Jul 25, 2013

    Abe visits South-east Asia with stronger hand

    JAPANESE Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to South-east Asia beginning today will be in sharp contrast with his previous trip to Malaysia in 2007.

    He had come then facing the biggest challenge to his 11-month premiership following an unprecedented defeat in the Upper House (Diet) elections, forcing him to quit almost immediately upon returning to Tokyo.

    However, there will be no lack of focus this time around for the 59-year-old Liberal Democratic Party leader, who arrives fresh from a thumping victory in the Diet polls earlier this week which effectively broke the political gridlock in Japan.

    He now has another chance to deliver on his "Abenomics" programme to bolster Japan's economy.

    Mr Abe's talks with Prime Minister Najib Razak are expected to focus on the way forward for bilateral relations, with emphasis on rejuvenating the Look East policy and expanding economic ties.

    Japanese firms have spent record amounts scooping up assets in South-east Asia this year - a staggering US$8.2 billion (S$10.4 billion) on mergers and acquisitions so far, already a record with five months to go and well above the US$614 million at the same point last year, data provider Dealogic said.

    The Premier's three-day tour to Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines is the latest of several trips he has made with business leaders since coming to power in December that aim to drum up new deals.