On the eve of my return to Japan at the end of my assignment in the UK, I would like to report on Prime Minister Abe’s recent visit to London. It was a most significant event both for our bilateral relations and in the context of the preparations for the forthcoming G7 Ise-Shima Summit.
Early in the morning of 5 May, Prime Minister and Mrs Abe arrived at Stansted Airport to start a busy one-day bilateral visit. It was the culmination of a tour of European countries which had begun on 1 May and had taken in Italy, France, Belgium and Germany, where he and the leaders concerned had exchanged views regarding the issues to be discussed at the G7 Summit at the end of this month as well as discussing Japan’s relations with the respective countries. Mr Abe’s visit to the UK was his third in an official capacity since I was posted here, and for me it was especially memorable.
Soon after his arrival, Prime Minister Abe headed for No. 10 Downing Street for a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Cameron. The two leaders discussed bilateral relations, reaffirmed the dynamic strategic partnership between the two countries, and discussed EU-related matters and the forthcoming G7 Summit. At their joint press conference Mr Cameron stressed the importance of commercial relations with Japan to the UK’s prosperity, while Mr Abe raised the issue of Brexit and made clear Japan’s wish for the UK to remain in the EU. Both leaders confirmed that Japan and the UK would cooperate closely on such pressing and weighty issues as the global economic slowdown, counter-terrorism and climate change, and critical regional issues. They agreed to continue their collaboration in certain key fields, including defence and security cooperation.
Prime Minister Abe subsequently held a press conference to mark the conclusion of his European tour. He mentioned the importance he places on collaboration among the G7 member states to meet the challenges facing the global economy and stressed their responsibility to strive for world peace and prosperity in view of the common values they share including freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. On that occasion Mr Abe also took the opportunity to thank the leaders he had met for their kind sentiments towards the victims of the recent earthquakes in Kumamoto.
Mr and Mrs Abe then went to Buckingham Palace, where they were graciously received by Her Majesty The Queen. In the afternoon, Mr Abe and Mr Cameron visited the Hitachi North Pole Depot, where they were greeted by Mr Alistair Dormer, Senior Vice President and Executive Officer, CEO of Rail Systems Business Unit, Hitachi, Ltd. They were briefed about the progress of the company’s train manufacturing project in the UK as well as its ambitions to expand its business in Europe. Two prime ministers observed maintenance being carried out on rail carriages manufactured by Hitachi. They also talked to some of the staff there and to some local students who were undergoing vocational training at the depot.
Mr and Mrs Abe ended their day with a visit to the British Prime Minister’s splendid country retreat of Chequers. He had further discussions with Mr Cameron on a range of issues including the Middle East, Ukraine and Russia, and South China Sea. Then the two leaders and their wives enjoyed an intimate dinner and stayed overnight at Chequers. It was the first time in decades for a Japanese prime minister to be accorded such a privilege. The following morning Prime Minister Abe left for a visit to Russia.
I was delighted to be able to bring down the curtain on my assignment to the UK by being involved in a successful prime ministerial visit. As I prepare to leave I can look back with great pleasure on two stints in London and take great satisfaction from the excellent state of Japan-UK ties. I very much appreciate the warmth and support shown by all of you, and will keep a close eye on the further evolution of the valuable Japan-UK friendship from my home in Japan.