That occasion took me back all of 36 years to the first posting of my diplomatic career as Third Secretary in our Embassy in Singapore in 1977. A few months after my arrival in Singapore I had to coordinate the visit of the Japanese Training Squadron to Singapore. This was a considerable responsibility as there was no Defence Attaché in Singapore at the time. It was extremely hard work, but the visit passed off successfully, and one cannot overstate its value in terms of creating goodwill at a time when bitter memories of the war were still lingering in the minds of many people there.
At the reception in Portsmouth I reminded the guests of the longstanding relations between our two countries, with this year marking the 400th anniversary of the start of bilateral commercial ties, which were brought about by the first-ever arrival in Japan of an English ship, and the 150th anniversary of the arrival in the UK of the Choshu Five – again on board a British vessel.
Our relationship moved up to a new level on 4 July when Foreign Secretary Hague and I signed two important defence-related agreements: the Information Security Agreement and the Framework Agreement on Joint R&D and Production of Defence Equipment. This development, on top of our ongoing cooperation on counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and in other forms of exchange and cooperation, will significantly enhance our long-standing bilateral partnership in the defence and security fields.
On Sunday 18 August, together with some of my Embassy colleagues and members of their families, my wife and I attended the annual Reconciliation Service at Canterbury Cathedral. Around 100 people, including a number of British veterans, people prominent in peace and reconciliation activities, and the German Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires, Dr Rudolf Adam, as well as a representative of the MOD, joined the uplifting service, conducted by the Vice Dean, Canon Claire Edwards. Mr George Housego, a former PoW, recited the Kohima Epitaph while I read a passage on peace from St Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Afterwards some of the congregation took tea together. The friendly atmosphere and the animated conversation reflected the very real progress achieved in the quest for reconciliation. There was an element of sadness as we remembered the late John Nunneley, who, as Chairman of the Burma Campaign Fellowship Group, had been a big promoter of the cause of reconciliation and passed away a few weeks ago, and other dear friends who are no longer with us. We shall remain grateful to them for their courage and magnanimity and will remember them as we continue to progress along the path of peace, reconciliation and friendship.