Japanese PM kicks off European tour

TALLINN, Estonia (AP) — Japan’s prime minister kicked off a five-day European tour to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Serbia and Romania — becoming the first-ever head of the Asian nation to visit those countries.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived Friday in Estonia’s capital of Tallinn, where he focussed on cyber security and information technology issues. The small Baltic nation of 1.3 million people is considered one of Europe’s most advanced technological nations.

Tokyo has been increasingly worried about potential cyber threats from North Korea and China, and is looking to learn from Estonia, whose public institutions and private companies were hit by a large-scale cyber attack in 2007.

Following a meeting with Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas, Abe said both leaders agreed about the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear arms programme. He urged the international community to “maximise the pressure” on Pyongyang.

Abe is expected to address the North Korea issue in more detail when he visits Bulgaria, which took over the European Union’s rotating presidency from Estonia on January 1.

Abe announced that Japan would join NATO’s cyber-defence centre in Tallinn to boost its capabilities to deal with digital threats.

Abe also met with Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid over discussions on EU-Japan relations and bilateral trade, accompanied by a business delegation with several dozen representatives from Japanese companies.

He travelled to Estonia’s Baltic neighbours Latvia and Lithuania yesterday.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, and Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid shake hands prior to their talks in Tallinn, Estonia, January 12. – AP