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Japan and Sri Lanka to strengthen maritime cooperation

0315N-Abe-Sirisena_article_main_imageJapan will reinforce cooperation on maritime security with Sri Lanka, as well as support infrastructure and health projects there, in initiatives aimed at countering China’s growing influence in the Indian Ocean.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe welcomed President Maithripala Sirisena Wednesday to his residence, where they agreed to promote Tokyo’s “Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy” and signed a memorandum of understanding for a 10.6 billion yen ($99.6 million) loan for health-related projects.

“By working together, we will make the Indo-Pacific an international commons that offers peace and prosperity for any country without discrimination,” Abe said at a joint press conference. Sirisena added that the two countries will deepen their existing partnership.

At the meeting, Japan confirmed that it will offer support for infrastructure projects for ports, roads and energy in Sri Lanka. Tokyo also plans to send specialists to train locals in the health care and disaster prevention fields. The two countries agreed to closer communication on defense issues as well.

Sri Lanka will use the yen loan to build out national hospital facilities and encourage the use of medical devices like catheters. The funds will also be used to train doctors and other medical professionals to improve residents’ health.

Abe also emphasized the necessity of the “maximum pressure” campaign on North Korea. Sri Lanka has diplomatic relations with Pyongyang. He requested Sirisena’s help in resolving the longstanding issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea as well.

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono also affirmed the importance of maintaining the maximum pressure line during a 70-minute meeting with his Sri Lankan counterpart, Tilak Marapana.

Located on a strategic sea lane around India, Sri Lanka is important to China’s Belt and Road Initiative linking Asia and Europe in one sprawling economic zone. Beijing has won concessions to use Sri Lankan ports.

Courtesy – Daily News

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