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International relations

Kishida leaves for Indonesia in tour of Southeast Asia and Europe

Japan PM begins 'peace trip' amid China assertiveness and Russian aggresion

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida waves as he embarks on an eight-day tour of Southeast Asia and Europe, which will take in Indonesia, then Vietnam, Thailand, Italy and Britain.   © Kyodo

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida departed on an eight-day tour of five nations in Southeast Asia and Europe on Friday to boost relations amid China's growing assertiveness and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

"I'd like to make a trip for peace," Kishida told reporters in Tokyo before his arrival in Indonesia, which will be followed by visits to Vietnam, Thailand, Italy and Britain.

In Southeast Asia, he aims to strengthen cooperation with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations toward realizing a "free and open Indo-Pacific."

With Japan and other Group of Seven nations taking a tough line on sanctions on Russia following its attack on Ukraine, Kishida also plans to ask ASEAN members, most of which have so far stood apart from taking such action against Moscow, to collaborate.

The premier is expected to hold talks with Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Friday afternoon, during which he will seek to advance the Indo-Pacific vision that Japan has been promoting amid China's continued maritime expansion in the region.

Japan views Indonesia, this year's host of the Group of 20 major economies' summit to be held in November and a key economy in Southeast Asia, as a strategic partner sharing universal values such as democracy and rule of law.

In the remainder of his Southeast Asian trip, Kishida will hold talks with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and President Nguyen Xuan Phuc and meet with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha.

Japan and Thailand, marking the 135th anniversary of diplomatic ties this year, are seeking to sign an agreement on the transfer of defense equipment and technology to strengthen cooperation in the security field. Thailand is this year's host of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit.

In Europe, Kishida is expected to discuss with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson how to respond to Russia's continued aggression in Ukraine and support people who have fled the war-torn country.

While the coronavirus pandemic has restricted in-person meetings, Kishida, who took office in October, has been increasing face-to-face diplomacy after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.

The latest overseas trip follows Kishida's visit in late March to India and Cambodia as well as a visit to Belgium, where he and other leaders of the G-7 vowed to keep a close watch on any attempts to help Russia evade sanctions, in a possible warning to countries such as China that may seek to aid Moscow.

Kishida is scheduled to return to Japan on May 6.

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