Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga Photo: REUTERS file
politics

With eye on China, Suga seeks tighter ties with Vietnam, Indonesia

26 Comments
By Linda Sieg

Japan's new leader will aim to beef up security ties when he visits Vietnam and Indonesia next week amid concerns about Beijing's growing assertiveness, but he is likely to steer clear of the harsh anti-China rhetoric used by U.S. counterparts.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, whose resume is scant on diplomatic experience, will follow in predecessor Shinzo Abe's footsteps by making the two Southeast Asian nations the destination for his first overseas trip since taking office in September.

"I think it is important to show ... we put more emphasis and importance on that region and we are interested in the security situation, especially in the South China Sea," said former diplomat Kunihiko Miyake, a special advisor to Suga.

Suga will visit Vietnam, chair of the 10-member ASEAN(Association of Southeast Asian Nations), and Indonesia, its biggest economy, on a four-day trip from Sunday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato announced on Friday.

Japan must balance its deep economic ties with China with security concerns, including Beijing's push to assert claims over disputed East China Sea isles.

Abe oversaw an improvement in ties but some ruling party MPs want a tougher stance.

ASEAN members, many of which have territorial feuds with China in vital South China Sea waterways, are wary of alienating a big economic partner and reluctant to become entrapped in an intense confrontation between the United States and China.

Scott Harold, associate director at the Rand Corporation's Center for Asia-Pacific Policy, said Japan's approach is to be firm, calm and advance its interests without asking countries to explicitly push back against China.

Beefing up defense cooperation will be a "key point" of Suga's trip to Vietnam following last week's port call of three Japanese vessels at the country's Cam Ranh naval base, said Ha Hoang Hop of the Singapore-based ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute.

China claims swathes of Vietnam's exclusive economic zone as well as the Paracel and Spratly Islands while Indonesia has been angered by Chinese coast guard intrusions into its exclusive economic zone off its Natuna Islands.

Japan plans to sign an agreement with Vietnam to allow it to export defense equipment and technology to the country, the Nikkei newspaper reported this week. A Japanese official said Japan was talking about enhancing defense cooperation with both Hanoi and Jakarta but could not comment on the outcomes.

Suga's trip follows last week's Tokyo meeting of the "Quad", an informal grouping of India, Australia, Japan and the United States, which Washington sees as a bulwark against China.

Beijing has denounced the Quad as a "mini-NATO" meant to contain China.

Hop said Vietnam could endorse the Quad as the group becomes more inclusive and as Beijing becomes more aggressive in South China Sea. Indonesia, however, is wary.

"Indonesia, which puts a high primacy on ASEAN's centrality, is going to be very ambivalent about the Quad because it undermines that whole principle … They are unlikely to jump on the quad bandwagon," said Euan Graham at the Singapore-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Suga's visit also coincides with Japan's efforts to diversify its supply chains and reduce reliance on China by bringing production home or locating more in Southeast Asia.

He will likely announce an expansion of Japan's subsidies for production in Southeast Asia on his trip, the Nikkei said.

Vietnam is a popular choice for Japanese firms. Half of the 30 Japanese firms that took advantage of a 23.5 billion yen($223.28 million) government scheme to diversify supply chains in Southeast Asia targeted Vietnam, which has aggressively courted Japanese investment.

Only one opted for Indonesia, where Japanese firms complain about a sometimes arbitrary regulatory environment, prompting Tokyo to call for improvements.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

26 Comments
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ASEAN plus Japan plus India can counter China on their own without meddling from the USA.

-4 ( +7 / -11 )

I don't get it, as simple as that. If Suga has problems with China, he should go to Beijing, not Vietnam, which is a part of China of course but it was many years ago.

Since when China claimed Vietnam's EEZ ? Just a lie, as lie as that. Vietnam is the first country recognized Chinese 9-dashed line claim in 1957, while EEZ comes in 1997, 40 years too late. It was Vietnam who claimed Chinese territorial water, as true as that.

As for Paracel and Spratly Islands, Japan knows better than anyone that she returned them back to China at the end of war. Does Japan want to claim that the war never is ended ?

If Japan loves China and Chinese people, then quit the quad now, not later.

-18 ( +3 / -21 )

Freddy Freeway, why would Asians be against Asians ? Base on which law, or morality ?

