Japanese PM plans Southeast Asia trip amid Russia and China concerns

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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. (Kyodo)

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida plans to visit Southeast Asia during the Golden Week holiday from late April, seeking to strengthen cooperation in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and growing assertiveness of China in the region, diplomatic sources said on Tuesday.

Kishida plans to visit Thailand in early May on his trip which will include Indonesia and Vietnam, while he also plans to visit Britain and Italy during the holiday period.

During the upcoming trip to Southeast Asia, Kishida is expected to emphasize cooperation in realizing the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific amid China’s rise.

In Thailand, Kishida will meet Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. The visit coincides with the 135th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, as Thailand hosts the Asia-Pacific economic cooperation summit this year.

Kishida’s visit to Indonesia, meanwhile, will come as the country prepares to host this year’s Group of 20 leaders’ summit in November.

In Europe, Kishida is expected to meet British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi to discuss how to respond to Russia’s continued aggression in Ukraine and support those who have fled the war-torn country. .

But Kishida’s itinerary is still under review and “may change depending on the situation”, one of the sources said.

While the coronavirus pandemic has long stalled in-person meetings, Kishida, who took office in October, stepped up face-to-face diplomacy after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.

The prime minister visited India and Cambodia in late March, quickly followed by a trip to Belgium, where he and other Group of Seven leaders pledged to closely monitor any attempt to help Russia escape sanctions, in a possible warning to countries. such as China which might seek to align itself with Moscow.

Kishida is also expected to receive leaders from other countries in the coming weeks.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz plans to travel to Japan in late April for talks with Kishida, the visit being his first since taking office last December.

US President Joe Biden said on Monday he planned to visit Japan in late May for a “Quad” summit also involving the leaders of Australia and India.

It will be Biden’s first visit to Japan as president, and the summit is expected to demonstrate increased cooperation between the four major Indo-Pacific democracies as they try to deal with China’s rise in the region.

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