Japan, Trinidad and Tobago eye stronger ties

Japan and Trinidad and Tobago agreed Sunday to bolster cooperation in a range of areas including the economy and disaster prevention, as Japan's leader visited the resource-rich Caribbean country on the second leg of his trip to Latin America amid China's growing influence in the region.

During talks with Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan is considering a new framework to help the country prevent disasters and deal with environmental issues. Caribbean countries are prone to natural disasters such as hurricanes.

Abe also sought support for Tokyo's bid for a nonpermanent seat in the upcoming U.N. Security Council election in 2015, a Japanese government official said.

As this year marks the 50th anniversary of the two countries establishing diplomatic ties, Abe asked Persad-Bissessar to open an embassy in Japan. She said she would raise the issue with her foreign minister.

Abe is on a five-nation tour to Latin America where Beijing's influence is growing. Last year, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Trinidad and Tobago, rich in natural resources such as gas and oil, to expand economic cooperation.

Prior to the first meeting between Japan and the 14 member states of the Caribbean Community, or CARICOM, Abe held summit talks to bolster economic and energy cooperation with its chair Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne as well as Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller.

On the issue of Japan's whaling, which it says is for scientific purposes, Browne expressed hope that Japan and Antigua and Barbuda will work together at the International Whaling Commission, according to the Japanese government official.

Antigua and Barbuda has taken a stance on whaling similar to Japan's.

After a moratorium on commercial whaling by the IWC came into force in 1986, Japan continued whale hunting under government-set quotas, saying collecting scientific data is necessary for sustainable use of whale resources.

In March, the International Court of Justice ordered Japan to end its whaling in the Antarctic Ocean, saying it was not conducted for scientific purposes. While the ruling did not apply to whaling in the Pacific Ocean, it was expected to deal a blow to Japan's whaling industry amid strong criticism from Western countries.