Japan’s Suga holds talks with EU leaders on vaccines, Indo-Pacific
Written by tokyoclub on May 27, 2021
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga held a virtual conference with European Union leaders on Thursday to discuss the fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccines as well as efforts to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific region amid China’s growing influence.
In the talks with European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Suga is expected to voice deep concerns over “unilateral attempts to change the status quo” in Japan’s surrounding waters, according to a Foreign Ministry official.
Beijing has been stepping up its claim to the Japan-administered Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, sending coast guard ships to nearby waters in what Tokyo sees as an attempt to exert control.
China has also carried on with the militarization of artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, where Beijing and its neighbors have overlapping sovereignty claims, despite a 2016 international court ruling against the Chinese stance.
In an effort to counter such moves, Japan has boosted cooperation with the United States as well as Australia and India. Known collectively as the Quad, the four nations have conducted joint military exercises and held their first summit virtually in March.
Meanwhile, the European Union is seeking to play a larger role in the Indo-Pacific and adopted a strategy last month for cooperation with partners in the region.
Suga is expected to ask the EU leaders for support on a summit Japan will cohost next week with the U.N.-backed Covax Facility regarding the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries, the official said, with other issues including climate change and this summer’s Tokyo Olympics also on the agenda.