The foreign minister of Japan said Saturday that Tokyo wants to launch "large scale cooperation" with Havana to support the island's reforms.
In the first visit to Cuba by a Japanese foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, speaking during a meeting with Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez, said Japan supports US and Cuban efforts to normalize relations and that Tokyo wants to take its own ties with Havana to "a new level."
Kishida, who traveled with a delegation of 30 Japanese business leaders, said Japan wants to launch a "new scheme of Japanese cooperation of wide range, large scale" to support reforms undertaken by President Raul Castro.
He said the scheme was called "non-reimburseable financial assistance."
"Secondly, we would like to consolidate our economic relations," Kishida said.
For his part, Rodriguez said relations with Japan "are a priority" and that the communist country has "the willingness to deepen bilateral ties in all areas, including trade, investment, scientific cooperation and multifaceted cooperation."
Kishida's spokesman, Ken Okaniwa, told reporters on Thursday that the US embargo against Cuba in force since 1962 is making it "difficult" for Japanese companies to do business with the island.
Bilateral trade amounts to $52 million, with Japanese exports to Cuba accounting for two-thirds of that commerce.
Cuba buys machinery from Japan and exports tobacco, coffee and fish, Okaniwa said.