HANOI — Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga pledged on Monday to help Japanese companies diversify their supply chains across Southeast Asia, making a case for tighter economic cooperation to countries wary of China’s growing influence in the region.
“Japan will further strengthen cooperation with ASEAN to increase the resilience of supply chains and build economies in Asia that are resilient to crises,” Suga said in a speech at Vietnam-Japan University here, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Suga has chosen Vietnam and Indonesia as the destinations for his first trip abroad to set his foreign policy priorities. Japan hopes to send a strong message that “the central theme of Suga diplomacy is an alliance with ASEAN to counter China’s rise,” in the words of a foreign ministry official.
“Unfortunately, in this region, developments contrary to the rule of law and openness” have taken place in the South China Sea, Suga said. “Japan is strongly opposed to any actions that escalate tensions in the South China Sea.”
Without citing Beijing by name, the prime minister implicitly suggested ASEAN and Japan to work together on maritime security to become a counterweight to China.