Tokyo (AFP) – Japanese investment in the UK has hit a “record high” since last year’s shock Brexit vote, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Friday, during a visit to Tokyo.
Johnson, who backed Britain’s campaign to quit the European Union, also pledged London would “build a fantastic relationship with our friends and partners in the EU” after talks with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida.
And referring to growing regional tensions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, he called on China to pressure Pyongyang to agree to fresh negotiations.
After the second round of contentious talks on Britain’s exit from the political bloc ended this week, the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier warned that “fundamental” differences remained between London and Brussels.
Days earlier, Johnson had told the EU to “go whistle” over a massive proposed divorce bill.
Japanese companies — including automakers Nissan, Toyota and Honda — have long used Britain’s membership of the single market to export goods to the continent.
They could be hit if the UK’s historic referendum vote to leave the 28-member bloc leads to higher export tariffs and other barriers after 2019.
However, Johnson said London would continue to develop “commercial and economic relations” with Japan, adding: “Japanese investments in the UK are at a record high since the Brexit vote last year.”
There were 116 foreign direct investment deals involving Japanese companies in Britain in the 2016-2017 financial year compared to 115 the previous year, according to official data released this month.
The number of jobs linked to Japanese investment was 9,066 last year, against 7,654 the year before.
Kishida told reporters he was heartened by Johnson’s assurance of “transparency and predictability to minimise the impact on corporate activities”, an apparent reference to foreign businesses operating in Britain.
Tokyo and London stood together on pushing for a “free and open international society”, he added. He cited “challenges” including North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes and China’s increasingly assertive stance on maritime territorial disputes in East Asia.
Johnson said Britain “stands shoulder to shoulder alongside Japan” in efforts to stop North Korea’s military ambitions, calling Pyongyang’s test-launch earlier this month of an ICBM “a reckless provocation”.
He added: “We all need to increase the pressure on Pyongyang through diplomacy and through sanctions.
“And that must include China, using its influence to bring North Korea back to the negotiating table.”
After meeting Kishida, Johnson held talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and reiterated his comments on North Korea.
Earlier Friday, Johnson met Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and donated an old mobile phone to a recycling programme to create medals for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Koike asked former London mayor Johnson for “expertise” from the British capital’s hosting of the 2012 Games.