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Global NewsJapan strengthens diplomacy of Pacific island countries to contain China

Japan strengthens diplomacy of Pacific island countries to contain China


File photo: Flags of member countries participating in the Pacific Islands Forum in Aaron, Nauru.  (September 5, 2018)
File photo: Flags of member countries participating in the Pacific Islands Forum in Aaron, Nauru. (September 5, 2018)

TAIPEI- 

According to a number of Japanese media reports, Japan will open an embassy in Kiribati and a consulate in French New Caledonia this year, but this news has not been officially confirmed by Japan. Some experts pointed out that given China’s use of loans to set up military strongholds in the South Pacific island countries, the United States and Japan will strengthen their diplomatic and military presence in the region to fully counter China.

China’s involvement creates imbalances in the Pacific

Since the end of last year to the beginning of the year, a number of Japanese media have reported that Japan will open an embassy in Kiribati this year. To this end, democratic allies led by the United States will prevent the growing presence of Chinese forces in the Indo-Pacific region. Lidonia opens a consulate to facilitate military cooperation between Japan and France. Japanese foreign ministry officials have confirmed the opening of a consulate in French New Caledonia.

Fumji Abe, Honorary Professor of Liberal Arts, Osaka University of Education (Photo courtesy: Fumji Abe)
Fumji Abe, Honorary Professor of Liberal Arts, Osaka University of Education (Photo courtesy: Fumji Abe)

Bunji Abe, an emeritus professor of liberal arts at Osaka University of Education in Japan, said the strategic locations of Kiribati and French New Caledonia are extremely important.

He told VOA: “Kiribati is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. New Caledonia is also on the route from the United States to Australia. If these two places are controlled by Chinese power, it will be difficult for the United States, Australia, Japan, Taiwan to Strategic traffic between the two countries is a big threat. So in order for the Pacific to continue to be the ‘lake of the free world’, it is most important to connect the island nations of the Pacific more closely with democracies.”

In an interview with VOA, Professor Yang Junchi, Distinguished Research Fellow of the Center for Japanese Studies at Sun Yat-Sen University in Taiwan, said that the United States, Britain, France and Japan used to rule or manage the South Pacific island countries in the past, and Australia and New Zealand also actively participated in the South Pacific region due to geographical factors. affairs. The South Pacific island countries are very close to these countries. Among them, the United States and Australia are important countries to maintain the balance of the South Pacific region, and Japan provides a large amount of economic assistance to the South Pacific island countries. However, in recent years, China’s expansion of power in this region has changed the situation.

Yang Junchi said: “China is actively operating the South Pacific island countries through the ‘One Belt And One Road’ initiative. Taking Kiribati as an example, China has provided funds to repair airport runways and harbor facilities in the name of revitalizing tourism, and also assisted the local repair of communication equipment used for satellite tracking. Although the above projects are economic development projects, they also have military purposes, especially in the field of space warfare. Taking the Solomon Islands as an example, Chinese state-owned enterprises once wanted to lease Tulagi Island as a special economic zone for a long time. And the construction of military ports. China uses South Pacific island countries to set up military strongholds, and the United States and Australia are very concerned about the follow-up development of these events.”

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) quoted defense experts as saying on June 10, 2021 that Kiribati plans to accept Chinese funding to renovate an abandoned airport on the local Canton Island (Kanton). Kiribati opposition lawmaker England Iuta worries that the cost of the related projects may be beyond what the local area can afford, and that China may further intervene in local politics.

Professor Yang Junchi, Distinguished Research Fellow of the Center for Japanese Studies, Sun Yat-Sen University (Photo courtesy: Yang Junchi)
Professor Yang Junchi, Distinguished Research Fellow of the Center for Japanese Studies, Sun Yat-Sen University (Photo courtesy: Yang Junchi)

Professor Yang Junchi, a distinguished researcher at the Center for Japanese Studies at Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan, said that because of China’s active intervention, the regional order in the South Pacific has become unbalanced. China provides a lot of economic assistance to the South Pacific island countries in the name of building infrastructure, but the large amount of loans has triggered the debt crisis of the South Pacific island countries, and China uses these bases with economic and military purposes in the name of leasing. It has even been extended to the field of space warfare, and it has taken away Taiwan’s allied countries through diplomatic poaching. It is already obvious that democratic countries such as the United States and China are fiercely competing for the leadership of the South Pacific island countries.

Japan nurtures talent to maintain its influence

On July 2, 2021, when former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga participated in the “The 9th Pacific Islands Leaders Meeting (PALM)” held by video, he stated that Japan will follow the proposals made in the meeting. The “Pacific Bonding Policy” has strengthened bilateral relations with 14 Pacific island countries.

On September 2, 2021, Japan and Pacific island countries held their first online meeting at the ministerial level on defense affairs (Japan Pacific Islands Defense Dialogue, JPIDD). Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi pointed out that Japan will expand and strengthen defense exchanges with Pacific island countries to ensure the security of the region.

