Abe heads off for Southeast Asia tour

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe embarked on a trip Wednesday to Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia with the aim of deepening economic ties with the fast-growing Southeast Asia region.

“I want to make this visit the beginning of the Abe Cabinet’s strategic diplomacy. I also want to spur Japan’s growth through a stronger partnership with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations),” Abe told reporters before departing on his first overseas trip since his reappointment as prime minister late last month.

His four-day trip to the Southeast Asian countries, all of which have already established “strategic” partnerships with Japan, is also intended to discuss regional affairs, including China’s maritime ambitions in the area, government officials said.

Abe was scheduled to hold talks with his Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Tan Dung, on Wednesday, with Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Thursday and with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Friday.