Japan, Thailand ties get boost

PM Abe visits, reaffirms Dawei port investment

Japan has reaffirmed its policy to strengthen economic cooperation with Thailand including joining Bangkok and Myanmar in developing the Dawei deep-sea port.

His Majesty the King grants an audience to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Siriraj Hospital yesterday. Mr Abe is on a two-day official visit to Thailand which started yesterday. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE ROYAL HOUSEHOLD BUREAU

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra made the announcement after holding talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at Government House last night.

In addition to the development of the Dawei economic zone in Myanmar, Japan has also reaffirmed its interest in undertaking high-speed railways and the multi-billion-baht water resource management projects in Thailand.

"Thailand and Myanmar would like to see Japan in a tripartite partnership to help develop Dawei as soon as possible," Ms Yingluck said.

Mr Abe and his wife, Akie, yesterday began a two-day official visit to Bangkok to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.

The Japanese prime minister will leave for Indonesia this morning for the last leg of his three-nation Asean tour which also includes Vietnam.

Mr Abe is the first Japanese leader to visit Thailand in 10 years. The last visit was by former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2003.

Speaking at the joint press conference, Ms Yingluck said both sides agreed to boost cooperation under the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement and liberalise free trade of Thai agricultural products.

Japan is still confident in the Thai economy. Japanese investment levels increased 85% here in the first 11 months of last year.

She said the two leaders also discussed the possibility of more investments by Japanese small, medium and large enterprises in green technology, energy, aviation and auto industries in Thailand.

Mr Abe's visit to Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia after his election showed that Japan attached high importance to Thailand and Asean.

The Asean-Japan Dialogue Partnership will celebrate its 40th anniversary this year, Ms Yingluck said. She said she believed that under the leadership of Mr Abe, Japan's economy would recover soon.

Thailand and Japan also agreed to jointly develop human resources to prepare for Asean to become one community in 2015 because Japan still needed skilled labour from this region.

Ms Yingluck said Thailand and Japan shared the view that both countries could contribute to help develop peace in the region.

She called on Japan and China to resolve their territorial conflict in the South China Sea through peaceful talks.

Mr Abe said Japan and Thailand will put greater effort into developing their strategic partnership.

Japan is ready to help develop infrastructure in Thailand, said Mr Abe, adding Japan has high hopes for the Thai and Asean leadership in helping develop the region.

Immediately after his arrival yesterday, Mr Abe visited the Thai-Nichi Institute of Technology.

He was then granted an audience with His Majesty the King at Siriraj Hospital before holding talks with Ms Yingluck.

Thailand is currently the sixth largest trading partner of Japan. Trade volume between the two countries reached 2.11 trillion baht during the first 11 months of 2012.

Japan is also Thailand's biggest source of foreign direct investment, with a total amount of 312 billion baht or 63% of total foreign direct investment in Thailand.

Japanese tourists rank third in terms of numbers after Malaysian and Chinese. More than 1.2 million Japanese visited Thailand in 2012 _ a 62% increase on the previous year, while more than 210,000 Thais visited Japan in the same year.

Ms Yingluck also expressed sympathy to the families of Japanese workers who were kidnapped and hostage at a gas field in Algeria.

The government condemned all kinds of terrorism and called for the terrorists to release the hostages immediately without conditions.

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Writer: Thanida Tansubhapol
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