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Japan wants to open more embassies in Caribbean

BY COREY ROBINSON Observer staff reporter robinsonc@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, November 06, 2013    

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TOKYO, Japan — Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be looking to extend its relations with Caribbean territories, and opening more embassies in the region is one option.

At present, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago are the only Caribbean states where Japan has established embassies, and plans are afoot to change that, said Eri Matsui, deputy director of the Caribbean Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan.

"We are trying to open another embassy," Matsui said, noting that budgetary constraints have made such an initiative more difficult each year. Despite the challenges, however, Matsui said that such a move will be beneficial to both Japanese and Caribbean citizens.

"The Caribbean countries are a little far from Japan, and the Caribbean countries are not so popular in Japan. We would like to introduce more of the Caribbean cultures to Japan and also to introduce more Japanese culture in the Caribbean," she said, adding that Japan has enjoyed a very lively and beneficial working relationship with Caricom over the past 20 years.

Next year Japan will also celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations with both Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, said Matsui.

She explained that like Japan, many Caribbean states are island nations, and thus share similarities with the Asian country, especially where natural disasters are concerned.

Among the other areas of mutual interest, she said, are fisheries, environment challenges, disaster risk reduction, the exchange of human resources, democracy, and human rights.

Currently, the Japanese Embassy in Jamaica deals with affairs concerning Jamaica, Belize, and The Bahamas, while the embassy in the twin-island state of Trinidad and Tobago addresses issues affecting 10 Caribbean nations. A small Japanese office, not an embassy, was also set up in Haiti to deal with diplomatic relations there.

Following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Japan donated US$150 million towards repairs, and dispatched members of its defence force there to aid with rescue and recovery missions. Currently, more than 70 Jamaicans are working as part of the Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET) programme in Japan.

In the meantime, Yuko Kusano of the International Press Division told the Jamaica Observer of the mutually beneficial relationship the ministry has forged over the years with foreign journalists.

"It's very interesting to talk with them, get to know them, and hear their views on Japan," she said, adding that such efforts may have aided Japan's successful bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games.

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