Indo-Pacific strategy is of great importance to Japan: official

Japan attaches great importance to the free and open Indo-Pacific strategy, which is believed by many analysts as a sign that the United States would move away from a China-centric narrative of Asia, while hopping to mend fences with Beijing this year, a Japanese government official said.

Kentaro Sonoura, a special adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, made the remarks at a recent event organized by the Atlantic Council in Washington.

Japan, the United States, India and Australia, which share the same democratic values, are the main supporters of the Indo-Pacific strategy pillared by infrastructure construction, economic cooperation and stability, Sonoura said, adding that the four countries have common interest in economy, security, antiterrorism and crackdown on cybercrime and could use the strategy to reduce the negative effect of China's rise.

Sonoura revealed at the event that the member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations would hold talks with Japan on the Indo-Pacific strategy in spring this year after Japan and India had forged a partnership for the development of defense technologies. Japan is also in urgent need to reach a maritime safety agreement with the United States, India and Australia, Sonoura said, adding that Japan supports the American call for freedom of navigation and expects the United States to reconsider joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He suggested that Japan and the United States should lay aside their trade disputes and adopt a case-by-case approach to solve their trade problems.

On the other hand, the prime minister's adviser expressed willingness to improve relations with China in 2018 in a diplomatic way, saying that China could also join the Indo-Pacific strategy if conditions allow. But Sonoura hinted that China would be excluded from the Indo-Pacific strategy if it wants to change the status quo by force. The Japanese official also spoke about the China-led Belt and Road Initiative, saying that China must first meet certain preconditions to ensure there was mutual benefit for Japan before roping in it to support and join the project.

Previously, Japanese Prime Minister Abe suggested that Japan might be interested in the Belt and Road Initiative, which was seen by some Western experts as a tool Beijing could use to expand its political and economic influence globally.

Some media reports said that India was one of the first nations to publicly shrug off the Belt and Road Initiative partly because of the territorial disputes with China and its ambition to be the bellwether in the region.

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