TOKYO/MANILA/JAKARTA/HANOI (Philippine Daily Inquirer/The Jakarta Post/Viet Nam News/ANN) - Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit the Philippines, Australia, Indonesia and Vietnam from January 12-17 in a bid to strengthen security cooperation.
Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit the Philippines, Australia, Indonesia and Vietnam from January 12-17 in a bid to strengthen security cooperation in the face of China's maritime threats in the region.
Abe will arrive in the Philippines on Thursday and is the first head of state to visit President Rodrigo Duterte this year.
The two leaders are expected to discuss “counter-terrorism cooperation, drug rehabilitation projects, infrastructure development, maritime cooperation, and development projects”, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement.
Abe will be accompanied by his wife Akie Abe. He will also be the “highest ranking official to ever visit Davao”, according to DFA.
There is a large Japanese community in Davao, where Duterte previously received Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida.
Last year, the Philippines and Japan commemorated 60 years of normalisation of diplomatic relations after World War II.
“Japan remains one of the Philippines’ most steadfast economic partners, and people-to-people relations with Japan are among the most dynamic,” DFA said.
During the visit, Abe is also expected to give Japan's support to the Philippines as the latter chairs a series of Asean meetings this year, where the South China Sea issue is likely to be high on the agenda. Japan is not a claimant in the South China Sea disputes between China and five other governments, including the Philippines and Vietnam, but it is concerned about China’s rising military presence in the resource-rich area which is also a busy shipping lane.
From Manila, Abe will fly to Australia on Saturday, the 14th, to meet with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. They are expected to affirm the need for strong security coordination and cooperation between Japan, Australia and the United States to maintain a rule-based international order, officials said.
The Japanese premier will then visit Indonesia on January 15, where he is expected to discuss the continuation of four strategic projects: the Patimban Port, the Jakarta-Surabaya railway, the East Natuna block with Inpex and the petrochemical and fertilizer projects.
The mega deep sea port project is located in Patimban, West Java, as well as the semi-high speed railway connecting Jakarta and the East Java capital Surabaya, both of which are currently being discussed intensively across Indonesian and Japanese ministries.
The Jakarta-Surabaya project is part of the government’s efforts to turn the existing railway into a mediumspeed railway line with an estimated speed of 160 kilometres per hour. It might need US$2.6 billion worth of financing to complete the project.
Meanwhile, the East Natuna gas block has proven gas reserves of 46 trillion cubic feet (tcf), with estimated oil reserves of 46 million stock tank barrels (mmstb) under the gas reserves, which could produce 7,000 to 15,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd).
Patimban Port is a national strategic project that aims to ease logistics in the country. It will be located about 70 km from the Karawang Industrial Estate in Bekasi, West Java, where many Japanese industrial firms, particularly automotive manufacturers, are operating.
It will have a cargo handling capacity of 1.5 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) once it is partly completed in 2019, and then 7.5 million TEUs by 2027 — which is around half of the capacity of Jakarta’s Tanjung Priok Port — the country’s busiest port.
The investment in the port is estimated to hit US$3 billion, with around $1.7 billion expected to be covered by Japanese loans through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
Abe will end his Asia-Pacific tour in Vietnam where he will meet with his counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc, President Tran Dai Quang and other top officials to strengthen bilateral ties.
Officials said Abe is likely to offer patrol vessels to help Vietnam strengthen its maritime patrol capabilities amid China’s rising maritime assertiveness. The premier will return to Japan on January 17. - Reports from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, The Jakarta Post, Viet Nam News