Time for Japan to resume face-to-face diplomacy: Yomiuri Shimbun

TOKYO (THE YOMIURI SHIMBUN/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – There are numerous challenges that each country should work on in a coordinated manner, such as measures against infectious diseases and economic revitalisation.

The government needs to take thorough steps to prevent infections so as to resume full-fledged diplomatic activities.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi visited Britain and met with his British counterpart, Dominic Raab. They agreed to cooperate in establishing an international framework to develop vaccines and therapeutic drugs for the novel coronavirus.

The development of these vaccines has entered the final stage mainly in the United States and Europe, and major British pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca PLC aims to put the vaccine to practical use this autumn.

It is important for both the Japanese and British governments to make efforts for a stable supply of vaccines.

The two foreign ministers shared their grave concerns about the situation in Hong Kong, where China has been strengthening its control.

China has repeatedly engaged in actions that threaten the rights and freedom of Hong Kong residents since the enforcement of the national security law.

It is necessary that the international community take concerted action to call on China for restraint.

The main purpose of Motegi’s visit to Britain was to negotiate with the country for a new trade agreement.

With Britain’s exit from the European Union, the effectuation of the Japan-EU economic partnership agreement will expire as early as the end of this year.

Both countries must speed up the conclusion of a new trade agreement to avoid disrupting their corporate activities.

This was the first time a Japanese Cabinet member visited a foreign country since February this year when the coronavirus spread across the world.

When Motegi visited Britain, careful measures to prevent infections were taken, such as by using a chartered plane and limiting the number of people he had contact with in Britain.

Motegi and those accompanying him took polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests after returning to Japan, but they did not quarantine for 14 days as ordinary returnees from abroad are requested to do.

In many cases, face-to-face meetings have significant meaning in diplomacy.

It is vital to share information with each country on the issues concerning the economy and security in the international community.

Following his visit to Britain, Motegi plans to visit Southeast Asian countries, including Singapore.

It is hoped that he will deepen discussions with leaders in these countries about economic and human exchanges that have been stalled due to the spread of the coronavirus.

It is indispensable to strengthen close cooperation among them to deal with the South China Sea and the East China Sea, in which China has continued to advance.

US President Donald Trump expressed his intention to delay the Group of Seven summit meeting until after the US presidential election in November, given the spread of the coronavirus.

The future of the global economy is uncertain amid the escalating US-China conflict.

In terms of leading international cooperation and taking the initiative in measures against infections with the coronavirus, the role of G7 countries is great.

The United States as its chair and other G7 countries should facilitate better communication by creating the opportunity for teleconferences, for example.

Teleconferencing, which has spread in diplomatic negotiations in response to the coronavirus disaster, has the advantage of allowing working-level talks to proceed swiftly.

Hopefully, it will be used as a means of complementing face-to-face meetings to avoid a diplomatic stalemate.

The Yomiuri Shimbun is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media titles.

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