Japan PM increases European ties amid North Korea tensions

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 January, 2018, 9:45pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 January, 2018, 10:33pm

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Latvian counterpart Maris Kucinski agreed on Saturday to cooperate in adding pressure on North Korea to give up its pursuit of nuclear and missile capabilities.

The two leaders also affirmed in their meeting in the Latvian capital Riga the need to promote economic ties by taking advantage of Latvia’s position as a logistics centre in the Baltic region, Japanese officials said.

As Abe called for a tough approach to Kim Jong-un’s government, Kucinski said at a joint press conference that he “shares the same view” on the importance to press North Korea to abandon its nuclear programme.

The Japanese premier is trying to step up pressure on Pyongyang to rein in its nuclear ambitions through talks with foreign leaders.

Abe and Kucinski also agreed on the need to maintain maritime order based on the rule of law amid China’s assertiveness in the Asia-Pacific region.

They affirmed a plan for Latvian Defence Minister Raimonds Bergmanis to visit Japan in February to promote discussions on security.

Abe and Kucinski discussed strengthening relations between Japan and the Baltic states, including Estonia and Lithuania, the officials said. The four countries will aim to hold the first round of dialogue later in 2018 or early in 2019.

Abe arrived in Latvia – the first Japanese prime minister to visit the country – for the second leg of his six-nation European tour following Estonia, where Abe met President Kersti Kaljulaid and Prime Minister Juri Ratas and discussed bilateral cooperation on cybersecurity.

The leaders aid their countries would start working together on cyberdefence and a Japanese spokesperson later said Tokyo would cooperate with Nato countries including Estonia on cybersecurity.

“Estonia and Japan are separated by thousands of kilometres, but tightly connected by a digital umbilical cord,” Ratas said, adding that “Japan will soon become a contributing participant with regard to the Nato Cooperative Cyber Defence Center of Excellence, which is located in Tallinn.”

Japan’s foreign ministry press secretary Norio Maruyama told reporters in Tallinn that “step by step we understand which way Nato can be a useful entity for Japan and in which area can Japan be useful for Nato”.

Maruyama added that given the threats posed by cyberterrorism “we need to have closer coordination among the countries that share the same values”.