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Japan, Indonesia Agree to Bolster Defense, Economic Ties

In this photo released by Indonesian Presidential Palace, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, left, and Indonesian President Joko Widodo listen to the national anthems during their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Bogor West Java, Oct 20, 2020..

Japan and Indonesia on Tuesday agreed to accelerate defense and trade talks over mutual concerns about an increasingly assertive China across the Indo-Pacific region.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo on the second stop of a four-day trip to Vietnam and Indonesia — his first trip abroad since taking office from Shinzo Abe in September.

Promoting his "free and open Indo-Pacific" campaign for regional cooperation, Suga called to ease business travel restrictions between the pandemic-hit countries and coordinate defense efforts in the resource-rich South China Sea.

'Accelerate talks'

In order "to further advance security and defense cooperation between the two countries amid the changing regional situation," Suga said at Bogor Palace near Jakarta, "we've agreed to hold a meeting of foreign and defense ministers at an early date and to accelerate talks over the transfer of defense equipment and technology."

"I fully support the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, which Indonesia initiated, as it has a lot of fundamental commonalities with Japan's free and open Indo-Pacific," Suga said at a joint press briefing that followed the meeting.

Joko then called strengthened Tokyo-Jakarta ties vital “amid an increasingly glaring rivalry between the world’s big powers,” an apparent reference to an intensifying confrontation between the United States and China.

Indonesia is to receive a $470 million loan for medical supplies and equipment and to bolster its pandemic-hit economy. Japan will also make infrastructural support available.

Defense agreement

The defense agreement makes Indonesia the 12th country to arrange such a deal with Japan after Vietnam, where Suga visited Monday. Other countries include the United States, Britain, Australia and the Philippines. Indonesia now is the latest country on Japan’s list to engage in ministerial talks after the two agreed to have their foreign and defense ministers meet at a later date.

Suga is scheduled to meet Wednesday with Indonesians connected to Japanese companies and lay a wreath at the Kalibata Heroes Cemetery before returning to Tokyo.

Some information is from AP and Reuters.