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2015年7月 7日 (火)

日メコン会議 良質なインフラ整備を進めよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Japan must do utmost to help Mekong countries build quality infrastructure
日メコン会議 良質なインフラ整備を進めよ

Given the promise and potential of Southeast Asian nations, providing development assistance and boosting mutually beneficial cooperative ties are actions that correspond to Japan’s national interests. The government must adopt a strategic perspective in addressing these tasks.

Japan and five Southeast Asian nations along the Mekong River recently held a summit conference in Tokyo. There Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged fresh assistance to the Mekong countries in the form of ¥750 billion in official development aid over the next three years. He also stressed that Japan earnestly seeks to bring about “high-quality growth” in the region.

Abe’s announcement is part of an investment initiative for the Asian region that the Japanese government unveiled in May. The recent assistance pledge emphasized transportation infrastructure projects, including the construction of an arterial road that will serve as an economic corridor linking the east and west of the Mekong region, and the building and upgrading of ports and airports.

Flanked by the two major powers of China and India, the Mekong region is situated in an area of high strategic importance for land and maritime traffic in the vicinity of the South China Sea.

Japan maintains generally friendly relations with the five countries — Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar — all of which have been logging high rates of growth.

The implementation of the Abe administration’s growth strategy can be accelerated by using ODA as a catalyst for their economic development and expanding private-sector investment by Japanese firms to make the most of their vitality.

In this regard, it is important to build relations on an equal footing — whereby all parties can enjoy mutual benefits — by paying due respect to individual needs.

‘Soft efforts’ for development

In the case of the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the percentage of China’s capital contribution is overwhelmingly large compared to that of other members. This has led to doubts about the impartiality of its management and financing decisions.

It is essential for Japan to work hard to maintain effectiveness and a high degree of transparency in its assistance activities to help build quality infrastructure in the region. Such efforts will distinguish Japan’s assistance from that of China.

A joint statement adopted at the close of the summit meeting stressed the significance of working together with the Asian Development Bank. It also advocated boosting Japan’s “soft efforts” in such fields as research and development or the nurturing of human resources.

It is vital to carry out a form of “Japanese-style development assistance” that is carefully designed to help each country in the Mekong region achieve sustainable growth through autonomous means.

Views on maritime security issues were also exchanged at the summit conference.

The joint statement made explicit reference to “concerns over the recent development in the South China Sea, which ... may undermine regional peace, security and stability.” This alludes to reclamation projects on reefs that are apparently part of a bid for militarization.

The statement also affirmed the importance of freedom of navigation based on international law and the need to resolve conflicts through peaceful means.

Maritime security must be recognized as an “international good” that is indispensable for economic activity to be conducted freely and smoothly, according to the statement. It is highly significant that not only Vietnam, which is at odds with China over territorial issues, but also such countries as Cambodia, which has closer ties with China, agreed on the joint statement’s contents.

In cooperation with the international community, Japan and the five countries must work together at various opportunities to make China refrain from attempting to change the status quo by force.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 5, 2015)


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