Japanese PM in Cuba to 'open new page' in ties

HAVANA - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Cuba on Thursday for the first-ever visit to the country by a Japanese premier, saying he wants to "open a new page" in relations.

Abe is due to meet Cuban President Raul Castro on Friday morning, in a visit that comes after Tokyo's close ally Washington restored ties with the communist island last year.

"I sincerely hope my stay here becomes an opportunity to open a new page in the relationship of friendship between both nations," Abe said in an interview published in the Cuban communist party's official newspaper, Granma.

He called for "open dialogue" to stimulate trade and investment, development co-operation and tourism.

Trade between the two countries has been on a long decline since 1985. It totalled about $35 million (S$47 billion) in 2014.

Abe said he also wanted to discuss nuclear disarmament.

Cuba is one of the few countries that maintains relationships with North Korea, whose nuclear weapons are considered one of Japan's biggest security threats.