Tokyo, Nov. 12 (Jiji Press)–Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Thursday that his country seeks to strengthen cooperation with ASEAN to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific region, as advocated by Japan.
In a videoconference with leaders of member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Suga also expressed Tokyo’s readiness to support ASEAN’s integration through assistance for improving the region’s transportation and trade infrastructure, apparently with China’s increasing presence in mind.
Suga said that he strongly supports ASEAN’s own Indo-Pacific vision as it and the Japanese-proposed free and open Indo-Pacific initiative have much in common in fundamental issues.
He also said Japan will help foster 1,000 engineers in ASEAN for airport, road and railway systems over the next three years, vowing to continue assistance for ongoing infrastructure improvement projects worth a total of 2 trillion yen.
In the virtual meeting, Suga and the ASEAN leaders also exchanged opinions over international challenges, including North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs, and its abductions of Japanese and other foreign nationals.
Suga said he is seriously concerned over unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea and the South China Sea, where China is increasingly assertive.
He also showed grave concern over the situation in Hong Kong, over which China is tightening its control.
Some of the participating ASEAN leaders underlined the importance of resolving issues in the South China Sea based on international law.
At the conference, the establishment of an ASEAN infectious disease center was reported. The center was proposed in April by then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in response to the spread of the new coronavirus.