Japan’s foreign minister begins Asian tour to discuss border measures

Tokyo, Aug 20 (efe-epa).- Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi began Thursday a tour of four countries in Southeast Asia and Oceania, which will focus on discussing a possible relaxation of travel restrictions applied by the pandemic.

Motegi will depart Thursday from Tokyo to Papua New Guinea, and then travel to Cambodia on Friday, Laos on Sunday and Myanmar on Monday, before returning to Japan on Tuesday, according to a statement from the Japanese foreign ministry.

During the meetings with representatives of each government, “common interests and concerns” in the region will be addressed, including the promotion of free trade in the Indo-Pacific region or “the urgent challenge for the international community” in the South China Sea.

In addition, in the case of Southeast Asian countries, “points of view will be exchanged on cooperation to resume cross-border travel, and for the promotion of different cooperation measures, including responses to COVID-19,” the ministry said.

The tour takes place after the minister visited Malaysia and Singapore earlier this week, and after Japan announced at the end of July that it would start talks with a dozen Asian countries to relax travel restrictions for business trips.

Japan currently prohibits entry to travelers from 146 countries, and although it has begun talks with some Asian nations to begin to progressively lift these limitations, it has not announced specific dates to do so.

During his visits, Motegi is expected to discuss details about the delivery of medical and health equipment to Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos worth 11.6 billion yen (109 million dollars), a measure announced at the end of July by the Japanese Executive and which also includes Thailand and Vietnam.

The human rights situation in those countries is not on the official agenda of the Japanese Foreign Minister, which has been criticized by the non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch.

In a letter sent to Motegi and made public today, the NGO asks the foreign minister to “publicly express his concern” during his visits about “self-created human rights crises” that occur in Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. They include police brutality, persecution of minorities or imprisonment of journalists and political opponents.

Motegi resumed Japan’s foreign diplomatic activities at the highest level with his visit to the United Kingdom at the beginning of the month, carried out aboard a private plane amid maximum health security measures. They marked the first trip abroad of a member of the Government Japan after the border measures applied by the pandemic. EFE-EPA


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