MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte arrived in Japan Tuesday night to participate in an international conference and meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
"We look forward to the President’s summit meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during his working visit. Japan is our second major trading partner and one of the biggest official development assistance partners," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
"We therefore expect that the President's third visit to this country will further strengthen both nations’ shared commitment in the areas of infrastructure development, trade and investments, labor, maritime security and maritime domain awareness, among others."
Duterte arrived in Tokyo at 9:52 p.m. (Japan time), marking his first overseas trip since the May 13 midterm elections.
For his third visit to Japan as chief executive, Duterte is set to participate in the 25th International Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo.
The President's message at the conference, Panelo said, will underscore the development thrusts and goals of the Philippines before global and regional leaders.
Duterte will also hold bilateral talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe where they are expected to discuss the South China Sea dispute, the Department of Foreign Affairs earlier said.
The South China Sea is "central" to peace and stability in the region, which is a mutual concern for Duterte and Abe, Foreign Affairs Asec. Meynardo Montealegre earlier told reporters.
The Philippines has long been involved in a maritime dispute with China over the resource-rich waters. Beijing refuses to recognize a United Nations-backed arbitral ruling that invalidates its sweeping claims over the vital waterway.
Japan, on the other hand, is in a separate row with China over the Senkaku Islands (called Diaoyu by Beijing) in the East China Sea.
Duterte is also expected to deliver a keynote address at the forum, which will be held from May 30 to 31. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, and Laoatian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith are among the other leaders expected to attend.
Duterte is also set to meet the Filipino community in Japan on Thursday. Filipino and Japanese firms, meanwhile, are expected to sign at least 10 business deals on the sidelines of the Tokyo forum, according to Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez.
Panelo said the President assigned Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra as government caretaker to ensure smooth operations during the duration of his 4-day working visit.