Shinzo Abe will next month become the first Japanese prime minister in three decades to visit Papua New Guinea, after a huge liquified natural gas project came onstream, a report said yesterday.
Abe will visit PNG as part of a tour starting on July 6 that will also include visits to Australia and New Zealand, Kyodo News reported, citing a government source.
The report comes as the Pacific country emerges as a source of fuel for energy-hungry Japan, and follows the first shipment of liquefied natural gas from a landmark US$19 billion project in PNG last month.
Japanese bureaucrats customarily avoid commenting on diplomatic movements until shortly before they happen, although Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop revealed during a visit to Tokyo last week that Abe would go to Canberra in July.
If Abe visits PNG, he will be the first Japanese prime minister to do so since Yasuhiro Nakasone in 1985.
In April, Japan and Australia reached a long-awaited free trade deal when Prime Minister Tony Abbott visited Tokyo.
Tokyo and Canberra also agreed this month to boost their defence ties, moving towards a possible future submarine deal.