VILNIUS — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his counterparts from Latvia and Lithuania agreed Saturday to strengthen economic ties while seeking cooperation on the security front to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile ambitions.
Abe, the first Japanese premier to visit the Baltic states, discussed with Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis cooperation in such areas as tourism, technology and medical services. Japan is Lithuania’s top export destination, according to the Japanese government.
“Japan wants to cooperate closely with Lithuania on international issues including the North Korean situation,” Abe was quoted by a Japanese official as telling Skvernelis in their meeting in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.
During the meeting, Abe and Skvernelis hailed late Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who is credited with helping some 6,000 Jewish refugees escape Nazi persecution by issuing transit visas during World War II.
On Sunday, Abe visited Sugihara House in Kaunus. A memorial for Sugihara, it was established by renovating part of an office that was formerly the Japanese consulate.
“Mr. Sugihara’s courageous, humanitarian deeds have been highly praised around the globe. I feel honored as a Japanese person,” Abe told reporters after his visit.
The Japanese premier, on a six-nation European tour, met Latvian counterpart Maris Kucinskis earlier Saturday and conveyed his desire to strengthen diplomatic as well as economic relations with the country which serves as a logistics center in the region.
On Friday, he sought cooperation in cybersecurity in his meeting with Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas as Japan steps up preparations for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo. Estonia has been one of the most successful countries in integrating digital technology across social infrastructure.
In talks with all three Baltic leaders, Abe agreed to coordinate efforts to exert more pressure on North Korea to give up its weapons programs.