Southeast Asia | Abe may join Obama, others in raising South China Sea row with ASEAN

Abe may join Obama, others in raising South China Sea row with ASEAN

November 20, 2015 3:00 AM (UTC+8)

 

(From Reuters, Kyodo)

Leaders participating in a series of meetings involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) this weekend are planning to raise the South China Sea dispute, although the topic was avoided at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila, which ended Thursday.

Malaysian soldiers standing guard outside the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, the venue of the 27th Asean Summit
Malaysian soldiers standing guard outside the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre, the venue of the 27th Asean Summit

US President Barack Obama and other leaders are expected to discuss the issue in Kuala Lumpur, Obama’s main Asia policy adviser Daniel Kritenbrink said Thursday in Manila.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is likely to join Obama and others in raising the dispute.

The Philippines, which hosted the APEC summit, did not raise the issue to avoid embarrassing China at a meeting that was primarily aimed at discussing economics and trade.

Beijing has overlapping claims with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei in the South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.

Those claimant nations — as well as China, the United States and Japan — will attend the East Asia summit, part of the ASEAN gatherings, this weekend.

On Friday, Malaysia deployed soldiers in its capital city, taking extra security precautions amid unconfirmed reports of an “imminent terrorist threat” ahead of the arrival of Obama and other leaders for the regional summit.

“There have been reports of imminent terrorist threats in Malaysia,” Malaysia’s police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said in a statement Thursday night. “At this point, I would like to underline that they have yet to be confirmed.”

Leaders from seven other countries with close partnerships with the grouping — Australia, China, India, New Zealand, Russia and South Korea — will also attend the meetings starting Saturday.

At least 2,000 army personnel were being stationed at strategic points in Kuala Lumpur and another 2,500 were on standby, Armed Forces chief Zulkifeli Mohd Zin said.

At the meeting, Abe is expected to unveil Japan’s plan to review its yen loan program for infrastructure projects in a bid to boost exports to emerging countries, sources said.

Tokyo is hoping to use the review as a counterweight to moves by the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the sources said. The AIIB — which Japan has not joined — is seen as rivaling other existing financial institutions, such as the Asian Development Bank.

In reviewing the yen loan program, the Japanese government is considering relaxing the conditions for a state guarantee at the time of lending, as well as shortening the lending process period, the sources said.

The government is also considering providing funds for projects that may entail a certain level of risk, and is working on making it possible for dollar-denominated loans that could better suit partner countries.

The move comes after it lost a key Indonesian high-speed railway contract to China, a blow to Abe’s attempt to boost growth via infrastructure exports.

Failure to secure the railway project has apparently prodded Japan to review its yen loan program and make it more palatable to potential partner countries and in turn boost exports for infrastructure abroad

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