Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe left for a weeklong visit to South and Southeast Asia yesterday and said he plans to reshuffle his beleaguered government's Cabinet upon his return.
The three-nation trip aimed at strengthening bilateral ties comes less than a month after Abe's ruling bloc suffered a crushing defeat in parliamentary elections following a series of gaffes and scandals involving key ministers.
Speaking to reporters at Tokyo's Haneda Airport before his departure, Abe said he was "basically thinking along the lines" of reshuffling his Cabinet and the leadership of his ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Aug. 27 -- moves he pledged to undertake in response to the electoral setback.
Abe's first stop is Jakarta, where he and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono are expected to sign a free trade agreement. The deal will ensure oil and gas shipments to Japan and reduce most tariffs on trade between the countries, Japan's Foreign Ministry said.
Abe heads to India tomorrow, where he is expected to discuss environmental issues with Indian President Pratibha Patil, as well as address parliament.
In Kuala Lumpur, Abe is set to meet with Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and call on the Malaysian king.
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