Japan envoy set to give big push to Brunei ties

|     James Kon     |

WELL-KNOWN for its green and energy-saving technologies, Japan is moving towards a CO2-free society with the use of liquefied hydrogen gas.

The hydrogenation plant, being built in Brunei Darussalam as part of the world’s first Global Hydrogen Supply Chain Demonstration Project, looks set to fuel the Japanese public transport system during the Tokyo Olympics 2020 and will help Japan achieve its aspiration of creating a carbon-free nation.

Brunei’s crucial role in helping Japan realise its green dream was lauded by Japanese Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Motohiko Kato in a recent interview.

“This is a very good project. This is the first overseas project by Japanese company Chiyoda Corporation. The plant’s construction will start in April 2018,” the envoy said.

“Japan is a country known for its green technologies and energy-saving technologies. We are moving towards a CO2-free society and hydrogen is free of CO2. Therefore, Japan is trying to use liquefied hydrogen gas for its public transport system during the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.”

Besides exporting to Japan, he highlighted, “Bruneians should also make use of liquefied hydrogen gas in their country. I have already approached Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) and Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) and urged them to think about how to use liquefied hydrogen gas in Brunei.”

Within two months of his stay in Brunei, the Japanese ambassador has already visited several Japanese companies in Brunei including Brunei Methanol Company, VAM® BRN Sdn Bhd and MC Biotech Sdn Bhd. They are progressing well in the country, according to the envoy.

Japanese Ambassador to Brunei Darussalam Motohiko Kato. – JAMES KON

“Japanese companies have a long-term commitment here in Brunei to provide sufficient opportunity for locals to become a skilled labour force. These companies have brought in high technologies to Brunei,” he said.

Explaining the reasons for investing in Brunei, he said, “The geographic position of Brunei is close to Japan. It only takes seven days to ship liquified natural gas (LNG) to Japan. Brunei is very safe and safety is very important for Japanese businessmen. Moreover, Bruneians are very friendly to Japanese people.”

Based on the success of Japanese companies in Brunei, he hopes there will be more companies investing in the Sultanate. Brunei has a lot of potential and stability that will be attracting more Japanese investors into the country, he noted.

He revealed, “With the cooperation of Golden Corporation Sdn Bhd, Yamako Pacific (B) Sdn Bhd has started investing in Brunei. They have brought in Japanese equipment and a freezer machine (Proton Freezer) from Japan to establish a facility here to offer Japanese-grade tuna sashimi in Brunei.”

On the progress of Japan International Cooperation Agency’s (JICA) technical cooperation with Brunei, he said it is in the final stage.

“I met with Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng two weeks ago and he was very supportive of the initiative. I hope both countries will sign the agreement and we can provide the technical assistance to Brunei.”

JICA experts can work together with Bruneians to attain the Brunei Vision 2035 goals in various fields, the envoy added.

Touching on the strong bilateral relationship between Brunei Darussalam and Japan, Ambassador Kato said, “Brunei Darussalam is an important friend of Japan. And Japan has given a lot of importance to Asean as a whole and Brunei is an important member of the grouping.”

He continued, “The relations between Japan’s imperial family and Brunei’s royal family are close. His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam has visited Japan more than 10 times.

“The Japanese Crown Prince visited Brunei to attend the 2004 wedding of His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office.”

The Japanese ambassador also revealed that Brunei Darussalam has been supporting Japan’s economic security by providing the country with significant amount of LNG. Japan buys almost 70 per cent of the LNG produced in Brunei based on a long-term contract.

As the newly appointed ambassador of Japan to Brunei Darussalam, firstly, he hopes to enhance high level talks covering areas including diplomacy, defence, economy, education and agriculture. He also wishes to encourage mutual visits of Japanese and Bruneian ministers and leaders.

He recalled, “Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng and Minister of Energy and Industry at the Prime Minister’s Office Pehin Datu Singamanteri Colonel (Rtd) Dato Seri Setia (Dr) Awang Haji Mohammad Yasmin bin Haji Umar visited Japan in April this year. Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng also met with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono at the Asean Summit in Manila, the Philippines.

“Secondly, I also would like to further enhance youth exchange programmes between the two countries. I would like young Japanese people to learn more about Brunei’s social customs as well as Bruneian youths to visit Japan to learn about Japanese culture and traditions. This also includes sport exchange.”

In addition, as part of his mission in Brunei, Ambassador Kato said he will also be looking at helping Japanese investors to invest in Brunei and supporting Japanese business activities in the Sultanate.

The Japanese ambassador said he has already met with Brunei’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade II, Minister of Education, Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism as well as Minister of Finance II, adding that, “They are all hardworking ministers and have expressed eagerness to further build on bilateral relations as well as investment alliance between Brunei and Japan.”

He hopes to conduct more in-depth discussions with other ministers to further strengthen Japan-Brunei relations.