While reiterating that Sri Lanka does not want to get involved in rivalries among world powers, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday said, “We seek friendship and reject domination by others.”
The President expressed these views during a meeting held with visiting Japanese Foreign Affairs Minister Motegi Toshimitsu who called on President Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday.
Minister Toshimitsu expressed Japan’s commitment to the concept of a free and open Indo – Pacific region and added defence, security and stability were the priority areas of regional cooperation.
In response, President Rajapaksa said, “The Indian Ocean must remain a zone of peace free of any conflict.”
The Japanese Minister, who was accompanied by an eight-member high-level delegation, congratulated President Rajapaksa on his election victory and called Sri Lanka “a special friend of Japan”.
Extending an invitation to the President to visit Japan, he said “we will be hosting an international conference titled ‘Friends of Asia’ which will be held in May next year. It would be an appropriate time for your visit to our country”. President Rajapaksa was in agreement, the President's Media said.
The visiting Foreign Minister expressed Japan’s hope that continuous progress in bilateral relations would be made under President Rajapaksa’s leadership.
“Japan wishes to set up a bilateral mechanism to oversee the successful implementation of mutually agreed development projects. It will help to introduce high-tech Japanese companies to Sri Lanka”, Minister Toshimitsu said.
President Rajapaksa said, “Ours is a small economy. But we have a skilled, educated and talented workforce. My intention is to build an employment-oriented, technology-driven economy. We seek Japan’s assistance to reach that goal.”
The President also said that he was open to foreign investments from all countries, especially the countries from the region such as China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia and Singapore.
The Japanese Minister said that his country would stand for peace, stability and reconciliation among communities in Sri Lanka.
President Rajapaksa in response said the political process of reconciliation must move forward together with overall economic development, infrastructure upgrading and raising the living standards of people, especially in the North and East.
At the meeting, Sri Lanka and Japan reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthen bilateral cooperation in vital sectors of economic development and identify key areas of such cooperation.
Information and communication technology (ICT), harbour infrastructure including Eastern Container Terminal (ECT), expressways, agriculture, digitalisation of television transmission, disaster prevention and security cooperation are some of the areas identified.
Japanese Ambassador Sugiyama Akira, Japanese Minister’s Executive Assistant Matano Motosoada and Dr. P. B. Jayasundera, Secretary to the President were also present. (Lahiru Pothmulla)