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Kishida seeks to fend off China in Latin America and the Caribbean; Speech calls for economic relations based on trust

Reuters
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attends a press conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Sunday.

SAO PAULO – Prime Minister Fumio Kishida had China in mind when he emphasized the importance of economic cooperation on equal terms in a speech delivered Saturday in Sao Paulo on Japan’s foreign policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean.

Kishida conveyed Tokyo’s intention to support the activities of Japanese companies doing business in those regions and announced the implementation of exchange programs involving approximately 1,000 individuals over the next three years.

It was the first speech by a Japanese prime minister in a decade on policy towards Central and South America, since the late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave such a speech in 2014.

“It is economic relations based on trust, and not the threat of force and coercion, that lead to equitable prosperity,” Kishida said, a statement that appeared aimed at curbing China’s approach to the regions.

“Actions such as economic coercion … are completely unacceptable,” the prime minister said.

Kishida also called for cooperation in solving problems, saying: “The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean will stand by our side as irreplaceable partners.”

Backed by its abundant financial resources, China has in recent years expanded its Belt and Road Initiative to Central and South America and accelerated infrastructure development there. Japan’s government is increasingly wary of opaque development financing, and the prime minister has also raised the issue of so-called debt traps, in which China extracts concessions from loan recipient countries by indebting them.

Based on cases where Sri Lanka effectively transfers the right to operate a port to China, Kishida emphasized: “Japan will promote sustainable economic cooperation.”

He also emphasized Japan’s commitment to creating new industries and employment, noting that “over the past decade, the number of bases for Japanese companies operating in Latin America and the Caribbean has increased by more than 1,000.”

Kishida further encouraged young people from Central and South America to visit Japan through the exchange programs, and expressed Japan’s intention to participate in efforts to protect the Amazon rainforests.

After the speech, Kishida gave a press conference attended by Japanese and foreign media organizations.

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