"This visit demonstrates Japan's commitment to strengthening bilateral relations with Indonesia and translating the strategic partnerships that the two countries have established," Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi stated during a virtual media briefing on the sidelines of her working visit in Geneva, Friday.
Marsudi further noted that PM Suga's visit also reflects the spirit of cooperation that countries worldwide have to persistently promote, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic situation.
PM Suga is scheduled to meet with President Joko Widodo to discuss cooperation in handling the COVID-19 pandemic, both concerning the health and economic aspects.
"Also, how the two countries can contribute to regional peace and stability, including in the context of the ASEAN and Indo-Pacific," the minister stated.
After visiting Indonesia, PM Suga will head to Vietnam that currently holds the ASEAN chairmanship this year. He is scheduled to meet with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc. Japan's news agency, Kyodo, reported that the visit comes at a time when Japan is looking to bolster ties with Southeast Asian nations amid mounting tensions between its main security ally, the United States, and its biggest trading partner, China.
Several countries in the region are wary of China's increasing maritime assertiveness -- Vietnam is one of the claimants in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, while Indonesia's exclusive economic zone overlaps with China's nine-dash line.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, Katsunobu Kato, stated at a press conference that Suga is scheduled to meet with Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Indonesian President Widodo to discuss regional issues, including efforts to achieve a "free and open Indo-Pacific" and the situation in North Korea.
Suga held phone calls with both leaders earlier this week, during which he sought support in the endeavors to secure the return of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.
Southeast Asian countries and North Korea have enjoyed diplomatic relations, something that Japan had yet to establish with it.
Then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also visited Vietnam and Indonesia in December 2012 after his re-election for the second term.
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