(Sankei: June 30, 2015 – p. 2)
Japan and Mekong River countries are working to call for a peaceful resolution of the territorial issue concerning the South China Sea based on the principles of international law and are planning to include this in a joint statement to be issued when their leaders meet in Tokyo on July 4, a source familiar with the matter revealed on June 29. The aim is to curb China, which is resorting to force to change the status quo and reclaiming rock reefs in the South China Sea. The Japanese government is also planning to announce a new package of economic aid to support quality infrastructure projects, with an eye on challenging the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
The meeting will be chaired by Japan and joined by Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is also planning to hold separate meetings with their leaders.
China is stepping up its de facto control over the Spratly Islands and other islets in the South China Sea. Japan and the five basin states share the recognition that the territorial issue should be addressed peacefully, not by force. They are also working to stress in the joint statement the need for the early conclusion of a code of conduct to avoid accidental military clashes.
Japan expects its common understanding of the issue in the South China Sea to help restrain China, which is also intensifying its assertiveness in the East China Sea. It also plans to affirm the importance of working closely with Southeast Asian countries along with the U.S.
Tokyo will reinforce economic assistance through package programs, which will be designed to offer technological and operational knowhow along with extending financial support to infrastructure projects. It hopes to strike a difference from the AIIB by focusing on helping the Mekong states with self-sustaining development.
The Japanese government announced official development assistance totaling 600 billion yen for three years when it hosted the Japan-Mekong summit in 2012. It will increase aid through a new framework and also help the Mekong countries with disaster prevention and environmental measures.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which covers the Mekong states, will launch a new economic community this year. Japan is looking to use the summit to increase its footprint in the region.