U.S. ally Japan pledged six new patrol boats to Vietnam on Monday, Reuters reports, as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits the country during a diplomatic trip to several nations in the region.
“We will strongly support Vietnam’s enhancing its maritime law enforcement capability,” Prime Minister Abe said while announcing the pledge.
The potential problem lies in the fact that Vietnam has been one of the few nations in the region to display a willingness to oppose China — particularly on the issue of the South China Sea, of which the Southeast Asian superpower and incoming President Trump are on opposite sides.
A point highlighted by Reuters:
“Abe’s stop in Vietnam completes a tour through an arc of a region where Japan stakes a leadership claim in the face of China’s growing dominance and uncertainty over what policy change Donald Trump will bring as U.S. president.”
Last week, while in Manila, Prime Minister Abe pledged nearly $9 billion toward infrastructure development in the Philippines — a nation that appears, on the surface, to be wholeheartedly embracing the one-China policy.
Speaking to President Duterte at his home, Abe said Japan “will create business opportunities through Official Development Assistance and private sector investments which, together, will be in the order of one trillion yen ($8.7 billion) over the next five years.”
On the current tensions over disputed waters, Abe asserted, “[T]he issue of the South China Sea is directly linked to regional peace and stability and is a concern of the entire international community.”
As Reuters once again noted Monday, “China claims almost all of the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion worth of sea-borne trade passes every year.” This is what Abe is referring to when he says the dispute is of international concern.
This is also what makes Abe’s pledge of patrol boats to Vietnam so interesting. Only days ago, Vietnam vowed to work with China peacefully on the territorial disputes over the South China Sea, marking a change in tone in negotiations.
Given the facts — and the geopolitical environment they originate from — one might conclude that U.S. ally Japan is trying to win favor, via pledges of financial investment, with nations facing a decision to turn from the West and succumb to a one-China authority.