The Japanese government reaffirmed its strong ties with the 10-member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations by pledging over the weekend $19 billion in aid to assist the region’s development efforts over the next five years.
The funding will focus mainly on reducing socioeconomic gaps in ASEAN, where despite sterling economic progress the past couple of years, millions are still mired in poverty. Projects such as infrastructure, education and livelihood will be prioritized, especially in the countries within the Mekong river sub-region.
Japan also wants to help Southeast Asia prepare better for disasters and carry out climate-resilient sustainable development projects at a time when these seem more urgent than ever, as seen in the devastation brought by Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been ramping up aid assistance in the region given its strategic geo-political importance. The assistance is widely considered as a stand against China’s assertive maritime policy, not only against Japan but also against the smaller Southeast Asian nations.
Territorial disputes in the South China Sea have been a long-standing row between Asia’s largest economy and some members of ASEAN in an area considered to hide huge reserves of natural resources, including oil and gas.
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