• Kyodo

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Speaking ahead of a bilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi stated Friday that Japan shares India’s strategic interests in seeking U.N. reform and Asian prosperity.

On the first leg of his four-nation tour to South Asia and Europe, Koizumi told a luncheon hosted by local business groups here that the central theme of a future bilateral partnership is bolstering economic ties.

“Japan and India are sharing strategic interests in realizing what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh calls an arc of prosperity in Asia as well as in dealing with such international issues as terrorism, the environment, energy and U.N. reform,” Koizumi said.

“Japan-India economic relations have great potential. I hope that the bilateral potential will materialize to the maximum with the help of Japanese and Indian business leaders here today.”

Earlier in the day, Koizumi visited a local junior high school to observe Japanese language being taught as part of India’s bid to promote business with Japan.

“I’m very glad to hear that many people are eager to learn Japanese,” Koizumi said in English to a gathering of some 150 pupils at the school.

“My visit to India this time is to promote friendship cooperation between India and Japan more and more.”

During a visit to a railway project site financed by loans from Japan, Koizumi said that India is the largest recipient of Japan’s yen loans, topping China in fiscal 2003.

In their summit talks in the evening, Koizumi and Singh were expected to seek the early start of a Joint Study Group focusing on ways to strengthen bilateral economic relations, including the possibility of concluding a free-trade agreement.

They had agreed to launch the study in their previous meeting, which took place in November in Laos on the sidelines of meetings hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Regarding U.N. reform, the two leaders are expected to boost cooperation toward their common goal of gaining permanent Security Council membership.

Japan has formed the so-called Group of Four with India, Germany and Brazil to support each other’s attempts to get permanent seats on the Security Council.

Koizumi and Singh were set to reinforce the Japan-India Global Partnership, which was agreed to by their predecessors, Yoshiro Mori and Atal Behari Vajpayee, in 2000.

This is the first visit to India by a Japanese prime minister in five years.

The six-day trip will also take Koizumi to Pakistan, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. He will return to Tokyo on Tuesday.

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