Japan, UAE sign nuclear agreement during PM Abe's visit

Japan and the United Arab Emirates signed a civil nuclear agreement Thursday during Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the oil-rich country, setting the stage for more sales of Japanese atomic technologies overseas.

It was the first bilateral nuclear agreement signed by Japan since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis triggered by the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

"There are high expectations that Japan has a considerably high level of safety standards" after having experienced the Fukushima disaster, Abe told reporters in Abu Dhabi. "I want to provide Japan's safe and high-standard nuclear technologies."

Although the signing of the agreement was welcomed by the related industries, some critics said it is still premature to export Japan's nuclear technologies when the full facts of the Fukushima disaster are yet to be determined.

Among other issues, the two countries also agreed to enhance cooperation on the development of oil fields, maritime security and medical care, according to a joint statement issued after talks between Abe and United Arab Emirates Vice President and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in Dubai.

The two leaders discussed energy security at a time when Japan is hoping that the United Arab Emirates will continue to provide stable supplies of oil to the resource-poor country. A large portion of Japanese companies' oil rights in the United Arab Emirates expire after 2018.

Japan is eager to import energy resources at lower cost as most of its nuclear reactors remain offline, and demand for oil and liquefied natural gas has been growing for thermal power generation.

The signing of the pact took place amid efforts by Abe, who returned to the premiership last December, to generate economic growth by promoting exports of nuclear power technologies and other infrastructure systems.

Japan is also expected to sign a nuclear agreement on Friday with Turkey, the final leg of Abe's four-nation trip that also took him to Russia and Saudi Arabia.

In Saudi Arabia, Abe agreed with Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to commence talks aimed at starting negotiations on a similar bilateral nuclear accord.

Prior to the latest signing, Japan had inked nuclear agreements with 11 countries, including the United States and Britain, as well as the European Atomic Community.

During his meeting the United Arab Emirates vice president, Abe requested the easing of import restrictions on Japanese food products that were imposed after the Fukushima disaster due to radiation concerns, according to a Japanese government official.

The vice president said in response that he would consider further easing of the restrictions as delicious Japanese foods are popular in Dubai, the official said.

Japan and the United Arab Emirates also signed a tax treaty as part of their efforts to facilitate mutual investment and economic exchanges.