COLOMBO: Japan’s deputy foreign minister will begin a three-day visit to Sri Lanka on Tuesday (today), according to an announcement by the foreign ministry in Tokyo.

The announcement has caused quite a stir in Colombo’s political circles since the Japanese defence minister came to this country only last week and visited places like Hambantota port, which was built by China and is on a 99-year-lease to it.

Political observers have interpreted the back-to-back visits as an indication of Tokyo’s concern over Beijing’s growing influence in South Asia and a signal that it had decided to fight every inch of the way.

The visit by Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera last week coincided with the arrival of a naval ship at Trincomalee for a three-day goodwill visit.

It was the first time that Japan had sent its defence minister to Sri Lanka.

During talks with President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Mr Onodera offered Japanese assistance for developing the Trincomalee port, one of the largest natural harbours in the world. Moreover, Tokyo indicated its desire for defence collaboration by offering to train Lankan navy personnel at its institutions.

Last but not the least, Sri Lanka is considering issuing international sovereign bonds in renminbi and yen, underlining an increasing importance of both China and Japan in the country’s affairs.

Published in Dawn, August 28th, 2018