© Reuters. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida meets an honor guard during his official visit to Thailand in Bangkok, Thailand, May 2, 2022. Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun
Author: Panu Wongcha-um
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Japanese and Thai leaders announced a new defense pact and plans to upgrade economic ties on Monday, as Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida wrapped up the final leg of his three-nation Southeast Asian tour.
The agreement will help transfer defense hardware and technology from Japan to Thailand, which has one of the largest and best-equipped militaries in the region and a long history of ties to the U.S. military. Further details of the deal were not disclosed.
“This will help improve defense and support Japanese investment in this activity, which is an important goal for Thailand,” Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said in a joint statement read with Kishida.
Prayut said he discussed supply chain improvements and the drafting of a five-year economic partnership with Japan, Thailand’s largest investor.
Southeast Asia has been an important region for Japan for decades, with some of the biggest names in industry, from infrastructure, engineering and industrial estates to automotive and electronics manufacturing.
The region remains a battleground between the United States, Japan’s close ally, and China, Southeast Asia’s largest trading partner. During his three-day trip, Kishida also visited places where Japanese companies have substantial operations in Vietnam and Indonesia.
As leader of the only Asian member of the G7, Kishida discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine during a visit to Southeast Asia, where only one country – Singapore – has joined the sanctions against Moscow. Russia called its operations in Ukraine “special operations.”
However, nine Southeast Asian countries backed a UN resolution condemning the invasion in March, and Kishida thanked Thailand for its support.
“I agree with Prime Minister Prayut that violations of sovereignty and territorial integrity, or unilateral changes to the status quo by force, should not be tolerated in any region,” he said.
Tokyo will provide a 50 billion yen ($385 million) loan to support Thailand’s COVID-relief efforts, Japan’s public affairs minister Shikata told reporters earlier on Monday.
(1 USD = 129.9400 yen)