The Russian invasion of Ukraine has put a great strain on the global economy, including energy and food security, and Japan is keen to respond to the challenges by working hand-in-hand with India, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said on Friday.
In an exclusive interview to PTI, Hayashi cited China's "unilateral attempts" to change the status quo by force in East and South China as well as its military activities around Taiwan as the region's challenges and concerns.
The foreign minister said Japan's revised National Security Strategy views China's current external stance and military activities as an unprecedented and the greatest strategic challenge in ensuring peace and stability of Japan and the international community.
Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi also said that it is necessary to build a free and open international order that is inclusive and based on the rule of law to maintain peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific, a region that has seen mounting Chinese assertiveness.
He said as the G7 President, Japan wishes to coordinate closely with the G20 President India in addressing pressing global challenges.
"2023 is a crucial year as Japan chairs G7 and India chairs G20. As the premier forum for international economic cooperation, G20 is of paramount importance for responding effectively to issues facing the international community, such as food security and development," he said.
The Japanese foreign minister said the Quad or Quadrilateral coalition is neither an initiative to counter something nor for military cooperation and referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's words that it is a "force for good".
Hayashi said given India's outstanding leadership, including its hosting Voice of Global South Summit in January, coordination with New Delhi is now even more vital.
"Because of the adverse effect by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, establishing access to affordable, safe and nutritious food as well as ensuring resilient food security has become an urgent priority," he said.
"Moreover, transparent and fair developmental finance has become essential for sustainable development of developing countries. There is ample room for cooperation between G7 and G20, especially in these areas," he added.
Japan is the current chair of the powerful G7 grouping.
"Nevertheless, given that Russia continues its aggression in Ukraine and is a member of the G20, we can no longer sustain cooperation in the same ways as before the invasion. We will explore how we can collaborate with such limitations in consultation with India," he said.
"Given India's outstanding leadership, including its hosting Voice of Global South Summit in January, coordination with India is now even more vital. Japan looks forward to working hand in hand with India to lead responses to global challenges," he said.
The Japanese Foreign Minister noted that the Russian invasion of Ukraine put a great strain on the international economy and livelihoods of people all around the world in various aspects, including energy and food.
"Given these circumstances, Japan is keen to discuss with India ways to respond to key issues such as food and energy security, with the cooperation of the international community," he said.
"In addition, leveraging existing economic ties, Japan will work with India bilaterally to respond to such challenges and consider ways of effective cooperation with middle to long-term perspectives," he said.
For instance, he said Japan wishes to utilise the Japan-India Clean Energy Partnership, launched during Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's visit to India in March 2022 in order to realise carbon neutral and safe and stable supply of energy.
"New energy sources such as hydrogen and ammonia are also promising areas of cooperation," Hayashi said.
On China's increasing muscle flexing in the region, the foreign minister said Japan is finding itself in the midst of the "most severe" and complex security environment since the end of WWII.
He said maintaining and strengthening the free and open international order based on the rule of law has never been more important than now.
"Against this backdrop, Japan issued a new National Security Strategy.Vis-a-vis China, there are a number of challenges and concerns along with various opportunities, such as China's unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force in the East and South China Seas, including in the waters surrounding the Senkaku Islands," he said.
"This also includes a series of military activities by China around Taiwan, in particular the launch of ballistic missiles into the seas adjacent to Japan which also includes its Exclusive Economic Zones," he said.
Hayashi said the National Security Strategy revised late last year views China's current external stance and military activities as an "unprecedented and the greatest strategic challenge" in ensuring the peace and stability of Japan and the international community, as well as strengthening the international order based on the rule of law.
"It states that Japan should respond with comprehensive national power and in cooperation with its ally and like-minded countries," he said.
At the same time, he said Japan and China have great responsibility towards the peace and prosperity of the region and the world.
He said Japan will firmly maintain and assert our position and strongly requests responsible actions from China.
"At the same time, both sides will make an effort to build a constructive and stable relationship by continuing dialogues, including at the leaders' level, and working together on common challenges," he said
On the Indo-Pacific, Hayashi said it is necessary to build a free and open international order that is inclusive and based on the rule of law in accordance with the vision of 'Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)'.
"The Quad is not an initiative to counter something nor for military cooperation; rather, to borrow Prime Minister Modi's words, it is a 'force for good.'"
He said the Quad member states have been working on a wide range of practical cooperation, including in health, infrastructure, climate change, maritime domain awareness and disaster response.
"I strongly believe that candid discussions among the four countries, which share a common vision for the future, including at leaders and foreign ministers' level, will contribute to the deepening of Japan-India relations as well," he said.
Replying to a question on overall India-Japan ties, Hayashi referred to Japanese Prime Minister Kishida's announcement last year about the goal of 5 trillion yen public and private investment and financing from Japan to India in the next five years.
"In order to achieve this goal, Japan is deepening economic bonds and encouraging Japanese companies to boost their investment in India. Looking ahead, we will work with India on pressing issues such as clean energy and economic security by building on our existing economic ties," he said.
"India is the world's biggest democracy, and the Special Strategic Global Partner with whom Japan shares basic principles and strategic interests. Further, this year is crucial as Japan chairs G7 and India chairs G20. Japan wishes to cooperate closely with India and contribute to the international community," he added.