VILNIUS — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday visited a memorial for late Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara, who is credited with helping some 6,000 Jewish refugees escape Nazi persecution during World War II.
Visiting Sugihara House in Kaunus, Abe told reporters, “Mr. Sugihara’s courageous, humanitarian deeds have been highly praised around the globe. I feel honored as a Japanese person.”
The memorial for Sugihara was established by renovating part of an office that was formerly the Japanese consulate. During his visit, the prime minister was shown a picture panel with images of Sugihara signing transit visas for Jewish refugees, among other items.
Ahead of the trip to Kaunus, 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.
The Japanese premier, on a six-nation European tour, met his 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.