AKIHITO TO BOOST JAPAN-THAILAND TIES
Emperor also will pay last respects to late King Bhumibol
EMPEROR Akihito arrived here yesterday to pay his respects to the late Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, following a weeklong trip to Vietnam aimed at winning support against Chinese expansionism.
The monarchies — two of a handful remaining in Asia — have maintained close ties. Bhumibol first visited Japan in 1963, touching off a decades-long friendship with numerous visits back and forth, most recently, by Akihito to Thailand in 2006.
Akihito, accompanied by his wife, Empress Michiko, was to lay wreathes and sign a condolence book at the Grand Palace here before meeting King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
“The visit is symbolic of Japan’s interest in boosting Japanese-Thai relations at a time when China seems to enjoy favour,” said Paul Chambers, research director at the Institute of Southeast Asian Affairs.
China frightens many in Southeast Asia with expansionist policies in the South China Sea. But China’s claims do not clash with Thai territorial waters, paving the way for friendly relations.
The 83-year-old emperor is Japan’s constitutional head of state, a role symbolic rather than
AFP PIC political. However, his trips often serve to bolster relations with nations friendly to Tokyo.
Vietnam, which has sparred with China over territorial waters, rolled out the red carpet for Akihito’s visit last week.