A Heart-to-heart Friend to Indonesia
（7月5日Bisnis Indonesia Online版にて掲載）
Indonesia and Japan established diplomatic relations in 1958, starting a mutually beneficial partnership and continuing to grow. Relations between the two countries are now entering their 65th year with a lot of cooperation in various sectors that have been established.
Bisnis, JAKARTA—Indonesia and Japan established diplomatic relations in 1958, starting a mutually beneficial partnership and continuing to grow. Relations between the two countries are now entering their 65th year with a lot of cooperation in various sectors that have been established.
However, the growing cooperation raises a number of challenges, including looming global risks. In the midst of a global economic slowdown and ongoing recovery due to high-interest rates and rising prices, the two countries consistently seek to strengthen trade and investment cooperation.
In order to underline the cooperation that wishes to strengthen, Bisnis had an opportunity to interview the Japanese Ambassador to Indonesia Kanasugi Kenji recently. Here's the excerpt.
What is the history of diplomatic relations between Indonesia and Japan, and how have they evolved over time?
Today, Japan and Indonesia are strategic partners that share fundamental values such as democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. The relationship between our two countries has a long history of cooperation in many areas including economy, politics, and culture. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Indonesia in 1958, Japan has been a heart-to-heart friend to Indonesia. As the pandemic situation eased, bilateral exchanges at the grassroots level are becoming active again.
Our partnership now goes beyond bilateral cooperation, entering the phase to jointly address common global challenges. We have been working together in such fields as empowerment of democracy in the region, as well as energy transition and climate change.
What are the main areas of economic cooperation between Indonesia and Japan, and how important is Japan as a trading partner for Indonesia?
Japan has been one of the major trade and investment partners as well as the largest donor of ODA (Official Development Assistance) for Indonesia. In order to further facilitate our economic cooperation, Japan- Indonesia Economic Partnership Agreement (JIEPA) entered into force in 2008. At the same time, various cooperation projects are ongoing especially in the areas of infrastructure development, energy transition, climate change, and agriculture and fishery.
Japan has been a stable trading partner for Indonesia as an export destination of energy and natural resources, as well as an import source to meet strong demand in such sectors as automotive and machinery.
It is true that the amount of bilateral trade between our two countries has been declining. However, it is because Japanese companies are expanding their production bases in Indonesia. I strongly believe that Japan will remain as an important trading partner for Indonesia for many years to come.
In addition, the revision of JIEPA is underway to further promote bilateral trade and investment by maximizing the comparative advantages of both countries.
How have political and security ties between Indonesia and Japan developed, and what are the key issues of mutual concern?
Our two countries also maintain a close relationship in the political and security fields. In 2006, our bilateral relationship was upgraded as a strategic partnership. In 2015 and 2021, the two countries held the Foreign and Defense Ministerial Meeting ("2+2").
In August last year, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) participated in "Super Garuda Shield" multilateral exercise in Indonesia for the first time. In addition, in the same month, the UN Triangular Partnership Programme took place for the first time in Indonesia as part of PKO (Peace Keeping Operation) cooperation. Under this programme JGSDF instructors conducted heavy equipment operation training for engineers of the Indonesian Armed Forces (TNI).
The two countries have also been strengthening cooperation in the field of maritime security. For that purpose, Japan is currently conducting a survey to provide a patrol vessel to Indonesia’s coast guard (Bakamla). One of the key issues of mutual concern is the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific region. It is imperative to develop the Indo-Pacific region as a free, open, and prosperous area by ensuring the rule-based international order, in a comprehensive, inclusive, and transparent manner, attaching importance to ASEAN's centrality and unity. Japan and Indonesia must work together in order to enhance peace, stability and prosperity for every country in the region and beyond.
The concept of Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) promoted by Japan and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) adopted by ASEAN under the leadership of Indonesia share essential principles. Japan would like to strengthen cooperation with Indonesia to promote FOIP and to firmly maintain a free and open international order based on the rule of law in cooperation with the AOIP.
What is the role of Japan in Indonesia's infrastructure development, and what are some of the major projects that Japan has been involved in?
