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For ASEAN, Japan is a key counterbalance to China

China's growing economic influence also poses risks to the 10-nation bloc

TOKYO -- Five decades after the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was established, changing economic and political dynamics in the region are putting a spotlight on Japan's growing importance to the bloc as a counterbalance to China.

Japan and the 10-member ASEAN have maintained close relations for more than 40 years. In that time, Japanese companies have made Southeast Asia their production and export hub, capitalizing on cheaper labor costs.

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