The Latest: Abe says Japan is ‘best partner’ for Southeast Asia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Ten Southeast Asian heads of state and nine world leaders, including President Barack Obama, are meeting in Malaysia to discuss trade and economic issues. Terrorism and disputes over the South China Sea are also on the agenda. (All times local):


12:15 a.m.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says Japan is the “best partner” for Asia as it gears up for a new growth phase toward lasting sustainable growth.

He says Japan is committed to bolster its overseas development assistance, and along with Asian Development Bank will provide $110 billion infrastructure financing over the next five years.

Abe was speaking Saturday at a business conference on the sidelines of a Southeast Asia summit.

He says Asia’s growth is about to transition to a new stage, which is a challenge in ensuring lasting growth.

He added: “We do not impose our culture on others … we think together and move together with the local people.”

For example, he said the recipe for Japanese ramen noodle has been modified in Malaysia by using chicken broth and meat, instead of pork, which is prohibited in Islam.


This story corrects Japan’s financial pledge.


11:45 a.m.

President Barak Obama has touted the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement he recently struck with 11 other nations.

Obama said Saturday that the TPP would raise the bar for human rights and fight forced labour he said was akin to modern slavery.

Obama said: “This is a prime example of America and our partners working together to shape the world we want for future generations.”

He was speaking at a business summit, held on the sidelines of a summit of Southeast Asian countries.

Obama will attend a separate summit in Malaysia’s capital on Sunday that will include other Asia-Pacific countries.


11 a.m.

President Barack Obama says the deadly assault on a hotel in Mali is yet another reminder that the “scourge of terrorism” threatens many nations.

And he says the “barbarity” shown by Islamic extremists at the Radisson hotel in the capital of Bamako “only stiffens our resolve to meet this challenge.”

The assault on the hotel came exactly one week after attacks co-ordinated by the Islamic State group left 130 people dead across Paris.

At least 20 were killed in Mali, including at least one American.

Obama says the U.S. is working to account for Americans who may have been at the hotel. He also extended condolences to families of the victims, and thanked the security forces who responded.

He spoke in Malaysia during a regional summit.


9:50 a.m.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has opened a two-day regional summit with a call to defeat Islamic terrorism, saying its barbaric attacks do not represent any race or religion.

Najib was speaking Saturday at the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a regional grouping of 10 nations that include the Muslim-majority nations of Malaysia and Indonesia. Indonesia, and the neighbouring Philippines, which has a large Muslim minority, have been hit by Islamic extremism.

Najib referred to those two countries, as well as the attacks in Paris and Friday’s deadly hostage-taking in Bamako, Mali.

Najib says Malaysia stands ready to provide any help and support it can.

He says: “Be assured that we stand with you against this new evil that blasphemes against the name of Islam.”


9:35 a.m.

Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia has described Islamic State group as “evil” and a perverted form of Islam, as he and President Barack Obama pledged to fight Islamic extremism.

After a meeting with Obama late Friday, Najib said his government is very clear that it is against the IS, “its ideology, what it stands for.”

He says “it is evil. It is against Islam. It is a perverted Islam. And they do not represent us.”

Najib says Malaysia and the United States will work together and with other like-minded countries to make Southeast Asia safer.

Obama is in Malaysia to attend a regional summit that ends Sunday.

In his remarks, Obama said Malaysia, like Indonesia, is a majority-Muslim country that represents tolerance and peace. Obama said that as a consequence, “its voice is critical in the debate that is taking place internationally around terrorism.”


9 a.m.

Heads of state from 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have formally opened their weekend summit in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.

The main event is the launch of a unified economic community that has been eight years in the making.

On Sunday, the leaders of Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei, Thailand and the Philippines, along with ASEAN’s four less developed members, Communist Vietnam and Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia, will sign a declaration establishing the ASEAN Economic Community, originally envisioned in 2002.

Although ASEAN has helped greatly increase the region’s economic and political integration, there is a long way to go before the AEC becomes fully functional after becoming a legal entity on Dec. 31.

ASEAN countries have torn down tariff barriers and have removed some visa restrictions, but they fall short in more politically sensitive areas such as opening up agriculture, steel, auto production and other protected sectors.