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Japanese PM Abe lauds Santa Claus and Moomins on Finland trip

Finland's and Japan's leaders met in Helsinki on Monday, where they discussed shared values on improving women's rights, trade relations, the North Korean threat—along with Santa Claus and the Moomins. The visit was Shinzo Abe's first to a Nordic country as Japan's Prime Minister.

Japanin pääministeri Shinzo Abe ja presidentti Sauli Niinistö tiedotustilaisuudessa Helsingissä maanantaina.
Shinzo Abe (left) and Sauli Niinistö. Image: Jussi Nukari / Lehtikuva

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe touched down in Finland for a whistle-stop visit to the Finnish capital. He was received on Monday by President Sauli Niinistö at the official residence of the President in central Helsinki, where both leaders said they had good discussions.

Niinistö mentioned the two countries' staunch support of the UN's HeForShe campaign, trade, investments and bilateral relations. EU-Japan relations are stronger than before, according to Niinistö, as shown by the recently signed trade agreement.

At a press conference Abe congratulated Finland on its centennial anniversary of independence, before moving on to warn of the threat from North Korea.

Free trade

"The international community has been challenged by North Korea's missile tests and development of new missiles, as well as events in the east and south China Seas," said Abe. "They aim to destabilise the international order."

Abe also emphasised his keenness to promote free trade, and interest in the development of the Arctic, and his happiness that Finland has sought to mark itself out as Japan's gateway to the west.

According to figures from the Customs board, Japan accounts for around two percent of Finnish exports.

Among other things, Abe said his countrymen feel close to Finns because of a shared love of Moomins and Santa Claus.

Rally diplomacy

At a lunch meeting, Niinistö went on to give a speech published on the president's official website, in which he used rally driving as an example of co-operation between Finland and Japan.

"Tommi Mäkinen, who was the World Rally Champion four times, designed and built the racing car for the Toyota Gazoo Racing stable, which Toyota has used to return to the top of the event," said Niinistö. "He did this, alongside his team, here in Finland. In addition, just a few weeks ago the Toyota Group made a major investment in the development of autonomous vehicles in Finland."

The presidential spouses, Jenni Haukio and Akie Abe, visited a cafe in the Kallio district on Monday.

The last time a Japanese Prime Minister visited Finland was Junichiro Koizumi in 2006, while Emperor Akihito made a state visit to Finland in 2000.

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