Japan prime minister Yoshihide Suga is in Indonesia to build a trilateral security alliance between Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia to counter China's expansionism in Asia.
Suga held talks with Indonesian president Joko Widodo and said they pledged to strengthen security cooperation. He also said they agreed to step up negotiations on a trilateral security pact with Vietnam. Japan and Vietnam earlier this week reached an agreement in principle on a similar deal.
"Considering the situation in the region, we also agree to hold a two-plus-two meeting shortly and to speed up the discussion to export defense equipment and technology [to Indonesia] as well as to develop human resources, including law enforcement, in the sea," according to Suga, who was on his first foreign trip as Japan's new leader.
Suga is on a four-day swing starting Sunday of Vietnam and Indonesia to advance Japan's "Free and Open Indo-Pacific" initiative of regional cooperation aimed at countering China. He also discussed COVID-19 and economic cooperation.
Suga told Widodo that "Japan is committed to contributing to the peace and prosperity in the region." He also said he supports efforts by Southeast Asian countries to maintain peace in the South China Sea, which China claims to own almost in its entirety.
Suga flew in from Hanoi, Vietnam where he arrived Sunday for two days of talks on a range of pressing economic and defense issues with prime minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and top Vietnamese officials.
Suga and Phuc agreed to accelerate their defense and security partnership to block China's ownership claims in the South China Sea and the East China Sea. Both prime ministers agreed to let Japan export defense equipment and technology to Vietnam. Suga expressed strong support for Japan and Vietnam's joint vision on defense.
In Vietnam, Suga said his trip to this country and Indonesia is key to pursuing multilateral economic and security cooperation to counter China's growing power while defending sea lanes in the South China Sea.
"Vietnam is crucial to achieving our vision of 'the Free and Open Indo-Pacific,' and our valuable partner,'" said Suga after his meeting with Phuc. "Japan, as an Indo-Pacific nation, will continue to contribute to the peace and stability in this region."
Japan is championing his country's FOIP initiative developed by Suga's predecessor, Abe Shinzo. Under FOIP, Japan will ally itself with "like-minded" countries alarmed by China's unrestrained military and economic expansionism.
The aspirational goal of FOIP is to establish "a free and open Indo-Pacific ... where sovereign and independent nations, with diverse cultures and many different dreams, can all prosper side-by-side, and thrive in freedom and in peace."
Phuc said Vietnam appreciates that Japan, "is one of the world's leading powers, is actively contributing its efforts to maintain peace and stability in the region and in the world."