Tokyo (dpa) – Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe departed Thursday for a weeklong trip to Mongolia and five Central Asian countries to build ties with the resource-rich region.
“The region is geopolitically very important. I’d like to significantly boost relations with each country,” Abe told reporters before his departure.
The premier is accompanied by a delegation of 50 top officials from corporations and universities, the Nikkei business daily reported.
Japanese companies are looking to secure around 2 trillion yen (16.7 billion dollars) in orders for Central Asian natural gas and power facilities during the trip, the Nikkei reported.
Abe will become the first Japanese premier to visit all five Central Asian states, Tokyo said. The five countries are Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
Some experts argue Abe’s trip appears to be intended to counter China’s rising influence in the region, the report said.