Prime Minister Olmert in Japan on Four-Day State Visit

PM Olmert will be meeting with PM Fukuda, gov't ministers and Japanese businesspeople. Iran, terrorism and economic relations are on the agenda.

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Nissan Ratzlav-Katz,

Japanese and Israeli flags in Israel
Japanese and Israeli flags in Israel

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert landed in Tokyo early Monday morning, starting an official four-day visit to Japan. He will be meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and other ministers, as well as with Japanese
One major objective for Prime Minister Olmert in his trip is to promote and develop the economic ties between Japan and Israel.
business leaders, to discuss economic and diplomatic issues of interest to both countries. Accompanying Olmert are approximately 20 influential Israeli businesspeople.

One major objective for Prime Minister Olmert on the current trip, the first of an Israeli premier since Binyamin Netanyahu visited in 1997, is to promote and develop the economic ties between Japan and Israel. The two prime ministers are expected to sign a Memorandum of Understanding in coming days, and the Israeli government is hoping this will lay the groundwork for a full-fledged free-trade agreement.

The Israeli businesspeople - who were selected based on a list of industries suggested by Japan - will join Japanese businesspeople for a joint seminar, hosted by Prime Minister Olmert, on the economic situation in Israel. In addition, the prime minister will meet with Japanese economic leaders and visit a leading Japanese industrial plant that exports to Israel. PMO officials said that Olmert "hopes to increase Israeli exports to Japan, which are currently approximately one-third of imports."

One of the business leaders accompanying Prime Minister Olmert in Japan is General Manager Elisha Yanai of Motorola Israel. Yanai told the Globes financial newspaper that he is looking for Japanese investors to back research and development centers in Israel.

"Israel is very successful in high-tech, but most of the investment comes from the United States and Europe, and there is no reason why there shouldn't be Japanese investments as well," Yanai said. He added that there are several Hebrew-speaking Japanese people in Israel who could help set up centers in Israel: "The work of setting up the centers should be left up to them. There are at least 12 such people in Israel and half of them are up to the task."

As another, more general, aspect of promoting bilateral relations, Israeli officials are reiterating the suggestion that Japan agree to direct flights from Tokyo. Japan has yet to positively reply to the idea.

Iranian Nukes and PA Terror on the Agenda
On the diplomatic front, Prime Minister Olmert will be raising the issue of Iran's aspiration to equip itself with nuclear weapons and its threats against the Jewish State. The prime minister intends to discuss with his hosts the need for the international community to act forthwith in order to prevent Iran from attaining nuclear weapons. Olmert will be expressing his view that trade sanctions on Iran must be implemented consistently and effectively by countries such as Japan, even outside the framework of the United Nations.

"Japan has already begun to enact a responsible policy in this regard and has taken upon itself to restrict Japanese companies' trade with Iran," PMO  officials said. "This effort must be continued."

In other efforts to take a central role in international diplomacy, Japan has initiated a large-scale economic project called "Corridor for Peace and Prosperity," intended to build joint Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian Authority factories and projects in the Jericho area. Prime Minister Olmert expressed his support for the Japanese project.

Olmert will also reportedly update Japanese leaders on the progress, developments and difficulties in the diplomatic process with the PA. In particular, he will note the ongoing PA terrorism from Gaza, Judea and Samaria.