Fumuji Anbe, an honorary professor of liberal arts at Osaka University of Education, Japan, said that the experience of World War II can confirm that the strategic location of Pacific island countries is of special importance to Japan.

He said: “During World War II, Japanese and American armies fought fiercely for Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. Guadalcanal was on the US-Australia route when Japan attempted to block US access. The sea passage to Australia was used to isolate Australia, and the purpose of the United States was to ensure that Australia could be used as a base for counterattacks against Japan. , also killed more than 7,000 people and injured nearly 8,000 people, the losses were very heavy.”

No matter how advanced the Internet and other information technologies are today, it is impossible to transport troops, weapons and ammunition, tanks and warships, as well as resources such as oil and iron ore through radio or optical fiber. Therefore, the geopolitical value of the South Pacific island countries remains unchanged, and Japan will naturally strive to maintain its influence in the region.

Professor Yang Junchi, Distinguished Research Fellow of the Center for Japanese Studies at Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan, said that in addition to its fishing interests and natural mineral resources in the South Pacific, Japan imports a large amount of coal, liquefied natural gas and agricultural food from Australia. Japan attaches great importance to the stability and order of the South Pacific island countries and the South Pacific region.

Yang Junchi pointed out that the Japanese government provides a large amount of official aid (ODA) to the South Pacific island countries through the International Cooperation Agency (JICA), hoping to use these ODA to help the South Pacific island countries to develop independent economic industries, or to build people’s livelihood infrastructure. , such as hospitals, etc. At the same time, Japan also provides technology transfer to the South Pacific island countries, dispatches experts to cultivate outstanding technical and vocational talents, and provides opportunities for students from the region to study in Japan.

He said: “The South Pacific Forum (SPF) established by Japan and the South Pacific island countries was changed to the “Pacific Island Countries Summit” in 1997, and a summit meeting is held every three years. Last year (2021) happened to be the In the ninth session, in addition to economic issues, the two sides also discussed cooperation plans for disaster prevention measures, and exchanged views extensively on issues such as the abnormal changes in the global climate and the serious threat of rising sea water to the South Pacific island countries. Regarding the future situation of the younger generation of island countries, the two sides have also begun to exchange views, exchange talents, and develop important bilateral cooperation matters in the future.”

Is the establishment of an embassy in Japan related to China’s expansion?

Professor Yang Junchi, Distinguished Research Fellow of the Center for Japanese Studies at Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan, said that a total of 20 countries participated in the first defense-level dialogue between defense ministers or defense officials between Japan and Pacific island countries in September 2021. Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said that the ships of the Self-Defense Forces The ship and aircraft will go to the Pacific island countries for more in-depth exchanges, including maritime security and disaster rescue drills. The two sides will train and cultivate talents, which shows that Japan will invest more resources to maintain the stability and order in the South Pacific region in the future. In addition, Kiribati only established diplomatic relations with China in 2019. Japan will open a new embassy in Kiribati this year, and it will open a consulate in French New Caledonia for cooperation projects such as military and space technology. Compete with China in an all-round way.

An expert who has long been involved in foreign policy discussions at the Japanese Foreign Ministry, who cannot be named due to security reasons, does not believe that the Japanese government’s policy toward Pacific island countries is in response to the crisis of China’s apparent expansion of power in the South Pacific. He told VOA that those who think Japan’s actions are mainly to contain China really don’t understand Japan’s diplomatic process for the Pacific islands. This may be because the focus on discussing the China threat has become popular in recent years. In fact, if Japan really wants to compete with China, the first thing to do is to strengthen the main axis of island diplomacy,

The expert, who did not want to be named, said: “For example, before opening consulates in small countries or French territory, changing the way Japan participates in the Pacific Islands Forum, and re-establishing the framework of the island summit, and clearly announcing its withdrawal from the Pacific Islands Summit. The Federated States of Micronesia to establish new diplomatic relations, etc. According to Japan’s diplomatic practice, it is unlikely that Japan will have a clear policy on China’s expansion in the South Pacific until these basic island-state diplomatic frameworks are strengthened.”

A July 2021 editorial in Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun pointed out that China’s total lending to South Pacific island nations accounts for more than 20 percent of the region’s gross domestic product (GDP).

“China should continue to seek and strengthen its influence in the South Pacific. However, the United States, Japan and Australia will continue to strengthen cooperation in the region, and even include Taiwan as a partner of cooperation,” said Professor Yang Junchi, Distinguished Research Fellow at the Center for Japanese Studies at Sun Yat-sen University in Taiwan. , strengthen the alliance of democratic values. It is expected that there will be competition and confrontation between different value camps in the South Pacific region in the future.”

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Taiwan’s military conducts drills to enhance combat readiness during the Spring Festival, including simulated street fighting

Undercurrents are surging, China’s economic outlook this year is full of obstacles

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