TOKYO (Kyodo) — The Japanese government has decided to waive visas for Indonesian tourists visiting Japan, which is expected to be effective next year, and in return, the Indonesian government will do the same for Japanese tourists visiting Indonesia, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said Tuesday.
Natalegawa announced the Japanese government’s decision following a 60-minute bilateral meeting with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida. “In our understanding, the policy will officially begin and be implemented in due course after all the procedures are completed,” Natalegawa told a joint press conference with Kishida.
He later said in an interview the visa-free facility is expected to be implemented from next January. “The policy will surely be followed by Indonesia that will also provide visa-free facility for Japanese citizens visiting Indonesia,” he said. Roughly 140,000 Indonesians visited Japan, while 500,000 Japanese tourists took vacations in Indonesia last year. The Japanese visa waiver initiative, which is aimed at drawing more tourists from Southeast Asia, including the Muslim population in the region, is envisioned as Japan seeks to achieve its goal of increasing the annual number of foreign visitors to 20 million in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Earlier in the day, Kishida held talks with Indonesia’s president-elect Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and discussed boosting security and economic ties between their countries. Speaking to reporters after the talks, Jokowi, who won the July 9 presidential election, said they mainly covered maritime security, Japanese investment in infrastructure and Indonesia’s controversial law on coal and mineral resources. Jokowi said Japan wants to strengthen its cooperation with Indonesia in terms of maritime security and promoting observance of related international rules and laws.
He said he told Kishida that he expects more investment from Japan, but wants more of it focused on infrastructure development, such as construction of deep seaports. “There must be deep seaports on all islands,” he said.
During an interview with Kyodo News on Monday, Jokowi said maritime infrastructure will be a top priority for his government, stressing the need for better connectivity among the archipelagic country’s many islands. Jokowi said Kishida also raised the issue of the Indonesia’s ban on the export of raw mineral ores such as nickel and bauxite, which went into effect Jan. 12 under a law that stipulates ore must be processed at smelters in Indonesia before being exported.
“He wants some more discussions regarding this issue, but I told him that I stick to our law and our Constitution mandates that our natural resources shall be used for the people’s welfare.” Mandated by the 2009 Mining Law, the export ban is aimed at adding value to mineral exports and developing the downstream industry by forcing local processing. Japan, home to some of the world’s biggest stainless steel producers, relies a lot on Indonesian nickel, which accounts for 44 percent of its total needs. Although Japanese smelters can survive off their stockpiles, their reserves may not last long.
For that reason, Japan wants Indonesia to exclude it from the ban. It is also considering bringing the case to the World Trade Organization if consultations with Indonesia over the ban fail to reach a settlement. In the interview with Kyodo, Jokowi promised to hold talks with all stakeholders regarding the issue, but he cautioned against high expectations, saying the issue is not one that can be easily resolved to every party’s satisfaction.
Jokowi also told reporters Kishida handed him a letter from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe inviting him to visit Japan soon after he takes office, which is expected to happen in October. Kishida arrived in Jakarta late Monday for a two-day visit.