To counter growing influence of China PRC in the Greater Mekong Subregion, Japan is now stepping up its presence in the area. Last Saturday, at a summit in Tokyo, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe unveiled a pledge of providing US$6.1 billion in aid to his counterparts from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
Japan will implement support worth around 750 billion yen ($6.1 billion) in official development assistance for the next three years to the Mekong. The region which has huge request for the development of infrastructure, is one of our most important areas for cooperation. Japan will contribute to infrastructure development in both quality and quantity,” explained Shinzo Abe during a press conference at the seventh annual Japan-Mekong Summit.
It is however not clear if Abe’s pledge to provide a financial assistance includes previous funds promised by Japan to the five Mekong countries. However, it shows Japan’s willingness to gain back influence in a region which is turning increasingly to China’s finances. Japan assistance would include road developments as well as high speed trains. The country recently signed with Thailand and Myanmar agreement for the development of high speed train lines. Japan also recently helped completing Cambodia 215-meter-long Tsubasa Bridge, the longest suspended bridge in the Kingdom. It also helped to build and develop Vientiane International Airport in Laos as well as providing drinkable tap water 24 hours a day to Phnom Penh and Haiphong in Vietnam.
Last December, China –which provinces of Guangxi and Yunnan share a common border with Mekong countries- offered to its five neighbours of the GMS opportunities for sharing the Mekong River fund and production capacity aid. During a conference, Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang announced to propose that these countries benefit of US$1 billion in connectivity infrastructure, US$490 million in grants to fight poverty and another US$10 billion in special loans. In parallel, foreign Minister Wang Yi declared last March that China was willing to boost trade with ASEAN countries from US$500 billion in 2015 to US$1 trillion by 2020.