Japanese Minister Vows Continued Assistance

Japan’s foreign minister said Tuesday her country would send at least one judge for the impending Khmer Rouge trial and was ready to start the initial stages of bridge construction over the Mekong River at Prey Veng province’s Peam Ro district.

Speaking to a rapt audience of Cambodian students and parliamentarians at Chaktomuk Thea­ter, Yoriko Kawaguchi said Japan “stands fast with Cambodia’s com­mitment to bring the Khmer Rouge tribunal into being.”

“Japan will continue fulfilling a central role in this process by send­ing a judge and secretariats as well as by supplementing the necessary expenditure of the UN,” said Kawaguchi, who is in Cambo­dia for the Asean meetings.

“Japan is ready to start its feasibility studies on a construction plan for a new bridge at Neak Leung,” Kawaguchi said.

Crossings of the Mekong at Neak Leung are currently serviced by a ferry. Japan has already built one bridge in Kompong Cham province, helping to connect by road the remote provinces of Kratie and Mondolkiri to Phnom Penh.

The two bridges form an essential link in two “corridors” that will connect Cambodia to Viet­nam, Laos, Thailand and Burma.

“In the not too distant future, goods, services and people will travel briskly across the borders throughout the Greater Mekong Subregion,” she said.

Also on Tuesday, officials announced that the Cambodian Mine Action Center will receive demining equipment as part of a $6.65 million grant from the Japanese government.

The gift, to be delivered today, is the third phase of a Japanese demining program in Cambodia, one of the most heavily mined countries in the world. The grant will fund the purchase of mine detectors, protection vests, tents for mobile units and brush-cutters, according to a news release.

Kawaguchi signed a separate agreement with Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong on Tuesday at the Inter-Conti­nen­tal Hotel pledging technical assistance to Cambodia.

Kawaguchi also held talks with her Chi­nese and South Korean counterparts on the need for the inclusion of South Ko­rea and Chi­na in talks between North Ko­rea, the US and China on the North’s nucle­ar weapons program, Japan’s foreign ministry spokesman Hatsuhisa Takashima said.

“We’d like to see the Beijing pro­cess continue with the participation of Japan [and South Ko­rea]…. We are the most concerned parties with this issue,” she said. “Multilateral talks are essential.”

Japan also discussed the need for continued vigilance against severe acute respiratory syndrome and pressed China to consider Japanese plans for a rapid transit train system to run from Beijing to Shanghai.

“We strongly hope that China would adopt a Japanese model of the bullet train,” Takashima said.

Japanese companies are currently competing for the project with European companies, Taka­shi­ma said.

(Additional reporting by Luke Reynolds)

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