Japan and South Korea pledged at least $57 million to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in their battle against the COVID-19 pandemic and other diseases.

Japan will provide $50 million to establish the "ASEAN Center for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases" (AC-PHEED) and $1 million for ASEAN's COVID-19 response fund.

South Korea will make available $1 million to ASEAN's response fund and $5 million worth of medical equipment to help the 10 ASEAN member-states fight and recover from COVID-19.

ASEAN consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga hailed the establishment of AC-PHEED and promised Japanese assistance to make it operational.

On the other hand, South Korean president Moon Jae-in said his country will work with ASEAN to overcome the immense challenges presented by COVID-19. He also renewed his country's commitment to the COVID-19 ASEAN response fund,

Equally important, Moon introduced South Korea's "New Southern Policy Plus Strategy." Under this strategy, South Korea and ASEAN will work together to ensure the fair and swift distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

"The New Southern Policy Plus Strategy lays out fresh, feasible initiatives centered on seven key areas of cooperation, including comprehensive health care cooperation. With this strategy, we will be able to take the lead in the post-COVID-19 era and realize the vision of a people-centered community of peace and prosperity faster," said Moon.

ASEAN requested Japan and South Korea continue their support for disease prevention initiatives like the ASEAN Regional Reserve of Medical Supplies.

The pledges were made at the ongoing and online 37th ASEAN Summit. At the top of the summit agenda are discussions leading to the approval of the "ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and its Implementation Plan."

This extensive health care plan will serve as the exit strategy for all ASEAN member-states as they recover and build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

There will also be further discussions on the ASEAN Travel Corridor Arrangement intended to facilitate the safe resumption of essential business travel in the region.

AC-PHEED will strengthen the functions of national public health agencies in the ASEAN member-states. It will also promote public health and safety through control and prevention of disease, injury and disability at the regional level.