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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 December 2005, 10:07 GMT
East Asian leaders focus on trade
Asean leaders with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun, 13 December 2005
A total of 16 nations will be meeting together by Wednesday
South East Asian leaders are holding a series of meetings with regional heads of government aimed at boosting trade.

They say they want to concentrate on building closer ties with China, South Korea and Japan.

Malaysia is set to sign a pact with Japan later on Tuesday which will get rid of nearly all tariffs in 10 years

Asean, Japan, South Korea and China will be joined by three other regional leaders on Wednesday for the inaugural East Asian Summit.

On Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi announced $135m of aid to help the region fight bird flu. A day later, he pledged a further $70m for cultural and educational programmes.

The Japanese, aware of China's growing influence, have been keen to boost their own standing in South East Asia, says a BBC correspondent at the summit in Kuala Lumpur, Jonathan Kent.

Japan's relations with China and South Korea have deteriorated sharply over the last year. Both countries' leaders have cancelled meetings with Mr Koizumi this year in protest at his repeated visits to a controversial war shrine.

Mr Koizumi told Asean leaders during their meeting on Tuesday that he was baffled by China's attitude.

"No two nations are without their share of differences. I cannot understand why China won't have a meeting because of one problem," Mr Koizumi was quoted as saying by a Japanese delegation official.

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