The Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Kakuei Tanaka, tomorrow (January 7) begins a tour of South-East?
The Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Kakuei Tanaka, tomorrow (January 7) begins a tour of South-East Asia - an area which many Asians complain has become dominated by what they call Japanese economic imperialism. In this report, we look at Japanese investment in the region.
Mr. Tanaka is due to visit the Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia - all members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). Wherever he goes, or anywhere else in non-Communist Asia, he will be confronted by the symbols of Japanese commercial success: the now world-famous sings extolling cameras, transistor radios, watches, motor-cycles and a whole range of household electrical goods.
The volume of trade between Japan and the five countries Mr. Tanaka will visit has doubled in five years to more than 5,000,000,000 US dollars. In each case, Japan enjoys big trade surpluses which has given rise to fears that the region could become a huge Japanese supermarket. Thai students, especially, have been noisy in their protests.
But Mr. Tanaka said last week that Japan had no intention of dominating Asia economically and this was one of the messages he wanted to convey during his tour. He added that he wanted to strengthen ties of economic co-operating and friendship.
Whether Japan does or not have a commercial stranglehold on much of South-East Asia, there is no denying its powerful economic presence - ranging from the motor-cycles which throng Saigon's streets to the luxury goods which cram HongKong's tourist stores.
Japanese businessmen can be found in almost every Asian hotel. In Taiwan alone, they own 400 companies and have a share in another 400. Whatever its critics may say, Japan is quick to point out the number of jobs and prosperity created by its massive investment.
Japan counters part of the profits it makes from overseas with an annual does of 450,000,000 US dollars in foreign aid - half of it going to South-East Asia. One example of this assistance is a fisheries project which was opened in Sri Lanka last year.
Now Japanese businessmen are increasing their stake in heavy engineering projects in South-East Asia - such as a major road bridge across Bangkok's Chaopaya River and shipbuilding in Singapore.
In addition, branches of Japanese banks are sprouting throughout South-East Asia, while many cities now have Japanese stores selling Japanese products. In Thailand and Indonesia, demonstrators have been out in force to protest against Japan's growing presence and are threatening to make their views known during Mr. Tanaka's tour.