Closer Brunei, Japan ties

His Majesty Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, yesterday afternoon attended a Court Luncheon hosted by His Imperial Majesty Emperor Akihito.

The Court Luncheon was held at the Imperial Palace, Tokyo.

During the Court Luncheon, His Majesty and His Imperial Majesty exchanged views on bilateral relations in general and expressed pleasure with the continued warm friendship and close relations between the royal families.

Also in attendance was Her Imperial Majesty Empress Michiko.

His Majesty was accompanied by His Royal Highness Prince Haji Abdul Azim.

Prior to the Court Luncheon, His Majesty granted an audience to three prominent Japanese parliamentarians - Toshihiro Nikai, Chairman of the Diet Affairs of the Liberal Democratic Party and the Chief Secretary-General of the Japan-Brunei Parliamentarian's League for Promotion of Friendship; Kozo Watanabe, Chairman of the Diet Affairs Committee of the Democratic Party of Japan and the Chairman of the Japan-Brunei Parliamentarian's League for the Promotion of Friendship; and Tetsuma Esaki, Senior Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, who is also the Secretary-General of the Japan-Brunei Parliamentarian's League for the Promotion of Friendship.

The audience was held at the Imperial Hotel, Tokyo.

During the audience, the Japanese parliamentarians expressed their appreciation for the excellent relationship established between the two countries particularly in the areas of energy supply.

They also expressed the hope to enhance cooperation between the two countries in other areas such as air services, youth and tourism.

His Majesty thanked the Japanese parliamentarians for their continuous efforts to enhance the existing excellent relationship between Brunei Darussalam and Japan.

Later in the afternoon, His Majesty left for Brunei Darussalam.

Before leaving the hotel, a doa selamat was read by Yang Berhormat Pehin Datu Seri Maharaja Dato Paduka Seri Setia Ustaz Haji Awang Aziz bin Juned, the State Mufti of Brunei Darussalam.

At the International Airport to bid farewell to His Majesty were Mr Itsuo Hashimoto, the Ambassador of Japan to Brunei Darussalam, and Mr Akio Isomata, Director of Second Southeast Asia Division, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, as well as other officers from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

Also at the airport were Dato Paduka Awang Haji Adnan bin Buntar, the Ambassador of Brunei Darussalam to Japan, and officers of the Brunei Embassy in Tokyo.

Japan and Brunei on Monday signed a bilateral free trade agreement as Tokyo seeks stable energy supplies from the oil- and gas-rich Sultanate.

The agreement will lower trade barriers, enhance economic cooperation between the two countries and boost Japanese investment in Brunei.

Tariffs on Japan's auto exports to Brunei are to be abolished within three years under the new deal.

"Prime minister, we are now, in the fullest sense of the word, partners," His Majesty told Shinzo Abe after the signing. "My government and people are delighted," His Majesty added.

"The economic agreement we just signed will raise the stable and friendly Japan-Brunei relationship to a higher level," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.

"I'm glad we were able to sign the deal only one year after we started the negotiations," he added.

Japan has been increasingly pursuing free trade pacts to secure access to raw materials and markets for its exports amid the collapse of global trade talks.

Japan is in ongoing negotiations with South Korea, Indonesia and with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) as a whole. - Borneo Bulletin (20th June 2007)