Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Pic: AP.

HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is meeting with Vietnamese leaders on the first leg of a Southeast Asian tour aimed at bolstering alliances with a region that shares his concerns over China’s territorial assertiveness.

Abe, on his first overseas trip since taking office last month, reviewed an honor guard with Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung before the two met for talks on Wednesday.

(READ MORE: China, Japan hike military budgets as island dispute deepens)

The Southeast Asian tour will focus on burnishing ties with countries that are key manufacturing bases and growing markets for Japanese companies.

Such links are gaining in importance as manufacturers seek to balance risks from their investments in China, where anti-Japanese riots and boycotts of some Japanese products, sparked by a territorial dispute, have hammered exports.

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