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Japan promises $3 billion for ASEAN

Japan promises $3 billion for ASEAN

Japan announced it would contribute $3 billion in new financial aid to Southeast

Asia during the ASEAN commemorative summit held in Tokyo on December 11-12, the first

to be held outside an ASEAN nation. Cambodia stands to receive, in terms of tangible

infrastructure and potential foreign investment, a significant portion of the $1.5

billion package pledged to develop the Mekong region over the next three-years.

Kazumi Jigami, chief of the economic cooperation section in the Japanese Embassy,

said the funds would be distributed primarily between Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and

Vietnam. The money will be allocated depending on government requests and feasibility

studies.

"There is not the same amount of money allotted to each country," said

Jigami. "I'm sure the Cambodian government would like to ask for many things.

If we receive a request by the country, the Japanese government will undertake feasibility

studies ....before agreeing to fund it."

He said that although Japan had negligible amounts of trade or investment with Cambodia,

the bilateral initiative would lead to an increase in economic and political stability

in the region and eventually facilitate long-term economic ties between the two countries.

"I'm not sure of the impact the declaration will have, but if infrastructure

is developed, the possibility of Japanese investment from private companies in this

region increases," he said. "That is the expectation. It is a project for

the future."

During a pre-summit meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and

Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Japanese leader also agreed to lend $124 million for

a second bridge over the Mekong River at Neak Leung and upgrade National Route 1

to Ho Chi Minh City. Japan also agreed to a separate $40 million loan for the Sihanoukville

Port Urgent Expansion project. Jigami did not know if the loans were included in

the $1.5 billion package.

Jigami said the Mekong development money would be dispersed both as loans and grants,

but believed the majority would be given in grant form.

Jigami said the remaining US$1.5 billion would be set aside for a human resources

program that would "harmonize the economic and political relationship"

among ASEAN nations.

The Tokyo summit itself commemorated 30-years of friendship between Japan and the

ASEAN countries. Some political analysts felt the conference signaled Japan's response

to the increasing economic dominance, and diplomacy, of China.

At the summit, Japan also signed the 27-year-old Treaty of Amity and Cooperation

(TAC), a non-aggression pact between Southeast Asian countries, as well as the Tokyo

Declaration, which officially recognized Japan's goal of a regional community and

trade relationship.

China and India both signed the TAC in October and China anticipated the beginnings

of an East Asian Free Trade Area (FTA) by 2010 - two-years earlier than Japan's predicted

date.

Jigami admitted that increased Chinese influence in the region was a factor in formalizing

Japanese relations with South East Asian nations, but said it was not the main reason.

He said the Japanese government aimed to create economic and political stability

throughout the region, which would also benefit Japan in the future.

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