Japan to invite Vietnamese president as state guest

Japan has decided to invite Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang in mid-March as a state guest, sources in the government and the ruling coalition said Sunday.

Sang is expected to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as well as Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, and give a speech at a House of Representatives plenary session on March 17 or 18, with Japan apparently aiming to demonstrate its amicable ties with Vietnam, which is involved in a territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea.

Sino-Japanese relations have been strained over a group of islands in the East China Sea that are administered by Japan but claimed by China.

It will be Sang's first visit to Japan since assuming the presidency in 2011.

Sang and Abe are expected to confirm the principles of maritime security, such as the rule of law and freedom of navigation, with an eye on China, and it is also likely they will discuss Japan's support for Vietnamese nuclear plant construction, the sources said.

Abe, meanwhile, will seek Vietnamese cooperation in addressing the issue of North Korea's past abductions of Japanese nationals, as Hanoi maintains diplomatic ties with Pyongyang, the sources said.