President Yameen to make official visit to Japan

President Abdulla Yameen will conduct an official visit to Japan later this month, the President’s Office has revealed.

Yameen will visit Japan between April 14 and 17, during which time he will meet with Emperor Akihito, Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, and other senior Ministers of the Japanese Government.

The President’s Office has said that Yameen will discuss ways to expand Maldivian-Japanese relations, as well as meeting with business leaders and potential investors.

Last week, the president promised that his government was to open up the Maldives in a huge way to foreign investors”.

Japan is the biggest bilateral donor to the Maldives, with data from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency showing that the east Asian nation had given over US$450 million to the Maldives in development assistance between 2004 and 2010.

Projects benefiting from Japanese aid have included the first mechanisation of fishing vessels between 1973-76, the development of Malé’s seawall between 1987-2003, and the extension of loans amounting to US$34 million for post-tsunami reconstruction.

Japan is also one of the Maldives largest trading partners, importing over US$3million worth of fish from the Indian Ocean nation in 2012.

Since winning last year’s election, President Yameen has paid official visits to Sri Lanka and India. He is currently in Saudi Arabia on an unofficial trip.


Japan grant MVR30million in grant aid, invite President Yameen for state visit

President Abdulla Yameen has officially been invited for an official state visit to Japan, with local media reporting that he will make the journey in March next, year.

Meanwhile, a ceremony was held at the foreign ministry to announce the award of 200 million Japanese yen (MVR30 million) in grant aid for medical supplies.

The invitation to Japan was made during an official visit to the President’s Office by Japanese Ambassador to the Maldives Nobuhito Hobo.

“President Yameen expressed confidence that his visit would further expand the close ties between the two countries. During his visit the President will meet with Emperor Akihito, Prime Minister Abe and other senior official of the Japanese Government,” reported the President’s Office website.

Whilst former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom visited Japan three times during his thirty year rule, it was reported that President Yameen’s visit will be the first time a Maldivian leader has been invited by the Japanese head of state.

During the meeting with Nobuhito today, the topics of bilateral ties were discussed and the ambassador was thanked for his country’s support for the Maldives’ election bid for a second term on the UN Human Rights Council.

“President Yameen Abdul Gayoom noted the importance of people-to-people contact, and the important role of Japan as a key tourism market for the Maldives. On this point, Ambassador Hobo assured the President of Japan’s wish to enhance promotion activities of the Maldives as a preferred tourism destination for Japanese holidaymakers,” reported the President’s Office.


President meets with Japanese internal affairs, communications minister

Japan’s Minister of Internal Affairs and Communications Yoshita Shindo has today met with President Dr Mohamed Waheed in Male’ to discuss the latest political and economic developments in the Maldives.

Among the discussions, Dr Waheed pledged his commitment to ensuring a transparent presidential election later this year.  He also discussed the possibilities for future cooperation in helping the Maldives with its commitments to developing renewable energy and other sustainable projects, the President’s Office has said.

President Waheed also thanked Minister Shindo for the assistance provided by the Japanese government to the Maldives in the areas of education, telecommunications and broadcasting.


Maldives completes Japanese road-show as part of national promo tour

The Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) has this month completed a Japanese road-show taking in the cities of Fukuoka and Osaka, as part of wider push to bolster arrivals from the country.

Teaming up with the Maldivian travel groups, the MMPRC has said the tour, which concluded on September 9, formed part of plans to provide information to the Japanese press and tour operators ahead of the JATA Tourism Forum and Travel Showcase that concludes today in Tokyo.

An estimated 90 Japanese tour operators were involved in the road-show, according to the MMPRC.

The focus by local travel groups on the Japanese market comes as official travel figures released this month indicated arrival numbers to the Maldives between January and August this year totalled 614,802 people – an increase of 2.9 percent compared to the same period during 2011.

According to the same statistics, arrivals from Japan for the first eight months of the year totalled 22,534 – a figure down 0.3 percent compared to the same period in 2011.


Maldivian flag at half mast in mourning for Japanese tsunami victims

President Mohamed Nasheed has ordered the Maldives national flag to be flown at half mast for three days, out of respect for the victims of the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsunami.

Cabinet members yesterday observed a minute’s silence for the stricken country, which is one of the Maldives’ most active development partners.

The death toll is predicted to reach 10,000. Japan continues to tackle the risk of nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, after three hydrogen explosions in the last four days and another fire that broke out in reactor four yesterday.


Cabinet holds moment of silence for Japan quake victims

President Mohamed Nasheed and his cabinet today at the beginning of the cabinet meeting held a minute of silence for victims of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami.

”Japan has had a close relationships with the Maldivian for a long time,” said the President before the minute of silence, according to the President’s Office. ”All the Maldivians are today sharing this grief of Japan, many citizens of Japan are today faced with physical and health issues.”

”Japan has assisted the Maldives in exporting Maldivian fish, provided equipment for the former Television Maldives (TVM), have conducted many training sessions, helped construct hundreds of schools, assisted in providing electricity to the islands, provide flour constantly, and provided assistance in the sports field and the customs laboratory,” said President Nasheed.

Japan was also responsible for building the sea wall around Male’, which protected the capital from the impact of the 2004 tsunami, and has also built many of the city’s roads.

The President said the moment of silence was a symbol representing the grief of many Maldivians at the natural disaster in Japan.

The President’s Office has recently said that it will provide Japan with 1,800 cases of Maldivian tuna – amounting to 86,400 cans – as ”emergency disaster supplies” for victims of the earthquake and tsunami that has ravaged the country and its infrastructure. Authorities predict that the death toll could reach as high as 10,000.