-15 ( +2 / -17 )

Good move, All asia against pirates China - N.Korea

Beijing has denounced the Quad as a "mini-NATO" meant to contain China.

Buuuujujuhhhh !!!.. Chinese crybabies, shameless repressors who want to steal the sea from the rest of Asia..

5 ( +12 / -7 )

I hope Suga is a good man. Have a safe trip but don't lie and bad mouth China.

-16 ( +1 / -17 )

China grew fast economically but their mentality has not caught up with their economic growth. They remain ignorant and barbarous. People's eyes are blinded and different and opposite opinions are shut out by one party ruling. China is a dangerous country. We should not let China expand their influences in the world.

4 ( +11 / -7 )

Good for Suga. Please allow freedom-loving, rule of law following nations like Vietnam and Indonesia into QUAD, and hopefully soon Taiwan, Thailand and Philippines.

The more nations willing to go toe-to-toe with the Commies, the better.

10 ( +13 / -3 )

Good thing about democracy is their governments can be changed relatively easily by elections while it takes a lot of energy to change the government of totalitarian countries. One party communism country is a police state. You words and conducts are watched by secret polices all the time. I am also worried about China's archaic nationalism - revival of great China.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

"If Japan loves China and Chinese people, then quit the quad now, not later."

Japan does not love China or the Chinese people, well maybe Japan loves Chinese women and food, so I guess Japan should stay in, and expand the Quad.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Freddy Freeway, why would Asians be against Asians ? Base on which law, or morality ?

That is a good question. Why is China against Asian and indeed its own Uighur population? Why does it expect other nations to defer to it and sacrifice their own territories to China's demands? What law or morality do they imagine allows them to claim International waters in the South China sea and the EEZ belonging to many other nations?

I don't get it, as simple as that. If Suga has problems with China, he should go to Beijing, not Vietnam, which is a part of China of course but it was many years ago.

China dominates all nations except America. China does not like having others band together to deal with issues as it can not simply dominate them like it can single nations. This is not a trade issue but a security and sovereignty issue. Both China and you should stop living in the past. Vietnam's history is the past and not relevant to today. China used to be many separate little kingdoms that were of themselves insignificant.

That all of these South Asian nations and others see China as belligerent obviously has a basis in fact. China must reverse its bad decisions, remove the man made islands from other nations territories and ask their forgiveness. China must halt its continual build up for war and making more and more equipment for war.

China should focus on peace instead. But I dont think there is much chance of that. It prepares to make war in the region and while doing so, hopes to convince others to stop building up their own forces making Beijing's war plans easier and more likely to succeed.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

China under Xi, who thinks of himself as an emperor or a new Mao is a danger for everyone. Lucky Trump has understood that. The rest of Asia must react now like India and Taiwan do. And Hongkong.

Akie, how about signing with your real Chinese name instead of hiding while you spread your propaganda

9 ( +12 / -3 )

Suga needs to ask Hitachi et al about Indonesia and its corrupt system of goverment. Is Japan willing to go lower than China? I doubt it.

China's totalitarian state with no accountability no anyone but itself will always be willing to stoop to the lowest of morals and ethics (if any at all). Just look at China's friends around the world, all psychopathics dictators, and loony totalitarian states full of cronyism and corruption.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Well with Chinese Premier telling his troops not to worry about their families and to get ready for war. I would suggest Japan do the same or get ready to lose several Islands.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

China occupies Paracel Islands in the SCS out of their desperation. Americans got Taiwan, and they effectively block China's naval might. Controlling the SCS is originally thought to be a stepping plan to allow Chinese naval might be great again, except Vietnam block the Chinese again because the Vietnamese controlled almost all of SCS with their artificial islands. Additionally, Singapore is also on the American side mostly. China is once again naval-locked. Taiwan is a very important strategic location that will allow China breaking through American naval block-hold to go straight into the Pacific Ocean.

