Japan’s visiting Prime Minister was keen to talk with Prime Minister Stephen Harper about Canadian shale gas exports to his energy-hungry country before telling the world about his country’s priorities at the United Nations.
Energy was one common area for Mr. Harper and Shinzo Abe during the Japanese leader’s brief visit to Ottawa on Tuesday before both headed to New York and the opening of the United Nations General Assembly.
The UN is where one key difference will emerge: unlike Mr. Abe, Mr. Harper will not address the assembly – a decision some analysts see as part of an ongoing snub of the world body.
Mr. Abe, who is scheduled to address the General Assembly on Thursday, views the UN as an important forum for his country to engage with the world.
He told a joint press conference with Mr. Harper on Parliament Hill that he wanted to tell the international community about his plans for improving Japan’s economy and contributing to world peace.
“That is why I am making a speech at the United Nations General Assembly,” he said.
Mr. Harper said it is not the common practice of Canadian prime ministers to address the General Assembly each year.
“Usually this week in September, I and my ministers do go to New York for economic and political activities as well as activities related to the UN’s operations,” he said. “And I will take part in those other types of activities and I will be making other speeches.”
Paul Dewar, the NDP foreign affairs critic, said Harper is making a mistake in skipping a chance to speak to the world body.
“It’s either he isn’t interested in participating in the United Nations or he doesn’t think there’s much value in terms of what we can contribute,”Mr. Dewar said. “I simply would argue that it is an opportunity and we shouldn’t miss it.”
Japanese officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak on the record, acknowledged that Mr. Abe’s views were in sync with Mr. Harper’s signature project from the Canadian-hosted 2010 G8 summit: the Muskoka Initiative aimed at lowering the death rate of young mothers and children in poor countries.
This week, rather than address the assembly, Mr. Harper will take part in a side event on maternal and child health. He will also attend a talk on the economy hosted by the Canadian American Business Council.
“As you know, the Prime Minister has delivered UN General Assembly speeches in the past – in fact, twice as many times as the two former Liberal prime ministers,” said spokesman Carl Vallee.
Mr. Harper’s sole public event on Wednesday is a panel discussion in New York with Melinda Gates, founder and co-chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete; Jens Stoltenberg, the Prime Minister of Norway; and UN deputy secretary general Jan Eliasson.
On Tuesday, Mr. Harper welcomed Mr. Abe to his Parliament Hill office, where they explored options around Canada’s shale gas deposits. They sent the issue to their ministers for follow-up.
Japanese officials say that their country is looking for alternatives to nuclear energy following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that crippled reactors at the Fukushima plant.