Japan offers Indonesia US$473 million loan to fight COVID-19

JAKARTA: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on Tuesday (Oct 20) that his country will provide 50 billion yen (US$473 million) in low-interest loans to Indonesia to support its fight against COVID-19.

The offer was made to Indonesian President Joko Widodo during talks held at the presidential palace in Bogor, near Jakarta, reported Kyodo News.  

The low-interest loans will be used for Indonesia’s measures against natural disasters, in addition to the nearly 32 billion yen in loans Japan gave in February this year.

This is intended to free up Indonesian resources to be used to fight COVID-19. The Southeast Asian nation has seen the worst outbreak in the region with more than 360,000 confirmed infections and more than 12,000 related deaths.

READ: Poverty runs a thread through Indonesia as COVID-19 puts millions on the brink

READ: Despite steady popularity, Jokowi’s COVID-19 policies raise questions about decisiveness and communication – Analysts

Suga, who is on the second leg of his first overseas trip since taking office, said he also agreed with Widodo to start discussions on resuming business travel between their countries and to hold security talks between their defence and foreign ministers at an early date.

The Japanese prime minister expressed his backing for Southeast Asian efforts toward achieving peace in the South China Sea, while promoting Japan’s “free and open Indo-Pacific” concept of regional cooperation in countering China.

READ: Japan, Indonesia seek stronger security, economic ties in China’s shadow

Southeast Asia was chosen for his first trip since succeeding Shinzo Abe as prime minister last month in order to demonstrate the region’s importance to Japan.

After holding talks with Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Suga said Southeast Asian countries are key to pursuing Japan’s “free and open Indo-Pacific,” or FOIP, and that he told Widodo that “Japan is committed to contributing to the peace and prosperity in the region”.

“I fully support the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, which Indonesia initiated, as it has a lot of fundamental commonalities with Japan’s free and open Indo-Pacific,” he said.

Widodo welcomed Japan’s support for Southeast Asian nations and said that “the spirit of inclusive cooperation also needs to be promoted in the context of Indo-Pacific cooperation as reflected in the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific”.

“I also underlined my hope that the South China Sea can continue to be a sea of peace and stability,” he said.

Suga arrived in Jakarta on Tuesday afternoon from Hanoi, where he met with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc on Monday.

On Wednesday, Suga is scheduled to meet people related to Japanese companies and lay a wreath at the Kalibata Heroes Cemetery before returning to Tokyo.