Increased economic cooperation between Japan and Cuba in both the public and private sectors is highly expected to pave the way for coordination on addressing North Korean issues.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is the first Japanese premier to visit Cuba. He held talks with his Cuban counterpart Raul Castro, president of the Council of State, and they both agreed to strengthen bilateral economic ties.
Abe announced a ¥1.273 billion aid grant to provide Cuba with medical equipment, including for cancer treatment.
“We want to cooperate for Cuba’s economic and social development. The country has great potential as an investment destination,” Abe said.
In July last year, Cuba restored its diplomatic relations with the United States for the first time in 54 years. Since then, other countries have made moves to improve their ties with Havana.
Cuba is rich in nickel and other minerals and blessed with various tourism resources. On the other hand, its social infrastructure has deteriorated, raising demand for development. Based on the existing bilateral relationship, Japan’s expansion of investment in Cuba is likely to benefit both countries.
Japan has pledged to waive about ¥120 billion of Cuba’s ¥180 billion debt to the nation. The Japan International Cooperation Agency also plans to set up an office in Cuba. Such moves are intended to provide Havana with serious support for such areas as infrastructure and energy.
In recent years, Cuba has carried out economic reforms, including creating a special zone for development, while maintaining its socialist system. However, foreign investment in the country remains low.
Diplomatic channel key
To facilitate Japanese companies’ moves into Cuba, improving the country’s investment environment is urgent through such measures as the development of infrastructure and the simplification of procedures. The Japanese government needs to take the initiative in pushing for Cuba’s reforms.
After the 1959 revolution, Cuba established diplomatic relations with North Korea and they have since kept a close relationship. People-to-people exchanges have continued between the two countries, and a senior Cuban government official visited North Korea to meet with Kim Jong Un, chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea. Hopes are high that such a diplomatic channel will be used effectively.
During his talks with Castro, Abe called on Cuba to work together, and described North Korea’s nuclear and missile issue as “a different level of threat from the past.” The prime minister also sought Cuba’s cooperation regarding the issue of the Japanese nationals who were abducted by North Korea. But the Cuban leader only said, “It’s important to resolve issues peacefully.”
Nuclear and missile development would harm North Korea’s economy further and destabilize its regime. It is crucial to make Pyongyang understand this point. We hope Cuba will play a role in the numerous efforts of relevant countries to sway North Korea.
Abe also met with Cuba’s former leader Fidel Castro, Raul’s elder brother who led the Cuban revolution. Fidel, who visited Hiroshima in 2003, reportedly said, “The two countries have agreed to aim to create a world without nuclear weapons.”
To urge North Korea to abandon its nuclear program, members of the international community must significantly bolster coordination.