Japan escalate diplomatic, military engagement in Pacific islands to counter Chinese influence

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Japan will open an embassy in the Pacific island republic of Kiribati later this year as part of efforts by the US and its allies to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

Tokyo will also open a consulate in French-controlled New Caledonia as Japan steps up its military cooperation with French forces in the region.

The move comes after former Japanese prime minister Yoshihide Suga last July called for deeper ties between Tokyo and the 14 Pacific nations and separate French-controlled territories in the region, such as New Caledonia and French Polynesia. Suga pledged to offer them more coronavirus vaccine doses and economic assistance.

“These developments are basically anti-Chinese diplomatic maneuvers as there is deep concern in Tokyo that Kiribati, in particular, will suddenly start to receive vast amounts of Chinese money and that will influence the government there,” said Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor of international relations at Waseda University in Tokyo.

Concerns have grown about Beijing’s influence over Kiribati – a collection of 33 islands and atolls scattered across some 3.5 million sq km of ocean – since September 2019, when it switched diplomatic recognition away from Taipei, just months before the fellow Pacific nation the Solomon Islands made a similar move.


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