Abe strengthens ties with Thailand amid China spat

Bangkok (The Nation/ANN) - Fresh from his election victory, Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, will be travelling to Bangkok tomorrow to propose a broad strategic partnership with Thailand as part of Japan's aggressive drive to rekindle its relationship with Southeast Asia.

Abe, accompanied by a 100-strong delegation and 50 members from the Japanese media, will arrive in Bangkok for an official visit from Vietnam before leaving for Indonesia on Friday.

A senior official at the Japanese Embassy in Bangkok said Abe's three-country visit reinforces Japan's view that "relations with Asean are vital for Japan."

Abe is embarking on the Asean tour at a time when Japan is facing growing tension with China over territorial disputes.

Recent anti-Japanese sentiment in China has also dampened Japan's confidence in China as its largest trading partner.

Already - between January 9 and 14 - Fumio Kishida, Japan's foreign minister, has visited the Philippines, Singapore, Brunei and Australia. On January 4, Taro Aso, Japan's deputy prime minister and finance minister, paid a visit to Myanmar.

Abe's visit to Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia will conclude the sweeping regional tour of Japan's top leaders to strengthen the alliances.

The Japanese official said the Japanese prime minister is in no hurry to visit China.

Japanese officials in Bangkok said Abe's schedule tomorrow will cover his visit to the Thailand-Japan Technical Institute.

Abe will also be granted an audience with His Majesty the King at Siriraj Hospital.

He will then proceed to Government House to hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, followed by a joint news conference and an official dinner function.

There will be some key points up for discussion between the two sides, including the strategic alliance that covers economic, political, social and cultural ties.

Japanese officials said Abe is also interested in strengthening economic ties through a master plan for flood prevention in the central part of Thailand. Japanese companies are also interested in taking part in transport projects in Thailand. Cultural exchange will feature on the agenda too.

Moreover, Abe will be asking Yingluck to play a constructive role in bringing about peaceful negotiations according to international laws to the ongoing conflict between China and some Asean members in the South China Sea. Thailand is now acting as coordinating country in the negotiations over the South China Sea conflict.

Asked about the Dawei project in Myanmar, the Japanese official said Yingluck might raise this subject with Abe, who is also keen to see a final proposal. Myanmar has asked Japan to participate in the Dawei project. Thailand will negotiate the final terms of the Dawei project with Myanmar in early February, a complicated task that also involves the Italian-Thai Group.

Japan is Thailand's largest trading partner. Last year Japan was also Thailand's largest foreign investor, pouring some 320 billion baht (US$10.6 billion) into investment projects. Thailand is now Japan's highly important automotive and electronics production base.

  • 2015 Nissan Murano aims for the style-forward crowd 12 hours ago
    2015 Nissan Murano aims for the style-forward crowd

    Nissan says its 2015 Murano crossover, only the second major revamp of the car since it debuted in 2003, draws its design cues from the “age of future space flight.” That’s probably taking it a little far, but the new Murano, based off the 2013 Resonance concept vehicle, is an exceptionally lovely machine, all fluid, curved metal on the outside, and flowing, soft-touch materials on the inside. Certain kinds of comfort and charms that were unheard-of outside of premium vehicles five years ago have definitely trickled down, and reached a kind of design apotheosis with this car.

  • Volkswagen brings new (ish) Jetta to New York along with Golf Sportwagen 15 hours ago
    Volkswagen brings new (ish) Jetta to New York along with Golf Sportwagen

    With its new President and CEO of America, Michael Horn, on stage in New York after just 100 days on the job, Volkswagen debuted its 2015 Jetta. You'd be forgiven for noticing little differences compared to the outgoing model, and in the words of Horn himself, the changes are indeed subtle. The most notable of those subtleties is the all-new 2.0 liter turbo diesel motor, offering 45 mpg highway and a modest increase of 10 hp. For VW, diesel is where it's at.

  • With Vantage GT, Aston Martin races below $100,000 15 hours ago
    With Vantage GT, Aston Martin races below $100,000

    Aston Martin is going downmarket, sort of. The 2015 Vantage GT, a sport-styled variant of Aston’s legendary flagship car, draws style and performance tips from their GT4 race cars, which will be running in North America this year. It’s also priced at $99,900, which shows that the market for these kinds of consumer sports cars has boomed in recent years.

  • ‘Huge’ Hindu, Buddhist statues against Islam, ex-judge says
    ‘Huge’ Hindu, Buddhist statues against Islam, ex-judge says

    KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 — The “huge” statues at a Hindu temple in Batu Caves and Buddhist temple in Penang are an affront to Islam as the religion forbids idolatry, a retired Court of Appeals judge...

  • StarHub 4G users to be charged from June as promo ends
    StarHub 4G users to be charged from June as promo ends

    Are you on the 4G or LTE mobile data network under StarHub? If so, you’ll have to start paying for the service.

  • Over 280 missing after South Korean ferry capsizes
    Over 280 missing after South Korean ferry capsizes

    By Narae Kim JINDO South Korea (Reuters) - More than 280 people, many of them students from the same high school, were missing after a ferry capsized off South Korea on Wednesday, in what could be the country's biggest maritime disaster in over 20 years. It was not immediately clear why the Sewol ferry listed heavily on to its side and capsized in apparently calm conditions off South Korea's southwest coast, but some survivors spoke of a loud noise prior to the disaster.