Abu Dhabi, Asharq Al-Awsat—Japanese prime Minister Shinzo Abe resumed his Gulf tour in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Wednesday, following his visit to Saudi Arabia.
Abe met with senior Emirati officials and signed several agreements, including a nuclear cooperation agreement. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and vice-president and prime minister of the UAE, met with the Japanese prime minister, on Wednesday. The meeting was also attended by lieutenant-general Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, deputy ruler of Dubai.
A spokesman for the Japanese Foreign Ministry confirmed that Tokyo signed an agreement for nuclear cooperation and technology transfer with the UAE. There were also discussions regarding renewing oil and gas distribution contracts that are set to expire in 2018. Japan, which has offered nuclear expertise to both the UAE and Saudi Arabia, is dependent on oil imports and hopes to secure long-term supply from both countries.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia are Japan’s largest two oil suppliers and Japan’s increased reliance on them comes in light of the closure of the majority of the country’s nuclear plants, in addition to reduced imports from Iran.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman told reporters in Abu Dhabi yesterday: “US sanctions have required a reduction in imports from Iran by 40% over the next five years,” adding that, “more than 80% of oil imports come from the Middle East which is why we want to cut our oil imports from Iran and strengthen our partnership with the UAE and Saudi Arabia.”
The talks between Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and Shinzo Abe touched on several international and regional issues of common interest, as well on issues of bilateral relations. The ruler of Dubai hosted a lunch in honor of Abe attended by a number of senor Emirati officials. Japan and the UAE signed two agreements, including a cultural cooperation agreement between the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (ADTCA) Kalimat project and the Japan Foundation.This agreement was signed by Sheikh Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, chairman of ADTCA, and Ajie Tagucci, executive vice president of the Japan Foundation.
The two nations signed a second agreement to avoid double taxation and prevent fiscal evasion with regards to taxation on income. This was signed by Obaid Humaid al Tayer, UAE Minister of State for Financial Affairs and Yoshihiko Kamo, Japanese ambassador to the UAE.
A convention on the peaceful use of nuclear energy was also signed by UAE Ambassador Hamad bin Ali al Kaabi, the Emirati ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Japanese ambassador to the UAE.
Last February, a Japanese delegation visited the Gulf and offered to help Saudi Arabia in the construction of nuclear power plants in return for increased crude oil to export. A group of Japanese banks also gave the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) a loan of USD 3 billion to further strengthen relations between the two countries.
The Japanese spokesman confirmed that Abe asked Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan to increase Japan’s involvement in local activities. including research and production, when the agreement is due for renewal in 2018.
Japanese dependence on oil and natural gas from the Gulf increased after the country shut down the majority of its nuclear plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in March, 2011.
A South Korean consortium is presently in the process of building nuclear power plants in Abu Dhabi. However, the country is seeking to expand the project to meet the growing demand for electricity, while at the same time ensure its natural gas exports.
Following his visit to the UAE, the Japanese prime minister plans to continue his diplomatic tour with a stopover in Turkey. Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd and Areva SA of France signed a USD 22 billion agreement to build a nuclear power plant in Turkey; the first major order for Japan since the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Abe will sign an agreement to pave the way for further negotiations amid media hype. The construction of the plant will begin in 2017 in the Sinop province close to the Black Sea.
Turkey hopes to build three plants within five years to reduce its foreign energy dependence, especially on Iran and Russia.
The Turkish government signed an agreement in 2010 with Russia to build the first plant in Akkuyu, south Turkey.