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North Carolina governor to welcome historic visitor at mansion: Japan's Prime Minister Kishida

MAKIYA SEMINERA
April 12, 2024

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- After spending a few days in Washington emphasizing global security concerns, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is set to tour around North Carolina on Friday to spotlight a different interest: his nation's title as the state's biggest foreign investor.

Kishida, who has been Japan's prime minister since 2021, is scheduled to visit two Japanese companies and North Carolina State University after arriving Thursday night, according to Gov. Roy Cooper's office. In between, Kishida plans to have lunch at the governor's mansion in a historic first for the Tar Heel State.

"Well, this puts North Carolina in a global showcase," Cooper told reporters Thursday. "Having the prime minister come and to acknowledge North Carolina when he could have gone to any one of the 50 states -- it is a big deal."

Kishida said in a news conference before his visit that he chose to stop in North Carolina to show that the Japan-U.S. partnership extends beyond Washington, according to a provisional translation posted on the prime minister's website.

To kick off the tour, Kishida and his delegation plan to visit an up-and-coming Toyota Motor Corp. electric and hybrid battery plant in Liberty and the Honda Aircraft Co. headquarters in Greensboro.

Chiaki Takagi, a Japanese studies lecturer at the University of North Carolina Greensboro, said the prime minister's visit surprised her but it could signal a "positive future partnership" between Japan and the U.S. and more Japanese workers coming to the state.

"This whole thing will provide the area with opportunities to be engaged in very active cultural exchange between Japan and the U.S.," Takagi said. "And it's nice to know Greensboro will be the place."

Japan is North Carolina's largest source of foreign direct investment, according to the governor's office. About 30,000 state residents work for Japanese companies, Cooper said.

One of those companies, Fujifilm, announced a $1.2 billion investment in its biopharmaceutical manufacturing plant in the state hours before Kishida landed.

The luncheon will mark the first time a foreign head of state has visited the governor's mansion since records began being kept in 1891, state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources spokesperson Michele Walker said.

Kishida met with President Joe Biden on Wednesday to discuss security concerns about China's military and reaffirm the U.S.-Japan alliance publicly. In a joint address to Congress on Thursday, Kishida made his case for the U.S. to remain an involved player in global security. He called China's actions the "greatest strategic challenge" to the international community. Beijing has pushed back strongly on Kishida's actions during his visit.

Later Thursday, the first trilateral summit between the U.S., Japan and the Philippines met at the White House to respond to Chinese "intimidation" in the Indo-Pacific.

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