Japan formally agreed Thursday to enter government-level negotiations on bilateral free-trade agreements with Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, raising its tally of ongoing FTA talks to five.

The accords were struck as Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi held separate summits with Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on the sidelines of the two-day Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit that started Thursday.

Japan hopes to hold the initial FTA meetings in January, with the goal of completing them in around a year, according to a Japanese official who briefed reporters.