Jakarta – BRIN Public Relations. “Thus far, ASEAN has played a central role in promoting regional cooperation. ASEAN is the main organizer of various regional forums that have contributed to enhancing understanding, peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific Region. However, internally and externally there are several challenges faced to realize ASEAN centrality,” explained Dewi Fortuna Anwar, Researcher at the Political Research Center of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), when delivering her presentation in a Webinar entitled Deepening cooperation with ASEAN toward the realization of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.

“The diversity of ASEAN member countries that have different political systems, strategic views, and levels of economic development is a big challenge for ASEAN cohesion and solidarity,” said Dewi. “In addition, the domestic crisis that exists in certain member countries, is also very likely to reduce their ability to focus on regional issues,” he added.

On the external side, Dewi said that China’s increasing economic dominance and firm foreign policy have challenged ASEAN’s strategic autonomy. Some ASEAN member states, she revealed, have become economically dependent on China. This makes them more vulnerable to pressure not to act against China’s interests, particularly in the South China Sea issue.

Regarding Japan’s position for ASEAN according to Dewi, Japan has played an important role in supporting ASEAN countries and ASEAN institutions. “At the beginning of ASEAN’s development, Japan played a role as the major economic supporter of ASEAN, while the United States was the guarantor of security,” he explained.

Opening the webinar, the Japanese Ambassador to Asean, Chiba Akira, expressed his concern over the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. “Political and security dynamics around the world have changed rapidly, the world’s attention is now on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” Akira said. “Although geographically, far from the conflict arena, the existence of this conflict is a threat to world peace, including the Indo Pacific,” he continued.

Akira also said that for almost half a century Japan has cooperated with ASEAN. “We continue to enhance various cooperations to achieve peace, stability and prosperity in the region based on international order,” he said.

Akira explained, despite the changing dynamics of the Indo-Pacific, Japan firmly emphasizes the importance of ASEAN Centrality and unity, and establishes ASEAN as the core of a Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP). The Joint Statement of the 23rd ASEAN-Japan Summit concerning cooperation on “ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP)” in 2020 further explained that Japan’s FOIP and AOIP share many basic principles.

“On the basis of this statement, Japan promises to work closely with ASEAN to promote cooperation that will contribute to the principles set out in the AOIP,” he added. “On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of friendship and cooperation in 2023, Japan is looking for ways to elevate relations to a new level, and together with ASEAN, start a new chapter of our partnership,” he concluded. (sw/ ed: drs)