COLOMBO (TIP): Shinzo Abe on Sept 10 became the first Japanese prime minister to visit Sri Lanka in 24 years, on the second leg of a South Asian tour that sought to assert Tokyo’s interest in a region where it has ceded influence to China. Abe was greeted by Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa at Colombo’s international airport, where a new passenger terminal will be built with the help of a $330 million Japanese development loan.

The two leaders struck “a new partnership between maritime countries” that reflects Japan’s interest in keeping open shipping lanes that supply oil and liquefied natural gas from the Middle East to feed its energydependent economy. “The president and I shared the view on building friendly ties and partnership between the two maritime countries,” Abe said after the meeting. Asian great-power diplomacy has stirred into life since the rise to power of Indian nationalist Narendra Modi, who announced his intent to play an active role on the world stage by inviting regional leaders to his inauguration in May.

Abe comes to India’s backyard after hosting Modi for summit talks that yielded a Japanese pledge to invest $34 billion in India and launched a “special, strategic global partnership” to deepen security cooperation.

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