Japan PM Abe to honour quake dead on New Zealand trip

WELLINGTON (AFP) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will honour the 28 citizens from his country who died in the devastating 2011 Christchurch earthquake during a visit to New Zealand next week, officials said on Friday.

Abe will make a brief visit to New Zealand on Monday as part of a swing through the Pacific that also includes a stop in Australia, and reportedly Papua New Guinea.

Japan is New Zealand's fourth largest trading partner and Prime Minister John Key said Abe would hold discussions with business leaders in Auckland before heading to Christchurch.

"Prime Minister Abe has been spearheading a revival of Japan's economy and diplomacy," Key said.

"His visit is an opportunity to mark New Zealand's long-standing links with Japan through government, business and personal ties."

From there, Abe will head to the South Island city of Christchurch, large swathes of which were flattened in a February 2011 quake that claimed 185 lives.

Among the dead were 28 Japanese students who were in an English-language school located in the CTV building, which collapsed then burst into flames after the 6.3-magnitude tremor, killing 115 people.

A memorial has been erected on the site of the six-storey 1980s-era office block, which a subsequent investigation found was so badly designed it should never have received a building permit.

Japan sent search and rescue teams to comb through the rubble after the disaster and has been involved in the city's rebirth through the so-called "cardboard cathedral, designed by award-winning Japanese architect Shigeru Ban.

The structure, which is a temporary replacement for the 1881 Anglican cathedral destroyed in the quake, is an A-frame building constructed with weather-proofed cardboard tubes.