On Feb. 25, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga sent a video message to the 2nd Tokyo Global Dialogue, an international expert conference organized by the Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA). In the message, Suga said, “We will strategically promote a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” by closely cooperating with like-minded countries, indicating his intention to strengthen cooperation with the U.S., Australia, India, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The prime minister pointed out, “The security environment of the region is becoming increasingly severe” with China, which is stepping up maritime expansion in the East and South China Seas, in mind. He emphasized, “It is a free and open order based on the rule of law, not force, that will bring peace and prosperity to the region and the world.”
Meanwhile, Minister for Foreign Affairs Toshimitsu Motegi said in a video message, “If countries are using [COVID-19] vaccines, which at present can be described as the most strategic material, as an arbitrary diplomatic tool, that will clearly go against the interest common to all humankind.” He made the remark as a stern warning to China and Russia over their “vaccine diplomacy” meant to extend their influence by providing their home-grown vaccines to other countries. (Abridged)