Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is planning visits to India and the Philippines during the Golden Week holidays from late April, government sources said Wednesday, as Japan looks to strengthen ties in Asia to counter China's growing clout.
Japan seeks to reaffirm cooperation with the countries over its vision of a "free and open Indo-Pacific" region through the trips, which are subject to changes depending on the coronavirus situation.
The framework known as the Quad -- consisting of Japan, the United States, Australia and India -- has increasingly become the focus of efforts to counter China's growing economic and military influence.
The countries held the Malabar joint naval exercises last November in a show of force, while agreeing in a virtual summit to "meet challenges to the rules-based maritime order" in the South and East China seas, where China has made territorial claims that are fiercely contested by its neighbors.
Suga met with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in November in Tokyo and is slated to visit the United States for talks with President Joe Biden next week, and is apparently seeking to further solidify the framework by meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Japan and India have also strengthened bilateral security ties in recent years, signing a military pact last September allowing them to exchange supplies and logistical support.
Suga and Modi are expected to discuss further tie-ups in outer space and cybersecurity, as well as cooperation on infrastructure projects and other economic issues.
According to the sources, Suga is also slated to meet with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, and they will discuss ways to deepen security and economic cooperation as this year marks the 65th year since the normalization of their diplomatic relations.