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Japan foreign minister to visit 5 Southeast Asia nations, PNG in Aug.

Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi speaks to the press in London on Aug. 6, 2020, about trade talks with Britain. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi will visit Singapore and Malaysia this week, and Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar later this month for talks on easing of bilateral border controls implemented in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the Japanese government said Tuesday.

    On the first leg of a six-nation tour that will also include Papua New Guinea, Motegi will head to Singapore and Malaysia for a four-day trip from Wednesday. He will meet Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and counterpart Vivian Balakrishnan on Thursday, according to the Foreign Ministry.

    Motegi will then travel to Malaysia on Friday for talks with Mohamed Azmin Ali, the country's minister of international trade and industry, and Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.

    With both countries, Motegi will accelerate talks toward reopening bilateral exchanges that have been prevented due to strict border controls to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

    Singapore and Malaysia launched new Cabinets in July and March, respectively.

    The visit comes after the Japanese government said in late July it will enter into discussions with 12 Asian economies of Brunei, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan on ways to resume business travel.

    After returning to Japan, Motegi will continue his tour with visits to Papua New Guinea, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar from Aug. 20 through 25, during which the situation over the South China Sea as well as matters concerning North Korea are expected to be discussed, the ministry said.

    Motegi became the first member of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Cabinet to travel overseas since the coronavirus pandemic took hold when he visited Britain for four days last week.

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