JAPAN - With prospects of staying in power long-term, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been notably active in conducting strategic diplomacy. Observers say Abe has been taking into account the international repercussions of his visiting certain countries, while also trying to strengthen economic, security and cultural ties with those nations.
They also say Abe actively makes such visits, even to small countries, if he believes it is worthwhile. He is said to view the world as a whole, as if looking at a globe.
At the start of a meeting Saturday with representatives of local businesses in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, Abe said, "You need a catalyst to fall in love with someone," indicating his hope that the visit will provide a spark for the two nations to deepen their relations.
Abe visited Bahrain on the first leg of his four-nation tour that runs until Thursday. Senior executives of about 50 Japanese companies are accompanying him on the tour, which also covers Kuwait, Djibouti and Qatar. Before his departure, Abe told reporters he was willing to lead sales promotion in the booming Gulf countries.
The economy is one of the pillars of Abe's diplomacy, which is why he personally took the trouble to introduce the economic delegates to his counterpart in Bahrain, Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, on Saturday. Middle East nations are highly observant of formalities and social standing, so diplomacy led by the prime minister should be extremely effective, a source close to the delegates said.
On Sunday, Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa bid Abe a cordial welcome by awarding him a top decoration.
Abe is expected to visit Djibouti on Tuesday, home to Maritime Self-Defence Force units engaged in an antipiracy escort operation off Somalia, to strengthen his message that he also places importance on security issues. The tour schedule is believed to have been decided in accordance with Abe's strong wishes.
Visiting all ASEAN nations
Abe has made eight foreign trips, including his current one, to 20 countries since returning to the helm of government in December. A senior Foreign Ministry official said the pace of his foreign visits must be faster than any other predecessor.