Abe heads out to visit Indonesia, India, Malaysia


Kyodo News

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived Sunday in Indonesia on the first leg of a weeklong tour that will also take him to India and Malaysia before he comes back to reshuffle his Cabinet and the leadership of the Liberal Democratic Party.

The trip’s emphasis will be on global warming and the signing of a free-trade agreement with Indonesia.

Before departing, Abe expressed hope for successful talks with the leaders of the three countries.

“The relationship between Japan and India is the most promising bilateral tie. I would like to further strengthen trust,” Abe said, adding that “Japan needs cooperation from India on environmental issues.”

In Jakarta on Monday he is slated to meet with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and together sign a bilateral economic partnership agreement — the sixth for Japan with a Southeast Asian nation — that features not only tariff-free trade for most goods but also energy resources.

Abe and Yudhoyono will also issue a joint statement calling for bilateral cooperation on climate change, the environment and energy, Japanese officials said.

Also on Monday, Abe will deliver a speech on Japan’s future policy toward the Association of Southeast Asian Nations before an audience of local political, business and academic leaders — the first such speech by a Japanese prime minister since an address by Junichiro Koizumi in 2002.

“I would like to send a message that Japan and ASEAN have a shared future,” he said.

On Wednesday, a day after traveling from Jakarta to New Delhi, Abe will give a policy speech in India’s Parliament in which he plans to call for stronger bilateral cooperation between the two major economies.

This will make Abe the third Japanese leader to address India’s legislative body, following Yasuhiro Nakasone in 1984 and Toshiki Kaifu in 1990.

Afterward, Abe is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He is expected to seek cooperation from one of the largest greenhouse gas emitting states on his “Cool Earth 50” initiative aimed at halving global emissions by 2050 from current levels.

India has approached Japan about getting Abe to express support for its civilian nuclear agreement with the United States in return for Singh pledging to cooperate on Abe’s initiative.

Abe is expected only to reiterate that Tokyo is “considering” whether to do so, government sources have said.

Before moving on to Kuala Lumpur, Abe will stop Thursday at Calcutta in West Bengal, where he is to meet with the son of the late Indian judge Radhabinod Pal, who at the Tokyo tribunal questioned the legitimacy of the Allied trials that convicted Japanese war criminals.

In Kuala Lumpur, Abe will meet Friday with Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and sign a joint statement calling for cooperation on various areas ranging from political and security dialogue to the economy and the environment.

Accompanying Abe will be a 200-member mission of major businesses led by Fujio Mitarai, chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Nippon Keidanren). Abe has been accompanied by similar business missions on two other overseas trips he has made since taking power last September.

Traveling on a chartered plane, the mission will meet with government and local business leaders to present its ideas for better relations.