TOKYO – Panama and Japan reaffirmed their relationship, forged over 115 years, during a meeting between the countries’ leaders in Tokyo on Thursday.
Panama’s Juan Carlos Varela, whose five-year term as president is due to finish in June, arrived in the Japanese capital as part of a tour that previously took him to China in a bid to strengthen ties with the Asian countries.
He described the two nations as “strategic partners, friendly nations and brotherly peoples,” in a statement to the press after a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Varela visited the seat of the Japanese Government after having been officially received, along with his wife, Lorena Castillo, by Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.
He reminded journalists that the audience will be one of the last with Emperor Akihito before he abdicates in favor of his son Naruhito on April 30.
In the meeting between Abe and Varela, the two countries analyzed new avenues of cooperation in the political and economic spheres and highlighted the importance that Japan had in actions such as the expansion of the Panama Canal.
Abe said the artificial waterway has been growing since the extension was completed in June 2016, which benefits Japan from the point of view of its energy security.
Varela said the expansion of the canal could create a new opportunity for Japan because it will allow the country to cross ships with liquefied natural gas coming from the Gulf of Mexico to the Asian country.
They both highlighted the role Japan has played in financing and equipping Line 3 of the Panama Metro, which will use a Japanese monorail system.
The infrastructure could become “the flagship project of cooperation between Panama and Japan” and will turn Panama “into the showcase for Latin America of Japanese technology in terms of mass transportation,” Varela said.
The two leaders have met five times in the last five years. The last time was three years ago when Varela was in Tokyo when the agreement for financing and equipping the Panama metro line was signed.
The Panamanian president arrived in Japan on Wednesday night and will finish his tour on Saturday.
He is scheduled to visit the Hitachi monorail plant, the company that will equip and provide the wagons for line 3 of the Panamanian metro, on Friday.