plays an important role in ASEAN [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations]. Japan would like to have a dialogue with Indonesia about the establishment of the East Asian Community.”

Okada also met with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Tuesday.

Beijing, Tokyo and Seoul held a trilateral summit last Saturday in Beijing, where the three countries pledged further commitment for regional economic cooperation and development of the East Asian Community.

The East Asian Community initiative launched by Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has received a mixed response, with critics saying it may spark rivalry with similar regional groupings such as ASEAN.

ASEAN leaders have managed to bring Japan, China and South Korea under one umbrella — the ASEAN+3 — after decades of historic hostilities among the three.

Hassan said ASEAN+3 was a very important pillar of cooperation among East Asian nations, adding the new concept by the Japanese government should enhance the existing forum.

“Indonesia welcomes greater efforts by the new Japanese government to improve relations with other Asian countries,” he said.

“Indonesia and Japan always share similar views about the future of this region and we have always wanted to cooperate closely, and so we agree to consult each other about how cooperation and integration can work better in the future.”

Okada’s visit comes at a time when both countries are stressing the need for stronger ties to cope with global crisis. Last month, Prime Minister Hatoyama held a bilateral meeting with President Yudhoyono in Pittsburgh on the sidelines of the G20 Summit. It followed with a visit by the Japanese vice minister of economy, trade and industry last week.

“Indonesia and Japan have developed a very good relationship with strong cooperation in economic areas,” Hassan said.

“It’s high time we built a strategic partnership between the two countries. Indonesia and other ASEAN members should work harder toward the integration of East Asia.”

The foreign minister added Japan was Indonesia’s largest trading partner in 2008, with bilateral trade valued at US$43 billion, an impressive rise from $30.15 billion in 2007.

Okada said the Japanese government would provide further aid for the earthquake-devastated province of West Sumatra, hit by a 7.6-magnitude quake on Sept. 30. Japan has already dispatched relief supplies worth around JPY30 million ($340,000).

Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said Indonesia had informed Tokyo about its needs for rebuilding in the quake-hit areas.

“In the meeting, Foreign Minister Hassan presented [details] about the reconstruction of public facilities, such as schools and hospitals.”

Okada will leave for Padang on Wednesday to see the widespread devastation.

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