HAVANA: Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) that Tokyo wants to launch “large-scale cooperation” with Havana to support the island’s reforms.
In the first visit to Cuba by a Japanese foreign minister, Kishida also met with President Raul Castro to discuss “the positive direction” of their ties, a government statement read out on state television said.
Kishida said Japan supports US and Cuban efforts to normalize relations and that Tokyo wants to take its own ties with Havana to “a new level.”
The foreign minister, who traveled with a delegation of 30 business leaders, said Tokyo wants to launch a “new scheme of Japanese cooperation of wide range, large scale” to support reforms undertaken by Castro.
Speaking during a meeting with Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez, he said the scheme was called “non-reimbursable financial assistance.”
“Secondly, we would like to consolidate our economic relations,” Kishida said.
For his part, Rodriguez said relations with Japan are a “priority” and that the communist country has “the willingness to deepen bilateral ties in all areas, including trade, investment, scientific cooperation and multifaceted cooperation.”
Kishida’s spokesman, Ken Okaniwa, told reporters on Thursday the US embargo against Cuba in force since 1962 is making it “difficult” for Japanese companies to do business with the island.
Bilateral trade amounts to $52 million, with Japanese exports to Cuba accounting for two thirds of that commerce.
Cuba buys machinery from Japan and exports tobacco, coffee and fish, Okaniwa said.
Castro and US President Barack Obama made a surprise announcement in December that they would work to normalize ties under severe strain for more than 50 years.