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Japan foreign minister to visit Singapore, Malaysia this weekend

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi. (Mainichi, pool)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said Friday he will visit Singapore and Malaysia this weekend as part of efforts to step up Japan's cooperation with ASEAN in achieving a free and open Indo-Pacific.

    Hayashi told a press conference that he is slated to hold talks with his Singaporean and Malaysian counterparts Vivian Balakrishnan and Saifuddin Abdullah during his four-day trip through Monday. Both countries belong to the 10-country Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

    "We will boost partnership toward the realization of a free and open Indo-Pacific and deepen bilateral cooperation (with Singapore and Malaysia) in a wide range of fields such as the economy, national security and people-to-people exchanges," Hayashi said.

    The free and open Indo-Pacific vision has been advocated by security allies Japan and the United States in a veiled counter to China's increasing economic and military clout in the region.

    Japan has also pledged to support ASEAN's efforts to realize the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, an initiative aimed at maintaining peace, freedom and prosperity in the area.

    Hayashi is expected to call on the two nations to work together for rules-based international order, and express opposition to any unilateral attempts to alter the status quo across the world, given the situation in Ukraine where Russia's war still goes on, according to a Japanese official.

    Among the 10 members of ASEAN, a group known for its principle of neutrality toward major powers, Singapore is the only nation that has joined the U.S.-led economic sanctions on Russia.

    With Japan set to remove its cap of 50,000 daily arrivals from overseas and resume individual visa-free trips into the country on Tuesday as part of easing coronavirus border controls, further expansion of tourism exchanges between Japan and Southeast Asia is likely to be among the other topics, the official said.

    It will be the first time a Japanese foreign minister has visited both Singapore and Malaysia since August 2020.

    Next year, Japan and ASEAN mark the 50th anniversary of their friendship, which began in 1973 with the establishment of a Japan-ASEAN forum on synthetic rubber.

    Hayashi also said his Canadian counterpart Melanie Joly will stay in Japan for three days through Thursday, and the two will hold talks in Tokyo on Tuesday.

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