HAVANA — Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Cuba on Thursday for the first visit to the country by a Japanese premier, saying he wants to "open a new page" in relations.
Abe met with Cuban President Raul Castro during a visit that comes after Tokyo’s close ally Washington restored ties with the island last year.
"I sincerely hope my stay here becomes an opportunity to open a new page in the relationship of friendship between both nations," Abe said in an interview published in the newspaper, Granma.
The head of the world’s third-largest economy called for "open dialogue" to stimulate trade and investment, development cooperation and tourism.
Abe was received with military honors at the Palace of the Revolution in Havana, where he had a private meeting with Castro. Later, he placed a floral tribute at the monument to the Cuban hero Jose Marti.
The Japanese premier is scheduled to hold a news conference this morning before departing the Caribbean island.
Japan was Cuba’s second-largest trading partner between 1970 and 1985, but the relationship deteriorated drastically as the Cuban economy took a hit from the breakup of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
Trade totaled about US$35 million in 2014.
Abe said he also wanted to discuss nuclear disarmament.
On Monday, Cuba signed a debt restructuring deal with Japan according to which Tokyo will forgive part of Cuba’s debt, leaving it to pay $606 million.
Of that, $249 million is set to be deposited in an investment fund for Japanese businesses on the island, the Japanese government said. — AFP