Abe leaves for Middle East, Africa to secure energy, exports

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday left for a weeklong trip to the Middle East and Africa, where he will meet with the leaders of four countries to discuss economic cooperation aimed at helping Japan secure energy resources and increase exports.

Abe will arrive in Oman the same day on the first leg of the trip before visiting the three African nations of Ivory Coast, Mozambique and Ethiopia.

In Oman, Abe will hold a summit with Sultan Qaboos bin Said and is expected to call for the stable supply of oil and natural gas from the Gulf state to Japan.

They will also discuss bilateral cooperation on maritime security, including antipiracy measures, Japanese officials said.

With the trip, Abe will have visited all six oil producers making up the Gulf Cooperation Council since taking office in 2012. Japan has been in talks since 2006 with the GCC, also involving Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar, on liberalizing trade in goods and services.

In Africa, Abe will announce Japan's continued support for development on the continent. He will hold summits and deliver speeches, aiming to promote assistance in areas such as support for local infrastructure and personnel training for rapidly growing economies in the region.

China has also been increasing its presence in development assistance for Africa with significant amounts of financial aid, apparently prompting Japan to accelerate its efforts not to fall behind its rival.

Abe will return to Tokyo on Wednesday.