Japanese Foreign Minister concludes trip to Malaysia

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi will today conclude the first leg of his ASEAN tour, during which he has held

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Photo: REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi will today conclude the first leg of his ASEAN tour, during which he has held bilateral dialogues with counterparts in Singapore and Malaysia. The top diplomat’s visit marks the first time a Japanese public official has travelled abroad during COVID-19.

Key agenda items included the resumption of essential travel—specifically, the acceleration of ‘green lanes’ to facilitate official visits and the return of migrant workers—as well as growing tensions in the South China Sea. While the issue of COVID-19 mitigation has featured prominently in discussions, the visits were partly prompted by flashpoints between the US—a long-time ally of Japan—and China over civil rights encroachment in Hong Kong, Chinese manoeuvres near Taiwan and military infrastructural development within contested South China Sea waterways.

Motegi will likely act as a US proxy in ensuring these territorial issues remain in the spotlight while Washington diverts its energy toward its impending presidential election. He is also expected to advocate for a rules-based Indo-Pacific security regime that sustains US involvement in ASEAN affairs. With both Malaysia and Singapore having formed new cabinets in March and July, respectively, Japan will be keen to reaffirm Tokyo’s commitment to regional stability and mediate the resuscitation of Japan-ASEAN business; Japan has already established a new green lane with Singapore and is expected to enter a similar arrangement with Malaysia.

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