Japan is offering Havana ¥120 billion in debt relief

shinzo_mHAVANA, Sept. 11th Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is considering offering Cuba debt relief worth ¥120 billion ($1.17 billion) during his planned visit to the Caribbean nation later this month, according to sources close to the matter.

Abe is considering visiting Cuba later this month, in what would be the first visit there by a Japanese prime minister, and intends to announce the offer when he holds talks with Cuban President Raul Castro.

The amount of relief consists of two-thirds of the ¥180 billion debt Cuba owes to Japan.

Japan hopes to strengthen its ties with Cuba, which it sees as a potential investment destination, in wide-ranging areas such as infrastructure development, tourism and the medical field. Japan decided that the debt relief measure is necessary for promoting such ties, according to the sources.

The debts are uncollected payments and interest derived from payment delays for goods Japanese companies have exported to Cuba.

Abe is considering visiting the country after attending the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York.

After solving the debt problem, Japan intends to encourage the expansion of Japanese official development assistance and promote Cuban economic reform.

The Japanese government is also likely aiming to use Cuba’s amicable relations with North Korea to call for action toward resolving major issues such as Pyongyang’s abduction of Japanese nationals in the 1970s and 1980s, and nuclear and missile development programs.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida made the first trip to Cuba by a Japanese foreign minister in May last year.