Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will make a three-day trip to Thailand from Sunday to attend a series of summits related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, including one to negotiate a region-wide free trade deal, the government said.
During his stay in Bangkok, Abe is scheduled to take part in a summit with five Southeast Asian countries along the Mekong River — Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam — Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference Friday.
On Monday, Abe is expected to attend a leaders’ meeting for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a free trade deal under negotiation that involves the 10 ASEAN members plus Australia, China, India, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand.
The RCEP, covering a third of the global economy, has repeatedly missed deadlines amid the differing ambitions of its members. The talks were launched in 2013 and the initial goal was to wrap them up in 2015.
But the 16 members are now aiming to conclude the negotiations by the end of this year, with their ministers gathering in Bangkok on Friday. The 10 ASEAN countries are the five Mekong nations and Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore.
Other regional summits include a gathering between ASEAN countries and its partners Japan, China and South Korea, as well as the East Asia Summit involving RCEP members plus the United States and Russia.
On the sidelines of the annual gatherings, Abe is likely to hold bilateral talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and other leaders, government sources said earlier.
During the planned talks with Li, Abe will seek to reaffirm cooperation toward realizing Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Japan around next spring.
But he is unlikely to hold a one-on-one meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in amid deteriorating bilateral ties over the issue of compensation for Korean wartime laborers.