Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said on May 12 that Japan “strongly opposes” China’s growing assertiveness at sea in a phone call with Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
Tokyo is deeply concerned about “unilateral efforts to change the status quo in South China and East China Seas,” including the recent introduction of legislation by Beijing to allow its Coast Guard to use weapons against The ship it considers invading its territory, Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs quoted Mr. Suga as telling Phuc, according to the Jakarta Post.
China is increasing its claims over the Senkaku Islands, a group of small islands in the East China Sea managed by Japan. Beijing has also militarized outposts in the South China Sea that Vietnam and other neighboring countries are contested with.
Mr. Suga was elected as the new Prime Minister of Japan
During the 20-minute call, Mr. Suga told Phuc that the two countries are key partners in the effort to realize a “free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Mr. Phuc and Mr. Suga also agreed to promote cooperation in the implementation of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), strengthening connectivity between the two economies in terms of investment and trade, and expanding bilateral cooperation in agriculture, labor, and local cooperation as well as close coordination to prepare to well organize activities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2023, according to Tuoi Tre.
Both leaders agreed that in the context that Vietnam is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the term 2020-2021 and the country coordinating ASEAN-Japan relations 2018-2021, the two countries need to continue close cooperation at multilateral forums, especially at the UN and ASEAN, and promote cooperation within the framework of the Mekong-Japan.
Working together against Covid
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam said that at the phone call, the two sides agreed to continue to strengthen exchanges and contact at all levels, especially at high levels, to improve the effectiveness of mechanisms for close cooperation and coordination, increasing strengthening cooperation in the fields of Covid-19 prevention, still according to Tuoi Tre.
Mr. Suga also mentioned Japan pledged to grant JPY200 million of non-refundable aid to cold storage lines for vaccines, supply marine scientific research vessels, and will open the Consulate General of Japan in Da Nang in 2022.
Mr. Suga has prioritized strengthening relations with countries in Southeast Asia in an effort to counter China’s growing influence. He chose Vietnam and Indonesia for his first overseas trip after taking office last September.
Last year, at a meeting with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc on October 19, during Prime Minister Suga’s first overseas trip since taking office as Prime Minister of Japan, Mr. Suga affirmed Vietnam’s relations and Japan is the strongest relationship ever.
Mr. Phuc also emphasized during that meeting that for Vietnam, Japan is a very important strategic partner.”