Japan has been extending cooperation to develop “quality infrastructure” in line with Indonesia’s economic and development strategy. Also, Japan put priority on developing human resources of this country to enable Indonesian people to manage and operate newly built infrastructures on their own. Therefore, simply put, Japan has been trying to contribute to Indonesia’s “quality growth”. Allow me to refer to some primary examples.
First, the MRT North-South Line, a symbol of infrastructure cooperation between Japan and Indonesia, has been widely used by many Jakarta citizens since its opening in March 2019. The extension of the line to the north is currently under construction, and Japan continues to provide not only financial support but also technical cooperation and human resource development amongst others. In addition, Japan would also like to cooperate in the construction of East-West Line.
Second, the car terminal of Patimban Port in West Java, constructed and managed by Japanese companies, started its operation in December 2021, and an increasing number of made-in-Indonesia vehicles are being exported through this port to ASEAN and other countries. The construction to expand the capacity of the car terminal is currently underway with Japanese cooperation.
Third, Japan, for many years, has supported the construction of thermal power plants which are now baseload power source in Indonesia. In particular, Central Java Coal-Fired Power Plant, which started operation last year, is a flagship PPP (Private Public Partnership) project in the energy sector. In response to the recent trend toward decarbonization, Japan has also been focusing on renewable energy sources such as geothermal and hydroelectric power. For example, the Sarulla Geothermal Power Plant in North Sumatra is one of the largest geothermal plants in the world with a capacity of 330 MW.
Fourth, Japan has been extending cooperation to Indonesia for disaster risk reduction. Kuta Beach, Nusa Dua Beach, and other famous beaches in Bali have been protected from erosion by Japanese construction companies with the assistance of ODA since 1996. Many tourists now enjoy these beaches, creating a positive impact on tourism.
How are cultural and educational exchanges between Indonesia and Japan fostered, and what are some of the programs that have been implemented to promote understanding and cooperation between the two countries?
People-to-people exchanges are the foundation for mutual understanding and friendship between Japan and Indonesia. The number of Indonesian who study Japanese language in this country is estimated more than 700,000 and this number ranks second in the world. There are several scholarships for studying in Japan, which include: 1) Japanese Government (Monbukagakusho: MEXT) Scholarship, 2) Monbukagakusho Scholarship for International Students, 3) Student Exchange Support (Acceptance Agreement) Scholarship, and other scholarships supported by Japanese companies, as well as LPDP (Lembaga Pengelola Dana Pendidikan/ Indonesian Education Fund), which is supported by the Indonesian Government.
Regarding cultural exchanges, I am pleased that many Indonesian friends feel special affinity to Japanese culture, both traditional culture and pop-culture. One of Japanese annual cultural events is called “Jak- Japan Matsuri (JJM)” for promoting cultural exchanges between the two countries. Last year, JJM was held in Jakarta and more than 90,000 people came to see JJM. I sincerely hope that Indonesian friends will enjoy JJM 2023 which takes place on November 18-19, and commemorates the 65th anniversary of Japan-Indonesia diplomatic relations and the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation under Indonesia as its chair.
How have Indonesia and Japan collaborated on regional and global issues, such as climate change, disaster relief, and counterterrorism?
As I stated, our partnership now goes beyond bilateral cooperation, entering the phase to jointly tackle common global challenges. I would like to refer to some of the points you raised.
First, climate change is an urgent issue which should be tackled globally. Indonesia hosted G20 last year and Japan hosted G7 this May. In these meetings our two countries led the discussions on climate change from global perspective. In regional scale, Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) in Indonesia led by G7 plus countries was launched last November, and Japan and Indonesia took the leadership to promote Asia Zero Emission Community (AZEC) which was inaugurated this March.
Concrete projects have already started based on our bilateral cooperation. To be more exact, 49 projects under the Joint Crediting Mechanism (JCM) scheme to promote climate related investment in Indonesia were agreed between our two countries. All these projects contribute to reducing the emission of greenhouse gas in Indonesia. I expect that climate change cooperation between Japan and Indonesia will further expand from now on.
