TOKYO – Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga plans to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo next week in Tokyo, with the new Japanese leader expected to convey his intention to closely coordinate with the United States in realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific, Japanese government sources said Monday.
The meeting will take place on the sidelines of a gathering of the foreign ministers of Japan, Australia, India and the United States — four democracies collectively called the “Quad” — in a veiled counter to an increasingly assertive China.
The quadrilateral meeting is being arranged for around Oct. 6-7 and Suga is expected to meet with Pompeo — known for his hard-line stance against China — on the sidelines of the event, according to the sources.
In the planned meeting with Pompeo, Suga, who assumed the premiership earlier this month in the first change of Japan’s leadership in nearly eight years, is expected to underscore close security cooperation with Washington, Canberra and New Delhi, a four-way framework pursued by his predecessor Shinzo Abe.
But foreign policy experts said Suga needs to maintain a delicate balancing act between strengthening ties with Japan’s main security ally the United States and developing economic ties with China, Japan’s biggest trading partner, at a time when Washington and Beijing have been escalating tensions over issues ranging from trade to security and human rights.
Speaking at a news conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Japan is willing to cooperate with “any country” that agrees with its vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Kato was responding to a question on whether Tokyo could work with Beijing, which has been pushing ahead with militarization of the South China Sea and what critics call “debt-trap” diplomacy toward developing countries.
Japan has been pushing for a free and open Indo-Pacific, vowing to contribute to achieving stability in the Asia-Pacific region and the Indian Ocean and eventually the Middle East and Africa through the promotion of the rule of law and quality infrastructure building.