x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Japanese PM signs nuclear agreement with the UAE

Ninth UAE nuclear-energy partner also agrees to deals in education and health, and holds talks on oil and gas concession.

Shinzo Abe, centre left, with Minister of Energy Suhail Al Mazrouei before the Japan-UAE Business Forum. Silvia Razgova / The National
Shinzo Abe, centre left, with Minister of Energy Suhail Al Mazrouei before the Japan-UAE Business Forum. Silvia Razgova / The National

ABU DHABI // The visiting Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, yesterday signed a broad range of agreements with the UAE, including one on nuclear cooperation.

The deal made Japan the country’s ninth nuclear partner and signified what delegation members called a shift in Middle East policy.

Hamad Al Kaabi, the UAE’s permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, said it was likely that Japanese technology would be used in the four nuclear reactors being built in Barakah, in the Western Region.

“The agreement constitutes a framework that governs and facilitates cooperation in the area of peaceful nuclear energy and related applications between the two countries,” Mr Al Kaabi said.

“The general agreement does not preclude specific commercial deals, but is very significant as it provides the framework for any deals reached between the vendors and suppliers.”

The UAE has signed the agreements with the US, UK, South Korea, Argentina, France, Canada, Russia and Australia since 2009.

The Japanese deal will be similar to those in allowing transfer of knowledge, technology and nuclear material to the UAE.

There was speculation yesterday that Toshiba could supply turbines for the reactors, although no deal has been concluded.

Other agreements signed include patient transfers to Japan; the building of a Japanese medical centre at Al Ain Hospital; an education exchange; and the opening of a Japanese school in the UAE.

Talks included cooperation between the nations in renewable energy and water-saving technology.

“Does any one here have any idea how much water is being leaked in Tokyo?” Mr Abe asked in a speech. “Only 3 per cent.

“Can you guess what rate it was half a century ago? Thirty per cent.

“If Japan has done that there is no reason why you cannot do the same. We want to help.”

Mr Abe also held talks with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, to renew Japan’s role in an oil and gas concession set to expire in 2018, and on security matters including North Korea.

And a framework is being set up for the exchange of ideas between security planners and personnel in both countries to secure trade routes, said Tomohiko Taniguchi, a councillor in the prime minister’s office.

“This is the first time that Japan and the UAE set up frameworks for sharing information on maritime awareness,” Mr Taniguchi said.

Sheikh Mohammed also agreed to set up a security consultation group between the two governments.

To further enhance security in the region, Mr Abe pledged US$2.2 billion (Dh8.08bn) in aid to countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Mr Taniguchi said his country’s dealings with the UAE were part of a shift in regional police.

“The relationship between Japan and the Middle East was a one-way street where we buy your oil,” Mr Taniguchi said.

“But that is no more. It is the prime minister and government’s view to dramatically expand it in multilateral ways.”

Yutaka Yokoi, of Japan’s foreign ministry, said it is reviewing visa-free entry for UAE citizens.  “It is currently under review and as of now, I can state that diplomats will be able to travel to Japan without visas, as will Emirati citizens be issued multiple-entry visas for Japan,” he said.

A date for implementation of any new visa rules has yet to be set.

Mr Abe is in the region on a four-nation tour that ends in Turkey today, after also taking in Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Turkey is also expected to sign a nuclear agreement with Japan, which could result in the Asian nation building Turkey's new reactors.