Friday, April 02, 2010

Embassy heralds a new dawn in Japan-Papua New Guinea relations

Japan – Papua New New Guinea relations can only get better with the opening of the magnificent new PNG Embassy in Tokyo, according to Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare.

He was speaking in Tokyo on Wednesday when officially opening the new chancery building in front of a large entourage from both Japan and PNG.

The opening of the new chancery at Meguro Ward coincided with the launching of the second weekly Port Moresby-Narita later that same day by Culture and Tourism Minister Charles Abel at Narita Airport.

The K20 million building is named after former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sir Albert Maori Kiki, who was instrumental in developing PNG foreign policy.

Whether deliberately planned or not, a point Sir Michael alluded to, the timing of the opening of the new chancery building on the eve of the cherry blossom season in Tokyo was auspicious.

"As the cherry blossom season heralds new beginnings in Japan, the advent of a new season for business and school, the opening of the Papua New Guinea chancery trumpets a new era of deepened friendship and more stronger economic and trade ties between our two countries," he said.

"I am confident that the relationship between our two countries can only get better from here onwards.

"The signs are promising.

"Papua New Guinea already enjoys a fast-growing investment, trade and economic relationship with Japan.

"Japan is Papua New Guinea's second-largest trading partner.

"Japanese business entities have substantial investment interests in the agriculture, forestry, fisheries and oil and gas sectors.

"JBIC, Nippon Oil Exploration and Tokyo Electric's participation in the first PNG LNG project confirms the trend towards a more enhanced relationship between Papua New Guinea and Japan.

"This is further exemplified by the interest shown by JAPEX in the second LNG project being developed in Papua New Guinea."

The construction of this chancery, which began in May 2009 with a groundbreaking ceremony performed also by Sir Michael, was completed in December last year and the building formally handed over on Jan 19, 2010.

The commitment by the government to this project was recognition of the important and maturing relations between Japan and PNG – a relationship that in recent times has gone to a higher level, with the recent involvement of some high-profile Japanese companies in the PNG LNG project.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Michael Maue, former PNG ambassador, said it all began on Sept 20, 2007, when Sir Michael called him to say that he was passing through Narita on his way to New York and directed that he prepare a Cabinet submission for him to consider.

Mr Maue finalised a submission for the new embassy which was signed by Sir Michael and which he directed be faxed to the Cabinet secretary for NEC consideration.

"Cabinet finally approved to fund the project and appropriation was made in the 2008 national budget," he recalled.

"After receipt of the first batch of funds on April 14, 2008, the embassy searched for suitable land for building.

'Over 80 sites were considered with information provided by real estate agents, the Internet, site visits and also land made available by the Ministry of Finance of Japan.

"Let me assure you, the people of PNG, that your investment is sound considering it is in Tokyo.

"May I add, the Government and people of PNG own this block of land because we have the legal title to it duly registered in the name of the Government of the Independent State of PNG.

"The total land area is 324 square metres; however, the total office space of 660sqm almost doubles the size of the land compared to the 240 sqm the embassy rented all these years on the third floor of the Mita Kosukai Building.

"Funds could not permit the purchase of bigger land space or the construction of a residence next to the chancery for the head of mission.

"I will leave that to the imagination of future PNG ambassadors to Japan.

"Having said that, I am fully satisfied and convinced that what we have delivered is the best money can buy."

Other speakers included Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Abal and Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Ms Chinami Nishimura, who spoke on behalf of the Japanese Government.

Traditional singsing performances were done by Lasi Tewai Siac Group of Morobe province, Kurti Andra Traditional Dance Group of Manus, and Engan artists living in Japan.

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