Japan to seek talks with US, India, Australia

Move is to promote trade and defence ties to offset China's expansion: Foreign Minister

TOKYO • Japan will propose a strategic dialogue with leaders of the United States, India and Australia, aiming at counteracting China's expansion under its "Belt and Road" policy, Foreign Minister Taro Kono told the Nikkei business daily.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is expected to propose the idea to US President Donald Trump on Nov 6, when they plan to hold a summit meeting, reported the Nikkei yesterday.

The proposal is for the leaders of the four nations to promote free trade and defence cooperation across land and sea to South-east, South and Central Asia, and beyond to the Middle East and Africa, Mr Kono said in an interview with the Nikkei on Wednesday.

"We are in an era when Japan has to assert itself diplomatically by drawing a big strategic picture," Mr Kono was quoted as saying.

"To maintain a free and open ocean, the economy and security will surely be on the table," he said.

Mr Kono said the aim was to also promote high-quality infrastructure investment across Asia and Africa. Chinese President Xi Jinping's vast Belt and Road infrastructure project was included in the ruling Communist Party's Constitution on Tuesday, giving it greater policy heft and added pressure to succeed.

The Belt and Road plan, a Silk Road-like initiative, is a vehicle for China to take a greater role on the international stage by funding and building transport and trade links across more than 60 countries.

Mr Kono also said putting pressure on North Korea would "certainly be necessary" to make Pyongyang dismantle its missile and nuclear weapons development programmes, according to the Nikkei.

LOOKING AT THE BIG PICTURE

We are in an era when Japan has to exert itself diplomatically by drawing a big strategic picture. To maintain a free and open ocean, the economy and security will surely be on the table.

FOREIGN MINISTER TARO KONO

He said if North Korea accepted a review by the International Atomic Energy Agency, it would be "the most trustworthy" option to create conditions for talks between Pyongyang and the international community.

The recent warning from North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho of a possible atmospheric nuclear test over the Pacific Ocean should be taken literally, a senior North Korean official told CNN in an interview aired on Wednesday.

"The Foreign Minister is very well aware of the intentions of our supreme leader (Mr Kim Jong Un), so I think you should take his words literally," Mr Ri Yong Pil, a senior diplomat in North Korea's Foreign Ministry, told CNN.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2017, with the headline 'Japan to seek talks with US, India, Australia'. Print Edition | Subscribe