Kishida must deepen cooperation to safeguard international order

Unless Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is forced to fail, the international order will be shaken to its very foundations. Japan should make every diplomatic effort to cooperate even with countries that have differing positions.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has begun a three-country visit to Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand. The prime minister will then head to Europe to coordinate increased pressure on Russia.

In Indonesia, Kishida held talks with Indonesian President Joko Widodo and confirmed a policy of cooperation toward an immediate halt to the use of force by Russia.

In a joint press conference following the meeting, the prime minister said, “We confirmed that the unilateral change of the status quo by force is not acceptable in any region and that we will seek a peaceful resolution of disputes based on international law.” Widodo also stressed, “War must be stopped.”

Indonesia aspires to a nonaligned approach and has not joined in sanctions against Russia. In this context, it can be said to be an achievement that the two leaders were able to send a clear message together to Russia calling for a halt to the invasion.

The two leaders agreed to work together closely for the success of the summit of the Group of 20 major economies, which Indonesia serves as president this year.

Widodo issued a statement on the same day of the talks with Kishida that Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to attend the G20 summit, which is scheduled to be held in November. The United States is seeking to exclude Russia from the G20 summit, and coordination may face difficulties henceforth.

The prime minister reportedly told Widodo, “The international community cannot continue to have the same relationship with Russia as before.” Further communication must be made to avoid prolonged confusion at the G20.

At the their meeting, the leaders also agreed to cooperate to protect free and open seas based on the rule of law, with China’s continued hegemonic behavior in the East and South China Seas in mind. Both waters are important sea-lanes, and ensuring freedom of navigation is a common interest.

At the meeting, Kishida conveyed an intention to consider patrol vessel provision to Indonesia to guard its coast. Japan is urged to support the improvement of its coast guard capabilities by further promoting exports of defense equipment and technology transfers in the future.

Singapore is the only country among the member counties of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that has imposed sanctions against Russia.

During his visits to Vietnam and Thailand, the prime minister should persistently explain that rule-based international order is important so as to curb China’s coercive behavior and align the two countries’ policies toward Russia with those of Japan as much as possible.

As a member of the Group of Seven (G7) advanced nations, Japan has a great responsibility to deepen solidarity with ASEAN.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, May 1, 2022)