Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe plans to visit the Philippines, Malaysia and other countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in late July after the House of Councillors election, according to informed sources.
By reinforcing ties with Asean countries, Abe will aim to put a brake on China, which has strengthened its maritime activities in the East and South China seas.
He also wants the economic growth of these countries to contribute to Japan’s own growth.
In January, not long after he became prime minister, Abe made his first official visits abroad to Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. In May, Abe visited Myanmar, another member of Asean.
Asean countries have grown wary of China’s increasing maritime might in the region and have proposed a code of conduct in the South China Sea that would be legally binding on China.
During his upcoming trip, Abe plans to confirm with Asean countries the importance of complying with international law.
The Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam all have territorial disputes with China over islands in the South China Sea. Their situations are similar to that of Japan, as China claims the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture.
At a summit meeting in the Philippines, Abe plans to offer patrol vessels to the Philippine Coast Guard to help improve its maritime security.
The government may also relax visa requirements for citizens of the Philippines, Malaysia and three other Asean members.
In his meetings with Asean leaders, Abe will explain these plans in the hope that tourists from these countries will increase.