Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will embark on a seven-day trip to Vietnam and the Philippines later Thursday to attend annual meeting of regional leaders.
On the sidelines of the summits, Abe is also expected to hold bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Russian President Vladimir Putin and others, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference.
“Our country plans to lead discussions to serve as a driving force in promoting free trade and the economy in the Asia-Pacific region,” the top government spokesman said.
On the security front, Japan seeks to “send a strong message to international society over regional issues, including North Korea, in cooperation with other participants,” he added.
According to Japanese officials, Abe will aim to promote free and fair trade rules in the region and support sustainable economies in the 21-member bloc at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum meetings in Danang, central Vietnam.
On Friday, Abe and the 10 other leaders of the remaining signatories to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal are set to meet in the Vietnamese city in the hopes of reaching an accord to bring the treaty into force without the United States.
Washington withdrew from the pact in January, leaving Tokyo as the biggest TPP economy.
In Manila from Sunday, Abe is expected to seek support for Japan’s stance on maritime security, including the importance of the rule of law in addressing territorial disputes in the South China Sea, where China and some members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have overlapping claims.
At the East Asia Summit, which brings together the 10 ASEAN members with regional powers including China, Russia and the U.S., Abe is set to call on all nations to increase pressure on North Korea until Pyongyang completely abandons its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs.
Prior to his trip, Abe hosted a visit by U.S. President Donald Trump in Tokyo, confirming their shared stance on North Korea, maritime security and the strength of their bilateral alliance.
Abe is scheduled to leave the Philippines on Wednesday, returning to Japan later that day.