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Japan PM to discuss defence, customs deals on Thailand trip

BANGKOK (Reuters) – Japan is expected to announce a new defence agreement among several deals with Thailand on Monday during a visit by Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, the last leg of his three-nation tour of Southeast Asia.

The agreement, details of which have yet to be disclosed, would facilitate transfers of defence hardware and technology from Japan to Thailand, which has one of the region’s biggest and most equipped militaries.

Noriyuki Shikata, Japan’s Cabinet Secretary for Public Affairs, told reporters the two leaders were also expected to sign an agreement to improve customs procedures in Thailand, where Japan is the biggest investor, while Tokyo would extend a 50 billion yen ($384.79 million) loan to support Thailand’s COVID mitigation efforts.

Southeast Asia has for decades been a strategic region for Japan, hosting some of the biggest names in industry, from infrastructure, engineering and industrial zones to the manufacturing of vehicles and electronics.

The region remains a key battleground between the United States, Japan’s close ally, and its closest rival China, Southeast Asia’s biggest trade partner.

Kishida was due to meet Thai counterpart Prayuth Chan-ocha late afternoon on Monday, before drawing the curtain on a short tour that saw stops in Vietnam and Indonesia, where Japan is a also a major investor.

Shikata said Kishida would discuss with Prayuth the position of Southeast Asian countries on the conflict in Ukraine and express Japan’s support for the region’s efforts to address the crisis in Myanmar following a coup last year.

($1 = 129.9400 yen)

(This story refiles to correct name order of Japanese official in paragraph 3, 7).

(Reporting by Panu Wongcha-um; Editing by Martin Petty)


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