Japanese PM Suga arrives in Indonesia to affirm deeper ties, counter China in region

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Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga arrived Tuesday in Indonesia on the second leg of his first overseas trip as premier to underscore his government’s aims of countering China in the region.

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Suga arrived from Vietnam in the middle of a four-day visit to the two Southeast Asia nations he said was key to pursuing the “free and open Indo-Pacific” vision of economic and security cooperation to counter China’s growing power and its assertiveness in disputes with other governments over the South China Sea.

Japan is pushing for members of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations to cooperate in promoting its Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision. Tokyo wants to convey that its respect for a rules-based international system, in contrast to China, which refuses to recognize tribunal rulings against its vast sea claims, makes Japan the better partner for Southeast Asian countries.

Suga is also expected to discuss coronavirus measures and Japan’s possible support for the pandemic-hit Indonesian economy.

Japan also hopes to deepen and strengthen its defense ties with Indonesia and promote a defense equipment and technology transfer agreement. It signed such a deal with Vietnam on Monday and has defense equipment transfer deals with a dozen countries, including the US, Britain, the Philippines and Malaysia, and is negotiating with Thailand.

After a welcoming ceremony and tree-planting at the presidential palace in Bogor, just outside Jakarta, Suga is to then meet with Indonesian President Joko Widodo. On Wednesday, he is scheduled to meet people related to Japanese companies and lay a wreath at the Kalibata Heroes Cemetery before returning to Tokyo.

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