Abe to become first Japanese leader to visit Cuba

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 September, 2016, 2:07pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 September, 2016, 10:41pm

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Cuba next week as the first Japanese leader to do so, after attending UN meetings in New York, the government said on Wednesday.

Abe is scheduled to hold talks with Cuban President Raul Castro during his visit to the Caribbean country, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference.

Abe’s trip from September 18 to 24 will include a speech before the UN General Assembly in New York.

Suga said the Cuba visit is aimed at “further deepening our bilateral ties”.

“By working for improvements in the business investment environment, the government hopes to help Japanese firms expand into Cuba, which has attracted global attention from both the public and private sectors following its resumption of diplomatic ties with the United States,” Suga said.

Washington and Havana ended their 54-year diplomatic freeze in following a breakthrough meeting between US President Barack Obama and Castro.

Abe will also seek Cuba’s understanding and cooperation in resolving concerns over North Korea’s nuclear and missile development efforts, Suga said. Havana and Pyongyang maintain diplomatic relations.

Suga said the government is not currently arranging talks between Abe and former Cuban President Fidel Castro, Raul’s elder brother and an icon of Cuba’s revolution in the 1950s.

In New York, Abe is scheduled to give a speech at a UN summit on refugee and migrant issues on September 19 before addressing the annual general debate at the UN General Assembly on September 21, Suga said.

The government is arranging bilateral talks on the sidelines of the UN proceedings to confirm coordination with other leaders on North Korea’s recent fifth nuclear test and other regional and global issues of shared interest, Suga said.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will also visit New York from Sunday and hold talks with his counterparts from the United States and South Korea, as well as from Group of Seven industrial countries on the sidelines of the UN meetings to discuss North Korea’s nuclear and missile developments, the Foreign Ministry said.

Kishida plans to hold a three-way meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se on Sunday and another meeting with his G-7 counterparts the following day.

Kishida also eyes talks with his peers from Brazil, India and Germany, on September 21., the ministry said. Japan and the three countries comprise the so-called Group of Four that is seeking representation as permanent members on an enlarged UN Security Council.