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Japan Pledges $7.4 Billion in Aid to Mekong Region

Japan's Ambassador to Burma Takashi Saito, seated left, and Burma's Ambassador to Japan Khin Maung Ting sign documents on their accord on the sidelines of the Mekong-Japan Summit at the State Guest House in Tokyo, April 21, 2012.
Japan's Ambassador to Burma Takashi Saito, seated left, and Burma's Ambassador to Japan Khin Maung Ting sign documents on their accord on the sidelines of the Mekong-Japan Summit at the State Guest House in Tokyo, April 21, 2012.

Japan has pledged $7.4 billion in development aid to five Southeast Asia nations in an effort to promote cooperation with countries in the Mekong region.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announced the pledge at a Japan-Mekong summit in Tokyo on Saturday, after meeting with leaders from Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Thailand and Vietnam.

He said the stability and development of East Asia is not possible without the stability and development of the Mekong region.

China has also tried to gain influence in the region by pouring aid and investment into Mekong countries.

Also Saturday, Japan said it will forgive $3.7 billion of Burma's debt and resume aid as a way to support the country's democratic and economic reforms.

Burma's government was run by the military for decades.  But since taking office a year ago, Burmese President Thein Sein has enacted a series of democratic reforms, including greater press freedom and the release of many political prisoners.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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