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Japan-Kuwait Society Chairman hails ties ahead of golden jubilee
February 10, 2014, 10:53 am
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Japan-Kuwait Society Chairman Yasushi Kimura commended firm and longstanding friendly ties between Japan and Kuwait, as the society is set to mark the 50th anniversary next year.

"Japan made a contribution to liberation and reconstruction of Kuwait during the Gulf conflict and the Gulf War in 1990-1991. After 20 years of Japan's assistance, Kuwait offered the fullest support to our country in the aftermath of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Such a mutual assistance cannot possibly be achieved overnight and it much owes to longtime amicable relations cultivated by our predecessors," Kimura said in an exclusive interview with Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).

The Japan-Kuwait relationship dates back to 1958 when Arabian Oil Co. signed an oil exploration concession agreement with the Kuwaiti government. Following the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1961, upon Kuwait's independence, the two countries have fostered friendly relations and deepened cooperation in broad spheres ranging from energy, economy, scientific technology, environment protection, and education to cultural exchanges.

Kimura shed light on recent reciprocal visits of the Kuwaiti and Japanese leaders, which became milestones of bilateral relations.

His Highness the Amir of Kuwait Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah visited Japan in March 2012 as a state guest. The historic visit, in which he received a welcome from the Emperor Akihito and met then Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, resulted in achievements including the signing of an Agreement on the Promotion and Protection of Investment.

Last August, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe paid an official visit to Kuwait for the second time following his trip in 2007 during his first stint as prime minister. At the meetings with His Highness the Crown Prince Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah and His Highness the Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah, Abe expressed his strong will to further promote the multi-layered Kuwait-Japan relations.

"Constant contact and mutual consideration are important for cultivating and maintaining friendships, same as people-to-people exchange. Our two countries have witnessed cordial relations for more than a half-century, and the mutual visits by His Highness the Amir and Prime Minister Abe played a significant role in further advancing this friendly relationship and building a stronger bond between the two countries," Kimura said.

On the economic front, Arabian Oil Co. of Japan had played a major role in advancing bilateral economic and energy cooperation between the two countries. "Unfortunately, the company withdrew from Kuwait in 2008, but annual meetings of the Japanese-Kuwaiti Businessmen's Committee, which started since 1995, have continued to serve as a common platform between businesspeople of both countries to discuss (matters) such as investment promotion and technology cooperation," the chairman said.

"I am convinced that the Japanese companies will be able to make a great contribution to Kuwait's national development and infrastructure building with their cutting-edge technologies." However, at present, ongoing projects show little progress, Kimura pointed out, stressing the importance of building up a system that will yield smooth growth of the projects through mutual cooperation.

Kimura expressed gratitude to His Highness the Amir and the Kuwaiti people for their tremendous support and encouragement following a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, which left nearly 19,000 people dead or missing in the northeastern region. "Soon after the disaster, Kuwait announced contribution of 5 million barrels of crude oil, which greatly encouraged the Japanese people. I was amazed at the scale of the donation that surpassed Japan's daily consumption and valued at some JPY 45 billion (USD 450 million), " the chairman said.

Furthermore, he offered appreciation to Kuwaiti Ambassador to Japan Abdulrahman Al-Otaibi for his support activities to help the disaster-stricken people. Al-Otaibi rushed to the affected areas immediately after the catastrophe to convey Kuwait's solidarity with the sufferers and delivered food, daily necessities, and school supplies, as well as soccer balls for children. The ambassador also organized and hosted a charity bazaar at the Embassy to raise assistance funds for the affected people.

"I was also deeply moved by Ambassador's words on the arrival of a tanker carrying the first shipment of the Kuwaiti aid oil in October that year," said Kimura. In his speech at a commemorative ceremony, Al-Otaibi said, "It doesn't matter what and how much assistance we provide Japan. The most important thing is my country's solidarity toward Japan and its people." Kimura voiced hope that strong bonds of long-lasting bilateral friendship maintained by ancestors of the two countries will be passed on to the next generation and further bolstered.

The Japan-Kuwait Society was established in 1965 with the aim of promoting friendship and cultural exchanges between the two countries. It now boasts of having 20 leading Japanese companies deeply linked to Kuwait as members. In the past nearly 50 years, the society has boosted cultural exchanges and enhanced understanding of Kuwait and Arab-Islam among the Japanese people through a number of publications, including the 'Danah' newsletter introducing Kuwait as well as Arab-Islamic-related books. In addition, it regularly offers Arabic lessons to promote Arabic in Japan.

Kimura renewed Japan-Kuwait Society's commitment to continue to be a bridge of friendship and cultural exchange between the two countries.
Kimura, who also serves as Chairman of Japan's top refinery JX Holdings Inc., and its downstream unit JX Nippon Oil and Energy Corp., is scheduled to visit Kuwait this week. He was on several visits to Kuwait recently, including a trip last August as a representative of the Japanese private sector accompanying Premier Abe.

Asked about his impressions of Kuwait, Kimura said he was surprised at its rapid pace of urban development. "I discovered new large buildings each time I visited Kuwait. I feel a sense of affinity with the Kuwaiti people, as we share Asian value and perspective. If we trust them, they will trust us." He also spoke highly of Kuwait's stable supplies of energy to Japan.

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