Japan’s first resident ambassador to Armenia handed his credentials to President Serzh Sarkisian on Wednesday more than four months after the opening of the Japanese Embassy in Yerevan meant to facilitate closer relations between the two countries.
Sarkisian was reported to express hope that Ambassador Eiji Taguchi will contribute to the current “positive dynamics” in Japanese-Armenian ties and help to deepen them “in all areas.”
“I will commit myself to further promote the Japan-Armenia relations in a broad range of fields,” Taguchi said in a statement posted on his embassy’s website this week. “I believe that this long-awaited inauguration of the Embassy marked the beginning of a new stage of our bilateral cooperation,” he added.
The Japanese government revealed plans to open diplomatic missions in Armenia as well as five other countries nearly two years ago. Some Japanese media reported that the government is keen to counter China’s growing influence there.
Japan already had embassies in neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia at the time. Its ambassadors to Armenia have until now been based in Moscow. Armenia, for its part, opened an embassy in Tokyo in 2010.
Sarkisian paid an official visit to Japan in June 2012, meeting with Emperor Akihito and then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. His talks with Noda touched, among other things, upon nuclear safety. A joint statement issued by the two leaders said the Armenian government will use “Japanese experience” in boosting the safety of the nuclear power plant at Metsamor.
Japan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Minoru Kiuchi visited Yerevan and met Sarkisian in January just a few weeks after the opening of the Japanese Embassy there. Sarkisian thanked Japan for its “considerable” economic aid to Armenia provided since independence.
That assistance includes a $247 million low-interest loan provided by the Japanese government in 2007 through the state-run Japan Bank of International Cooperation (JBIC). It was used for the construction of a new thermal power-plant in Yerevan. The 242-megawatt facility was inaugurated in April 2010.
Later in 2010, Japan donated 28 new fire engines worth $8 million to the Armenian Rescue Service. Japanese specialists also trained 135 Armenian firefighters to use the new equipment.
According to Armenian government statistics, the total volume of Japanese-Armenian trade rose by 18 percent to $114 million last year. By comparison, Armenia’s 2014 trade with China totaled almost $590 million.