|Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga arrives in Hanoi on October 18, beginning his official visit to Vietnam. (Photo by=VNA)|
[Asia News Communication = Reporter Reakkana] Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga arrived in Hanoi on Sunday on the first stop for a four-day trip to Vietnam and Indonesia in his first foreign travel since taking office, as he looks to strengthen ties with Southeast Asian countries.
In separate meetings with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Suga is expected to promote efforts to meet a "free and open Indo-Pacific" as well as discuss economic cooperation amid the COVID-19 crisis. The visit comes as China's growing maritime assertiveness is prompting Japan to seek support from like-minded countries in Southeast Asia. Vietnam is one of the claimants in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, while Indonesia's exclusive economic zone overlaps with China's nine-dash line.
"I would like to show a resolve to give to peace and prosperity in the region toward realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific," Suga told reporters before leaving Haneda airport in Tokyo. Suga and Phuc, slated to meet Monday in Hanoi, are expected to agree to ease the cross-border flow of medical equipment and other goods as Japan looks to diversify its supply chain in light of the pandemic, according to Foreign Ministry officials. The countries are close to reaching a military agreement enabling Japan to export defense equipment and technology to Vietnam.