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Japan vows to boost aid, ties with Asean

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(From L to R) Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Brunei Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah and Indonesian President Joko Widodo react during a photo session of the 3rd Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, Nov. 4, 2019. (Xinhua/Zhu Wei)

BANGKOK (Bangkok Post) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday pledged to support Asean in its efforts to strengthen regional cooperation, during talks with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha here.

The two leaders discussed Thai-Japanese ties and Japan’s partnership in Asean’s various cooperation frameworks, in a meeting on the sidelines of the 35th Asean Summit and Related Summits, which ended on Monday.

Prayut congratulated Asean and Japan on the success of the 22nd Asean-Japan Summit and expressed hope that the region and its long-time dialogue partner would pursue cooperation under the Asean Outlook on Indo-Pacific (AOIP), adopted by regional leaders at the 34th Asean Summit in June.

Prayut said Asean was looking forward to working with Japan in areas of smart city development, financial inclusion, environmental protection including marine waste management, and human capital development.

Abe agreed to cooperate with Asean in its attempts to tackle the region’s challenges. Among key regional issues raised during the meeting were the Thailand-led Ayeyawady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (Acmecs) and the Mekong-Japan strategic partnership.

Prayut and Abe welcomed the November 2 signing of six memorandums of understanding (MoU) between Thai and Japanese private firms to promote SMEs, startups and related innovations. The move followed the launch earlier this year of the Thai government’s startup accelerator InnoSpace Thailand.

Meanwhile, Prayut on Monday called on Asean to continue its work on sustainable development, to build awareness of the issue among stakeholders, and seek greater cooperation from external partners.

The prime minister made his remarks as he hosted a “special lunch on sustainable development” for regional leaders, according to government spokeswoman Narumon Pinyosinwat. The event was also joined by Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

Prayut said sustainable development would strengthen the regional bloc and make it resilient to changes and challenges, according Narumon.

He also urged Asean to follow its “Complementarities Roadmap”, a guideline for actions to advance the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Thailand is coordinating Asean’s push for sustainable development under the Asean Community Vision 2025 and the “Complementarities Initiative”.

Speaking at the Asean-Japan Summit on Monday, Abe announced that Japan and Asean have issued a joint statement on connectivity towards the realisation of a free and open Indo-Pacific.

Meanwhile, to support connectivity, Japan will launch an initiative for loans and investment for Asean in areas of quality infrastructure, financial access for women, and green-field investment, he added.

“We are prepared to double loans and investment by the Japan International Cooperation Agency [Jica] going forward with the aim of mobilising funds including from the private sector. In May this year, an agreement with Asean was concluded to enable technical cooperation benefiting Asean as a whole to enhance connectivity,” he said.

Abe welcomed the signing of the revised protocol of the Asean-Japan economic partnership agreement. “I hope for its early entry into force so that services, trade and investment are revitalised,” he added.

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