Report: Japan’s PM to Visit India, Philippines to Strengthen Regional Ties

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is expected visit India and the Philippines in late April, in a move to strengthen regional ties after meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden.Suga’s travels will include meeting India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, according to FILE – Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga speaks during the virtual summit of the leaders of Australia, India, Japan and the U.S., a group known as “the Quad”, at his official residence in Tokyo, March 12, 2021.The ‘Quad’ and regional securitySince Biden took office in January, the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, has become the focus of measures to counter China’s growing economic and military influence in the Indo-Pacific region. The Quad consists of Japan, the United States, Australia and India.Last November, Japan held the FILE – This Indian army photo shows Chinese troops dismantling bunkers in the Pangong Tso region along the India-China border, Feb.15, 2021. The nations pulled troops from disputed parts of their mountain border where they have been in a standoff.Denny Roy, senior fellow and supervisor of the POSCO Fellowship Program at the East-West Center in Honolulu, said India is the most reticent of the Quad members.India “will always be more cautious about confronting China because of its traditional nonalignment, its lack of consensus on its desired regional strategic role and its economic interdependence with China,” he told VOA Mandarin.Roy said the growing anxiety about Chinese dominance and the recent border skirmish “are making India increasingly supportive of security cooperation with Japan.”Indian reluctanceRichard Weitz, director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for Political-Military Analysis, told VOA Mandarin via email that although India and Japan are both concerned about Chinese aggression and threats, India is reluctant to join an alliance in opposition to China.“That said,” he added, “holding an in-person Quad Summit on the sidelines of G-7 Summit in U.K. in June would not be that provocative a step and can be defined as a meeting of the world’s leading Asian democracies.”In the Philippines, Duterte seems to be continuing to move closer to Beijing. He announced a “separation” from the United States in 2016, accepted $2 billion in Chinese funding to redevelop a former U.S military base in 2019, and the first batch of China’s Sinovac Biotech COVID-19 vaccine purchased by the Philippine government arrived in Manila on March 29. Duterte personally welcomed the vaccines.The purchase came after China donated vaccines to the Philippines in February, which Duterte described as a “gesture of friendship and solidarity — the hallmark of the Philippines-China partnership,” according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.Chinese vessels near islands, reefsThen on March 31, the Philippine government reported that more than 250 Chinese vessels had been spotted near six islands and reefs Manila claims as its own in the South China Sea. The government, which believed the vessels were operated by the Chinese military, demanded that Beijing remove them immediately.After these events, Roy said that it is hard to predict how Duterte will react to Suga’s visit, although Duterte and Suga spoke by phone late last year.“Duterte and Suga are off to a good start in their relationship based on their phone call last December,” Roy said. “Duterte has been schizophrenic in his relationship with China, but currently he seems to be in anti-China mode after Chinese fishing boats swarmed Philippine-claimed Whitsun Reef, probably under orders from Beijing. Suga will certainly be interested in encouraging the Philippines to stand up to Chinese territorial encroachment.”Adrianna Zhang contributed to this report, which originated in VOA’s Mandarin Service.

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