Japan is closely monitoring China’s behavior regarding Pacific island nations, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said on Saturday after meeting with his Tuvalu counterpart.

The recent signing of a security agreement between China and the Solomon Islands has raised regional concerns about Beijing’s reach, as the deal would allow Chinese troops to be deployed in the Pacific nation.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (right) and his Tuvaluan counterpart Kausea Natano are pictured in Kumamoto, southwestern Japan, April 23, 2022. (Pool Photo)(Kyodo)

“We exchanged views on recent developments regarding China in the Pacific island region,” Kishida told reporters in southwestern Kumamoto prefecture, without giving further details.

“We are closely following what China is doing in the Pacific Islands region with interest,” he said.

The United States has warned the Solomon Islands against any attempt to invite a Chinese military presence, while other Pacific countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, have also expressed concern.

During his meeting with Tuvalu’s Prime Minister Kausea Natano, the pair agreed to aim for a “free and open” Indo-Pacific region where an assertive China is expanding its influence.

The meeting took place on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Water Summit being held in Kumamoto, where Kishida pledged about 500 billion yen ($3.9 billion) over the next five years to address water-related challenges. to water such as disaster prevention.

He also held talks with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Lao Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh, respectively, and agreed with them to coordinate their responses to the crisis in Ukraine, Kishida told reporters.

During his meeting with Hun Sen, Kishida expressed his gratitude for Cambodia’s support, as one of the co-sponsors of a UN General Assembly resolution condemning Russian aggression against Ukraine in March, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

Japan has stepped up its diplomacy to strengthen coordination with other nations in the Indo-Pacific region, repeatedly saying that what is happening in Ukraine should never be tolerated there or anywhere else.

China continues to send ships to the waters around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. The islets are administered by Japan but claimed by China as Diaoyu. In the South China Sea, some members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have territorial disputes with China.

Kishida discussed developments in the South China Sea and the situation in Myanmar with Hun Sen, with Cambodia chairing ASEAN this year. Kishida paid a visit to Cambodia last month, where they urged Russia to immediately end the war in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the leaders of Japan and Laos agreed to coordinate closely to support Cambodia’s efforts as ASEAN chair to improve the situation in Myanmar where the military seized power in a coup of state last year.

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