Japan, Spain vow to assist firms' expansion into Latin America

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo vowed Tuesday to work together in helping firms from their respective countries expand into the vast Spanish-speaking market in Latin America, Japanese officials said.

At a meeting in Madrid, the two ministers also agreed to seek an early conclusion of current negotiations for a free trade pact between Japan and the European Union.

With regard to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo late last month that angered Japan's Asian neighbors, Kishida stressed that through the visit, Abe expressed his "condolences" for all the war dead and vowed "never to wage a war," according to the officials.

The press representative of Catherine Ashton, the European Union's top representative for foreign affairs and security policy, said in a statement after the visit that Abe's action is "not conducive to lowering tensions in the region or to improving relations with Japan's neighbors," especially China and South Korea.

In the talks, Kishida also explained to Garcia-Margallo the Abe government's security policy, including the recently adopted national security strategy, noting that ties with Europe and Spain are important in pursuing the policy, according to the officials.

The Spanish minister responded that he understood Japan's undertakings, they added.

Kishida is visiting Spain for two days from Tuesday ahead of his visit to France, where he and his defense colleague Itsunori Onodera are to meet with their French counterparts for the first so-called "two-plus-two" security talks between Tokyo and Paris on Thursday.