Abe the first serving Japanese PM to visit Ireland since independence
Co-operation between Japan, China and South Korea more important in the face of North Korea’s ‘provocative words’
The prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, having a meeting with British prime minister David Cameron at the G8 summit in the North. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Prime minister Shinzo Abe’s government last week again raised its forecasts for the Japanese economy, for a second straight month.
A pick-up in exports and industrial output is supporting a steady economic recovery driven by the prime minister’s aggressive fiscal and monetary stimulus policies and a new growth initiative.
It is an upturn that is widely welcomed around the world, after years of Japanese economic lethargy, and many, Mr Abe included, believe it could also provide a badly needed fillip to the global economy.
Mr Abe’s post-G8 visit to Dublin today is the first by a Japanese head of government and is expected to focus largely on bilateral issues like trade.
The prime minister, who led the Liberal Democratic Party back to power in December, has proved a controversial figure, and not only economically. Critics complain that his identification with nationalist causes, among them the sanitising of Japan’s war record and territorial disputes with Korea and China, are straining the country’s relationship with regional neighbours.
How do you see the state of relations between Ireland and Japan, and are there opportunities to strengthen ties? There is, for example, no direct flight.
Since Ireland gained independence in 1922 no serving prime minister of Japan has ever visited this country. On this occasion, having been invited by the Taoiseach, Mr Kenny, it is an honour for me to be the first prime minister to visit Ireland.
Japan and Ireland may be geographically far apart, but I would like to mention a number of points we have in common.
First, we share common values such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Having these values in common, we can share responsibilities and co-operate in many areas such as education, science, and disarmament and non-proliferation.
Second, a hardworking nature. One example of this is Ireland’s tenacious efforts towards overcoming the European debt crisis.
Third, a rich culture. Famous Irish musicians such as U2 and Enya are well-known in Japan and have many fans.
It is certainly true that the level of human and economic exchange between our two countries is not absolutely satisfactory, and as you have mentioned there are as yet no direct flights.
However, having so much in common, our nations enjoy close ties of friendship, and I am confident that in particular our shared values and hardworking nature will be a driving force for growth that will also contribute to the global economy.
There is ample potential for the expansion of human and economic exchange, and the government of Japan will support this in a variety of ways. I hope that this visit will be an opportunity to inspire greater mutual interest between Japanese and Irish people, and to further strengthen the close ties between our two countries.