Kyodo | 01/16/2013 12:18 PM
MANILA - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe embarked Wednesday on a trip to three Southeast Asian nations with the aim of deepening economic ties with the fast-growing region.
"I want to make this trip the beginning of the Abe Cabinet's strategic diplomacy. I also want to spur Japan's growth through a stronger partnership with ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)," Abe told reporters before departing on his first overseas trip since retaking the premiership last month.
Abe's four-day visit to Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia, all of which have already built "strategic" partnerships with Japan, is also intended to discuss regional affairs, including China's maritime ambitions, Japanese officials said.
He will hold talks with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung on Wednesday, with his Thai counterpart Yingluck Shinawatra on Thursday and with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Friday.
The Japanese officials said topics of the upcoming summit talks will include the expansion of bilateral trade and investment and Japan's assistance in infrastructure development in those countries.
The premier is also expected to tell his counterparts that Japan places importance on basic values such as democracy, the market economy and the rule of law, and is keen to enhance ties with countries that share those values.
In Jakarta on Friday, Abe will deliver a speech on Japan's foreign policy under his new government and attend a reception to mark the start of the 40th anniversary of friendship and cooperation between Japan and ASEAN before winding up the trip on Saturday, the officials said.
The cooperative partnership between Japan and the regional body began in 1973 with the establishment of a forum on Japan's exports of synthetic rubber. A special Japan-ASEAN summit meeting is scheduled to be held in Tokyo in December.