Japan is offering a $ 50 billion loan to Indonesia to help fight COVID-19
Jakarta – Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga promised Indonesia on Tuesday in talks with Southeast Asian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo low-interest loans of 50 billion yen (US $ 473 million) to help tackle the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
At the summit in the Presidential Palace in Bogor, south of Jakarta, the heads of state and government also agreed to strengthen security cooperation and to start talks on resuming business trips between their countries.
On his first trip abroad since taking office in mid-September, Suga wants to cultivate closer relations with the Southeast Asian countries in order to counter the growing influence of China.
“We will promote further cooperation with Indonesia, which is a sea state in the Indo-Pacific and a strategic partner, also in the joint fight against the coronavirus,” said Suga after the meeting with Jokowi.
The soft loans, in addition to the nearly 32 billion yen loan granted by Japan in February this year, will be used for Indonesia’s response to natural disasters.
This is intended to free Indonesian resources for the fight against COVID-19. The Southeast Asian nation has seen the worst outbreak in the region, with more than 360,000 confirmed infections and more than 12,000 related deaths.
Suga said the two leaders have agreed to resume travel between their countries for nurses and caregivers. Jokowi said the two countries’ foreign ministers would vote on resuming business travel on a larger scale next month.
The fourth most populous country in the world, Indonesia is an economic force in Southeast Asia and the only nation in the region to be included in the Group of 20.
The Indonesian president also said he had urged Suga to help maintain order in the international community, citing heightened tensions between the US and China in a veiled manner.
“The potential for multilateral cooperation is currently being threatened by a tough battle between the world powers, and we are asking Japan for help in returning to normal,” he said at a joint media appearance.
Suga arrived in Jakarta from Hanoi on Tuesday afternoon, where he met with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Monday.
The visit to Indonesia concludes his four-day trip by Wednesday, during which he tried to demonstrate his diplomatic skills and, given China’s maritime assertiveness, to promote the concept of a “free and open Indo-Pacific”.
Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone intersects with China’s so-called nine-dash line, which marks the expansive demands of the world’s second largest economy in the South China Sea, while Vietnam is one of the petitioners in territorial disputes in this area. Beijing also lays claim to Japanese-held islands in the East China Sea.
During the 80-minute meeting with Jokowi, Suga expressed “deep concern” over unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the South and East China Seas, according to a Japanese government official.
The president expressed his agreement and stressed the importance of “stability and peace based on the rule of law,” the official said.
The heads of state and government reiterated plans to hold an early meeting between their countries’ foreign and defense ministers. They have not discussed any security issues since the first “two plus two” meeting in 2015.
Suga said he agreed with Jokowi to step up negotiations on a pact that would allow Japan to export defense equipment and technology to Indonesia after reaching an agreement in principle on Monday on a similar deal with Vietnam.
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