11 July 2024

The five Southeast Asian nations along the Mekong River, including Thailand, and Japan today adopted a new three-year strategy centering on improving connectivity through promotion of “quality infrastructure” building for regional development.

The document endorsed by Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and leaders from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Mekong-Japan Summit Meeting also cited human resource development and environmental protection as main pillars of cooperation, Kyodo News reported.

On regional security, the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to addressing tensions over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and the South China Sea, where China has been expanding its military clout, according to the document.

“We want to make efforts to realize peace, development, sustainable growth and a rich, prosperous future for this region,” Abe said in a press conference after the summit. He expressed Japan’s readiness to provide support for 30,000 workers in various sectors in the Mekong region over the next three years.

Under the “Tokyo Strategy 2018 for Mekong-Japan Cooperation,” the leaders of the Mekong countries welcomed Japan’s policy to realize a “free and open” Indo-Pacific, designed to promote stability and prosperity in areas between Asia and Africa rooted in rule-based order and freedom of navigation, according to Kyodo News.

Tokyo also views the Mekong area as geopolitically important as it is located between India and China, two major powers in the region, and faces vital shipping lanes in the South China Sea, Japanese officials said.

The six leaders also reaffirmed the need to modernize customs to facilitate cross-border security and customs clearance and pledged to support the participation of non-Mekong countries in the supply chain of the Mekong region.