ASEAN Receives Maritime Security Support

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Dec. 17 – Japan and the ASEAN nations strengthened economic and maritime ties this month during the Japan-ASEAN summit held in Tokyo. The gathering of high-level officials pledged to “strengthen regional cooperation frameworks for peace, stability and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region,” according to a joint-press release issued by the two nations.

Following the delegation’s pledge, Japan has committed aid, worth US$20 billion, for ASEAN development and security over the next five years. Much of this will be distributed in the form of loans and grants, and includes an upgrading of the Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund. The country has also instigated currency swap agreements with the Philippines and Indonesia.

The announcement came as the Japanese seek to expand their trade relations in the face of what is perceived as a provocative Chinese stance towards their country. The two nations are currently embroiled in a number of territorial disputes, amongst them the Senkaku Islands issue and the creation of a Chinese air space zone over disputed territory. By building stronger relations with ASEAN countries, the Japanese leadership hope to diversify their country’s portfolio of foreign investment in Asia and away from China.

Meanwhile, the United States announced a US$35 million maritime security aid package for ASEAN this week, with the largest share going to Vietnam for the purchase of high speed patrol vessels for use by the country’s coast guard.

Announcing the aid package, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry commented, “Peace and stability in the South China Sea is a top priority for us and for countries in the region. The United States is very concerned by, and strongly opposed to, coercive and aggressive tactics to advance territorial claims”.

China claims island territories close to Vietnam and has previously threatened joint Vietnamese-Indian oil drilling projects in the South China Sea.

The U.S. aid package will also help other ASEAN nations protect the freedom of navigation in waters off their coasts, according to Kerry.

During his speech, Secretary Kerry said the U.S. does not have a diplomatic stance on competing maritime claims in the region, but emphasized his country’s commitment to maintaining free transit in the South China Sea, one of the world’s busiest maritime shipping lanes.

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