Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is playing host to leaders of five of the Mekong’s states this weekend in a strong bid to promote trade ties in the region. The Financial Times:
Mr Abe is expected to use the summit to push for a three-year development strategy for the Mekong region, in which Japanese manufacturers have long invested heftily and profitably. Fresh aid is likely from a $110bn Asian infrastructure programme the premier floated in May.Tokyo has already agreed to help revive Myanmar’s much delayed Dawei special economic zone, a joint project with Thailand that would offer users a route to the Indian Ocean and the markets of South Asia, the Middle East, Africa and beyond.Moe Thuzar, a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, said the Japan deals would help the Mekong countries meet infrastructure needs and also widen their alliances in Asia. “At the strategic level — certainly in countries like Myanmar — there is an interest to diversify the external partnerships,” she said.
Interesting, and smart. The Japanese are going out of their way to officially frame this in terms of strengthening Asean ties in general, there’s no doubt that this is a move to counter and match China’s growing clout in the region.