New Zealand Ambassador visits Okinawa

(photo) The Okinawa Times Chairman Yoshitaka Toyohira, New Zealand Ambassador Stephen Peyton, OTS Chairman Tony Yoshikazu Higashi.

New Zealand Ambassador to Japan Stephen Payton visited Okinawa recently and during his visit, the Okinawa – New Zealand Friendship Association Chairman Makoto Kinjo hosted a welcome reception in honor of the ambassador at a hotel in Naha City. Representatives of 70 Okinawan businesses and economic organizations attended the party.

In his welcome speech, Kinjo stated, “New Zealand and Okinawa have a lot in common. In addition to economic and business relationships, we have cultural and sports relationships among others. We are also working constantly to improve and expand those relationships.”

In his reply, Ambassador Payton said, “Relationships between New Zealand and Okinawa have been going on for a long time and are recently rapidly deepening with cooperation in areas such as article intelligence (AI), robotics, science and technology, sports, education and tourism. We have a good foundation to build on our future together.”

Ambassador Payton also paid a visit on July 9th to Okinawa Times newspaper that is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. In an interview during his visit, he again emphasized the growing economic and business relations between New Zealand, Okinawa and Japan.

“New Zealand and Japan, including Okinawa Prefecture, have deep and long-standing trading and investment relationships that the upcoming Pacific Rim Partnership (TTP) Agreement is sure to enhance further; a good example is the opening of the new Okinawa Tourist Rental Car Offices in Queenstown and Christchurch,” the ambassador said, adding, “This agreement that involves eleven countries is making relations between the participating countries ever closer, and will bring many positive developments.”

Ambassador Payton went to explain that as the country with one of the strongest agricultural sectors, New Zealand is an important partner that exports large quantities of fruit, most notably kiwi-fruit, to Japan.

The ambassador sees other possibilities for cooperation in developing renewable energy sources. “New Zealand and Japan have on-going joint projects in developing renewable energy sources, like wind and thermal energy, and artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are also fields where we can work together,” Payton stated.

His schedule included visits to Shuri Castle and Okinawa Monorail Museum and he remarked that he had visited Okinawa 20 years ago and noted the impressive development of Okinawa over those years. “Okinawa has very interesting history and culture, very different from mainland Japan,” the ambassador said.