Abe beefs up Europe ties amid North strife

TALLINN • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe landed on Friday in Estonia, his first stop on a tour of the Baltic states and other European nations as he sought to drum up support for his hawkish stance on North Korea.

Despite a recent cooling of tensions in the run-up to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, Mr Abe has insisted on "maximising pressure" on Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programmes.

In the Estonian capital Tallinn, Mr Abe met President Kersti Kaljulaid and Prime Minister Juri Ratas and discussed bilateral cooperation on cyber security, a topic that digital-savvy Estonia has championed since being hit by one of the first major cyber attacks a decade ago.

Mr Abe will then visit fellow Baltic states Latvia and Lithuania, before continuing on to Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania. He is the first sitting Japanese leader to visit these countries.

Mr Abe told reporters that he and Mr Ratas had agreed that they "would not accept nuclear armament of North Korea, and that it was necessary to maximise pressure on North Korea".

The leaders also said their countries would start working together on cyber defence, and a Japanese spokesman later said Tokyo would cooperate with Nato countries, including Estonia, on cyber security.

Representatives from more than 30 companies are accompanying Mr Abe to develop business ties in the region.

Japan is keen to raise its profile in the region as China bolsters its ties there.

All six nations Mr Abe is visiting are among the 16 Central and Eastern European countries that hold an annual summit meeting with China. He is due to return to Japan on Wednesday.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 14, 2018, with the headline 'Abe beefs up Europe ties amid North strife'. Print Edition | Subscribe