China screws up their plan of becoming a superpower through declaring the malevolent intentions to the world and seeding conflicts against 11 bordering countries. This is a suicidal move that the USA will exploit for their own advantages against China, divide-and-conquer strategy. I know that Xi Jinping was born to a father who was extremely liberal and anti-authoritarian. He might have picked up a lot of liberal democratic philosophies from his father, so he is accelerating the decline of CCP through making China as the world's enemy. This is only a logical explanation for China's suicidal movies in the last decades. Even Jiang faction and other factions in the CCP are preparing to flee China and colluding with the West for the birth of a new China after the CCP. Guo Wengui is a prime example of such, as he was a henchman of Jiang Zemin, who now lobbies and campaigns against Xi Jinping.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Suga, the newly non-elected PM of the same old ultranationalist party, number 3 after Abe in Nippon Kaishin, showing support for his democratic- aspiring country by making nice with authoritarian regimes such as Vietnam and Indonesia. This guy is dangerously untutored.

What a player.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

"Suga, the newly non-elected PM of the same old ultranationalist party, "

Same old name calling from the same old crowd. Your comments lack intelligence. Dude get some new material.

1 ( +7 / -6 )

Undoubtedly, after the Quad meeting, Japan's premier is seeking further help from Indonesia and Vietnam to push China aside. Be reminded that China is not going to take the offence quietly and do nothing. When there is a backlash, it would be real heavy for the seemingly over-euphoric new premier. Better try to be more friendly..

-7 ( +1 / -8 )

Freddy FreewayToday  06:47 am JST

ASEAN plus Japan plus India can counter China on their own without meddling from the USA.

Perhaps. But it doesn't hurt to have the most militarily powerful nation on Earth on your side. Not to mention the string of allies Australia, UK, EU, Canada, etc.

It is clear that China's behavior is not acceptable to the entire world.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

That's a good move by Suga (aka Avenger Captain America) and pretty sure that Abe (aka Nick Fury leader of S.H.I.E.L.D) is monitoring developing situations in the backroom. Pretty sure Suga has the other Ministers (rest of the AVENGERS) covering his back.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

good and smart move Suga!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Peace is most important in this century..Malupilation to get selfish needs MUST be an action of the past. The visit to these countries are very important for Japan to learn and make understanding of all neighbors including China.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Though both Vietnam and Indonesia are key states for Japan's security as well as economy, don't expect too much from the two regarding the "China problem" by a single PM visit. They wouldn't easily side with Japan or the US. Vietnam had been conflicting with its northern neighbor for millennia, AND fought war against the imperial Japan, then the West (France and US). Indonesia led the third, "non aligned" movement during the Cold War.

If Suga ensures some neutrality from the two over China, that would be an enough, big achievement.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"ASEAN plus Japan plus India can counter China on their own without meddling from the USA."

ASEAN is not a monolith. Laos and Cambodia are totally sold out to China.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Be reminded that China is not going to take the offence quietly and do nothing. When there is a backlash, it would be real heavy for the seemingly over-euphoric new premier. Better try to be more friendly..

If China played friendly these actions and seeking of new alliances would not be necessary. Nobody is going to care if China takes offense or not. Nobody is going to care what actions China may take. All nations in the region are at risk from China's beligerence and massive military build up. That China is now openly preparing for war the only question is when it will begin, who is China's first target, and how much of the world does Xi wish to conquer.

Every nation in the region and close to this region must prepare for Xi's coming war and those not prepared will be quickly conquered. Major conflicts mean major casualties in the tens of millions. WWIII could have casualties in the hundreds of millions. Nobody wants this except China. It thinks it has a destiny to rule. Hitler had the same ideal and the cost in lives was high. Xi will make it even higher.

China must renounce war and conflict and stop building for the mass destruction it is seeking. One thing history has shown is those who start a major conflict often lose the most lives.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Freddy FreewayToday  06:47 am JST

ASEAN plus Japan plus India can counter China on their own without meddling from the USA

I couldn't have said better. China is a manageable threat. We must not play into America's war fantasy

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Seth MToday 03:41 pm JST

ASEAN plus Japan plus India can counter China on their own without meddling from the USA

I couldn't have said better. China is a manageable threat. We must not play into America's war fantasy

Nobody in America wants a new war. China is the only one with a fantasy for a war and it is likely to start one very soon. If you think Asia will stand together against China you will be dissapointed by a few countries like Pakistan will join China if India fights China. China will do much better than many believe if the US is not involved. You think China is manageable? You are wrong. They will need to learn the hard way and that means the hard way for all its neighbors too. like it or not.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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