Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been on a tour of western nations, with stops in Europe, Washington and in Ottawa this week, aimed at strengthening alliances and building strategic support as tensions escalate in Asia.
One of the main purposes of the trip, according to Japan’s ambassador to Canada, Kimihiro Ishikane, is to make sure the outcome of the upcoming G20 summit in June is a success.
In an interview with the West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson, Ishikane was asked whether Japan is hoping Canada may also offer more in terms of defence, as security continues to be a large concern for the nation.
“Well, I should say yes and no,” Ishikane said. “I should say yes because there is a room — there is plenty of room for more co-operation in different sectors between two countries. But it’s — our co-operation is not limited to the defence sector per se, because I wish to — or we wish to place our co-operation between Japan and Canada in a bigger picture.
“In a bigger picture means not only bilateral basis but also our co-operation in Asia-Pacific or even in the Pacific.”
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When asked whether the tour is also, in part, about sending a signal to China, Ishikane says the focus is more on fostering co-operation in the Indo-Pacific region.
Ishikane says this is one of the most “economically vibrant regions in the world.”
Ishikane was also asked about dealing with China regarding detained citizens, a situation Ishikane says requires “extreme — extraordinary patience.”
“I think there are two things which you need to be very much careful,” Ishikane said. “Number one is we need to be consistent on our position where we deal with our Chinese friends in this particular matter because these matters are particularly sensitive to them as well, that’s number one, continuous consistency in the position.
“Number two is how we send our message to our Chinese friends in this particular sensitive issue for them. So when and how and to which person or to which organization we need to convey the message, this is something we need to be very careful about,” he said.
At their meeting on Sunday, Abe and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will celebrate the successful launch of the rebooted Trans-Pacific Partnership late last year — the 11-country Pacific Rim trade alliance that was rescued after President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from it in January 2017, nearly killing it.
The two countries are also charter members of another international club that doesn’t include the U.S.: the Alliance for Multilateralism, a French-German initiative aimed at supporting the post-Second World War architecture — the United Nations, NATO, the World Trade Organization, and others — to which Trump has taken a wrecking ball.
Abe will host the G20 summit in June and will join Trudeau at the G7 leaders’ gathering in France in late August.
-With files from The West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson and The Canadian Press