Shinzo Abe asks Stormont to 'continuously support' Japanese companies in Northern Ireland
Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe has declared his top priority was his country's economic revitalisation following the G8 summit.
He met Japanese businessmen working in Northern Ireland - his country's companies employ more than 2,000 in the region - after touring the Titanic Belfast visitors' attraction and invited Stormont's First and Deputy First Ministers for a return visit.
"My administration's top priority is Japan's economic revitalisation," he said.
"Last week we announced Japan's revival strategy which laid out what I call comprehensive economic policies for economic revitalisation."
He said his key words were challenge, openness, innovation and action, the latter the "foundation" of them, and described Northern Ireland as a "treasure trove" of the virtues.
"I am very happy to see that this place is now grasping further opportunities for growth once again through taking new actions thanks to the progress in the peace process," he added.
Fujitsu Telecommunications has employed hundreds of engineers in Northern Ireland. Mr Abe said his country's companies were opening up the new future of the region by using Japanese technology.
"I would like to ask the Government of Northern Ireland to continuously offer support to the companies of Japan," he said.
He is the first Japanese prime minister to visit Belfast and the Liberal Democratic Party leader said he had high hopes Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness would travel to his country in the near future to invite further investment.
He drank a toast with Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness of Armagh apple and rhubarb punch at the bottom of a replica of the grand staircase on the Titanic.
Earlier he saw sections of the more than £90 million visitors' centre and heard of its success during its first 15 months in operation.
The Queen and film maker James Cameron are among celebrity visitors.
The First Minister accepted his invitation to visit East Asia.
He said: "It is an enormous pleasure for me to welcome the prime minister of Japan to the great city of Belfast and this visitor centre.
"The Prime Minister of Japan has a special place in our hearts because he was the first of the G8 leaders to arrive and one of the last to leave so he is staying with us longer than other leaders have."