Asahi reported on growing speculation within the GOJ that the incoming Biden administration is unlikely to use the term “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP), quoting a MOFA source as saying: “Mr. Biden perhaps does not want to use the Trump administration’s language…. A politician does not wear someone else’s shoes even though they are expensive.” The daily took note of a press release issued by the Biden transition team following his teleconference with Prime Minister Suga on Nov. 12. While the premier called for cooperation to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific, the President-elect reportedly said his administration will enhance the U.S.-Japan alliance to maintain a “secure and prosperous” Indo-Pacific. The daily also noted that the Japanese leader himself did not use the term “free and open” when he debriefed the press on the ASEAN-Japan/China/ROK summit on Nov. 14. Suga reportedly mentioned a “peaceful and prosperous” Indo-Pacific. The language was reportedly drafted by the Foreign Ministry while taking into account ASEAN members’ various views of China. GOJ officials reportedly dismissed speculation that the new wording suggested a change in the FOIP initiative.
In a related development, Nikkei and Sankei wrote that PM Suga and his Dutch counterpart Rutte held a teleconference yesterday and agreed to deepen mutual coordination to realize a “free and open Indo-Pacific” region.