Japan’s foreign minister visits days after Tokyo's anti-Israel UN vote

Rather than discussing Japan’s votes, Netanyahu focused on the economic potential in strengthening the relationship between the countries.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono (L) (photo credit: KOBY GIDEON/GPO)
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) meets Japan's Foreign Minister Taro Kono (L)
(photo credit: KOBY GIDEON/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not raise Japan’s recent votes against Israel regarding the Jerusalem issue in both the UN Security Council and the General Assembly when he welcomed Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono to his office on Monday.
Netanyahu’s spokesman declined to say whether the issue was raised in the meeting between the two men.
Rather than discussing Japan’s votes, Netanyahu chose to focus on the economic potential in strengthening the relationship between the two countries, coupling Israel’s innovative capacities with Japan’s capabilities in science, engineering, marketing and industry.
Kono, as well, did not discuss the votes in his opening comments, speaking instead about bilateral relations, which he said are flourishing. The number of Japanese companies in Israel has doubled over the last three years, and the amount of Japanese investment here has increased 20 times during the same period, he said.
While this is Kono’s first visit to Israel since becoming foreign minister in August, it is his third visit to the region during that period.
 A month after he took office he went to Egypt, where he said in a speech that he came to “clearly show Japan’s will to play a greater role in peace and prosperity in the Middle East.” He said the Middle East “will sit in the core of my foreign policy.”
128 countries defy Trump, vote for UN resolution slamming his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel"s capital, December 21, 2017 (Reuters)
“The Middle East is an important part of the foundation for peace and prosperity of Japan,” Kono said in that speech. “It is a major provider of the energy resources that power Japan’s economy. The sea-lane running through the region is especially critical for the flow of goods to Japan and the world. Furthermore, peace and stability in this region is important for Japan not just in economic and social terms, but it is also directly linked to our national security.”
President Reuven Rivlin also met with Kono and his delegation on Monday at the president’s official residence. He said Japan can play an important role in helping to facilitate understanding and confidence building between Israel and the Palestinians because it has friendly relations with both sides and has done much to boost Palestinian prosperity.
Kono said he was optimistic there would soon be direct flights between Israel and Japan. Rivlin, who visited Japan as Knesset speaker and as communications minister, said the time was ripe given the numerous government, business and tourist exchanges between the two countries.
Rivlin extended an invitation to Emperor Akihito to visit Israel prior to his abdication in 2019, and Kono invited Rivlin to visit Japan in the spring for the celebration of the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Despite the cordial atmosphere, Rivlin did not ignore that Japan voted in the UN against the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and raised the issue several times during their meeting.
“Just as Tokyo is the capital of Japan, Jerusalem is the capital of Israel,” he said.
Kono spoke about the industrial park Japan established in Jericho 10 years ago and thanked Israel for its cooperation in matters related to the project. Japan is bringing technology and providing jobs “that will prevent the younger generation from going into terrorism and to give them hope,” he said.
Kono also mentioned Japan’s interest in the Red Sea-Dead Sea water and desalination project. Rivlin said both Israel and Jordan had to decide if it was economically viable. Japan is also interested in other scientific investments and in counterterrorism, Kono said.
Kono will spend two days in the region, both in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.