Japan demands Asean unity

Senkaku in the East China Sea is concentrating minds in Tokyo, Beijing and Taipei. Source: Flickr


Jakarta has a huge responsibility to maintain unity and promote the integration in Asean, according to a Japanese envoy to the bloc, Kazuo Sunaga, as the new bombastic Philippine president prepares to enter the diplomatic stage.

“Indonesia is the biggest country in Asean, in terms of population and size of the economy, and I think Indonesia will have a major responsibility of maintaining Asean’s unity and promoting integration,” Sunaga told a gathering to mark the 49th anniversary of Asean.

Sunaga stressed that Asean had a key role in maintaining peace and stability in the region, particularly in the South China Sea and tensions with North Korea.

“I think the most important thing for Asean and Japan is that we need to always stand united and send the same message to the international community, particularly to the related countries, that a peaceful solution based on the international law is very important,” the ambassador said.

“Asean is playing an important role in upholding peace and stability in the region, and Japan always respects the centrality of Asean,” he added.

Tokyo is keen to consolidate its relations with the bloc after tensions escalated with China after Beijing sent vessels equipped with a long-range radar near disputed Senkaku in the East China Sea.

Tokyo’s Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi has also said that Indonesia should always remind all countries that the settlement of disputes should be regulated by rational, effective and flexible procedures, avoiding negative attitudes that scupper cooperation.

The new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will conduct his first official excursion when he attends the annual Asean conference along with US President Barack Obama and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Vientiane.

“He has confirmed his participation in the summit this coming September in Vientiane, Laos,” Foreign Secretary Perfecto Yasay said. The 71-year-old will attend the September 6 to 8 summit despite skipping the 11th Asia-Europe meeting in Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital, last month. He was represented by Yasay in the meeting that discussions on the South China Sea dispute and other key issues.

Yasay said Duterte was planning “working visits” to other Asean members after the summit.

“But I don’t think visiting China is the priority of the president compared to visiting the Asean member-states,” the minister said.

Yasay is visiting Saudi Arabia today to assist Filipino workers who have been left unpaid by struggling employers.

About 11,000 Filipino migrants are stranded in Saudi Arabia, as their employers still owe them their wages.

“We will go there to see through the repatriation of these Filipino workers. We also want to see what are the forms of support and assistance that they need that we can immediately grant,” Yasay said.

About 1,400 migrants had been repatriated by Manila, Yasay said, adding that they would receive 20,000 pesos each.

Yasay also said he would attend the resumption of peace talks with the Communist Party of the Philippines in Oslo on August 20.