TOKYO (AP) - Japan says it will provide 20 trillion yen ($19.2 billion) in aid to Southeast Asian nations over the next five years to help close the region's development gap and improve its disaster preparedness.
The announcement Saturday at a summit meeting with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations comes as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stepped up Japan's courtship of the region of more than 600 million people, an agenda that has gained momentum in reaction to China's growing assertiveness in territorial disputes.
The development assistance, mainly in the form of concessional loans, also will focus on efforts to promote development in the Mekong river region, where economies have lagged behind. It will also fund transport projects.
The summit held in Tokyo marks 40 years of ties between Japan and ASEAN.
Copyright 2015 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.