AK­I­HITO TO BOOST JA­PAN-THAI­LAND TIES

Em­peror also will pay last re­spects to late King Bhu­mi­bol

New Straits Times - - World -

BANGKOK

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.

AP

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