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Xi, Abe Named Asians of the Year

Singapore's Straits Times newspaper, one of Asia's largest English dailies, has named Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and China's President, Xi Jinping, as its 2013 Asians of the Year for their impact on Southeast Asia and the broader region.

The paper says Mr. Abe, in his second stint as prime minister, ordered one of the biggest peacetime mobilizations of troops to aid the Philippines following super-typhoon Haiyan. In May, he announced he would cancel Burma's debt to Tokyo.

The Times noted that President Xi became the first foreign leader to address the Indonesian legislature, and said China is emerging as a significant partner in Asia's infrastructure development.

Straits Times Foreign Editor Ravi Velloor tells VOA that both men have shown a lot of commitment to the region.

"Both of these people have put in place great changes in economic policy that could potentially impact Asia for the better."

But, the joint award, the newspaper adds, must serve as a reminder "not to let their differences get out of hand." Tensions between China and Japan have flared over their maritime dispute in the East China Sea.

Velloor says he hopes the joint prize will encourage a dialogue between the two men.

"We are hoping this will give them an opportunity to pick up the phone and call each other and say 'Hey, congratulations. I noticed we are joint winners of Asian of the Year award from the Straits Times'."

This is the second year the newspaper has named an Asian of the Year. The first recipient was President Thein Sein of Burma, also known as Myanmar.

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