Bickering with China, Japan looks southward

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Bickering with China, Japan looks southward

Japan said it will boost financial cooperation with Southeast Asian nations, support their bond markets and make it easier for Japanese companies to raise funds in local currencies.

Asia’s second-largest economy will also consider reviving emergency monetary arrangements with Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, the Japanese finance ministry said in a statement after a meeting of finance ministers and central bankers from Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, near New Delhi on May 3.

Japan is strengthening ties with countries in the region as it tries to revive growth and as tensions with China escalate over a territorial dispute. Japanese companies are increasing investment in the 10 members of the Asean group as they seek to counter the fallout from the row with China that’s damaged a $340 billion trade relationship.

“Asean is the region where Japan needs to place the biggest importance down the road given its economic growth,” Finance Minister Taro Aso said at a briefing on May 3. The measures will help “Japan and Asean nations to achieve economic growth and build a win-win relationship,” he said.

The International Monetary Fund estimated last month that Asean economies will expand 5.5 percent this year compared with the 1.2 percent pace of advanced economies, including 1.6 percent in Japan.

Aso spoke after a meeting with his Asean counterparts in Greater Noida near New Delhi, where the Asian Development Bank is holding its annual meeting. Finance ministers and central bankers from China skipped a separate “Asean-plus-three” meeting held earlier in the day.

Zhu Guangyao, China’s vice finance minister, denied that Finance Minister Lou Jiwei and People’s Bank of China Governor Zhou Xiaochuan missed the event because of tensions with Japan. They remained in China for “important domestic discussions,” he said, adding that economic and financial issues are “separate from the political side.”

A meeting between the finance ministers of China, Korea and Japan due to take place at the ADB meeting was called off last month, according to a statement issued by Japan’s Finance Ministry on April 26.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand in January to strengthen bonds with Southeast Asian nations, some of which are also involved in territorial disputes with China.

Japan and China both claim sovereignty over islands in the East China Sea known as Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese. Abe vowed last month to protect the islands by force if necessary. Bloomberg

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