Japan PM beefs up European ties amid North Korea tensions

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L) and his Estonian counterpart Juri Ratas (R) address a press conference in Tallinn, Estonia on January 12, 2018. Japan’s prime minister arrived in Estonia, his first stop on a tour of the Baltic states and other European nations as he seeks to drum up support for his hawkish stance on North Korea. (AFP)
Updated 13 January 2018
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Japan PM beefs up European ties amid North Korea tensions

TALLINN: Japan’s prime minister on Friday landed in Estonia, his first stop on a tour of the Baltic states and other European nations as he seeks to drum up support for his hawkish stance on North Korea.
Despite a recent cooling of tensions in the run-up to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, Shinzo Abe has insisted on “maximizing pressure” on Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programs.
In the Estonian capital Tallinn, Abe met with President Kersti Kaljulaid and Prime Minister Juri Ratas and discussed bilateral cooperation on cybersecurity, a topic that digital-savvy Estonia has championed since being hit by one of the first major cyberattacks a decade ago.
Abe will then visit fellow Baltic states Latvia and Lithuania, before continuing on to Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania. He is the first sitting Japanese leader to visit these countries.
Abe told reporters that he and Ratas had “agreed that we would not accept nuclear armament of North Korea, and that it was necessary to maximize pressure on North Korea.”
The leaders also said their countries would start working together on cyberdefense and a Japanese spokesperson later said Tokyo would cooperate with NATO countries including Estonia on cybersecurity.
“Estonia and Japan are separated by thousands of kilometers, but tightly connected by a digital umbilical cord,” Ratas said, adding that “Japan will soon become a contributing participant with regard to the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence, which is located in Tallinn.”


Japan’s foreign ministry press secretary Norio Maruyama told reporters in Tallinn that “step by step we understand which way NATO can be a useful entity for Japan and in which area can Japan be useful for NATO.”
Maruyama added that given the threats posed by cyberterrorism “we need to have closer coordination among the countries that share the same values.
“I think that the NATO center provides us with a kind of information and a way we can cooperate together,” he added.
Representatives from more than 30 companies would accompany Abe to develop business ties in the region.
Japan is keen to raise its profile in the region as China bolsters its ties there.
All six nations Abe is visiting are among the 16 Central and Eastern European countries that hold an annual summit meeting with China.
China has been pushing its massive $1 trillion “One Belt, One Road” initiative, which seeks to build rail, maritime and road links from Asia to Europe and Africa in a revival of ancient Silk Road trading routes.
Abe is due to return to Japan on Wednesday.
bur-amj-kal/mas/pvh


Version of PM May’s deal can get through parliament: Hunt

Updated 12 min 4 sec ago
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Version of PM May’s deal can get through parliament: Hunt

  • May pulled a vote on her deal this week after acknowledging it would be heavily defeated over concerns about the divorce agreement’s “backstop”

LONDON: Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Saturday that the British parliament could back Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal if lawmakers received assurances from the European Union, but warned that a no deal Brexit was still on the table.
May pulled a vote on her deal this week after acknowledging it would be heavily defeated over concerns about the divorce agreement’s “backstop,” an insurance policy designed to avoid any hard land border for Ireland but which critics say could bind Britain to EU rules indefinitely.
“When the dust has settled, the only way we’re going to get this through the House of Commons ... is to have a version of the deal that the government has negotiated,” Hunt told BBC radio.
Following a summit in Brussels on Friday, May said it was possible that the EU could give further guarantees that the backstop would be temporary although the bloc’s other 27 leaders told her they would not renegotiate the treaty.
Hunt said the EU was likely to make concessions to avoid Britain leaving without any deal, a scenario that both sides say would be highly damaging for business and their economies.
“The EU cannot be sure that if they choose not to be helpful and flexible ... that we would not end up with no deal,” Hunt said. “We cannot in these negotiations take no deal off the table. I don’t think the EU could be remotely sure that if we don’t find a way through this we wouldn’t end up with no deal.”
The Times newspaper reported on Saturday that most of May’s senior ministerial team thought her deal was dead and were discussing a range of options including a second referendum.
“Brexit is in danger of getting stuck – and that is something that should worry us all,” pensions minister Amber Rudd wrote in the Daily Mail newspaper.
“If MPs (lawmakers) dig in against the Prime Minister’s deal and then hunker down in their different corners, none with a majority, the country will face serious trouble.”