03/24/2012 08:24 EDT | Updated 05/24/2012 05:12 EDT

Harper Arrives In Tokyo To Launch Trade Talks

CP File

Prime Minister Stephen Harper took his Asian tour to Japan on Saturday, where his delegation will remain focused on improving trade relations.

During the visit, Harper and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda are expected to formally launch free-trade negotiations and the Japanese government could relax restrictions on imported Canadian beef.

In addition, the Canadian prime minister will express sympathy to the victims of last year's earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan.

Harper wrapped up a three-day visit to Thailand earlier Saturday with a brief announcement on human smuggling as he visited a police outpost at a Bangkok dockyard.

He said Canada is contributing $12 million over two years to crack down on human smuggling and illegal migration in Southeast Asia and other parts of the world.

He also thanked Thai police for co-operating with RCMP in tracking the people who helped a boatload of nearly 500 Sri Lankan migrants make it from Bangkok to British Columbia in August 2010.

Since 2010, there have been no reports of boats carrying migrants arriving on Canada's shores.

The Canadian government says Thailand is both a source and a transit point for illegal migrants who want to make Canada their final destination.

About $7 million of the funding Harper announced will help train and equip the Royal Thai Police and other southeast Asian police agencies to thwart the activities of human smuggling gangs.

The latest initiative follows the Conservative government's decision to re-introduce a bill last January that would further discourage asylum seekers from arriving on Canadian shores by sea.

Under the legislation, such claimants could be detained for up to a year while their identities are checked and their cases processed.