New Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga cleared his first diplomatic hurdle Tuesday, ensuring a smooth transition in U.S.-Japan relations during his meeting with State Secretary Mike Pompeo and pushing for stronger regional ties as China seeks to augment its already growing influence in the Indo-Pacific.
The meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office took place ahead of the dialogue among foreign ministers from the so-called Quad countries — Japan, the United States, Australia and India — to discuss coronavirus pandemic responses and China’s increasing assertiveness.
Known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, Japan particularly hopes to further advance what it calls its “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” push, a vision touting the principles of freedom of navigation, free trade and dispute settlement based on the rule of law — a veiled censure against China as it has intensified its moves to assert control over the contested South China and East China seas.
Pompeo, speaking ahead of his meeting with the prime minister, credited Suga’s predecessor, Shinzo Abe, for his leadership in making bilateral ties “stronger than ever” and shared a dose of optimism that this trend would continue under the new leader.
“Prime Minister Suga was a powerful force for good for this relationship, too, when he was chief Cabinet secretary,” Pompeo said. “The United States has every reason to believe he will strengthen our enduring alliance in his new role.”