Japanese prime minister to visit Hanoi

Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to travel to Vietnam today on his first overseas trip since taking office.

Japanese prime minister hanoi

Photo: Kim Kyung-Hoon/ Reuters

Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga is expected to travel to Vietnam today on his first overseas trip since taking office.

The visit to Vietnam, and Indonesia later in the week, demonstrates ASEAN’s importance in Japan’s international engagement. Japan’s tripartite foreign policy strategy has focused on expanding high-level diplomatic talks, private investment and overseas development assistance, and regional security cooperation.

Japan’s ties with the region were strengthened under former prime minister Shinzo Abe’s administration in response to China’s growing influence and uncertainty about Washington’s commitment to the region. While diplomatic and economic ties are the longstanding core of the relationship, Japan’s overturn of its ban on arms exports in 2014, the 2016 Vientiane-Vision and a 2017 ship rider agreement have increased ASEAN-wide security cooperation.

Expect Suga to continue Abe’s Southeast Asia policies. This week’s meetings are likely to focus on economic matters in light of the COVID-19 induced downturn. The upcoming US presidential elections will have significant ramifications for both ASEAN-Japan engagement and Japanese factions hoping to reform Article 9 of the constitution, which limits security engagement abroad. While cooperation can be expanded by many measures, visits such as Suga’s provide a concrete demonstration of Tokyo’s commitment to the region.

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