Japanese PM on way to WA
Japanese PM on way to WA

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will lead a high-powered business delegation to Perth and the Pilbara to assert his country's role as a foundation investor in WA's resources sector.

Amid regional concern that China is attempting to crowd out other energy-hungry nations, Mr Abe will make the first visit to the State by a Japanese Prime Minister since 1974 next month.

Mr Abe wants to emphasise Japan's reliability over many decades as an investor and buyer of Australian gas, iron ore and coal.

The 25th anniversary of the first shipment of liquefied natural gas from the North-West Shelf project to Tokyo is expected to be commemorated during Mr Abe's visit to Karratha.

But the trip will be more than symbolic, with a bevy of Japanese business heavyweights accompanying the Japanese PM, including executives of Mitsui and Mitsubishi Corporation and Akio Mimura, chairman of the Japan-Australia Business Co- operation Committee.

At the invitation of Rio Tinto boss Sam Walsh, Mr Abe and his delegation will inspect Rio's driverless trains that connect the company's iron ore mines with the ports of Cape Lambert and Dampier, a technology made possible using Japanese innovation.

Australia and Japan are also likely to use the visit to further talks on defence and security co-operation as Tokyo seeks support from its allies in the face of growing aggression from China.

Australia has signalled it might buy a Japanese-designed submarine to replace its ageing fleet of Collins Class vessels.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who finalised a free trade agreement with Mr Abe in Tokyo in April, will accompany Mr Abe to the Pilbara, as will Premier Colin Barnett.

Japanese investment will be crucial to floating LNG projects off WA, considered the next frontier in oil and gas development. The Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011 prompted Japan to increase its interest in LNG.

Japan's Inpex bought a 17.5 per cent stake in Shell's Prelude floating LNG project in 2012, while Mitsui and Mitsubishi acquired a 14.7 per cent interest in the Woodside-led Browse project.

Mr Abe's Pilbara visit is scheduled for July 9.

The West Australian

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