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HANOI: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Vietnam yesterday at the start of a regional tour aimed at strengthening economic and security ties, his first overseas trip since winning power.
Abe will spend less than 24 hours in the communist state before heading to Thailand and Indonesia in an attempt to bolster relations with the vibrant economies of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations bloc.
Last year, Japan became the largest single foreign investor in Vietnam, with major investments in banking, export-orientated manufacturing and consumer goods as Japanese companies eye the rapidly-expanding middle class.
Japan is also Vietnam’s largest aid donor and political and security ties are growing as Tokyo seeks to shore up regional relationships as a counterweight to an increasingly confident China.
“Currently, the strategic environment in the Asia-Pacific region is going through a dynamic change,” Abe, who scored a handsome election win last month after talking tough on a territorial dispute with China, told reporters before departing.
“During this change, having closer relations with Asean countries contributes to the region’s peace and stability and is in Japan’s national interest.”