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Japan Will Help Spur Growth, Prosperity In Mekong: Koumura

May 23, 2008

TOKYO (Nikkei)--Japan will expand foreign aid and private investment to transform the Mekong area of Southeast Asia into "a region of hope and development," Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Masahiko Koumura said Friday in Tokyo at an international conference on Asia's future.

Speaking at The Future of Asia forum, sponsored by Nikkei Inc., Koumura reiterated Japan's commitment to support economic development and integration in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

"Stimulating growth in the Mekong region, a late starter within ASEAN, will be a direct benefit to ASEAN as a whole," the minister said.

As for Japan's assistance to the region, he listed three main areas of focus: establishing democracy and the rule of law, promoting integration and cooperation among local economies, and expanding trade and investment.

On the latter issue, Koumura said the Japanese government intends to help build and improve transportation networks and other infrastructure and accelerate efforts to form bilateral investment treaties and economic partnership agreements.

Touching on the international community's relief efforts for cyclone-ravaged Myanmar, Koumura acknowledged some progress, saying the military government there "is gradually allowing emergency relief personnel from Thailand and other neighboring countries to enter the nation," and urged the junta to "show greater determination to take in still more such personnel."

China's growing influence in the Mekong region is believed to be one of the reasons why Japan is stepping up its involvement there, but the minister stressed the cooperative nature of Japan's efforts.

"With respect to the development of the Mekong region, Japanese and Chinese foreign policy officials have opened a policy dialogue on Japan's and China's intentions for the area, so as to coordinate policies and share information on a regular basis."

Titles of speakers, names of companies, etc., were correct as of the time when the forum was held.