Chinese Premier Li Qiang is set to inspect a high-speed train funded by his nation in Indonesia, even as rival Japan underscores its willingness to help the region develop transport infrastructure.
Li and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are attending the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit that opened this week in Jakarta, with ties between their countries in a freeze over Japan’s discharge of treated wastewater into the ocean from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.
The two Asian giants have often competed to help provide infrastructure to nations across the region. Many in Japan were disappointed when it lost out to China on the project for the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail link.
While construction of the railroad has been beset by problems and delays, the current plan is for commercial operations to begin Oct. 1 after a soft opening on Friday.
Li’s symbolic train visit with Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister of Maritime and Investment Affairs Luhut Panjaitan comes hours after Kishida told a forum his country would seek to support transport infrastructure development in Asean. He made the topic chief among six areas targeted for cooperation as Japan celebrates the 50th anniversary of relations with the group.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo — who’s better known as Jokowi — told a later meeting that Asean hopes Japan can ramp up its contributions to the region’s infrastructure. Asean needs $184 billion in annual spending, Jokowi said.
A report by the Australian government released Wednesday estimated Southeast Asia would have a $3 trillion infrastructure gap by 2040 and called on Canberra to do more to address the lack of investment.
The other sectors where Japan will seek to bolster ties include coastguard capabilities as well as improving the stability of power supply, Kishida said.
Japan is set to host a commemorative Asean summit in December, at which Kishida said he’d seek to set out a vision for his country’s future relations with the region.