Maldives to provide 86,400 cans of tuna to Japanese quake victims

The President’s Office has said that it will provide Japan with 1,800 cases of Maldivian tuna – amounting to 86,400 individual cans – as ”emergency disaster supplies” for victims of an earthquake and tsunami that has ravaged the country and its infrastructure.

Japan was devastated Friday by an earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale and an ensuing tsunami thought to have killed thousands in the Northeastern Miyagi Prefecture alone. However, in the aftermath of the disaster, local news reports have said that the country is also facing a potential meltdown at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima following an explosion at the site, which has since been linked to the earthquake.

The BBC today reported today that Japanese premier Naoto Kan has claimed that the combined natural and nuclear disasters were the “greatest hardships” faced by the country since World War 2, as an explosion was confirmed to have taken place at a reactor at the Fukushima plant.

Amidst the recent hardships that have befallen the country, the office of President Mohamed Nasheed has claimed it will hope to return some of the support it says has been previously received from Japan.

“The Maldives has offered Japan in-kind assistance of 1,800 cases of canned Maldivian tuna to help feed a town affected by the disaster,” the President’s Office said in a statement. “Japan is a stalwart ally of the Maldives and our largest bilateral donor. Our relationship goes back many years with Japan supporting us in many sectors such as education and infrastructure.”

Acting Foreign Minister Aslam Shakir said in a statement that it was right and proper for the Maldives to provide assistance to the people of Japan.

“Japan also helped us when the devastating 2004 tsunami hit the Maldives and so the [country] will stand by Japan during their time of need,” Shakir was quoted as saying.

According to the President’s Office, the tuna shipments are expected to be sent to Japan shortly, where official disaster response teams will receive the supplies.

“The President’s Office noted that the 1800 cases of tuna – worth 1.2 Million Maldivian Ruffiya (US$93,700) – was sent in an attempt to help citizens of the country displaced in the disaster.

”The Japanese earthquake and resulting tsunami has claimed hundreds of lives, while over 200,000 people have been forced to flee their homes,” it added in a statement.

As the disaster struck on 11 March, President Mohamed Nasheed was also confirmed to have sent a message to Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

”It was with deep shock and sadness that I learned about the powerful earthquake and tsunami that hit parts of Northern Japan causing loss of lives and injury to hundreds of people, as well as extensive destruction to property and infrastructure,” Nasheed said in his message. “The Government and people of the Maldives join me in conveying our deepest sympathy to you, the Government and the people of Japan, and in particular, to those who were directly affected by this tragedy.”


Meltdown fears raised in Japanese tsunami aftermath

Concerns have been raised of a potential meltdown may be taking place in Japan at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, just 24 hours after the country was devastated by an earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale and an ensuing tsunami.

With more than 600 people thought to have already been killed as a result of yesterday’s tsunami, the BBC reported today that a “massive” explosion had taken place at one of two nuclear plants in Fukushima, situated 250 miles northeast of Tokyo. The incident has raised fears of a meltdown, despite claims from Japanese officials that both sites’ container housing had not been damaged.

An earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale hit Japan yesterday, prompting a tsunami warning to be issued for nations in the Pacific Ocean. Media reports today have speculated that the total number of fatalities in Japan alone from the quake and tsunami could stretch into the thousands.

The first earthquake occurred 382 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, reported the US Geological Survey.

According to today’s BBC report, a state of emergency has been put in place at the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini power plants by the country’s Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, with engineers now working to clarify if any of the reactors have gone into meltdown after shutdowns had automatically occurred following the earthquake.

Television pictures from Japan have since shown what news sources claim to be the collapse of one of four buildings at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant as a result of the explosion, though no information has been officially confirmed on what part of the site had exploded or the cause behind it.

However, the government representing the Fukushima prefecture in which the plants are based confirmed that radiation levels at the plant during one hour were equal to the normal annual allowable expenditure at the site, the BBC said.

Meanwhile, the Agence France Presse (AFP) news organisation has reported that the Japanese prime minister’s deputy, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, has sent a “hyper rescue team” to the plant site as part of government contingency measures including collecting iodine, which can used in trying to combat radiation sickness.

Following yesterday’s earthquake, tsunami warnings were immediately issued for Japan, Taiwan, Russia and the Mariana Islands, while Guam, the Philippines, the Marshall Islands, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Micronesia and Hawaii were placed at a lower warning level.

Hussein Waheed from the Maldives Department of Meteorology confirmed that a tsunami warning was issued for the Pacific Ocean a minute after the earthquake had struck. No warning had been issued for the Indian Ocean region, he said yesterday.


Afghani President talks terrorism with Nasheed

President Mohamed Nasheed met with Afghani President Hamid Karzai yesterday at the Afghanistan House in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Village in Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu.

At the meeting, President Nasheed said SAARC’s position on climate change should benefit all the countries in the region.

He noted the importance of a common SAARC position on climate change in the international arena, and highlighted the importance of promoting trade in the region through the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA).

President Karzai said Afghanistan was rich in water before, but due to climate change, the country was experiencing yearly droughts.

The presidents also discussed ways of handling terrorism and religious extremism in the region.

President Nasheed then met with Japanese Parliamentary Vice President and Minister for Foregin Affairs, Chinami Nishimura at the Maldives House in SAARC Village.

Nishimura spoke of the existing bilateral relations between the countries and ways to strengthen these ties. She congratulated President Nasheed on the democratic reform in the country, noting the process had accelerated under his leadership.

President Nasheed said Japanese assistance has been instrumental in helping the Maldives with its upcoming graduation from the list of the UN’s Least Developed Countries (LDC). He added the Japanese Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, was one of the few leaders who supported the Maldives during Copenhagen climate change summit.

President Nasheed sought Japanese assistance in developing the fisheries industry in the Maldives and to undertake a study for the reasons of decline in fishing.