Japan keen on Thailand-Myanmar port project

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - Japan sought to strengthen its strategic partnership with Thailand yesterday by expressing an interest in taking part in the project to develop Dawei Port in Myanmar and other infrastructure development projects in Thailand.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in Thailand for an official visit, yesterday held discussions on these and a range of other issues with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

A tri-party mechanism involving Japan, Thailand and Myanmar will work out the details of cooperation in the Dawei project later, Yingluck told a joint press conference with Abe yesterday.

Thailand and Myanmar have both expressed their willingness for Japanese participation in the development of the Dawei Special Economic Zone, which is a flagship project of the Yingluck government, aimed at opening a trade route to the Indian Ocean.

Thailand and Myanmar have set up joint mechanisms to work out a master plan and details of the project, which are expected to be tangible by the first quarter of this year.

Abe said Japan is ready to participate in Thailand's infrastructure development in order to enhance economic cooperation with the Kingdom and Asean.

Japan was also interested in many other sectors, including high-speed rail, green technology, automobile, aviation and energy, Yingluck said.

Abe's visit to Thailand is the second leg of his Asean tour, which began in Vietnam and will end in Indonesia tomorrow. His visit is regarded as a move to firm up Tokyo's stance in Southeast Asia against competition from China.

Thailand is important for Japan as a regional hub in Southeast Asia, which is considered a fast-growing region in the 21st century, Abe said. Japan is Thailand's largest trading partner and investor.

Thailand and Japan share basic values such as democracy, the market economy and the rule of law, he said.

To boost economic ties, Japan called for more bilateral trade and investment as well as increased Japanese cooperation in infrastructure development projects in Thailand.

The Dawei project and other infrastructure developments, such as the high-speed rail service and flood management, are among sectors Japan is interested in helping develop, Japanese foreign ministry press secretary Yutaka Yokoi said.

Japan was proud of the safe technology and advances made after long experience in developing its high-speed train service, he said.

Abe's Asean tour is his first foreign trip since beginning his second tenure as head of government, amid tensions with China over territorial disputes in East and Southeast Asia.

Like some countries in Asean, including Vietnam and the Philippines, Japan is in an increasingly heated dispute with China over ownership of islands and sea territory.

Abe said Japan believed Thailand would exercise bilateral and multilateral channels and potential to solve the problems in the region, amid the changing environment.

Meanwhile, former Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan said Abe's Southeast Asian tour was a very positive sign for the growth of Asean and Asia. "Japan has more than an economy. It has strong fundamentals and the prime minister's visit will clearly show that Asia plays an important global role and is a region that will continue to be part of global growth," he said.


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