Last month I returned to Japan in connection with a highly significant event for Japan-UK relations: the official visit of Prime Minister Cameron. This was, in fact, the first official bilateral visit to Japan by a British prime minister for nine years. At the summit on 10 April, Prime Ministers Cameron and Noda issued a robust Joint Statement, entitled “A Leading Strategic Partnership for Global Prosperity and Security”, which highlighted their convergence of views on a broad range of major global issues, including developments concerning North Korea and Iran, as well as on economic matters.
One of the pillars of the Joint Statement was the strengthening of trade and investment between the two countries. Mr Cameron was accompanied by top executives from more than 40 leading British companies. Immediately after his arrival, he visited the headquarters of Nissan, which announced during his visit a major new investment in the UK to the tune of £127 million that would lead to the creation of nearly 3,000 jobs in this country. Next on Mr Cameron’s busy itinerary was a round-table meeting on investment between the two countries, followed by a symposium on nuclear power. Mr Cameron issued a strong message in which he envisaged a further rise in trade and investment flows in both directions. At the same time, he emphasised the importance he attached to the “rebalancing” of the British economy or the resurgence of manufacturing, though not at the expense of the financial and services sector.
At their summit meeting, Prime Ministers Cameron and Noda agreed on a Japan-UK Framework on Civil Nuclear Co-operation which, on the one hand, would encourage the active participation of experienced British companies in the process of nuclear decontamination and reactor decommissioning following the nuclear accident in Fukushima and, on the other, would provide opportunities for Japanese companies to be involved in the construction of nuclear power plants in the UK. The two leaders also agreed on breakthrough co-operation in the defence and security arena. This would involve creating new frameworks for the upgrading of intelligence sharing and more frequent military interaction, including joint military exercises. But most notable was the agreement to work toward a new framework for the future joint development and co-production of defence and security equipment, which had been made possible by a recent epoch-making decision by the Noda Administration to change Japan’s policies on arms export restrictions. Unlike before, Japan is now ready to participate in international co-operation in the development and production of weapons and other defence equipment with friends other than the United States. The UK was chosen as the first of such partners.
Mr Cameron and Mr Noda also reaffirmed their wish for a wide-ranging strengthening of economic ties, including investment by Japanese companies in renewable energy and other aspects of infrastructure in the UK. Furthermore, we expect to see active and enthusiastic participation by British companies in the process of “open recovery” from last year’s disaster in Japan. This will provide opportunities for British companies to be part of the reconstruction business amounting to £130 billion over five years.
The two Prime Ministers sent a very strong message to North Korea concerning its nuclear and ballistic missile development, which is highly detrimental to peace and security not only in the region but also the entire world. They also confirmed their willingness to co-operate on the basis of the convergence of their views on such pressing international issues as Iran, Syria and Afghanistan, as well as nuclear non-proliferation, disaster prevention, cyber-space and piracy.
After an extremely hectic and productive day, Prime Minister Cameron was able to unwind a little at a working dinner with Prime Minister Noda at the latter’s official residence. In an initial exchange of gifts, Mr Cameron presented his counterpart with a Brompton bicycle, built in London and very popular with its residents. Prime Minister Noda reciprocated with some acclaimed Wakuwaku sake, produced by Mr Philip Harper, a British former JET who has spent more than 20 years living and working in Japan and is the only foreigner to have earned the title of toji, or master sake brewer. During their dinner, the two leaders were able to confirm for themselves that Mr Harper has indeed been putting his unique talents to good use!
The following morning, Prime Minister Cameron left for Indonesia following his brief stay, which both sides considered a great success. All in all, the visit and the Joint Statement not only reaffirmed our long-standing bonds as the closest partners in each other’s region but also opened up a new horizon for mutually beneficial co-operation in diverse areas. I returned to the UK feeling very optimistic indeed about the strength of our bilateral relations and the considerable scope for our two countries to maintain their highly positive role on the global stage.