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Editorial: Kishida's Asian diplomacy should focus on Japan's regional stability initiative

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has returned from a five-nation tour of Southeast Asia and Europe. During talks with the leaders of those nations, Kishida addressed the importance of maintaining international order amid Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

    The highlight of the eight-day trip was his visits to Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand ahead of his European tour.

    While the leaders of those three nations agreed on the need to observe international law and a peaceful solution to the Ukrainian crisis, they skirted around condemning Russia by name during joint press conferences, bringing the difference in views with those of Japan, the United States and European nations into sharp relief.

    Southeast Asian countries have traditionally upheld omnidirectional diplomacy, and many of those nations have placed weight on their relations with not just Japan and the U.S., but also with China and Russia.

    In Vietnam, most of the weapons it possesses are made in Russia due to their ties since before the collapse of the Soviet Union. When Japan and other G-7 countries imposed economic sanctions on Russia, Singapore was the only nation to keep in step with the move among Southeast Asian countries.

    This year will see a string of international conferences being hosted in Southeast Asia, and the focal question is whether Russia will be allowed to partake in those meetings. Indonesia will be chairing G-20 summit talks, while Thailand is hosting the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum conference.

    Whether Asian countries can take a concerted approach to the Ukrainian crisis will serve as a touchstone for their solidarity against China. It was legitimate for Prime Minister Kishida to state during a press conference in Britain that the use of force to change the status quo must not be allowed in the Indo-Pacific region.

    China has been stepping up its aggression in the South China Sea and East China Sea. While Southeast Asian nations have deep economic ties with China, they are wary of Beijing's moves to change the status quo in the region.

    In Europe, there has been a growing sense of crisis against the rise of China in recent years. During his trip to Italy and Britain, Prime Minister Kishida agreed with his counterparts that their nations will cooperate in ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. Kishida and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also broadly agreed on a pact to deepen collaboration between the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and the British military. Both moves have apparently come with China in mind.

    In what is known as the Fukuda Doctrine, or a principle of Japanese diplomacy for Southeast Asia based on a speech delivered by then Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda in 1977, Japan advocated a relationship of trust with Southeast Asian countries through heart-to-heart understanding and an equal partnership. Japan is called upon to engage in diplomacy where it deepens its collaborative ties with other countries while paying consideration to the circumstances faced by each nation.

    If Japan is to stop playing the role of a bridge between Asia and Western nations, it must not forget its position as being a part of Asia. Japan has a responsibility to fulfill a leading role in promoting regional stability.

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