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Foreign Minister Taro Aso and Malaysian Ambassador to Japan Marzuki Mohammad Noor signed an agreement Monday for Japan to establish a fund to help promote the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ efforts toward integration.

The establishment of the Japan ASEAN Integration Fund is based on a pledge by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to provide 7.5 billion yen ($64 million) to aid ASEAN in its efforts to create an “ASEAN Community.” Koizumi made the pledge at the ASEAN-Japan summit in Kuala Lumpur in December.

The fund will go toward fighting avian influenza — including by helping ASEAN meet its goal of stockpiling enough of the antiviral drug Tamiflu to treat 500,000 people — fighting terrorism, and narrowing the development gap among ASEAN members, the ministry said.

Marzuki said the fund marks an “important milestone in ASEAN-Japan cooperation” and “signals a new maturity in ASEAN-Japan relations” as their relationship evolves from that of donor-recipient to one of partnership.

Marzuki signed the agreement at the Foreign Ministry on behalf of the 10-member ASEAN. Malaysia currently holds the annually rotating chairmanship of ASEAN. Representatives of the nine other ASEAN members were also present at the signing ceremony.