BANGKOK -- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met Monday with his Thai counterpart, Prayuth Chan-ocha, for talks about economic, security and geopolitical issues, including political upheaval in Myanmar and Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The two leaders also oversaw the signing of three agreements covering financial cooperation, the transfer of defense equipment and technology, and support for a COVID-19 emergency response.
Kishida is in the middle of a five-nation overseas trip. He earlier visited Indonesia and Vietnam and will travel to Italy and the United Kingdom after Thailand.
Japan has long been a major economic investor in Thailand, and at a post-meeting news conference Prayuth said the two nations are drafting a five-year strategic plan for an economic partnership.
He said he and Kishida agreed on the importance of supply chain connectivity to enhance development of smart agriculture, 5G communication technology, artificial intelligence, robotics, and electric vehicles and components.
Prayuth also said they were pleased with their countries’ “close defense and security cooperation,” but did not elaborate. The United States has traditionally been Thailand’s closest security partner, but ties have loosened in the past decade as China has extended its influence in Southeast Asia. Japan, a strategic rival of China, is keen to offset Beijing’s ascendancy.
The war in Ukraine has figured prominently in Kishida’s talks during his trip, and he and Prayuth both said they were concerned about escalating tensions there and urged an end to all hostilities.
Prayuth said he proposed a new approach to ending the confrontation by focusing on humanitarian considerations, and that a similar approach might be useful in restoring peace in Thailand's neighbor, military-ruled Myanmar.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the army seized power last year from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The takeover was met with massive public resistance, and the country is now embroiled in what some experts characterize as a civil war. Several governments have imposed sanctions against Myanmar’s military rulers, and some Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia and Singapore have condemned their actions.
Thailand and Japan share a softer approach and have been less critical of the ruling military. Thailand has significant economic interests in Myanmar and has its own past history of army rule. Japan has historically had friendly ties with the military governments that have ruled Myanmar most of the past six decades.