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Abe offers conditional cooperation with China's Silk Road initiative

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday that Japan is ready to
cooperate with China's "One Belt, One Road" cross-continental
infrastructure development scheme under certain conditions.

Speaking at a forum in Tokyo on Asia's future, Abe said those
conditions would include "harmony with a free and fair Trans-Pacific
economic zone," alluding to the terms of the Trans-Pacific
Partnership free trade pact, to which Japan is a signatory but China
is not.

The One Belt, One Road initiative, put forward by Chinese
President Xi Jinping in 2013, would involve massive investment to
connect up both a land-based economic belt based off the ancient Silk
Road and a maritime corridor spanning from China to Southeast Asia,
India, Africa and Europe.

Xi has said he wants to create a "big family of harmonious
coexistence" through the project, but skeptics see it as a bid to
position China as a viable alternative to U.S. global leadership.

Abe lauded the initiative's "potential to connect East and West
as well as the diverse regions found in between."

But he cautioned that it is "critical for infrastructure to be
open to use by all, and to be developed through procurement that is
transparent and fair."

"I furthermore consider it essential for projects to be
economically viable and to be financed by debt that can be repaid,
and not to harm the soundness of the debtor nation's finances," Abe
said, adding Tokyo is "ready to extend cooperation from that
perspective."

The statement may be part of efforts to foster warmer relations
with China as Japan seeks to host a postponed trilateral summit with
the leaders of China and South Korea by the end of the year.

It also comes amid speculation that the United States could be
considering joining the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment
Bank, a move that would likely put pressure on Japan to follow suit.

Japan and the United States, the main backers of the
decades-older Asian Development Bank, are the only members of the
Group of Seven developed nations not signed up to the AIIB.

Abe said last month he could be open to considering joining the
AIIB if questions surrounding projects' environmental impacts and
other issues are resolved.

Toshihiro Nikai, the secretary general of Abe's Liberal
Democratic Party and known for his pro-China stance, attended a One
Belt, One Road-themed international forum in Beijing last month and
is said to support the AIIB idea. (June 5)