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PM to visit Japan after ASEAN summit

Singh will visit Japan next week to shore up India's ties with Asia's largest economy and explore opportunities for cooperation in energy and defence.

india Updated: Dec 07, 2006 18:24 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will visit Japan next week to shore up India's ties with Asia's largest economy and explore opportunities for cooperation in energy and defence, an Indian official said on Wednesday.

Singh would arrive in Japan on December 13 on a three-day visit after a brief stop in the Philippines, Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon said.

"India attaches great importance to its relations with Japan, which is the focal point in our 'Look East' policy," Menon said.

"We believe that our bilateral relations are poised to enter an even more vibrant and dynamic phase, based on converging long-term strategic political and economic interests."

Singh's engagements in Tokyo include a meeting with Emperor Akihito on December 14.

He will meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for talks on December 15, and later the two premiers will jointly inaugurate a "Festival of India" in Japan.

Singh would also address the Japanese parliament and meet top Japanese business leaders before ending his visit, Menon said.

Bilateral trade between Japan and India -- Asia's fourth-largest economy -- stood at six billion dollars in 2005.

"Both sides are looking at a comprehensive bilateral economic agreement," Menon said, adding Japanese financial institutional investors had invested more than five billion dollars in India in recent years.

While pharmaceuticals, automotives and finance were the traditional areas of cooperation, India and Japan would explore possibilities in defence and energy to forge new links, Menon said.

New Delhi would also discuss a civilian nuclear deal it was on the verge of wrapping up with Washington that would give India access to previously forbidden nuclear technology.

"This is an ongoing conversation. As the situation evolves, we keep telling people what we think ... views are evolving on this subject," Menon said.

Singh's visit to Japan would be preceded by a stopover in the Philippines for the 10th summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the second East Asia Summit in Cebu.

Singh was likely to meet his Chinese counterpart, Wen Jiabao, for talks on the sidelines of the East Asia summit, Menon added.

India and China are slowly mending ties after a bitter border conflict in 1962 soured their relations.