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Japan to help develop Indonesian islands in South China Sea

Tokyo says it will spend millions of dollars on fishery facilities in a remote island chain

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 June, 2018, 5:11pm
UPDATED : Monday, 25 June, 2018, 5:15pm

Japan said Monday it will provide 2.5 billion yen (US$23 million) in aid to Indonesia for the development of fishery facilities on remote islands, at a time when China’s clout in the region is increasing.

The signing of a document on the aid was witnessed by Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi in Jakarta, who discussed issues ranging from economic cooperation and maritime security to anti-terrorism measures.

The help, which is part of Tokyo’s efforts to promote its “free and open Indo-Pacific strategy,” will be used to build ports and fishery facilities by January 2020 on Indonesia’s six outer islands, according to a Japanese official.

The islands include Natuna on the southern edge of the South China Sea, where Chinese and other foreign fishing vessels continue to operate illegally.

The six islands do not have sufficient cooling and freezing facilities for sea produce and the aid is designed to improve their infrastructure and economic activity, according to Japan’s Foreign Ministry.

“We will increase our maritime cooperation. This is very meaningful for the strategies of both countries,” Kono said in a joint press statement with Retno.

With the two countries marking the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties this year, Kono also said Tokyo will help Jakarta develop infrastructure and improve its business environment.

Not just aiming to draw more Japanese investment to Indonesia, he said the two countries are trying to expand the level of people-to-people exchanges to 1 million from both sides by promoting tourism further.

Another major topic for the two foreign ministers was North Korea, whose leader Kim Jong-un committed “to work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula” when he met US President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12.

“We reaffirmed our commitment to the strict implementation of the U.N. Security Council’s resolutions and to press North Korea for complete verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of all weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles of all ranges,” Kono said.

“Indonesia and Japan are not just strategic partners. We are also two important strategic countries in the region,” Retno said. “Our partnership contributes not only to the prosperity to the people of Indonesia and Japan, but also to regional peace, stability and prosperity.”

Ahead of holding talks with her, Kono, who visited Indonesia as part of a weeklong South Asian tour, met Indonesian President Joko Widodo.