Despite already being a large investor in Southeast Asia, Japan is looking to increase its economic ties with countries in this region.  To address economic as well as security issues, Japan’s recently elected Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is currently visiting countries in this region.  China, as of late, has increased its presence in Southeast Asia both commercially and militarily and Japan is intent on remaining competitive in this region.

Japan’s current administration views the fast-growing, developing countries in Southeast Asia as a great opportunity for economic growth, but strong relationships require more than just foreign investment.  Japan must also better its diplomatic relations in this region.  This means developing free-trade pacts with individual countries and even ASEAN (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations).  Closer relationships with these countries will give Japan an economic stronghold in this flourishing region and increase the likelihood of strengthening alliances and reaching security agreements. 

On his visit to Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia, Abe will also discuss maritime issues like ensuring freedom in East Asian waters.  This concept is instrumental in assuring that maritime trade runs smoothly and efficiently in Southeast Asia, and Japan wants to make sure that countries in this region are on the same page. 

I do not believe Japan will have much trouble bolstering economic relationships in this region because these countries have much to gain from a strong relationship with a developed country like Japan.  In fact, the consensus is that these countries are excited about increasing trade opportunities and diplomacy with Japan, as the economic benefits would likely be substantial.

Do you feel that Japan has maximized its economic potential in this region or that there is still room for growth?  I personally believe it is the latter and am optimistic about the economic opportunities in this region.  Feel free to leave a comment below discussing your take on this issue. 

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