A new dawn in Japan-Sri Lanka relations | Sunday Observer
President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s official visit

A new dawn in Japan-Sri Lanka relations

28 May, 2023
President Ranil Wickremesinghe meets Vietnam Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang during the President’s official visit to Japan
President Ranil Wickremesinghe meets Vietnam Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang during the President’s official visit to Japan

Known as the Land of the Rising Sun, Japan is a powerful country in Asia today. This is not because of the location of the country or the natural resources of the land but because of the dedication of the people. Japan faced economic recession on two occasions and achieved economic growth, and Japan is the first country to achieve the highest economic development outside the Western countries.

Although the world’s first atomic bomb was deployed in Japan in World War II, Japan rose again from the ashes. The way in which Japan became an economic, political and social power in the midst of various obstacles is an example that developing countries like Sri Lanka can emulate.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s official visit to Japan took place at a time when Sri Lanka, which was devastated by the economic crisis, is rising again from the ashes. It is also at a time when the program carried out with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which was a major step in the recovery of the country’s economy, is being successfully implemented.

Japan has always been a close friend of Sri Lanka. Diplomatic relations between Japan and Sri Lanka began in 1952. It was four years after Sri Lanka gained independence from the British Empire. Accordingly, Japan is one of the countries that first established diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka.

Japan established friendly relations with Sri Lanka in 1952 with its gratitude for Sri Lanka’s bold statement on Japan’s behalf to the whole world the year before.

Reconfirming that friendship, President Wickremesinghe’s recent visit to Japan will also bring many benefits to Sri Lanka. The President, who left the island on the morning of May 23 for an official visit to Japan and Singapore, joined several high-ranking leaders of the country in diplomatic level discussions during his one-day official visit to Singapore. Then the President began his three-day official visit to Japan, and a unique event was the President’s address to the “28th International Conference on the Future of Asia” or “Nikkei” conference, which attracted the attention of all powerful countries.


Throughout his speech, the President stressed the importance and strength of Asia and accordingly, President Wickremesinghe became the only recent leader to emphasise the strength of Asia in the face of the world.

The President, who did not forget to point out the unique role of Asia in the global economy and the challenges faced by the region, said the importance of Asian states raising their voices to shape the role of the region in the face of global geopolitical trends.

The President’s program is to achieve a developed Sri Lanka by 2048. Many measures have already been taken for that and the primary objective of the President’s visit was to get the support of Japan for that program. The President was given the opportunity of holding talks with the current Prime Minister of Japan and two former Prime Ministers on the same day.

The official meeting between President Wickremesinghe and Japanese Premier Fumio Kishida took place on May 25 in Tokyo, where the Japanese Premier welcomed the President very cordially. Bilateral talks were started between the two countries after a cordial conversation between the two leaders. Appreciating Japan’s support to Sri Lanka to overcome the economic crisis, President Wickremesinghe expressed his gratitude to the Government and people of Japan. The two leaders discussed at length about new opportunities to further increase the cooperation between Japan and Sri Lanka and the President informed the Japanese Premier about the program carried out with the IMF.


Taking this meeting as an opportunity to remove the doubt and mistrust in Japan towards Sri Lanka, the President expressed his regret to the Japanese Government about the suspension of the Colombo Light Rail Transit (LRT) project which was funded by the Japanese Government. Moreover, the President said that in the future, legislation will be introduced in Parliament so that large-scale projects carried out with the intervention of a foreign country or party cannot be stopped or canceled without the agreement of both parties, and the proposals related to all large-scale projects and the annual reports of the project must be submitted to the Parliament.

On the same day, President Ranil Wickremesinghe, who joined Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong in a bilateral discussion in Tokyo, reaffirmed Sri Lanka’s commitment to implementing the Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Also, President Wickremesinghe and former PM of Japan Yasuo Fukuda participated in a meeting. The President informed him about the program being carried out for the recovery of Sri Lanka’s economy. Stating that a suitable environment for investment has been created in Sri Lanka, the President requested the former Prime Minister to encourage Japanese investors to come back and invest in Sri Lanka.

A meeting was also held between Taro Aso, another former Prime Minister of Japan, and President Wickremesinghe, and attention was focused on the steps that can be taken to further strengthen the close friendship relationship with Sri Lanka.

A meeting between President Wickremesinghe and Japanese Finance Minister S. Suzuki took place in Tokyo on May 25, and there was a long discussion about debt restructuring of Sri Lanka and the IMF program. Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi as well as Minister of Digitalisation Taro Kono met President Wickremesinghe and held discussions.

Vietnamese Deputy Agriculture Minister Lu Quang also discussed about strengthening bilateral relations and developing cultural cooperation between the two countries.


The President joined a roundtable discussion in Tokyo on May 26, titled “Economic Revival of Sri Lanka and Opportunities for Japanese Investments”. Emphasizing his commitment to stabilising and opening the Sri Lankan economy, the President described the new reforms and measures adopted to attract investors and create a suitable business environment for them. The President said that Sri Lanka has recognised the importance of Japan as an indispensable economic partner and many mutual benefits can be obtained by increasing the cooperation between the two countries.

With the aim of strengthening the economic cooperation between Japan and Sri Lanka, JETRO Japan-Sri Lanka Business Cooperation Association and the Sri Lanka Embassy in Japan organised this meeting. The President’s just-concluded visit to Japan will bring many benefits to Sri Lanka economically, socially and politically.

President Wickremesinghe addressing the members of the Japan-Sri Lanka Parliamentary Friendship Society

President Wickremesinghe, Digital Affairs Minister in Japan Taro Kono, First Lady Prof. Maithree Wickremesinghe, Chief of Staff to the President and National Security Advisor Sagala Ratnayake

President Wickremesinghe in a discussion with Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Tran Luu Quang in Tokyo to strengthen bilateral cooperation and cultural ties between Sri Lanka and Vietnam

President Wickremesinghe with two former Prime Ministers of Japan Yasuo Fukuda and Taro Aso

President Wickremesinghe meets Japanese Finance Minister Shunichi Suzuki to discuss debt restructuring and the International Monetary Fund program in Sri Lanka

President Wickremesinghe in bilateral talks with Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong to reaffirm Sri Lanka’s commitment to implement the Free Trade Agreement between the two countries.