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Aso Pledges $67bn For Economic Development In Asia

Friday, May 22, 2009

TOKYO (Nikkei)--Prime Minister Taro Aso said Thursday that Japan will provide 67 billion dollars in development assistance, trade insurance and other support for Asian nations as part of an all-out effort to double the region's economic output by 2020.

Aso spoke at a banquet for the 15th International Conference on the Future of Asia, hosted by Nikkei Inc. With current and former Asian leaders among those in attendance, he discussed both overcoming the current economic crisis and achieving medium- to long-term growth.

"It is extremely important for each country to move in coordination toward an expansion of domestic demand," the prime minister stressed, welcoming ongoing fiscal spending initiatives and calling for continued, coordinated stimulus.

Looking further ahead, Asia must also work to unleash its "latent potential," Aso said. Through official development assistance and other means, Japan will back up national efforts to build the infrastructure, both physical and social, needed to bring about a changeover to domestic-demand-driven economies.

The prime minister emphasized the importance of eliminating economic disparities within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He announced his intention to host a summit of the leaders of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam in Japan this year, which will be the first joint meeting of a Japanese prime minister and the leaders of the five Mekong region nations.

Aso also appealed for cooperation with Russia, which he said "can be an important partner" for "regional stability and prosperity." He vowed to spare no effort to resolve Tokyo's long-running dispute with Moscow over a group of islands off the north coast of Hokkaido, an issue he called an "obstacle" to relations between the two countries.

The prime minister also called for cooperation on "cross-border issues" such as pandemic influenza, climate change and the situation in North Korea.

Last month, Japan announced an initiative to double by 2020 the economic output of the nations participating in the East Asia Summit, from the base year of 2007, when the group had a combined gross domestic product of 12 trillion dollars.

(The Nikkei May 22 morning edition)

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