H E Abdulrahman Humoud Al-Otaibi
The strong bonds of friendship binding people of Kuwait and Japan have faced and overcome times of trial to grow even more resolute, said His Excellency Abdulrahman Humoud Al-Otaibi, the ambassador of Kuwait to Japan. The ambassador was referring to the period following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on 11 March, 2011, when the Kuwaiti people and government rushed to extend help in every way they could. Ambassador Al-Otaibi was speaking following a tour of the northern Japanese Perfecture of Hokkaido on June 13-15. The Kuwaiti diplomat, along with his counterparts from other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, visited the area upon invitation from the Governor of Hokkaido, His Excellency Harumi Takahashi. The visit was aimed at exploring opportunities to further bolster cooperation between the GCC bloc and the Perfecture.
As part of the visit the ambassadors also took part in an economic forum on cooperation between the two sides that was attended by the Japanese Deputy Economy, Trade, and Industry Minister, Midori Masushima, Hokkaido Governor Takahashi, mayors of several Hokkaido regions, and several leading figures from the business and economy sector. During the event, Ambassador Al-Otaibi underlined the lucrative investment opportunities in Kuwait and reviewed aspects of the Kuwaiti economy that are proving attractive to investors.
In addition to the exchange and cooperation in the oil and related sectors, the two sides also stressed the importance of encouraging cooperation in the scientific, technological and health spheres. Elaborating on bilateral relations between Kuwait and Japan, the ambassador added, “The strong bilateral relations in all domains and mutual keenness on furthering cooperation and exchange between the two countries formed the bedrock of our cordial ties.”
The friendly relations that are buttressed and bolstered by frequent high-level visits on both sides, received a fillip with the visit of His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Amir of the State of Kuwait to Japan in 2012. “The return visit by His Excellency Shinzo Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan to Kuwait, in 2013 further enhanced our bilateral relations which have been cultivated throughout our long history,” noted the diplomat.
These high-profile mutual visits by leaders and their accompanying delegations of both countries have led to fruitful discussions between the two sides, with several agreements and memorandum of understandings signed between Kuwait and Japan. During these bilateral exchanges the leaders expressed their intention to further strengthen their comprehensive partnership and work towards stability and prosperity through promoting various levels of cooperation and consultation in different domains.
During his visit to the country Prime Minister Abe also expressed gratitude, on behalf of the people of Japan, for Kuwait’s generous donation of five million barrels of crude of oil, three million dollars to Aquamarine Fukushima and two million dollars to Japan Red Cross Society, as well as the reconstruction projects such as the procurement of new railway coaches, the inauguration of a children’s care center and other projects in the areas affected by the earthquake and tsunami of 2011.
At the conclusion of the visit by Prime Minister Abe to Kuwait, a Joint Statement was issued on Strengthening of the Comprehensive Partnership Towards Stability and Prosperity between Japan and the State of Kuwait. Other important outcomes on the occasion of the visit in 2013 included the signing of the Memorandum of Cooperation for the policy dialogue on the national development, and the Memorandum of Cooperation in the fields of higher education and scientific research between two countries.
Both sides stressed the importance of strengthening bilateral economic and technical cooperation, and expressed their commitment to working together to further promote trade, investment and business between the two countries.
In this regard, both sides welcomed the entry into force of the Convention between Japan and the State of Kuwait for the Avoidance of Double Taxation on Income, and reaffirmed the importance of the of the early entry into force of the Agreement between Japan and the State of Kuwait for the Promotion and Protection of Investment.
Kuwait is considered a strategic ally of Japan in the Middle East, with its the active role in the important region of the world, where Kuwait participated in supporting Japan in its crisis after the Tsunami by sending 5 million barrels of oil to help in gaining back their economic status.
Kuwait-Japan relations date back to 1958, when the late Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah granted Arabian Oil Company, Ltd. oil and gas concessions in the offshore Neutral Zone (now Divided Zone). On June 19, 1961, Kuwait gained its independence from the United Kingdom. A few days later, the Japanese government sent a congratulatory telegram to Kuwait.
Japan is one of the first countries to recognize Kuwait’s independence through a cabinet decree issued on December 8, 1961, and a decision to exchange diplomatic representation was announced.
In February 1962, the first Kuwaiti Ambassador to Japan Sulaiman Mohammed Al-Sanae opened the Kuwaiti Embassy in Tokyo, and the Japanese Embassy in Kuwait was inaugurated in March 1963. Since then, the two countries have benefited substantially from cooperation in broad spheres including energy, economy, scientific technology, environment protection, and education and cultural exchanges.
Japan stood in support of Kuwait upon the Iraqi invasion of 1990, and supported all international conventions and resolutions condemning occupation, calling for return of Kuwaiti sovereignty. Japan provided USD 13 billion for the liberation and made many scientific and technological contributions in post-war reconstruction.
On the economic front, Japan is Kuwait’s third-biggest trading partner, while Kuwait ranks 27th trading partner for Japan, with two-way trade between the two countries reaching USD 14.5 billion in 2011, nearly doubled from the USD 7.5 billion worth for 2001.
Active exchanges between the two countries have borne numerous successful achievements in this field. In February 2010, Kuwait and Japan signed a double-taxation avoidance agreement aimed at facilitating exchange of and partnership in economic activities and investments.
Kuwait became Japan’s first signatory among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states.
The Japan-Kuwait Joint Committee held the first meeting in June 2010 in Tokyo, where the two sides agreed to step up cooperation in the fields of renewable energy, energy conservation, atomic energy, water, business, and medical tourism.