All papers reported on a meeting held at the Kantei last night between Prime Minister Abe and his Indian counterpart Modi during which they agreed to enhance cooperation in security, including starting negotiations for a bilateral acquisition and cross-servicing agreement for their militaries, launching a “space dialogue,” and establishing a 2+2 framework between foreign and defense ministers, which Abe characterized as “signifying the arrival of a new Japan-India relationship.” In their twelfth summit, the two leaders also agreed to advance cooperation for the development of artificial intelligence and other digital technology. They also affirmed the need to conclude a currency swap accord to prepare for the possibility of a financial crisis.
Yomiuri wrote that with China’s rapid arms expansion and maritime advancement in mind, Abe was keen to elicit India’s cooperation in moving forward with his “free and open Indo-Pacific” initiative, claiming that even though Modi was initially hesitant about the idea of establishing a 2+2 framework, Abe succeeded in persuading him. While noting that Japan-China ties are expected to improve further following Abe’s recent visit to Beijing, the Japanese leader is reportedly set to further deepen diplomatic partnerships with the U.S., India, and Australia with the goal of curbing China’s influence. Sankei and Nikkei wrote that Abe hosted the Indian leader right after his trip to Beijing in a bid to hold China’s “expansionist approach” in check by demonstrating Japan’s strong bonds with India based on such values as freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.
However, Asahi wrote that New Delhi is not enthusiastic about the “free and open Indo-Pacific” initiative because of the implication that it is aimed at reining in China, quoting an unnamed senior Indian official as saying that no country should be excluded from an initiative calling for an “open” Indo-Pacific. While noting that the Modi administration is concerned about China’s “Belt and Road” initiative in the belief that it is probably aimed at encircling India, New Delhi is still cautious about alienating China since it is India’s largest trade partner.
In a related story, Sankei published an interview with Foreign Minister Kono, who said Abe’s trip to China was a “second major step” toward putting bilateral relations back on a normal track following Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s trip to Japan in May. He stressed that with Abe’s China trip, the two nations successfully brought an end to an era in which their leaders were not able to visit each other’s countries. Kono also spoke about the South Korean Supreme Court’s plan to issue a ruling today on a damages lawsuit against Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal for forced labor during Japan’s colonial rule, underscoring that all issues related to wartime compensation with Seoul have already been settled and that it is inconceivable that the Japanese defendant will lose the case.