The Vietnamese government, encouraged by $280 million of inflows in January, says it expects a big increase in foreign direct investment this year. The January FDI registration included $202.9 million in the processing industries, $50 million in the real estate sector and about $14 million in scientific and technological projects, Vietnam News reported. Among the investors, Japan ranked at the top with a total of $157.7 million, followed by Thailand with $54.2 million and France with $20 million, the report said. The head of the Japan External Trade Organization was quoted as saying Vietnam remained the destination in many Japanese investors\' plans for business expansion in the information, software, retail-wholesale and health sectors. During the economic difficulties of the past three years, the government was able to initiate policies that helped the country become the second largest FDI recipient in Southeast Asia in 2012 because of its attractive labor costs and newly competitive business environment, the report said. It said a recent ASEAN Business Council survey ranked Vietnam as the second most attractive investment destination behind Indonesia, but ahead of Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. Experts predicted Vietnam\'s closer diplomatic ties with Japan, the United States and Russia would result in more FDI inflows.