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Politics

Duterte arrives in Tokyo to solidify ties with Abe

As domestic turmoil settles, Philippine leader looks to maintain diplomatic momentum with Japan

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during Change of Command ceremonies of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on October 26, 2017.   © Reuters

MANILA -- Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte arrived in Tokyo on Monday and will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later in the day.

Despite the two leaders expecting to meet at the mid-November Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit and in related meetings in Manila, the Philippine president flew to Japan apparently to display his strong willingness to maintain close ties with Japan.

Duterte spoke to reporters on Sunday night at Davao International Airport, saying his talks with the prime minister will include Japan's support for infrastructure projects underway in the Philippines, as well as the growing threat from North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

The president also said that there will be no war if the U.S., Japan and South Korea could convince North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "to sit down" for discussions. 

Duterte is visiting Japan for the second time in his presidency, following his October trip last year, while Abe visited the Philippines in January this year. Duterte initially planned to visit Japan again in June, but had to cancel due to conflict on the southern island of Mindanao.

According to a foreign affairs source in Japan, Duterte's visit as the ASEAN summit nears seems intended to further diplomatic efforts between the two nations, and not have Abe make two straight visits to the Philippines.

On Oct. 23, the Philippine government declared victory in the prolonged Mindanao conflict. A day earlier, Abe's ruling coalition had celebrated its landslide victory in Japan's lower house elections.

This is probably the best -- and last -- chance before the ASEAN summit for the Philippine leader to reaffirm his friendship with Japan, which has provided assistance to his country.

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