To the question of whether Japan identifies with Polisario’s agenda, the Japanese official was clear: Tokyo has never recognized SADR.
Rabat – In an interview earlier today with MAP, Morocco’s state-run news outlet, Katsuhiko Takahashi, the chief of the MENA division of the Japanese foreign affairs ministry, reaffirmed his country’s “constant and immutable” support for the UN agenda in the Western Sahara diplomatic stalemate.
To the question of whether Japan identifies with the Polisario Front’s separatist agenda, the Japanese diplomat was particularly insistent that his country does not recognize the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) and has “no intention of changing” its position.
The media controversy revolved around the presence of a “high-ranking Polisario delegation” at the Tokyo International Conference of Africa’s Development (TICAD) meeting.
Takahashi’s interview with MAP comes as Japan prepares to host this year’s iteration of the TICAD forum scheduled to run from August 28-30, and the contention around last year’s forum was particularly topical.
In response to any perceived Japanese sympathy for the Polisario agenda, however, the Japanese official was adamant that his country is a strong Moroccan ally and has never been receptive of the front’s separatist aspirations.
“Japan does not recognize Western Sahara as a state. This is Japan’s constant and immutable position and we have no intention of changing it,” Takahashi said when asked about Tokyo’s relationship with the Polisario Front.
He added: “For Japan, this question [Western Sahara] should be resolved in a peaceful way through dialogue between concerned parties. Japan continues to support the UN’s mediation efforts.”
On the Morocco-Japan relations, the Japanese diplomat stressed “Morocco’s important role” in the MENA region. He said Morocco’s significance for stability and development in its region is part of the North African country’s appeal to its Japanese partners.
“Japan greatly values its partnership with Morocco,” Takahashi said as he recalled Morocco’s unique status in international exchanges as “a gateway to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.”
Morocco is currently home to 69 Japanese companies, and Takahashi expects the number to increase in the coming years.
The upward trend in the Morocco-Japan commercial and diplomatic connections, he argued, is rooted in the “geographic advantage” Morocco offers as a gateway to three continents as well its “economic potential” as a regional and continental investment hub.
Takahashi’s comments on Japan’s Western Sahara stance come as a further instance of the perceptible desire among Japanese diplomats to bury last year’s controversy and salvage the country’s strategic relationship with Morocco.
Tokyo views cementing its ties to Rabat as a not-to-miss opportunity to position itself in what some observers are calling “the second scramble for Africa.”
Earlier this month, Takuji Hanatani, Japan’s ambassador to Morocco, also highlighted the “importance Japan attaches to its friendship with Morocco” by reiterating Tokyo’s wish to distance itself from reports of Japan’s recognition of the Polisario-claimed Republic.
Like Takahashi, Ambassador Hanatani said that Japan “has never supported or recognized” Polisario’s statehood claims, while its support for the UN-led settlement imitative and Morocco’s proposal has “always been constant and unchanged.”