Jul 30 , 2021. 8 hours ago – 02:19 KYODO NEWS
TOKYO – Japan plans to hold a virtual foreign ministerial meeting next week with five Southeast Asian countries along the Mekong River, including Myanmar where the military seized power in a coup in February, Japanese government sources said Thursday.
The meeting arranged for Aug. 6 comes after Japan postponed the gathering, initially planned by March this year, fearing that holding it would be seen as recognizing the military junta in Myanmar, the sources said.
But Japan decided to go ahead with the meeting after China hosted a meeting with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations including Myanmar in June, and the United States also met virtually with ASEAN foreign ministers on July 14, they said.
The Mekong states are Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.
A Japanese Foreign Ministry source said the Mekong countries are seeking further cooperation with Japan regardless of the developments in Myanmar.
At the meeting, to be held on the fringes of a series of ASEAN-related gatherings from Monday, Japan will call on the participants from Myanmar to end violence against peaceful protesters and receive a special envoy that ASEAN has decided to send to help defuse the crisis triggered by the military coup, they said.
Japan sees the Mekong area, located near the two major regional powers of India and China as well as vital shipping lanes in the South China Sea, as geopolitically important.
Beijing has been increasing its assertiveness with regard to territorial claims in the South China Sea, where Vietnam has overlapping claims.
Aside from the Japan-Mekong gathering, Japan will also hold an online foreign ministerial meeting with ASEAN and participate virtually in the ministerial gathering of the ASEAN regional security forum, of which the United States, China, South Korea and North Korea are members, between Monday and Aug. 7, according to a diplomatic source.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore and Vietnam.