MALE(Kyodo)– Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and his Maldives counterpart Mohamed Asim met Saturday and agreed to cooperate closely in promoting Tokyo’s diplomatic strategy for the Indo-Pacific amid China’s rising clout in the region.
It is the first time a Japanese foreign minister has visited the Indian Ocean island chain country, located near a key shipping lane economically important for Tokyo. A Japanese prime minister has never traveled to the country.
“I would like to further strengthen the cooperative relationship to realize (the free and open Indo-Pacific) strategy,” Kono said in the meeting, referring to the diplomatic initiative promoted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Under the strategy, Japan seeks to cooperate with countries which share similar values such as the rule of law and democracy in a bid to contribute to stability in a wide area stretching from East Asia to Africa.
After the meeting in the Maldives capital Male, Kono told reporters he and Asim agreed in their views over the Indo-Pacific strategy.
The strategy is being promoted as China is strengthening ties with countries facing the Indian Ocean, including the Maldives. Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a visit to the country in 2014, while the two countries signed a free trade agreement in Beijing last month to enhance economic ties.
Kono’s visit to the Maldives was the last stop on a trip that also took him to Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
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