• Kyodo

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Cuba, a first for a Japanese leader, when he stops there next week after attending the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York, the government said Wednesday.

Abe is scheduled to hold talks with Cuban President Raul Castro during a stop in the Caribbean country, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference.

Abe’s trip from Sept. 18 to 24 will include a speech before the U.N. body. Suga said the Cuba visit is aimed at “further deepening our bilateral ties.”

“By working for improvements in the business investment environment, the government hopes to help Japanese firms expand into Cuba, which has attracted global attention from both the public and private sectors following its resumption of diplomatic ties with the United States last year,” Suga said.

Washington and Havana ended their 54-year diplomatic freeze in July last year following a breakthrough meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and Castro.

Abe will also seek Cuba’s understanding and cooperation in resolving concerns over North Korea’s nuclear and missile development efforts, Suga said. Havana and Pyongyang maintain diplomatic relations.

Suga said the government is not currently arranging talks between Abe and former Cuban President Fidel Castro, Raul’s elder brother and an icon of Cuba’s revolution in the 1950s.

In New York, Abe is scheduled to give a speech at a U.N. summit on refugee and migrant issues on Sept. 19 before addressing the annual the general assembly on Sept. 21, Suga said.

The government is arranging bilateral talks on the sidelines of the U.N. proceedings to confirm coordination with other leaders on North Korea’s recent fifth nuclear test and other regional and global issues of shared interest, Suga said.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will also visit New York from Sunday and hold talks with his counterparts from the United States and South Korea, as well as those from Group of Seven industrial countries on the sidelines of the U.N. meetings to discuss North Korea’s nuclear and missile developments, the Foreign Ministry said.

Kishida plans to hold a three-way meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se on Sunday and another meeting with his G-7 counterparts the following day.

Kishida is also seeking talks with his peers from Brazil, India and Germany on Sept. 21, the ministry said. Japan and the three countries comprise the so-called Group of Four that is seeking representation as permanent members on an enlarged U.N. Security Council.

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