Last weekend Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi became the first foreign dignitary to embark on an official visit to Cambodia amid the COVID-19 pandemic. His visit to Cambodia, part of a four-country tour, is more than just a normal regional trip undertaken to bolster bilateral diplomatic ties and to reflect solidarity in difficult times. Instead, some contentious regional issues — including the Japan-promoted Free and Open Indo-Pacific concept as well as tensions in the South China Sea — dominated the agenda of Motegi’s visit.
His trip demonstrated that Japan is taking another step further to expand its engagement with Cambodia, one of the most prominent of China’s allies in the region. Besides Cambodia, Motegi’s trip included stops in Laos and Myanmar— countries where Chinese influence also ostensibly has deep roots.
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