Japan and Indonesia held their first “two-plus-two” meetings of foreign and defense ministers in Tokyo on Thursday, agreeing to work on a pact that could allow to Japan to export some defense weapons and technologies to Indonesia.
The two countries also agreed to hold the meeting once every two years, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told a joint news conference at a Tokyo hotel at the summit’s conclusion.
“This meeting opened a new page for the bilateral relationship between Japan and Indonesia. This is historic,” Retno told reporters through an interpreter.
“I believe Japan and Indonesia can contribute to security and safety stability of this region,” the minister added.
According to Japanese officials, Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu told the Japanese side Jakarta was interested in procuring US-2 amphibious aircraft from Japan.
The airplane, manufactured by Hyogo-based ShinMaywa Industries Ltd., is mainly used for maritime rescue missions.
Japan has held two-plus-two meetings with the United States and Australia, but this is the first such meeting with a Southeast Asian country — a fact which underlines Japan’s determination to strengthen ties with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries in a bid to keep China in check.
Beijing claims sovereign rights over most of the South China Sea and is working to expand its clout there.
During the joint news conference, Japanese Defense Minister Gen Nakatani described Indonesia “as a major power of ASEAN.”
During the two-plus-two meeting, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida expressed concerns over China’s construction of military bases on islets and reefs in the South China Sea.
Kishida expressed opposition to “one-sided actions” by China to forcibly change the status quo, and the Indonesian side supported the opinion during the closed-door meeting, according to Japanese officials.
Kishida also urged ASEAN countries to send out its message “with one voice” over disputes in the South China Sea, the officials said.
“Indonesia will keep urging countries involved and related countries not to take actions that would raise tension (in the South China Sea), and to abide by international law,” Retno also said during the news conference.
Earlier in the day, Nakatani and Ryamizard held a separate meeting at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo during which Nakatani emphasized Japan’s “strategic interests” in securing sea traffic lanes around Indonesia.
In response, Ryamizard emphasized that “dialogue” between the countries concerned was important in solving disputes in the South China Sea, according to Japanese defense officials.
Diplomatic tension between China and the United States spiked in October when a U.S. Aegis destroyer navigated within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of an artificial island built by China to assert its right to freedom of navigation under international law. Tokyo supported the provocative operation.
“Your country has four important international straits, namely Malacca, Makassar, Sunda and Lombok. (Indonesia) is an important strategic partner that occupies key points of the sea lanes of our country,” Nakatani told Ryamizard at the beginning of the meeting, which was open to the media.
“Strengthening the relationship in the defense sector with Indonesia, particular air and maritime defense . . . is indispensable for peace, stability and prosperity in the whole region, including Southeast Asia,” Nakatani said.
During the closed part of the session, Nakatani also pledged that Japan will continue to participate in a multinational naval exercise dubbed Komodo, which is hosted by Indonesia, according to the Japanese officials.
Last year Japan for the first time joined the biennial naval drill conducted off Singapore. Komodo 2014 mainly focused on search and rescue training and a command post exercise.