Second, Japan has supported Indonesia’s efforts to mitigate the impact of numerous natural disasters in the past. Most recently, in 2018 the surrounding areas of Palu, Central Sulawesi Province, were seriously damaged by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake. The Government of Japan dispatched the Self-Defence Forces as the Japan Disaster Relief Team and extended cooperation from the early phase of the recovery and reconstruction efforts. Currently, the reconstruction project of the Palu 4 Bridge, road construction, and landslide countermeasures are ongoing as part of the efforts for reconstruction cooperation.
Third, Japan and Indonesia held the first Japan-Indonesia Counter-Terrorism Dialogue in June 2021, and exchanged views on the current situation of international terrorism including influence of pandemic and domestic measures to counter terrorism. We also discussed capacity building cooperation in countering terrorism and violent extremism. Japan and ASEAN have also been holding regular Counter-Terrorism Dialogue since 2006. Japan's counter-terrorism cooperation policy naturally focuses on the Asian region, which is geographically and economically intertwined with Japan. Japan has been working on counter-terrorism cooperation with a three-pillar approach of (1) strengthening counter- terrorism capacities, (2) preventing and countering violent extremism, and (3) social and economic development, which is a foundation for moderate society.
Fourth, Japan has been supporting Indonesian National Police for more than 20 years to promote its community policing. In 2023, both chiefs of Japanese police and Indonesian police signed a Memorandum of Cooperation on preventing and combating transnational crimes and police capacity building.
What are the challenges and opportunities in the Indonesia-Japan relationship, and how can they be addressed going forward?
I think the international community reached a historic turning point in 2022, and it will continue to face critical situations this year. In her annual press statement in January, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi described that at a time of complex global challenges, a positive outlook, cooperation, and optimism are even more necessary, and Japan is exactly on the same page.
This year will give even more important momentum to Japan and Indonesia, as it marks the 65th anniversary of our diplomatic relations and the 50th anniversary of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation.
Japan with the G7 presidency will continue to closely work together with Indonesia, the Chair of ASEAN this year, in addressing global and regional challenges. As part of our joint efforts, President Joko Widodo attended the G7 Summit meeting in Hiroshima in May upon invitation from Prime Minister Kishida and held a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Kishida on a wide variety of challenges.
What are the implications of Japan's shifting strategic priorities, such as its "Free and Open Indo-Pacific" policy, for its relationship with Indonesia?
In March this year, Prime Minister Kishida announced a new plan for "Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)".
According to Prime Minister Kishida, even at this turning point, the fundamental concept of FOIP remains the same. We will enhance the connectivity of the Indo-Pacific region, foster the region into a place that values freedom, the rule of law, free from force or coercion, and make it prosperous. With this backdrop, we should reaffirm and share the understanding that at the root of the concept of FOIP is defending “freedom” and “the rule of law”.
On top of that, we newly set forth the “four pillars of cooperation for FOIP” that are suited for the history’s turning point we face. First, we continue to promote principles for peace and rules for prosperity. Second, we together address the challenges of “global commons” in an Indo-Pacific way. Third, we will enhance a “multi-layered connectivity”, which is a core element of the cooperation for FOIP. Fourth, we will extend efforts for security and safe use of the sea to the air, as FOIP has consistently focused on the "sea".
Hopefully, what I stated here based on Prime Minister Kishida’s speech are all relevant to Indonesia since Japan and Indonesia are on the same boat. Our two countries are two of the largest maritime democracies in the world located at the confluence of the Indo-Pacific. Japan is determined to strengthen its cooperation with ASEAN countries. Especially, cooperation with Indonesia which plays the most significant role in ASEAN remains vitally important for Japan.
Incidentally, Their Majesties, the Emperor and Empress of Japan visited Indonesia in June on their first state visit since ascending to the Throne in 2019. During their stay in Indonesia, Their Majesties received warm welcome from President Joko Widodo, and other distinguished members of the Indonesian community. Their Majesties heartily enjoyed the opportunities of exchanges with the people of Indonesia, including young people, the leaders of tomorrow. I personally feel very honored that Their Majesties chose Indonesia as their first overseas state visit, and the fact is a clear vindication of the importance of Japan-Indonesia relationship.
Interviewer: Lukas Hendra TM
Editor: Aprilian Hermawan