Japan, Mekong region to cooperate on environmental protection
Saturday 07th November, 03:23 PM JST
The leaders of Japan and five Mekong countries in Southeast Asia agreed Saturday to step up cooperation to protect the environment and tackle climate change over the next 10 years in an initiative to start ‘‘a decade toward the Green Mekong.’’ Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama and his counterparts from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam embraced the program in the Tokyo Declaration, adopted on the second and final day of the first summit meeting involving these countries in the Japanese capital.
Japan hosted the event as part of efforts to support the countries along the Mekong River in order to secure influence and investment opportunities in the region amid China’s growing presence there. ‘‘We shared the understanding that we will build partners for the future of common prosperity,’’ Hatoyama said at a joint news conference after the meeting. ‘‘Regional cooperation is proceeding to address gaps in the region, and what sort of role Japan plays in that connection is very important.’‘
To encourage the region’s further development, Japan pledged more than 500 billion yen in official aid to the countries over the next three years from fiscal 2010, which begins next April.
Japan and the Mekong countries also agreed that the region should aim to contribute actively to the integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and to the building of an East Asian community in the long term.
The creation of such a community is a vision Hatoyama has eagerly promoted, and he reiterated Saturday that the Mekong countries, all of which belong to ASEAN, would form part of his regional bloc initiative.