TOKYO — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is considering visits to Vietnam and Indonesia in mid-October, Nikkei has learned.
It will be Suga’s first overseas visits since taking office. The two countries are first on Suga’s travel itinerary, as the spread of the coronavirus outbreak has somewhat eased in the region, compared with the U.S. and Europe.
The travel plans are subject to change depending on the status of the contagion.
Suga wants to talk with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Indonesian President Joko Widodo, with a focus on resuming international travel.
Japan is already in talks with Vietnam about easing restrictions on business travel between the countries, both of which have already reopened borders to expatriates.
Suga also wants to coordinate efforts with Vietnam and Indonesia regarding the South China Sea, as U.S.-China military and economic tensions continue to heat up. Members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are wary the dispute could escalate local conflicts.
Japan will likely try to appeal to ASEAN partners about securing regional stability in a bid to curb China’s growing regional ambitions.
Suga is continuing the foreign policy of former prime minister Shinzo Abe, which is based on the concept of a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific.” It aims to strengthen deterrence against China by advocating the importance of democracy and other values, like the rule of law.
Japan has traditionally emphasized its relationship with Vietnam and Indonesia. Abe also visited the two nations first after the inauguration of his second administration in 2012.