Expand solidarity through exceptional cooperation

China’s influence in Asia is growing. Japan should continue high-quality cooperation with developing countries and expand the circle of solidarity.

The Asia Security Summit, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue, was held in Singapore with more than 40 countries participating, including Japan, China, South Korea, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, the United States and Australia.

In his speech, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida emphasized the sense of crisis over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying, “Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow.” He also announced his intention to draw up an action plan by spring next year to promote a “free and open Indo-Pacific.”

This statement was apparently made with China in mind, which has no intention of stopping its high-handed maritime expansion. The action plan should specify concrete measures to expand freedom of navigation and the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific region.

China is increasing its presence in Asia. According to a Foreign Ministry opinion poll of ASEAN countries in January, China ranked top among the Group of 20 major countries and regions as a country or region that would become an “important partner for the future,” with 48% of respondents saying so. Japan was in second place at 43%.

This is the first time since 2008 that China has outranked Japan. This appears to be influenced by China’s expansion of investment in Asia under its “One Belt, One Road” initiative aimed at creating a huge economic zone. Beijing has invested heavily in many projects, including port development in Malaysia and thermal power plant construction in Vietnam.

The government must take the findings of the poll seriously. It is important to continue to cooperate with ASEAN countries to build close ties. The government should maintain its stance of working together with them for the sake of regional peace and stability.

Laos has obtained a vast amount of loans from China for the construction of railways, and it is thought that the country will end up in dire straits in order to repay its debts. It must be said that excessive investment is hindering the sound development of developing countries.

Japan has been supporting such countries under its policy of “high-quality infrastructure investment,” which attaches importance to transparency in financing, consideration for the environment and job creation, among other points. Japan’s goal is to assist the self-sustaining development of those countries. It is also important to urge China to review its investment approach.

Another characteristic of Japan’s support is to promote exports of defense equipment, aiming to strengthen the defense capabilities of Asian countries themselves. It is hoped that confidence in this posture will be enhanced.

A meeting of the defense chiefs of Japan, the United States and South Korea was also held in Singapore. Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi and his two counterparts affirmed that they share deep concern over North Korea’s nuclear and missile development and will handle the situation together. They also agreed to deepen trilateral security cooperation.

It is essential to steadily promote the exchange of classified information, policy consultations and joint exercises among other things to ensure regional stability.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, June 12, 2022)