A new chancellory of the embassy of Japan was opened in Malé on Friday ahead of the upcoming 50th anniversary of the establishment of Japan-Maldives diplomatic relations in 2017.
The Japanese embassy said the chancellory will be “a key station for further strengthening bilateral ties,” whilst the Maldivian foreign ministry hailed the embassy opening as “a new chapter” in relations between the countries.
“The government of the Maldives believes that the new embassy would completely change the dynamics of Maldives-Japan relations as it will help open-up new avenues for cooperation that would propel relations to new heights,” the foreign ministry said.
Japan is one of the Maldives’ largest trading partners and bilateral donors. Data from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency – which already has offices in Malé – shows that Japan provided more than US$450 million to the Maldives in development assistance between 2004 and 2010.
Last year, JICA completed the ‘Project for Clean Energy Promotion in Malé’ with the installation of 740 solar panels in 12 government buildings in the capital, at a cost of US$11.1 million (MVR141.5 million).
Other projects benefiting from Japanese aid have included the first mechanisation of fishing vessels between 1973-76, the development of Malé’s seawall between 1987-2003, and the extension of loans amounting to US$34 million for post-tsunami reconstruction.
The capital city currently hosts five full diplomatic missions – belonging to China, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The Maldives has had a full embassy in Tokyo since 2006.
Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon meanwhile said that the opening of the new resident mission “is not only an indication of strengthening of relations between the two countries, but it is also, yet again, another stamp of approval by the international community of the strong and prudent policies of President Abdulla Yameen.”
The current administration has been besieged by multiple political crises since the imprisonment of former President Mohamed Nasheed and other politicians in early 2015.
Since assuming office in November 2013, President Yameen’s administration has fostered closer ties with China and Saudi Arabia. The kingdom opened an embassy in Malé last year.
Yameen visited Japan in early 2014 on an official invitation from the Japanese government.
“Trade and economic relations and people-to-people contact between the two countries have also grown steadily over the years,” the foreign ministry said.
“The hard work and the tireless activities of the Japan Overseas Cooperative Volunteers (JOCV) in the Maldives have proved priceless in this regard. The Maldives is one of the most desired holiday destinations for young Japanese. Approximately 40,000 Japanese tourists visit the Maldives annually.”
The Embassy of Japan in Colombo, Sri Lanka, was formally accredited to the Maldives. The Maldives has maintained a resident Embassy in Tokyo since 2007.