Photo/Illutration The Japanese Defense Ministry in Tokyo (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Japan has launched a hotline with ASEAN member states to make it easier and faster to communicate on security issues, becoming the first nonmember nation to do so, according to government sources.

The move comes as the government works to strengthen its ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which comprises 10 countries, as China’s military activity grows and tensions rise in the South China Sea.

The hotline, opened earlier this month, gives Tokyo the ability to contact ASEAN members either individually or all at once.

These countries all fall in strategically important locations for maritime traffic and global trade.

Japan has been working with ASEAN in the security arena, including training personnel, with the goal of achieving a “free and open Indo-Pacific,” a term for the diplomatic initiative advocating the observance of existing international rules and norms in the region.

Japan’s annual defense white paper released in 2022 described bolstering defense cooperation with ASEAN as having great significance because it will lead to the “creation of a favorable security environment for Japan.”