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7 November 2009
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Japan extends $.5bn aid for Mekong sub-region development

Japan offered on Friday more than 500 billion yen ($5.5 billion) in aid over the next three years to Southeast Asia's emerging Mekong River region countries, where it seeks more influence and investment opportunities, reported

In recent decades, Japan has been the biggest outside source of aid to the sub-region, but China's global quest for resources, and its outward investment drive of the past decade or so, has enlarged Beijing's presence in Southeast Asia.

Tokyo, keen on the region viewed as strategic for its proximity to shipping lanes and abundant natural resources, is hosting the first leaders' summit with five Mekong region countries - Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam - in Tokyo to discuss sustainable development and climate change.

"Japan wants to play a more active role in contributing to the stability and development of the Mekong region," Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama was quoted by a government official as telling his counterparts at the summit, which started on Friday evening.

"We want to act as a bridge for the common future of prosperity," he added.

The new pledge of official development assistance meant Japan's government under Hatoyama, who took power in September, would maintain around the same level of aid to the region for the next three years, the official told reporters.

Around 80 percent of the 500 billion yen aid will be in the form of yen loans, he added.

Hatoyama also vowed at the summit to strengthen Tokyo's assistance to improve infrastructure, customs, and distribution systems in the Mekong region, the official said.

The leaders will further discuss issues such as climate change challenges and boosting exchanges with Japan on Saturday, when they will issue a joint declaration on their cooperation after the two-day event.


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