Japan still hopes to sell bullet train to Vietnam: minister

TOKYO, June 22, 2010 (AFP) - Japan said Tuesday it will push on with efforts to sell its bullet train technology to Vietnam despite the project's rejection in a rare show of defiance by legislators in Vietnam.

"We hope Vietnam will introduce Japan's Shinkansen bullet train system," Japan's Transport Minister Seiji Maehara told a Tokyo press conference, after the vote in the National Assembly in Hanoi Saturday.

"Japan will try to help Vietnam introduce the Japanese system by cooperating with the Vietnamese government to draw up a feasible plan so that the National Assembly will approve it," Maehara told reporters.

Vietnam's legislators, who usually back government plans, rejected the 56-billion-dollar project, arguing that the country has more pressing development needs.

Vietnam has seen rapid economic growth, but roughly half the population still works in agriculture and per capita income is about 1,000 dollars.

Under the government's proposal, the train would link the capital Hanoi with the southern commercial hub of Ho Chi Minh City 1,570 kilometres (975 miles) away, at speeds of 300 kilometres an hour, by 2035.

Japan, battling to revive its economy, hopes to sell its cutting-edge technology -- from nuclear plants to renewable energy systems to bullet trains -- abroad, especially to Asia's emerging economies.

It is also among bidders hoping to help build a high-speed rail network in the United States under a plan proposed by President Barack Obama.

Maehara said his government would study ways to help Vietnam import the expensive train technology, such as by giving official development assistance or creating a fund to support such infrastructure exports.

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