• Asia-Pacific

ASEAN Seeks Regional Stability By Boosting Ties With Japan; China, Myanmar Among Numerous Issues Troubling Area

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, right, meets with Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, left, at the Prime Minister’s Office on Saturday.

The member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations expressed their desire to strengthen relations with Japan to ensure regional stability, at the special summit held in Tokyo.

The ASEAN meeting began Saturday amid a mountain of problems inside and outside the region. They include the ongoing confrontation between the United States and China, and the issue of Myanmar, whose national army staged a coup. ASEAN’s security is also threatened by its growing economic dependence on China.

At the Japan-Vietnam summit that was held on Saturday afternoon prior to the special summit meeting, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida hugged each other soon after Chinh appeared at the meeting venue.

A Vietnamese official who was accompanying Chinh said Vietnam considers maritime security to be a major issue for the country and hopes to strengthen relations with Japan in this area.

Kishida held bilateral talks with seven ASEAN leaders that day. At the Japan-Malaysia summit held on the sidelines of the ASEAN meeting, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said Japan’s role was very important.

The environment surrounding the ASEAN region has changed significantly since the last special summit 10 years ago.

With the U.S.-China confrontation taking shape since the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration in 2017, both the United States and China have sought to attract ASEAN countries by initiating stronger economic cooperation.

ASEAN has followed a basic course of balanced diplomacy, aiming to achieve economic development by striking a balance among major powers including the United States, Europe, China, and Russia.

As China’s economic influence has grown in recent years, Laos, Cambodia and other countries that seek rapid economic development have become increasingly dependent on China.

Vietnam and the Philippines are becoming increasingly wary of China’s growing hegemonic moves in the South China Sea, as regional security is threatened by Beijing using the economy as leverage.

Within the region, ASEAN member states are increasingly divided over the Myanmar national army’s coup in 2021. Indonesia has been critical of Myanmar’s national army, while Thailand, which is more accommodating, has held a series of informal meetings with the junta.