• Kyodo


Japan is considering offering ¥30 billion ($289 million) in loans to Mauritius following a major oil spill in July off its coast caused by a Japanese freighter, Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Sunday during a visit to the Indian Ocean country.

Speaking after talks with Mauritius Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth and Foreign Minister Nandcoomar Bodha, Motegi said Japan will also start delivering technical support to restore the Mauritian environment and local fisheries industry from next month.

Motegi said Japan will "positively consider" meeting Mauritius' request for yen loans to help it recover from the spill and develop its economy, which has also been hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

"Japan hopes to implement concrete cooperative measures thoroughly at an unprecedented speed and size," Motegi told reporters online from Mauritius, after he inspected a coastal area damaged by the oil spill.

Separately, Japan will also extend ¥600 million in grant aid to Mauritius to help its efforts to boost disaster risk reduction, including providing alarm devices and measuring instruments to cope with cyclones and sea level rises, Motegi said during a joint press event with Bodha earlier in the day.

Tokyo is working to compile an aid package for Port Louis after Motegi promised Jugnauth over the phone in September to provide long-term assistance, including support for the local fisheries industry and for restoring damaged mangroves.

Japan has since sent a team of experts to Mauritius to work out the package.

"I hope Mauritius will recover its beautiful environment as soon as possible and that it will overcome the coronavirus pandemic to regain a prosperous economy and livelihoods," Motegi said.

The Panamanian-flagged bulk carrier Wakashio, operated by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd. and owned by Nagashiki Shipping Co., ran aground off the southeast coast of Mauritius on July 25, spilling more than 1,000 tons of oil into the pristine environment.

Motegi, who became the first Japanese foreign minister to visit Mauritius, said Japan will send a mission of business and government officials to the country in February to spur bilateral investment and business.

Mauritius was the last leg of Motegi's seven-day, four-nation African tour that has also taken him to Tunisia, Mozambique and South Africa, with a focus on strengthening business cooperation amid China's growing influence in the resource-rich continent.

In each of the four countries he visited, Motegi urged cooperation to realize a free and open Indo-Pacific based on the rule of law, freedom of navigation and free trade, and won their understanding, the ministry said.

On Saturday, Motegi and Naledi Pandor, South Africa's minister of international relations and cooperation, agreed to strengthen post-pandemic business ties, with many Japanese companies looking to enter the emerging market as a key gateway to the whole African continent.

Motegi said that Japanese companies have resumed full-fledged operations in South Africa following a suspension due to the pandemic, according to Japan's Foreign Ministry.

The ministers agreed to convene a forum at an early date to spur bilateral investment, the ministry said.

Some 160 companies including Toyota Motor Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. have bases in resource-rich South Africa, which accounts for more than 20% of Africa's gross domestic product, according to ministry data.

With South Africa occupying a rotating nonpermanent seat of the U.N. Security Council for the 2019-2020 term, the ministers also agreed on working to reform the world body's 15-member decision-making organ, the ministry said.

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