Ambassador's Blog

Prime Minister Abe’s visit boosts Japan-UK relations

May/June 2014

In the early evening of Wednesday 30 April, the Japanese Prime Minister and Mrs Abe arrived in the United Kingdom for a two-day official visit. It was the second leg of a six-nation tour of Europe.

The following morning I accompanied Mr & Mrs Abe to Buckingham Palace, where we were received by Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal. Mr Abe then made a stopover at the Institute of Directors, where he spoke at a seminar, Invest in Japan: A Regional Roadmap, which had been organised by JETRO.  The Prime Minister urged more foreign direct investment into Japan as he outlined his economic policy of comprehensive deregulation.

Mr Abe paid a visit to Westminster Abbey, where he was welcomed by the Dean of the Abbey, the Very Reverend John Hall, and laid a wreath at The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior to pay his respects to the war dead. He then proceeded to 10 Downing Street for a two-hour bilateral meeting and working lunch with Prime Minister David Cameron. The two leaders held wide-ranging discussions on the bilateral strategic partnership as well as various regional and global issues.

The most notable achievements were in the security arena, for which reason the British Foreign and Defence Secretaries were also present at the meeting. Prime Minister Abe explained his policy of making Japan a “Proactive Contributor to Peace”, and Prime Minister Cameron welcomed the idea of Japan playing such an enhanced role for peace. The two Prime Ministers agreed to step up their defence and security cooperation and for that purpose to hold a bilateral Foreign and Defence Ministerial meeting in London soon so that the four Ministers could draw up concrete proposals. They also decided to start the negotiations for an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement, whereby the two sides will provide logistical support to each other’s forces, and to increase joint exercises.

In the economic sphere, Japan and the UK declared their determination to reinforce their existing robust business partnership and to work towards an agreement in principle on a comprehensive Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement by the end of 2015.

(For a full account of the Summit contained in the UK-Japan Joint Statement: A Dynamic Strategic Partnership for the 21st Century, click here.)

In the afternoon, Prime Minister Abe visited University College London, where he attended and spoke at the historic Japan-UK Universities Conference for Collaboration in Research and Education, in which the Presidents and Vice-Chancellors of 30 top universities and colleges of the two countries participated. It was noted that 19 of the world’s top 100 universities were represented there. While at UCL, he paid a visit to the monument to commemorate the ‘Choshu Five’, a group of young samurai who studied there 150 years ago and went on to become key leaders in Japan’s modernisation.  One of them became the first Prime Minister of Japan. Mr Abe, one of his successors, also happens to hail from the region of Choshu. The Prime Minister then took part in a brief event at the same venue celebrating UK-Japan nuclear cooperation, at which the Presidents of Hitachi and Toshiba as well as Ed Davey, Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change, were present.

PM Abe speaking at UCL

PM Abe visits the monument to commemorating the ‘Choshu Five’
In the evening, Mr and Mrs Abe were invited by the City to a sumptuous dinner attended by 350 guests at London’s Guildhall.  There the Prime Minister delivered a speech entitled “Redefining Japan-UK Relations”. It was, as it were, a sequel to his speech in the same venue about a year ago in which he declared his determination to become a drill bit for the structural reforms needed for Japan to achieve sustainable economic growth. One year on, he declared, the drill for his economic reforms was spinning at the fastest possible speed. He cited a number of concrete examples of the progress made so far in this regard.

On the morning of Friday 2 May, Prime Minister Abe and his wife took a ride to London’s Olympic Park aboard one of Hitachi’s ‘Javelin’ trains. There they were welcomed by Lord Coe, Chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games, and Olympic Legacy Minister Hugh Robertson for a tour of the Olympic Village. Against the backdrop of the Olympic Stadium and the Orbit Tower, the Prime Minister witnessed Minister Robertson and me sign the Memorandum of Cooperation between Japan and the UK to promote cooperation in the run-up to the 2019 Japan Rugby World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. Mr and Mrs Abe then visited Twickenham Stadium for a meeting with senior officials of the Rugby Football Union.

(For the full text of Prime Minister Abe’s speech, click here.)

This was the first official bilateral visit to the UK by a Japanese Prime Minister for many years.It reaffirmed the breadth and depth of the Japan-UK relationship at present as well as the prospect of even closer ties in the years ahead.

Keiichi Hayashi


Photographs courtesy of UCL

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