Sri Lanka’s strategic location, astride the main shipping lanes in the Indian Ocean, has kept in the gaze of the world powers more and more. The latest example of such attention turned out to be the visit of Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono to Sri Lanka last Thursday just for a couple of days, for the first time in 15 years.
During his meetings with President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his counterpart Tilak Marapana, the Japanese Minister laid emphasis on what he called ‘Open Indo-Pacific Policy’.
Amidst this increasing tussle among the international players to secure strategically important projects, Japan moves in to court Sri Lanka as the environment has to be conducive here for it to engage transnational business through the sea lanes straddling Sri Lanka
The latest attempt by Japan to court Sri Lanka comes in the context of Sri Lanka leasing out the Hambantota Port for development by China Merchants.
In aftermath of the conclusion of the visit, Japan’s Deputy Press Secretary Toshihido Ando who accompanied the Minister, said that Japan valued to its relations with Sri Lanka, a country located in a strategic point on the Indian Ocean sea lanes. He said Japan sought to enhance further relations.
This remark shed light on Sri Lanka’s importance to the international community in terms of its positioning. No matter what, any power, be it India, Japan, China or the United States, is not ready to let go of Sri Lanka.
China has already invested in great volumes in Sri Lanka. India, apart from its current component of investment here, seeks to infuse more money into strategic projects such as seaport and airport developments in Sri Lanka.
Amidst this increasing tussle among the international players to secure strategically important projects, Japan moves in to court Sri Lanka as the environment has to be conducive here for it to engage transnational business through the sea lanes straddling Sri Lanka. A bulk of oil trade in the world takes place in this part of the Indian Ocean.
China and India, as the leading economic powerhouses of the world, place the greatest demand in the world for energy sources. With their economies rising further, the demand is bound to increase by leaps and bounds in the years to come.
This remark shed light on Sri Lanka’s importance to the international community in terms of its positioning. No matter what, any power, be it India, Japan, China or the United States, is not ready to let go of Sri Lanka
Not only oil the trade, but also international dealings in other consumer goods and commodities also happen through the same shipping lanes with the involvement of the countries such as China, India, Japan, South Korea, Singapore etc.
Against this backdrop, press secretary Ando, quoting his Minister Kono, said Japan stood for Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. According to him, his Minister emphasized the need to further enhance cooperation in the areas of maritime, security and defence with Sri Lanka, which is at the centre of the strategy.
A news item posted on the website of the Japanese Foreign Affairs Ministry, the Minister stated that Japan seeks to further promote infrastructure development cooperation to strengthen connectivity of ports and emphasized the importance of openness, transparency and economic viability, as well as financial soundness of the recipient country in the area of infrastructure development. In response, Minister Marapana stated that under the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy proposed by Japan, it is important to ensure freedom of navigation and Sri Lanka seeks to further promote cooperation with Japan in the areas of maritime, security and defence,”.
It said, “Minister Kono stated that Japan will enhance cooperation towards the improvement of social infrastructure, including in the areas of environment, terrestrial digital broadcasting and the national reconciliation process. In response, Minister Marapana expressed appreciation for Japan’s assistance to date and expressed his hope for further assistance in various areas. Minister Kono explained the importance of maximizing pressure on North Korea, including through the full implementation of relevant UNSC resolutions, and the early resolution of the abductions issue. Minister Marapana stated that Sri Lanka supports Japan’s position on North Korea and will implement relevant UNSC resolutions.
Apart from courting Sri Lanka in this regard, Japan also sought Sri Lanka’s assistance to apply pressure on North Korea by implementing the resolution of the UN Security Council. During the meeting, Sri Lanka has pledged full support for Japan’s position and agreed to implement the resolution in full.
In 1970s, some Japanese nationals were abducted by North Korea. Japan called the resolution of this abduction issue by allowing the remaining Japanese nationals to return.
“Many in 1970 were abducted by North Korea. Only five returned. We want the remaining ones to return. They have not returned. In terms of North Korea, we have nuclear issues. They have tested and missiles have been launched,” he said.
Besides, a leading Japanese Business delegation is slated to arrive in Sri Lanka soon to explore opportunities. There are as many as 130 Japanese companies which are involved in business activities here.
Apart from courting Sri Lanka in this regard, Japan also sought Sri Lanka’s assistance to apply pressure on North Korea by implementing the resolution of the UN Security Council. During the meeting, Sri Lanka has pledged full support for Japan’s position and agreed to implement the resolution in full
Asked whether Japan would increase the presence of its maritime self-defence force here, he said Japan was keen on the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Policy. He said it was based on the promotion and establishment of rule of law, promotion of free navigation, economic prosperity, peace and stability.
“We believe in the rule of law. We believe in a peaceful maritime order,” he said.
Asked about the leasing out of the Hambatonta Port to a Chinese company, he said any infrastructure development project, be it port or whatever, should have international standards.
“Any infrastructure project conforms to the international standards such as openness, transparency, financial soundness, viability, fiscal viability of the recipient country,” he said.
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