Kishida leaves for Indonesia on tour of Southeast Asia and Europe

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida left Friday for an eight-day tour of five countries in Southeast Asia and Europe to strengthen relations amid China’s growing assertiveness. and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“I would like to take a trip for peace,” Kishida told reporters in Tokyo before his arrival in Indonesia, which will be followed by visits to Vietnam, Thailand, Italy and Britain.

In Southeast Asia, it aims to strengthen cooperation with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to achieve a “free and open Indo-Pacific”.

As Japan and other Group of Seven countries take a hard line on sanctions against Russia over its attack on Ukraine, Kishida also plans to ask ASEAN members, most of whom are so far kept away from taking such action against Moscow, to collaborate.

The prime minister is expected to hold talks with Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Friday afternoon, during which he will seek to advance the Indo-Pacific vision that Japan is promoting as part of China’s continued maritime expansion in the region. .

Japan regards Indonesia, host of this year’s Group of 20 major economies summit to be held in November and a key economy in Southeast Asia, as a strategic partner sharing universal values ​​such as democracy and the state. by right.

In the remainder of his trip to Southeast Asia, Kishida will hold talks with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and President Nguyen Xuan Phuc and meet with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha.

Japan and Thailand, which celebrate the 135th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year, are seeking to sign an agreement on the transfer of defense equipment and technology to strengthen cooperation in the field of security. Thailand is hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit this year.

In Europe, Kishida is expected to discuss with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson how to respond to Russia’s continued aggression in Ukraine and support those who have fled the war-torn country.

While the coronavirus pandemic has limited in-person meetings, Kishida, who took office in October, stepped up face-to-face diplomacy after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.

The latest overseas trip follows Kishida’s late March visit to India and Cambodia as well as a visit to Belgium, where he and other G-7 leaders pledged to closely monitor any attempts to help Russia evade sanctions, in a possible warning to countries like China that may seek to help Moscow.

Kishida is due to return to Japan on May 6.

About Walter J. Leslie

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