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Japan Supports Sri Lanka as a Partner in the Indo-Pacific Region with an Eye on China

Japan’s Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi has stated that Sri Lanka is an important partner in Japan’s initiative to build security and economic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. This initiative is also aimed at countering China’s growing assertiveness. Sri Lanka’s strategic location in the Indian Ocean makes it integral to realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific, according to Hayashi. He made these remarks after a meeting with his Sri Lankan counterpart in Colombo.

The initiative announced by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida includes assistance to emerging economies, support for maritime security, provision of coast guard patrol boats and equipment, and other infrastructure cooperation. Hayashi also expressed his expectation for further progress in Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring process and commended the country’s efforts in implementing anti-corruption measures and transparency in policymaking as part of the agreement with the International Monetary Fund.

Sri Lanka, which owes a significant amount of foreign debt, defaulted last year, triggering an economic crisis. While Japan is its largest creditor, China holds about 10% of Sri Lanka’s debt. China has invested billions in building sea ports, airports, and power plants in Sri Lanka as part of its Belt and Road Initiative. In March, China agreed to offer Sri Lanka a two-year moratorium on loan repayments.

Sri Lanka’s Foreign Minister Sabry expressed his invitation for Japan to resume investment projects and consider fresh investments in various sectors, including power generation, ports and highways, and the green and digital economy. Japan has been a key donor to Sri Lanka for many years, but relations were strained when the previous Sri Lankan government unilaterally canceled a Japan-funded light railway project. The current Sri Lankan cabinet has approved a proposal to restart the railway project.

The support of Japan to Sri Lanka not only strengthens their bilateral ties but also serves as a strategic move in the region to counter China’s influence. The Indo-Pacific region has become a key area of competition between major powers, and Japan’s involvement in supporting Sri Lanka is an important element in the broader geopolitical landscape.

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