The 26th ASEAN-Japan summit begins in Tokyo today, commemorating the 50th year of the ASEAN-Japan friendship and cooperation.
Robust economic ties have historically underpinned ASEAN-Japan relations. 2022, Japan became ASEAN’s 4th largest trading partner and its second largest source of Foreign Direct Investment. Further, both sides elevated bilateral ties last year to a comprehensive strategic partnership. The upcoming summit is expected to further reinforce mutual ties as ASEAN and Japan plan on unveiling a ‘new vision for cooperation’ predicated on people to people exchanges, socio-economic cooperation, and peace and security.
By empowering ASEAN’s economic autonomy and aiding the member state’s maritime law enforcement capabilities, Tokyo, in the long term aims to interdict the bloc’s economic dependency on Beijing and gradually integrate it into its Indo-Pacific framework, where the latter is largely centred around countering China’s economic and maritime footprint within the region. However, given the member state’s longstanding foreign policy orientation of neutrality, they will likely remain reluctant about endorsing Tokyo’s strategy and will instead, seek to cultivate similar diplomatic arrangements with Beijing. Ultimately, by preserving their neutrality, ASEAN can also ensure the Sino-Japan economic competition and commitment to the region, which in the long term will yield economic benefits for the local economies.
Jasmine is an analyst that writes for the Daily Brief.