Duterte to meet with Japan’s Abe ahead of APEC, ASEAN summits

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President Rodrigo Duterte and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe share a light moment at a joint press conference at the prime minister's office in Tokyo October last year. (Reuters)

TOKYO — (UPDATE – 12:22 p.m.) President Rodrigo Duterte will visit Japan for talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this month, ahead of key regional meetings — the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation gathering in Vietnam and the East Asia Summit in the Philippines — in November.

“Japan and the Philippines have close ties and our strategic partnership can promote stability in the region,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said on Wednesday during a regular press briefing.

In Manila, the Department of Foreign Affairs also confirmed what it called Duterte’s working visit on October 29 to 31, where he will discuss with Abe “matters of mutual interest to both countries.”

“He is also scheduled to meet other high-ranking Japanese government officials and influential captains of industry,” the DFA said.

“Discussions are also expected to include regional developments, including peace and stability in the region, particularly in the Korean Peninsula” as well as “engage in dialogue relative to the Philippine chairmanship of ASEAN and preparations for the Prime Minister’s own return visit to the Philippines for the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings in Manila this November,” it added.

Japan is concerned about China’s growing power in the South China Sea and sees cooperation with the Philippines, which lies on the waterway’s eastern side, as key to helping prevent the spread of Beijing’s influence into the western Pacific.

Duterte, unlike his predecessor Benigno Aquino III, has courted China and has been less critical of its island building in the region.

Following the two-day APEC meeting from November 11, which U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend, Asia Pacific leaders will travel to the Philippines for the East Asia Summit, including representatives from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and other Asia Pacific nations.

Duterte’s visit will mark his second trip to Japan and his third meeting with Abe.