Indonesian president-elect meets with Japan’s prime minister, commits to strengthening relations

Indonesian President-elect Prabowo Subianto said he wants to “further strengthen” relations with Japan as he met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on Wednesday on the heels of a visit to China.

Subianto, who’s currently defence minister, told Kishida that the two countries are long-time friends who have built a cooperative relationship, and that he hoped to further strengthen the relationship.

Japan has been seeking closer ties with Southeast Asian countries, especially in maritime security and defence, in the face of China’s increasingly assertive military presence.

Subianto, who will succeed Joko Widodo in October, chose Beijing for his first official overseas trip after his February election victory in a bid to emphasize steady ties with China amid rising tensions in the South China Sea, where China and the Philippines have had repeated high-seas confrontations. In his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Subianto pledged a continued friendly policy toward China.

China is Indonesia’s largest trading partner, with Beijing investing in major infrastructure projects, and Indonesia has maintained a relatively neutral stance amid rising tensions between China and the Philippines over rival territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Indonesian Defense Minister and President-elect Prabowo Subianto and Japanese counterpart Minoru Kihara

Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida discuss strengthening ties between nations. (Kimimasa Mayama/Pool Photo via AP)

Kishida welcomed Subianto’s early visit to Tokyo, telling his future counterpart that the two countries are long-time friends that share basic values and principles, and that Japan hoped to further strengthen cooperation in regional and global issues as “comprehensive and strategic partners.”

Kishida said Japan hopes to contribute to Indonesia’s development in areas including infrastructure and energy, while stepping up cooperation in security and defence.

Kishida’s meeting with Subianto comes just a week before the Japanese leader will travel to Washington for a summit with U.S. President Joe Biden, and three-way talks that will also include Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., at which the leaders are expected to discuss further reinforcing security ties.

Later Wednesday, Subianto held talks with Japanese Defence Minister Minoru Kihara. The two ministers vowed to enhance defence cooperation, the Japanese Defence Ministry said in a statement.

Japan and Indonesia are expanding joint exercises in the Indo-Pacific region, as well as capacity building and educational programs, Kihara told reporters after the talks.

“I’m determined to strengthen cooperation between our two maritime nations to achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific based on the rule of law,” he said.

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