Japanese Foreign Minister to Pay an Unprecedented Visit to Israel

Japanese Foreign Minister Sosuke Uno’s visit to Israel later this month will be the first by a high-level Japanese official to the Jewish state.

Shingo Yamagami, second secretary at the Japanese Embassy here, said Uno will visit Israel sometime between June 22 and June 27.

The purpose of the visit will be to “exchange opinions” with heads of state in the Middle East Yamagami said, because achieving peace in the Middle East is “vitally important to Japan.”

Yamagami explained that Japan has placed a new emphasis on foreign affairs. He quoted Prime Minister Noboru Takeshita, who told the United Nations General Assembly June 1 that he is trying to increase Japan’s role abroad.

A political counselor at the Israeli Embassy here concurred that Japan is seeking to increase its stature worldwide. He said Japan currently provides aid to Syria and Egypt and could be seeking to increase its level of assistance to them.

Uno will meet with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and President Chaim Herzog, the Israeli counselor said.

Uno’s itinerary will include visits to Syria, Jordan, and Egypt, although Yamagami said those plans have not been completed. It has not been confirmed that Uno will visit Palestinians in the administered territories, but the Israeli said Uno “wants to meet Palestinians” to help understand the Arab unrest.

David Harris, Washington representative of the American Jewish Committee, said that Japan’s good relations with Arab countries won’t be “jeopardized” because the trip to Israel coincides with a world oil glut that reduces Arab leverage over Japan.

Harris said the lack of a Cabinet-level visit was “long overdue” and had “stained” Japan’s relations with both Israel and the United States.

NEXT STORY