Japan’s PM Yoshihide Suga cites South China Sea concerns in push for closer Asean ties

Japan’s PM Yoshihide Suga cites South China Sea concerns in push for closer Asean ties

Japan’s new prime minister pledged on Wednesday to help Southeast Asian nations increase their maritime security capabilities, as he used his first overseas trip as leader to push his country’s vision for greater international cooperation to counter China’s influence in the region.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, speaking in the Indonesian capital, also took a thinly veiled dig at China’s activities in the disputed South China Sea, where it has built and militarised man-made islands and is pressing its claim to virtually all of the sea’s key fisheries and waterways. A number of Southeast Asian nations dispute China’s claims to the waters.

“In the Indo-Pacific that connects maritime transport between Japan and Asean, we can achieve the peace and prosperity only by fully implementing rule of law that allows anyone freedom and openness,” Suga told a news conference in Jakarta. Asean is the 11-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“But in the South China Sea, opposite actions are being taken and we are closely watching with grave concern,” Suga said. “Japan opposes to any action that would increase tensions in the South China Sea.”