Japan and Belgium mark 150 years of relations, pledge exchanges


Japanese and Belgian officials met in Brussels to affirm ongoing cooperation in this 150th anniversary year of bilateral ties.

Senior vice foreign minister Yoji Muto told a ceremony on Tuesday that exchanges in 2016 will “further develop the bilateral relationship through many cultural events.” He noted that the two nations already cooperate closely on matters ranging from trade to security. Bilateral ties were first established on Aug. 1, 1866.

King Philippe of Belgium will visit Japan in October, while Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and members of Japan’s Imperial family are expected to make trips to Belgium this year.

In November, the Belgian capital was placed on high alert for several days over an apparently acute terrorist threat. Referring to the ongoing threat of terrorism, Belgian Foreign Affairs Minister Didier Reynders said authorities are striving in collaboration with other countries to “guarantee the best possible security situation for the population and for the many guests from abroad.”

Reynders pledged to extend joint efforts with Japan and suggested that they “assess areas of possible collaboration such as defense or collaboration in Africa.”

He also expressed the desire for Japan to conclude a free trade agreement with the European Union by the end of the year. This delayed concord would remove a number of tariff and nontariff trade barriers.

A “150 Years of Friendship between Japan and Belgium” committee will bring a number of academic and cultural events to both countries this year. Belgium will host lectures and performances related to Japan, while Belgian art and culture will be highlighted in events in Japan.

The committee’s members include Herman Van Rompuy, a former President of the European Council and a haiku enthusiast known for penning terse Japanese-style poetry.

Brussels’ famous Flower Carpet — a biennial display covering the city’s central square with a 75 meter by 24 meter pattern of begonias — has taken “Japan” as its theme this summer. The display can be seen for three days in August.