Prime Minster Shinzo Abe said in a speech at an international conference on Monday that Japan is “ready to extend cooperation” on the China-led Belt and Road Initiative.

The comments marked the first time Abe has signaled support for the project, and they come after he indicated Japan could join China’s Asia Investment Infrastructure Bank, under certain conditions.

“It is critical for infrastructure to be open to use by all, and to be developed through procurement that is transparent and fair,” Abe said, according to the Kyodo news agency.

“I furthermore consider it essential for projects to be economically viable and to be financed by debt that can be repaid, and not to harm the soundness of the debtor nation’s finances.”

Observers have noted both the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Japan’s eagerness to work with China to resolve the North Korea issue as potential motivating factors behind Abe’s softening stance.