Japan to pledge $25.1b aid to ASEAN: reports

TOKYO - Japan will pledge US$20 billion (S$25.12 billion) in aid to Southeast Asian countries at a 11-nation summit this weekend as it looks to shore-up ties in a region increasingly dominated by China, reports said Friday.

In a summit of Japan and 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will announce 2 trillion yen (S$25.12 billion) in loans and grants over five years, public broadcaster NHK and business daily Nikkei reported.

Abe will also announce an expansion of the existing Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund aimed at economic integration of Southeast Asian countries with a fresh 10 billion yen, the reports said.

The summit comes at a time when Japan is re-engaging with the region after several years in which it has been muscled out by China’s growing economic might.

Japan is also hoping to rally support in its dispute with China over a chain of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. Four members of the bloc have their own territorial disputes with Beijing.

The meeting also comes just weeks after China’s declaration of an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) over a tranche of the East China Sea, including islands disputed with Japan, a move that ratcheted up an already-tense situation.