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Japan Will Strengthen Ties With Asian Nations: Koizumi

June 8, 2001

TOKYO (Nikkei)--Japan will strive to promote comprehensive bilateral and multilateral relations with Asian nations centering around the Japan-U.S. alliance, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said at a banquet for the Future of Asia conference Thursday.

At the annual forum sponsored by The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, the prime minister added that he hopes Japan's structural reform measures will lead to reform throughout Asia and promote regional stability.

This was the first time since his election that Koizumi revealed his comprehensive vision concerning Asian diplomacy.

Koizumi opened the ceremony by stressing the importance of international cooperation. "We must never isolate ourselves from the international community and engage in warfare," he said, referring to Japan's military aggression during World War II.

He then said, "It is of utmost importance that Japan build friendly relations with neighboring countries based on the Japan-U.S. alliance."

Koizumi plans to send a similar message to the U.S., when he meets with President George W. Bush at Camp David on June 30. His focus on Japan-U.S. relations is apparently in consideration of Washington's sentiment toward Japan, which has taken a turn for the worse due to Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka's controversial remarks about the U.S. missile defense strategy.

Koizumi also touched on Japan's relations with China and South Korea, which have become strained over disputes involving Japanese history textbooks and the prime minister's planned Aug. 15 visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, where millions of Japanese soldiers, including those convicted of war crimes, are enshrined.

"We must make further efforts to maintain and strengthen relationships" with China and South Korea, Koizumi said.

He also expressed interest in promoting cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, with an eye toward forming a free trade agreement throughout the region. "Japan will work to strengthen cooperative ties as partners for a peaceful and prosperous East Asia," he said.

Koizumi said he would aggressively proceed with comprehensive bilateral talks and cooperation, such as the ASEAN regional forum, as well.

In regard to economic reform, the prime minister said that, keeping in mind the lessons learned from the 1997 Asian currency crisis, "relentless structural reform efforts by each nation and the international community's cooperation are necessary."

He concluded his speech by introducing Japan's "reforms without sanctuaries" policy aimed at rebuilding the nation's economy. "We expect the ripples from our reforms to merge with similar movements in other Asian countries, creating a huge wave of reform for the entire region," he said.

(The Nihon Keizai Shimbun Friday morning edition)

Titles of speakers, names of companies, etc., were correct as of the time when the forum was held.