On the auspicious occasion of the 48th National Day of the Sultanate of Oman, I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said and the Government and people of the Sultanate of Oman on behalf of the Government of Japan. As the Ambassador of Japan to Oman appointed just recently, I am delighted to have this opportunity to comment on the many excellent relationships between Japan and Oman.
The strong bilateral relations between the two countries have always been based on the warm, long-standing ties between the Imperial Family of Japan and the Royal Family of the Sultanate of Oman. In recent years, starting from the visit of their Imperial Highnesses, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Japan to Oman in November 1994, several visits have been made including the visit to Japan by HH Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmood al Said, Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers in 1997, and HH Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq al Said, Minister of Heritage and Culture in 2008. Historical ties can be traced back more than 400 years.
The cultural and academic ties between Omani and Japanese people are the foundations of our strong bilateral relationship. The Japanese Government offers scholarships every year to Omani nationals for their post graduate studies. This year, we were proud and delighted to hear the news that one of our scholarship students, Ms. Muna Al Habsi, contributed to Dr. Tasuku Honjo’s Nobel Prize-winning medical research as part of his team. Among other noticeable programmes is the Ship for World Youth Programme organised by the Cabinet Office of Japan. This unique programme invites international youth to Japan for 10 days’
homestay, followed by the on- board programme visiting different countries. So far, more than 120 Omani youth have participated in the programme. The most recent one held in January to March 2018 saw 12 Omani youth participating, becoming the 10th batch from Oman.
Many Omani people may already be familiar with some of varied aspects of Japanese culture both traditional and modern, including pop culture, and we are keen to continue sharing more of what Japan has to offer with an ever wilder audience in this country. Notably, the Tokyo Ballet performed at the Royal Opera House Muscat in the middle of last month, and the Japanese language course at both Sultan Qaboos University and Oman Japan Friendship Association (OJFA) have been welcoming new groups of students every year.
It is not only cultural and academic ties which bind us together; our economic ties are also very strong. For example, Japanese companies purchase a large amount of Omani natural resources; roughly 10 per cent of the Sultanate’s production of crude oil, and rougly 30 per cent of the Sultanate’s production of LNG. On the other hand, consortiums led by Japanese companies generate about 60 per cent of Oman’s electricity through IPP schemes, and also produce 20 per cent of Oman’s drinkable water through IWP schemes.
Furthermore, the volume of exports to Japan from Oman in 2017 was approximately $2 billion. Japan imports not only natural resources but also agricultural and fishery products such as kidney beans. In winter, approximately 90 per cent of fresh kidney beans marketed in Japan are from Oman. On the other hand, the volume of imports from Japan to Oman in 2017 was approximately $2.5 billion. More than 90 per cent of imports from Japan are consumer products such as automobiles, machinery, and electric appliances. It is worth mentioning that approximately 70 per cent of cars in Oman are Japanese marques.
The strong bonds between our two countries are expected to grow further, based on the recent high-level visits between Japan and Oman. During the historic visit of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Oman in January 2014, he met His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, and both agreed on strengthening the comprehensive partnership towards stability and prosperity between Japan and Oman. To develop the partnership further, Minister of Foreign Affairs Taro Kono visited Muscat in December 2017, where he explained Japan’s “Free and Open Indo-pacific Strategy,” which was welcomed by the Omani side. To follow up the visit, the Prime Minister Abe dispatched his special advisor Kentaro Sonoura, who was accompanied by officials from various ministries and agencies to Oman in September 2018, where both sides explored the possible cooperation in various areas, from defense and security cooperation to stronger economic relations including in the tourism sector, and they also visited the Duqm Special Economic Zone.
As the newly appointed Ambassador of Japan to Oman, I intend to spare no effort in ensuring that our two countries develop ever closer and friendlier relations, based on the principles of cooperation and trust reaffirmed at the fruitful meetings of the recent high- level visits.