Xi Jinping visit to Japan remains key goal deterred by bilateral and geopolitics
TOKYO — “Xin chao. Toi la Suga Yoshihide.” Hello. My name is Suga Yoshihide.
So said the new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Monday, as he addressed the students of the Vietnam-Japan University in Hanoi.
In a speech titled “Building together the future of Indo-Pacific,” Suga repeated the phrase “rule of law” five times and said “developments contrary to the rule of law and openness” have been unfolding in the South China Sea.
It was clear who he was talking about. Suga, on his maiden foreign trip, was using strong language to take a dig at China’s militarization of the South China Sea.
China was watching. Normally, Chinese authorities would reach into its vocabulary book and choose the strongest words available to condemn such talk by a foreign leader.
But not this time. The response was strangely calm and restrained.
Naturally, the Suga administration’s stance is worrying to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
During Suga’s stay in Hanoi, Japan and Vietnam agreed to strengthen bilateral supply chains. That would largely mean relocation from China, now that the coronavirus pandemic has exposed the dangers of being over-reliant on one production base.