Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga departed on a four-day visit to Vietnam and Indonesia on Sunday afternoon, his first overseas trip since taking office, as he looks to bolster ties with the Southeast Asian countries.

In separate meetings with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Suga is expected to promote efforts to achieve a "Free and Open Indo-Pacific" as well as discuss economic cooperation amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The visit comes as China's growing maritime assertiveness is prompting Japan to seek support from other countries in the region. Vietnam is one of the claimants in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, while Indonesia's exclusive economic zone overlaps with China's nine-dash line.