Prime Minister Shinzo Abe left Thursday on a trip to Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines to deepen economic and security ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, his third visit to the fast-growing region since retaking the prime ministership late last year.

Abe's three-day trip is part of his continuing efforts to build ties with countries that share with Japan such values as democracy and a market economy, a diplomatic initiative widely seen as aimed at containing China.

"I hope I can take in the energy of the ASEAN region to achieve the economic recovery of Japan," Abe said before leaving Tokyo's Haneda airport for Kuala Lumpur, where he was to meet with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak later in the day.