COLOMBO – Japan’s Overseas Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi mentioned Saturday that Sri Lanka is a key accomplice in a Tokyo-led initiative aimed toward constructing safety and financial cooperation across the Indo-Pacific but additionally at countering an more and more assertive China.

Sri Lanka, strategically situated within the Indian Ocean, is integral to realizing a free and open Indo-Pacific, Hayashi mentioned. He was talking after a gathering together with his Sri Lankan counterpart, Ali Sabry, within the capital, Colombo.

The initiative, introduced by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in March consists of Japan’s help to rising economies, assist for maritime safety, a provision of coast guard patrol boats and tools and different infrastructure cooperation.

Final 12 months Sri Lanka, which owed $51 billion in international debt, grew to become the primary Asia-Pacific nation because the late Nineteen Nineties to default, sparking an financial disaster.

Whereas Japan is Sri Lanka’s largest creditor, about 10% of its debt is held by China, which lent Colombo billions to construct sea ports, airports and energy crops as a part of its Belt and Highway Initiative. In March, China agreed to supply Sri Lanka a two-year moratorium on mortgage repayments.

Hayashi mentioned that he conveyed expectations for additional progress in Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring course of. He welcomed Sri Lanka’s efforts beneath an settlement with the Worldwide Financial Fund, which incorporates anti-corruption measures and transparency within the policy-making course of.

Sri Lanka’s Overseas Minister Sabry mentioned that he, together with Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe, invited Japan to renew funding tasks already within the pipeline and to think about recent investments in sectors corresponding to energy technology, ports and highways, and devoted funding zones, in addition to within the inexperienced and digital financial system.

Over many many years, Japan grew to become certainly one of Sri Lanka’s key donors, finishing up key tasks beneath concessionary phrases. Nevertheless, relations between the 2 nations got here beneath pressure after Wickremesinghe’s predecessor Gotabaya Rajapaksa unilaterally scrapped a Japan-funded mild railway venture following his election in 2019.

Sri Lanka’s Cupboard has already authorized a proposal to restart the railway venture.

Rajapaksa was pressured to resign in July 2022 amid offended public protects over the nation’s worst financial disaster.

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