One of the first leaders Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern will seek out at the East Asia Summit in Thailand is Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, to congratulate him on his country's "incredible" hosting of the Rugby World Cup.

"I'll acknowledge the amazing job they have done at hosting," she told the Herald on Sunday.

"They did an incredible job and the performance of the Brave Blossoms was fantastic."

The All Blacks had also cultivated a large fan base in Japan.


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Ardern is due to arrive in Bangkok tonight (NZ time) for the annual summit comprising leaders of the 10 Asean countries, plus Australia, New Zealand, India, China, Japan, South Korea, the United States and Russia.

After addressing a business and investment conference, she will be attending a gala dinner.

She visited Japan at the start of the tournament and was at the first All Black's game.
She said that being a good host was an important cultural value for both New Zealand and Japan.

"I noticed that when I was involved in trade and tourism events during the bilateral [visit] - acknowledging that our word for it is manaakitanga and their word for it is omotenashi.
"That's where we can go just a little layer deeper than just promoting ourselves as a destination for adventure tourism."

Ardern acknowledged that New Zealand's relationship with Japan used to be strong, then waned for a few decades, but was now undergoing a resurgence.

"I learned Japanese at Morrinsville College for a year. We had Japanese students when I was a kid who came and lived with us for a while."

Jacinda Ardern and Shinzo Abe previously met it in Tokyo. Photo / Elliott Smith
Jacinda Ardern and Shinzo Abe previously met it in Tokyo. Photo / Elliott Smith

She believed there was scope to deepen the relationship.
There was evidence of that this week when Foreign Minister Winston Peters announced a new co-operation arrangement with Japan including working on joint Pacific projects in Samoa, Kiribati, the Solomons Islands and Fiji.


This will be Ardern's third East Asia Summit, her first having been in the Philippines in 2017, then in Singapore last year.

The East Asia Summit is more free-wheeling than some other multilateral gatherings with no fixed agenda.

But the issues sure to be debated this year will include disputes around the South China Seas, North Korean missile testing, climate change and the plight of Rohingya people forced from Myanmar's Rakhine state.

She also hopes to have a meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo -
at which the unrest in West Paula is likely to be raised.

Tonight's gala dinner will be hosted by Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-Ochoa.
It is not clear whether King Maha Vajiralongkorn and Queen Suthida will be there.