Japan PM heads to SE Asia on first overseas tour
TOKYO (AFP) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday left for Southeast Asia on his first overseas trip since winning power, seeking to shore up relationships as a counterweight to an increasingly confident China.
Mr Abe's visit to Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia is also aimed at strengthening ties with the vibrant economies of the Asean bloc as Japan attempts to reinvigorate its sluggish economy.
The conservative leader, who took office in December, originally said Washington would be his first overseas destination, but scheduling difficulties with a busy US President Barack Obama appear to have scuppered the plan.
Before leaving Tokyo, Mr Abe told reporters that he wished to boost ties with countries that shared common values such as democracy and the rule of law.