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Japan and Southeast Asian countries December 15 pledged to boost economic and security ties, a day after they agreed on the importance of ensuring freedom of the skies after China declared a controversial air defense zone. Tokyo pledged $20 billion in aid and loans to Southeast Asia at the summit with leaders of the ASEAN regional bloc, the latest step in its bid to woo global public opinion in its territorial dispute with China. Earlier, China denounced as “slanderous” remarks by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the summit calling for Beijing to rescind its air zone, which was widely criticized as increasing regional tensions.
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