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Japan signs defence pact with Indonesia, offers S$1.6b loan

TOKYO — Japan and Indonesia yesterday agreed to boost security and economic cooperation, with Tokyo offering ¥140 billion (S$1.6 billion) in low-interest loans for the construction of a mass rapid transit system in Jakarta.

TOKYO — Japan and Indonesia yesterday agreed to boost security and economic cooperation, with Tokyo offering ¥140 billion (S$1.6 billion) in low-interest loans for the construction of a mass rapid transit system in Jakarta.

In a summit in Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo presided over the signing of a defence cooperation pact that involves Japanese capacity-building assistance for Indonesian forces, as well as bilateral cooperation in peacekeeping missions and defence equipment development, said Japanese officials.

Mr Abe and Mr Widodo, who is on his first visit to Japan since becoming President last October, agreed to launch a “Japan-Indonesia maritime forum” to look into maritime security and Japan’s assistance in promoting Indonesia’s marine-related industries, said officials.

“We agreed to strengthen the strategic partnership between our two countries, which are major maritime democracies in Asia,” Mr Abe told reporters in Tokyo.

“I told the President of my expectations that a developed Indonesia would contribute even more to the peace and stability of the region and the world.”

The leaders also agreed to set up a ministerial dialogue to boost economic and industry cooperation, including Japan’s aid in building infrastructure in Indonesia.

Going forward, talks will be held between the Defence and Foreign Ministers of both countries. Mr Abe and Mr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Mr Widodo’s predecessor, agreed in December 2013 to launch a so-called “two-plus-two” security talks, involving Foreign and Defence Ministers from both sides, but the dialogue has yet to take place.

Mr Abe has sought to strengthen security ties with South-east Asian governments, some of which, like Japan, have to contend with territorial disputes with an increasingly assertive China.

Japan signed an agreement to bolster defence ties with the Philippines in January, following on from previous agreements with Vietnam and Singapore. The East Asian country has delivered coast guard vessels to Indonesia, agreed to do so for the Philippines and is in talks to provide them to Vietnam.

In their meeting yesterday, Mr Abe and Mr Widodo called on China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to speed up consultations towards an early conclusion of a legally binding Code of Conduct aimed at reducing territorial and maritime conflicts in the South China Sea.

Japan and Indonesia also urged China and other claimant states such as the Philippines and Vietnam to exercise restraint and settle the issue based on international law.

Indonesia aims to serve as a fulcrum between the Pacific and the Indian Ocean under Mr Widodo’s maritime axis doctrine, which calls for eliminating the sources of conflict at sea such as piracy and violations of sovereignty.

Mr Abe and Mr Widodo first met during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Beijing in November. Mr Widodo’s trip includes lunch with Emperor Akihito, a speech to a business forum and a visit to Toyota Motors Headquarters in Nagoya.

After the four-day state visit to Japan ending tomorrow, Mr Widodo will travel to China and hold talks with President Xi Jinping. AGENCIES

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