Japanese Prime Minister Goes on Diplomatic Blitz in Bid to Counter China Influence

News Analysis

Ahead of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to Europe, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida visited Paris on May 2, followed by visits to Brazil and Paraguay. Mr. Kishida pledged to uphold a free and open international order based on the rule of law. Experts believe Japan’s diplomatic goal is to engage allies and partners to contain China’s influence.

“I would like to stress that Japan will take a leading role in creating and strengthening a free, fair, and rules-based international economic order,” Mr. Kishida told reporters before his departure in Tokyo.

Confronting the CCP’s Influence

In Paris, Mr. Kishida and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to start negotiations on a new security pact to boost both countries’ defense abilities in the face of China’s military aggression in nearby waters.

On May 3, Mr. Kishida visited Paraguay and held talks with President Santiago Peña. In response to the military threat from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in the Taiwan Strait, both leaders reached a consensus. They opposed any party to make unilateral changes to the status quo by force.

Paraguay is the only country in South America that has diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Given the CCP’s growing influence, the Japanese Prime Minister’s visit to Paraguay after six years was viewed as a move to join forces to confront the CCP.

During a joint press conference, Mr. Kishida pointed out that Paraguay shares the same values of freedom, democracy, and the rule of law as Japan, and is a reliable and important regional partner, aiming to elevate the friendly relations between the two countries. Mr. Peña expressed his hope for further broad cooperation with Japan and maintaining long-term diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

Akio Yaita, a Japanese journalist and director of the Taipei branch of the Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun, told The Epoch Times that he believes Mr. Kishida’s visit to Paraguay, the only country in South America with diplomatic relations with Taiwan, is a subtle show of support for Taiwan. He added that Japan is increasing its influence in international politics as Mr. Kishida seeks to curb the CCP’s influence in South America.

Regarding Mr. Kishida’s aims in France, Mr. Yaita commented, “Japan firmly supports France in confronting China and dealing with challenges such as Russia, [and Japan] is encouraging France to take a firm stance [against China].”

Japan’s Latin American Policy

On the afternoon of May 3, Mr. Kishida visited Brazil and held talks with President Lula da Silva. Mr. Lula expressed his hope for strengthened bilateral relations with Japan. Mr. Kishida said that he would enhance relations with Brazil, the host country of this year’s G20 Summit, to elevate Japan-Brazil relations to a higher level and jointly promote the success of the G20 Rio de Janeiro Summit.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, the two leaders agreed on the importance of enhancing cooperation as Strategic and Global Partners to maintain and strengthen a free and open international order based on the rule of law and to ensure a world where human dignity is secured.

The next day, Mr. Kishida delivered a speech at the University of São Paulo in Brazil titled “Paving a Pathway to ‘Human Dignity’ with Latin America and the Caribbean.” This marked a Japanese Prime Minister’s first policy speech on Latin America in a decade.

He said in his speech, “The international order is facing new challenges, and the freedom and democracy we advocate are under threat around the world.” Mr. Kishida committed to exchanging views and engaging with Latin America in a new path forward.

Mr. Yaita believes that Mr. Kishida’s visit to Brazil was aimed at undermining China. During the era of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Japan engaged in “global diplomacy,” focusing mainly on Northeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific region. Now, Japan appears to be truly expanding globally.

Implicit Critique of China’s Belt and Road Initiative

In his speech at the University of São Paulo in Brazil, the Japanese prime minister implicitly criticized the CCP’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a debt trap and proposed that Japan will continue to provide high-quality infrastructure and promote sustainable economic cooperation in the region.

Mr. Yaita believes that Japan’s foreign aid has always been helpful to the receiving country, while China’s BRI is all about taking resources. He suggested that Japan is offering an alternative to the world.

Feng Chongyi, Chinese dissident and associate professor at the University of Technology Sydney in Australia, also pointed out that Japan has announced an alternative plan to make up for China’s shortfall, creating an alliance in the free world.

As of 2023, 21 countries in Latin America have joined China’s BRI, allowing the CCP to expand its influence. However, Brazil has not joined yet, and Taiwan’s ally Paraguay is also not included.

Mr. Feng compared Xi’s BRI to former CCP leader Mao Zedong’s past policy of supporting “Asia, Africa, and Latin America to struggle against imperialism,” spreading the communist ideology worldwide.

“In the past, Mao Zedong controlled third-world countries,” he said. “The countries where the CCP strived to influence [in the past] were economically underdeveloped, politically unstable, and sometimes authoritarian. Therefore, the United States and Japan have not heavily invested in those places, which gave the CCP an opportunity. Now, Japan is rising and setting an example.”

Xin Ning contributed to this report.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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