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The government renewed its commitment to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in its annual report on foreign aid released Friday, with Tokyo stressing the importance of ensuring the safety of sea lanes in the region amid China’s growing maritime assertiveness.

In the latest white paper on the country’s official development assistance, the Foreign Ministry said ASEAN countries are extremely important “from both political and economic perspectives” as they lie along key sea lanes and have strong economic ties with many Japanese firms operating in those nations.

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