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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visits to Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines last week underscores his government’s eagerness to forge closer ties with the fast-growing Southeast Asia region as part of efforts to revive Japan’s economy.

Deepening cooperation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is also strategically important for Japan to keep in check China, which has become increasingly assertive in the East China and South China seas, at a time when Japan’s ties with China remain fragile.

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