Japan, Southeast Asia countries agree to increase economic and security ties
By Kyoko Hasegawa, AFP
December 16, 2013, 12:16 am TWN
TOKYO--Japan and Southeast Asian countries Sunday pledged to boost economic and security ties, a day after they agreed on the importance of ensuring freedom of the skies after China declared a controversial air defense zone.
The leaders were discussing increasing exchanges of top diplomats and defense officials and closer coastguard cooperation, finalizing a three-day special summit between Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), officials said.
Tokyo Saturday pledged US$20 billion in aid and loans to Southeast Asia at the summit with leaders of the ASEAN regional bloc, the latest step in its bid to woo global public opinion in its territorial dispute with China.
In bilateral talks Sunday, Japan and Myanmar also agreed on an investment accord to accelerate Japanese investment in the former junta-ruled country, while Tokyo and Laos agreed to kick-start talks on a civil aviation agreement, officials said.
The talks came a day after Japan and ASEAN agreed on the importance of the “freedom of overflight and civil aviation safety,” seen as a mild regional rebuke to China for its unilateral declaration last month of an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).
China denounced as “slanderous” remarks by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the summit calling for Beijing to rescind its air zone, which was widely criticized as increasing regional tensions.
Beijing has said all aircraft entering the zone have to submit flight plans and obey orders issued by Chinese authorities.
Some analysts fear the ADIZ in the East China Sea is a forerunner to a similar zone in the South China Sea, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety.
China has sovereignty disputes with four members of ASEAN — the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei — and has been repeatedly accused of intimidation and coercion.
“We will continue to provide support, both at the public and private level, for infrastructure building initiatives and work toward Myanmar's development,” Abe said after meeting with Myanmar's President Thein Sein.