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Japan to step up medical assistance to ASEAN to counter China

Nikkei wrote that Foreign Minister Motegi visited Singapore and Malaysia last week and will continue his tour of the region this week by travelling to Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar to spell out Japan’s plans to support ASEAN nations’ efforts to combat the novel coronavirus by providing them with medical assistance, including hospital beds and ambulances. The paper speculated that Motegi’s tour of the region is aimed at sending a warning to the nations in the region not to become too close to Beijing in the view that China is trying to increase its presence in Southeast Asia through “medical diplomacy” as well as economic relations. A senior Foreign Ministry official told the paper: “It is critical that we keep ASEAN on the side of Japan and the U.S.” The paper added that Japan’s close ties with ASEAN have increased its diplomatic value to the United States, which is geographically distant from the region.

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