Japan, India leaders build ties amid trade, security worries

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, shakes hands with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Yamanakako village, Yamanashi prefecture, Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (AP/Kyodo News/Suo Takekuma)
Updated 28 October 2018
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Japan, India leaders build ties amid trade, security worries

  • Modi has been urging countries in the region to unite against protectionism and cross-border tensions
  • India and Japan are also set to hold the first joint military exercises involving ground forces next month

TOKYO: The leaders of Japan and India are reaffirming their ties amid growing worries about trade and regional stability.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who arrived Saturday, was meeting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at a resort area near Mount Fuji on Sunday. Modi is also visiting a nearby plant of major Japanese robot maker Fanuc.
Relations with China are a major issue shared by Modi and Abe, as their cooperation may balance China's growing regional influence and military assertiveness.
"The India-Japan partnership has been fundamentally transformed and it has been strengthened as a 'special strategic and global partnership,'" Modi told Kyodo News service. "There are no negatives but only opportunities in this relationship which are waiting to be seized."
Modi chose Japan among the first nations to visit after taking power four years ago. He has been urging countries in the Indo-Pacific region to unite against protectionism and cross-border tensions.
In another sign of closer relations, India and Japan are also set to hold their first joint military exercises involving ground forces, starting next month.
Abe has just returned from China, where he met President Xi Jinping and agreed the two nations were "sharing more common interests and concerns."
President Donald Trump's policies that have targeted mostly China with tariffs, but also Japan and other nations, accusing them of unfair trade practices, are working to prod India and Japan to promote their economic ties.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry said the leaders had lunch at a hotel in Yamanashi Prefecture, west of Tokyo, and exchanged a wide range of views on pursuing "a free and open" Indo-Pacific region. Abe told Modi about his recent trip to China, and both sides agreed on the need to cooperate closely on getting North Korea to drop nuclear weapons development, the ministry said in a statement.
Japan's investment in India still has room to grow. Japan is helping India build a super-fast railway system.
Abe has made bolstering and opening the nation's economy central to his policies called "Abenomics," and has encouraged trade, foreign investment and tourism.
Although Japan has long seen the US as its main ally, especially in defense, Abe is courting other ties. He has also been vocal about free trade, which runs counter to Trump's moves to raise tariffs.
Earlier this year, Japan signed a landmark deal with the European Union that will eliminate nearly all tariffs on products they trade. European and Japanese leaders pledged to strengthen their partnership in defense, climate change and human exchange, to send what they called a clear message against protectionism.
Abe and Modi will hold a more formal summit Monday in Tokyo.


G20 set to agree on marine plastic pollution deal

Updated 16 June 2019
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G20 set to agree on marine plastic pollution deal

  • Plastic pollution has become an increasing international concern
  • Among the many concerns is the issue of microplastics, the tiny pieces of degraded waste that are difficult to collect once they enter the water

TOKYO: The Group of 20 major economies were set to agree a deal on reducing marine plastic waste at a meeting in Japan Sunday where they also discussed energy security following the oil tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman.
Japan “proposed a workable framework” on marine plastic waste that involves emerging and less developed countries, and was welcomed by member countries, environment minister Yoshiaki Harada told reporters late Saturday at the G20 environment and energy ministers’ meeting.
Plastic pollution has become an increasing international concern, particularly after bans imposed by China and other countries on the import of plastic waste from overseas.
Many countries, including Japan, have seen plastic waste pile up in the wake of the ban.
Among the many concerns is the issue of microplastics, the tiny pieces of degraded waste that are difficult to collect once they enter the water.
Microplastics tend to absorb harmful chemicals and accumulate inside fish, birds and other animals.
The proposal, made at the two-day meeting in the central mountain resort of Karuizawa, would be the first-ever framework to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean, and is expected to be included in a joint communique by the G20 ministers later Sunday.
Under the expected agreement, G20 members would commit to undertaking efforts to reduce the amount of plastic waste that ends up polluting oceans and to reporting their progress on a regular basis, according to Japanese media.
If an international framework on reducing marine plastic waste is agreed, it would be “the first step toward resolving the issue,” Hiroaki Odachi of Greenpeace Japan told AFP.
“But given the critical situation of ocean pollution with plastics, it is urgently needed to set up legally binding action plans with clear timelines and goals,” he added.
With only an estimated nine percent of plastics ever produced recycled, campaigners say the only long-term solution to the plastic waste crisis is for companies to make less and consumers to use less.
Japanese industry minister Hiroshige Seko, who is co-chairing the discussions with Harada, said late Saturday that Japan would aim to require businesses to charge for disposable shopping bags by as early as April to help reduce waste.
Many countries in the world already charge for single-use bags or ban them outright.
On energy security, Seko said Tokyo “is watching with grave concerns at the attacks on oil tankers by someone.”
“From a viewpoint of global energy security, it is necessary for the international community to jointly deal with the act,” Seko told the meeting.
The ministers agreed on the importance of securing stable energy supplies, he said.