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Japan donates $62 mn for ASEAN integration

Japan has signed a deal to give 7.5 billion yen to ASEAN to fight bird flu and support development.

india Updated: Mar 27, 2006 11:14 IST

Japan on Monday signed a deal to give 7.5 billion yen (62.5 million dollars) to ASEAN to fight bird flu and support development as Tokyo seeks free-trade pacts with the 10-nation bloc.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso inked the agreement with Malaysian ambassador to Japan Marzuki Mohammad Noor to create a "Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund" to deposit the money.

The funds will go to fight bird flu, which has hit Thailand and Vietnam particularly hard, to combat terrorism and to narrow the economic gap between rich and poor Southeast Asian nations.

In a joint statement, Japan and ASEAN said they would "deepen and broaden the strategic partnership" between them and resolved to push ahead deadlocked talks on a free-trade pact.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi had pledged the money at a December summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Kuala Lumpur.

Japan has pursued close relations with Southeast Asia amid tense ties with its neighbours China and South Korea over wartime memories.

Trade Minister Toshihiro Nikai has said he hoped to conclude free-trade pact negotiations with ASEAN by March 2007.

It is the first time Tokyo has tried to hammer out a free-trade deal with an entire region.

Japan has already signed a free trade agreement with Singapore and has reached outlines of agreements with Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand, although the deal with Bangkok has been delayed by the kingdom's political crisis.

First Published: Mar 27, 2006 11:14 IST