Japan in talks to establish embassy in Maldives

Additional reporting by Mohamed Saif Fathih

The Japanese government has had funding approved for an embassy in the Maldives, reports the Japan Times.

Japan’s foreign minister Fumio Kishida stated that the country aims to bolster diplomatic relations with different countries as the world marks 70 years since the end of the Second World War.

An official from the Maldives Ministry of Foreign Affairs have told Minivan News that negotiations are ongoing regarding the new diplomatic mission.

Japan is one of the Maldives’ largest trading partners, importing over US$5.1 million worth of goods from the Indian Ocean nation in 2013 – a year on year increase of 48 percent. However, Japanese tourists only make up around 3 percent of arrivals to the Maldives.

Statistics available from the fisheries ministry showed that Maldivian fish exports to Japan expanded rapidly last year, growing from US$4.8 million in 2013 to over US$6.8 million between January and October in 2014.

Japan has traditionally donated large amounts of aid to the Maldives, with President Abdulla Yameen explaining during a state visit to Japan last April that that Japan was the Maldives’ most generous aid partner.

Data from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency  (JICA) – which already has offices in Malé – shows that the east Asian nation gave over US$450 million to the Maldives in development assistance between 2004 and 2010.

JICA recently completed the ‘Project for Clean Energy Promotion in Malé’ with the installation of 740 solar panels in 12 government buildings in the capital, at a cost of US$11.1 million (MVR141.5 million).

Other 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.

Last month, the Japanese government gifted the Maldives ¥100,000,000 (US$840,000) in grant aid, as well as contributing MVR13.9 million to assist with repairs to Malé’s desalination plant – partially destroyed by fire on December 4.

The capital city currently hosts five full diplomatic missions – belonging to China, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The Maldives has had a full embassy in Tokyo since 2006.

According to the Japan Times, the Japanese government initially requested to create nine new embassies and six new consulates, and has opted to include six  embassies in 2015’s state budget,

In addition to the Maldives, Japan intends to establish embassies in Barbados, the Solomon Islands, Tajikistan, Moldova, and Turkmenistan. Consulates will be established in the Mexican city of Leon and the German city of Hamburg.

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