TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga left Tokyo for Southeast Asia on Sunday afternoon, starting his first foreign trip since he took office last month.
During the trip to Vietnam and Indonesia, Suga hopes to gain support for the vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region as China’s assertiveness keeps increasing in the East and South China seas.
Vietnam and Indonesia are the first countries that former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited after his second administration started in December 2012. This tour took place the following month.
Suga chose the same countries to publicize internationally his stance of taking over policies adopted by his predecessor.
“The Association of Southeast Asian Nations is an extremely important key to realizing the free and open Indo-Pacific vision,” Suga told reporters at Tokyo International Airport at Haneda before his departure.
“I’ll clearly express our determination to contribute to the peace and stability of the region,” he also said.
On Monday, he will meet with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to confirm bilateral cooperation on the security front as concerns over China are increasing in the Southeast Asian country.
They are also seen exchanging views on measures to combat the novel coronavirus pandemic. In addition, Japan aims to conclude a treaty allowing exports of defense equipment to Vietnam.
Suga will move on to Jakarta on Tuesday afternoon. He is set to hold talks with Indonesian President Joko Widodo to discuss issues related to COVID-19 and North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals decades ago.
Suga will return home after holding a press conference Wednesday.