Abe seeks to cement ties amid China spat

national January 16, 2013 00:00

By Thanong Khanthong
The Nation

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Japanese PM arrives tomorrow seeking wide-ranging partnership and trade boost

Fresh from his election victory, Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, will be travelling to Bangkok tomorrow to propose a broad strategic partnership with Thailand as part of Japan’s aggressive drive to rekindle its relationship with Southeast Asia.

 Abe, accompanied by a 100-strong delegation and 50 members from the Japanese media, will arrive in Bangkok for an official visit from Vietnam before leaving for Indonesia on Friday. 
A senior official at the Japanese Embassy in Bangkok said Abe’s three-country visit reinforces Japan’s view that “relations with Asean are vital for Japan.”
Abe is embarking on the Asean tour at a time when Japan is facing growing tension with China over territorial disputes. 
Recent anti-Japanese sentiment in China has also dampened Japan’s confidence in China as its largest trading partner.
Already – between January 9 and 14 – Fumio Kishida, Japan’s foreign minister, has visited the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei and Australia. On January 4, Taro Aso, Japan’s deputy prime minister and finance minister, paid a visit to Myanmar. 
Abe’s visit to Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia will conclude the sweeping regional tour of Japan’s top leaders to strengthen the alliances.
The Japanese official said the Japanese prime minister is in no hurry to visit China.
Japanese officials in Bangkok said Abe’s schedule tomorrow will cover his visit to the Thailand-Japan Technical Institute. 
Abe will also be granted an audience with His Majesty the King at Siriraj Hospital.
He will then proceed to Government House to hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, followed by a joint news conference and an official dinner function.
There will be some key points up for discussion between the two sides, including the strategic alliance that covers economic, political, social and cultural ties. 
Japanese officials said Abe is also interested in strengthening economic ties through a master plan for flood prevention in the central part of Thailand. Japanese companies are also interested in taking part in transport projects in Thailand. Cultural exchange will feature on the agenda too.
Moreover, Abe will be asking Yingluck to play a constructive role in bringing about peaceful negotiations according to international laws to the ongoing conflict between China and some Asean members in the South China Sea. Thailand is now acting as coordinating country in the negotiations over the South China Sea conflict.
Asked about the Dawei project in Myanmar, the Japanese official said Yingluck might raise this subject with Abe, who is also keen to see a final proposal. Myanmar has asked Japan to participate in the Dawei project. Thailand will negotiate the final terms of the Dawei project with Myanmar in early February, a complicated task that also involves the Italian-Thai Group.
Japan is Thailand’s largest trading partner. Last year Japan was also Thailand’s largest foreign investor, pouring some Bt320 billion into investment projects. Thailand is now Japan’s highly important automotive and electronics production base.

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