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Suga takes barb at China in vow for 'free and open Indo-Pacific'

Published on October 20, 2020 11:45 PM
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HANOI--Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc reached agreement on a wide range of issues that included a pledge by Japan to cooperate with ASEAN nations to establish a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

The talks were Suga's first face-to-face meeting with a foreign leader since he took office in September.

Afterward, Suga described the meeting to reporters as one that represents ?a very important first step toward realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific region.?

Suga also addressed Vietnamese students at Vietnam-Japan University here for about 30 minutes on Oct. 19 before heading to his talks with Phuc.

While never mentioning China by name, Suga made clear that Japan would oppose any actions that heighten tensions in the South China Sea, where China has increasingly flexed its muscle in the disputed waters.

He pointed out that Japan and ASEAN nations share fundamental principles such as following the rule of law and freedom. He expressed support for the 2019 ASEAN outlook on the Indo-Pacific region that called for openness and transparency, saying it bore many similarities with Japan?s own free and open Indo-Pacific policy.

Suga noted that ?developments contrary to the rule of law and openness have been unfolding in the South China Sea? in expressing concern about heightened tensions in the region.

He explained that Japan's position is always ?to work toward a peaceful resolution of disputes based on international law instead of resorting to force or coercion.?

Suga said Japan would cooperate with ASEAN nations to establish the rule of law in waters in the region.

In his talks with Phuc, Suga reached an agreement in principle to sign an accord that defines conditions that would have to be met before defense equipment and national security technology developed in Japan could be exported to Vietnam.

They also discussed ways to encourage business travel between the two nations. The novel coronavirus pandemic had all but put a stop to such exchanges.

The two leaders agreed to relax entry restrictions to allow for short business trips as long as certain conditions are met, such as negative polymerase chain reaction tests and the submittal of itinerary plans in the other nation. The measure asking visitors to self-quarantine for about two weeks would also be lifted for short-term business travelers.

They also agreed to resume regular airline service and lift restrictions on the export of ?unshu mikan? citrus fruit from Japan and the import of longan (dragon eye) fruit from Vietnam.

Later on Oct. 19, Suga and his wife, Mariko, attended a dinner reception hosted by Phuc and his wife.