Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday pledged ¥45 billion in loans to expand Sri Lanka’s sole international airport.
After meeting with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at his office in Tokyo, Abe said the two leaders agreed to upgrade the bilateral relationship to a comprehensive partnership covering a wide range of areas, including politics, security and economics.
“To support its economy, we will further work together with Sri Lanka in three fields: promoting investment, cooperating on a national development plan, and national reconciliation and peace-building” under the enhanced partnership, Abe said.
The fresh yen loans will go toward expansion of Bandaranaike International Airport in Negombo a suburb north of Colombo.
Wickremesinghe welcomed the new partnership, saying “the discussions and agreement of a comprehensive collaboration brings us a step closer in the relationship between our two countries.”
According to a joint declaration on the bilateral comprehensive partnership, Wickremesinghe noted that the Sri Lankan government will create a more favorable investment environment, urging Japanese firms to invest in the country.
Sri Lanka has been working on national reconciliation and peace-building after the civil war that lasted from 1983 to 2009.
The island nation with a population of some 20.67 million has posted high economic growth after the war, experiencing 7.4 percent growth in GDP last year and 7.2 percent in 2013.
In light of the steady growth in Sri Lanka, the two leaders agreed to hold an economic policy dialogue at the senior official level in the first half of next year to come up with measures to enhance business cooperation, the joint declaration said.
To support national development in Sri Lanka, Abe and Wickremesinghe decided to launch a framework titled the “Consultation on National Development Cooperation.”
Abe praised bilateral efforts on the maritime security front, including port calls by Maritime Self-Defense Force vessels and an ongoing study on Japan providing Sri Lanka with patrol boats.
“As island nations, we know the value of security and peaceful coexistence and the importance that we are guided by international principles as far as the law of the seas are concerned,” Wickremesinghe said.
Wickremesinghe was appointed prime minister in January by President Maithripala Sirisena. After a parliamentary election in August, he was reappointed to the post in a newly formed national unity government.
Wickremesinghe has previously served as prime minister from 1993 to 1994 and 2001 to 2004.
Making his eighth visit to Japan, Wickremesinghe wraps up his five-day stay Wednesday.