Japan plans to open an embassy in Armenia for geopolitical and economic considerations, according to Japanese media reports.
“The Japan Times” newspaper reported at the weekend Armenia is one of the six countries where Tokyo would like to have diplomatic missions to counter China’s growing influence around the world. It quoted an unnamed government source as telling the Kyodo news agency that the Japanese Foreign Ministry is trying to ensure that its budget for next year sets aside funding for them.
“Tokyo is considering a mission in Armenia to gain access to its rich natural resources,” the paper said without elaborating.
Armenia’s main natural resources are copper, molybdenum, gold and other metals. Western and Russian companies hold major stakes in the country’s leading mining companies.
At least one Chinese company is also known to be present in the Armenian mining sector. In 2011, the Hong-Kong-based Fortune Oil, paid $24 million to buy a 35 percent share in a local firm that controls three untapped iron deposits. Mining operations there have not yet started.
Japan already has embassies in neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia. Its ambassador to Armenia is currently based in Moscow. Armenia, for its part, opened an embassy in Tokyo in late 2010.
President Serzh Sarkisian paid an official visit to Japan in June 2012, meeting with Emperor Akihito and then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. Government sources said at the time that Sarkisian’s talks with Noda focused on the development of bilateral ties and nuclear safety. A joint statement signed by the two leaders after the talks said the Armenian government will use “Japanese experience” for boosting the safety of operations of the nuclear power plant at Metsamor.
According to Armenian government data, the volume of trade between Armenia and Japan rose by 36 percent to just under $100 million last year. Japanese exports to Armenia accounted for the bulk of the figure.