Brunei to benefit from Japan’s vision of free and open Indo-Pacific

|    Message from Special Advisor to Japan’s Prime Minister (National Security) Kentaro Sonoura    |

BRUNEI Darussalam and Japan have enjoyed excellent relations ever since the former achieved independence in 1984.

The close bond between our two nations is reflected in the relationship between the Bruneian Royal Family and the Imperial Family of Japan.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has visited the Emperor of Japan many times, and the two monarchs maintain a close personal friendship.

It is still fresh in our mind that Their Imperial Majesties the Emperor and the Empress of Japan visited the Embassy of Brunei Darussalam in Tokyo to celebrate the 50th anniversary of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s reign.

On this note, Japan is about to enter a new era with the abdication of our emperor and the coronation of the new emperor.

On May 1, we will celebrate the succession of His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince Naruhito as Emperor and Her Imperial Highness the Crown Princess Masako as Empress.

His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince has already formed strong bonds with His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, attending his wedding in 2004 and maintaining a warm friendship since that time.

Brunei Darussalam and Japan also have a strong relationship based on our common interests. Brunei is an important partner for Japan in regard to energy security, having supplied liquefied natural gas since 1972, and Japan is actively working to help diversify Brunei’s economy with Japanese companies working in many sectors, including methanol production, the biotech and fish processing industries.

Special Advisor to Japan’s Prime Minister (National Security) Kentaro Sonoura

Our foreign minister visited each other in 2018, which is a good example to show that our excellent relations have never been stronger. This collaboration is heavily dependent on stable and secure trade and passage in the Indo-Pacific region which are precisely the core principles of Japan’s vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

As Special Advisor to the Prime Minister, I have been travelling around the world to share Japan’s vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

This vision derives from our desire to preserve the blessings of the open seas, together with the countries of ASEAN which lie at the “confluence of the two seas”, the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Japan focusses its efforts in three fields to realise the vision. Firstly, we will endeavour to promote and maintain the fundamental principles of international order such as rule of law, freedom of navigation and free trade, which are the foundation of peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

It is only through a free and open trade and investment environment that Japan was able to grow.

This is the very same thing that has conferred the prosperity of the present day on the countries of Asia including ASEAN.

Indeed, Japan sees ASEAN as the crown jewel of the liberal international order in Asia.

It has developed a model of multilateralism based upon mutual trust and respect. We should build upon ASEAN’s experience to create a liberal international order throughout Indo-Pacific.

Japan seeks to take a leading position in negotiations that move the region towards rule-based multilateral trade.

We see the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP11) and a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as being vital to this with potential positive outcomes for both Japan and Brunei Darussalam.

Secondly, we will pursue economic prosperity through improving connectivity with quality infrastructure.

To promote free trade, it is essential to improve connectivity because free flow of people, goods, capital and information is the basis for free trade.

We follow the course of prosperity through the quality infrastructure investment to improve connectivity. Japan demonstrates this through assisting with the Southern Economic Corridor and the East-West Economic Corridor.

These are two projects that aim to improve cross border connectivity through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam while creating a land-based pathway for trade between the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Japan’s construction of new roads and bridges will help to significantly increase the volume of commercial traffic and, at the same time, create a reduction in travel times.

Combined with an efficient new customs clearance system, Japan’s contributions will greatly improve trade in the region.

This will benefit Brunei Darussalam equally, as it relies on trade to sustain economic prosperity.

Lastly, we will fulfil our commitment to peace and stability of the region particularly through engaging in efforts such as capacity building assistance as well as cooperation in such fields as humanitarian assistance/disaster relief (HA/DR), anti-piracy, counter-terrorism, and non-proliferation.

The Japanese efforts in these areas include providing patrol vessels as well as capacity building through sending experts and holding technical seminars. Japan is a major advocate of free and open maritime order, with particular focus on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

In this context, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ships including Izumo will visit Brunei Darussalam as part of JMSDF’s Indo-Pacific Deployment (IPD) to seek active contribution to peace and stability in the region and deepen and enhance mutual understanding and trust with countries in the region to realise a free and open Indo-Pacific.

I hope this opportunity will increase our cooperation and improve mutual understanding. Keeping the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific in mind, the economic opportunities for both our nations are extensive.

Brunei is a big exporter of energy and will stand to gain from the economic benefits from the trade. Security of sea lanes is also important for economic prosperity.

A free and open Indo-Pacific has huge potential for Brunei in terms of trade. With mutual support and cooperation for our common goals, Brunei Darussalam and Japan will benefit greatly.