Ambassador’s Remarks for the Birthday Reception of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan 2024

Datin Seri Setia Dr Hajah Romaizah binti Haji Mohd Salleh,
Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Indera Negara Pengiran Anak Haji Puteh ibni Al-Marhum Pengiran Pemancha Pengiran Anak Haji Mohd Alam,
Representatives of Japan-Brunei friendship associations,
Representatives of Japan-Brunei sports associations,
Representatives of Japanese companies in Brunei,
Dato-dato, Datin-datin,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for joining us today in celebrating the birthday of His Majesty the Emperor of Japan. Japan celebrates the Emperor’s birthday, February 23rd, as its National Day, coincidentally the same day as Brunei`s Independence Day. We are pleased to be able to celebrate the Emperor’s 64th birthday and the 40th anniversary of Brunei's Independence together. His Excellency Prime Minister Kishida sent a message of congratulations to His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei on 40th anniversary of Brunei's independence, as well as expressing his determination to further deepen the cooperative relations between the two countries, taking the opportunity of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of Japan-Brunei diplomatic relations.
His Majesty the Sultan has also sent congratulatory messages to His Majesty the Emperor of Japan and His Excellency Prime Minister Kishida as well as the government and people of Japan on the occasion of His Majesty Emperor Naruhito`s 64th birthday.
The year 2024 started with big celebrations in Brunei. I would like to take this opportunity to extend my heartfelt congratulations to His Royal Highness Prince Mateen and Pengiran Anak Isteri Anisha on their marriage last month. Allow me to also extend my sincere congratulations to His Royal Highness Crown Prince Billah on his 50th birthday on the 17th of this month. I wish the continued health and happiness of the Royal Family as well as the people of Brunei.
Before starting to talk about Japan's long-lasting friendship with Brunei, I would like to take a moment to express my sincere gratitude to His Majesty the Sultan for his warm and kind message as well as to the people of Brunei for their concerns regarding the damage caused by the January 1st Noto Peninsula Earthquake. Please allow me to express my heartfelt condolences to the victims of the earthquake and  pray that the people in the affected areas will be able to return to normality as soon as possible and that the reconstruction efforts promptly proceed.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Brunei is a significant milestone for the two countries. Foreseeing this auspicious year, active exchanges of visits between the two countries have already started even from the second half of the last year. In December, His Majesty the Sultan visited Japan for the Japan-ASEAN Commemorative Summit. During the visit, His Majesty, together with His Royal Highness Prince Mateen, had a meeting with His Majesty the emperor of Japan. His Majesty the Sultan also had a bilateral working lunch with His Excellency Prime Minister Kishida.
During the visit, Dato Erywan, Second Minister of Foreign Affairs, had a meeting with Foreign Minister Kamikawa, and Dato Amin Liew, Minister at the Prime Minister`s Office and Second Minister of Finance and Economy, had a meeting with His Excellency Mr. Saito, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry respectively. Dato Erywan also met with the Chief Cabinet Secretary Hayashi, who is a former Foreign Minister of Japan, to renew their friendship.
In addition, Foreign Minister Kamikawa visited Brunei last October for her first bilateral visit as Foreign Minister. Her Excellency Kamikawa had a fruitful discussion with Dato Erywan and had an audience with His Majesty the Sultan.
Moreover, Japan received many other ministerial visits from Brunei last year, namely Dato Razak, Deputy Minister of Defence in February, Dato Ahmad, Attorney General in July and Dato Isham, Minister of Health in October. Additionally, solid progress has been made in the working level exchanges last year such as the policy dialogue between the senior officials of the two Foreign Ministries in February and the first defence policy dialogue in June.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Japan-Brunei Joint Press Statement was released after the December working lunch between His Majesty the Sultan and Prime Minister Kishida, in which the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to deepen bilateral cooperation, focusing on (1) People-to-People Exchanges, (2) Defence, Maritime Cooperation and Rule of Law, and (3) Energy and Climate Change. In the statement, the two leaders also agreed to make this year as the "Japan-Brunei Friendship year". Furthermore, in order to symbolise the friendship year, the Japanese Government has invited His Royal Highness Crown Prince Billah to visit Japan as an official guest from the 7th of March.
The last 40 years have seen countless people-to-people exchanges between our two countries in areas including business, tourism, culture, research and education. Various exchange programmes such as SSEAYP, JENESYS, and Nihongo Partners have greatly contributed to these wide-ranging exchanges. In order to further accelerate these people-to-people exchanges the two governments are now finalising the arrangement to extend the visa-free period for ordinary passport holders of the two countries from 14 days to 30 days.
Ladies and Gentlemen, defence and maritime security cooperation have been steadily deepening between Japan and Brunei over the past few years. Last February, deputy defence ministers of the two countries signed an MOC on defence cooperation, which led to the initiation of the Japan-Brunei Defence Policy Dialogue last year.
Most recently, JS Shimakaze and JS Suzunami, two Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force ships, made a port call at Muara Port just 10 days ago.
Exchanges between the maritime authorities of the two countries have also begun since last year. And the cooperation in the field of international law and maritime laws is also successfully continuing.
Trade and investment, especially in the energy sector, have greatly contributed to the prosperity of both countries for more than 50 years, laying a solid foundation for our long-lasting partnership. Since Brunei’s independence, Japan has been one of the country’s largest trading partners. 80% of the Brunei’s total LNG export went to Japan in 2022.
In recent years, we have also witnessed increased cooperation in energy transition as well as the diversification of Brunei’s economy.  Last December, “the Memorandum of Cooperation on the Realization of Energy Transition” was signed between the economic ministers after their first meeting. Based on the MOC, we hope to see further cooperation between Japan and Brunei in the areas of energy, energy transition, as well as climate change in a comprehensive and realistic manner.
Currently, there are 18 Japanese companies operating in Brunei. They are contributing to the Brunei government`s efforts for economic diversification, such as the production of methanol (BMC) and supply of OCTG pipe threading services (VAM). This evening, prominent Japanese companies in Brunei are showcasing their activities and products around the entrance area of this hall. I would like to invite you all to please visit their booths later.
In the field of healthcare, Dato Dr. Isham visited Japan last October.  He had a meeting with Minister Takemi of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan, and also visited Osaka University to discuss the opportunities for further medical and healthcare cooperation between the two countries.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a great honour for me to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Brunei and Japan together with our distinguished guest this evening. We owe a lot to the efforts of our predecessors over the past 40 years that allow us to enjoy the benefits of the amicable bilateral relations today. I look forward to working with all of you to further develop friendly relations between our two countries in all areas.
To end, I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the Government and people of Brunei for the kindness and generosity consistently extended to Japan and Japanese people, and to our Guest of Honour, Datin Romaizah, for gracing us with your presence, as well as to all the guests for coming tonight to celebrate the Emperor's birthday together. I would like to conclude my remarks by wishing all of you further prosperity and good health. I hope you all have a pleasant time this evening. Thank you.