Since the establishment of formal diplomatic relations in 1951 following San Francisco Treaty, Sri Lanka's friendship with Japan has been friendly, close and beneficial to both.z
Sri Lankan embassy in Japan was established in May 1953.
Since 1982, Japan has been the largest aid donor to Sri Lanka for 25 years. Japanese assistance comes to Sri Lanka through two major institutions in Japan: JICA (Japan Investment Cooperation Agency) and JBIC (Japan Bank for International Co-operation).
The former manages grant aid and technical cooperation, while the latter manages the soft loan components of aid flow. Some of the key Japanese funded projects include the Upper Kotmale Hydro Electric Project, the Colombo Port expansion, parts of Mahaweli Development, Samanalaweva, Kukulegaga Projects, Colombo Airport Aerobridges and Expansion, telecom network expansion, and the railway and road rehabilitation projects. Besides infrastructure, Japanese aid has contributed to a number of institutional building projects such as, Sri Jayawardenapura Hospital, Peradeniya Teaching Hospital, Medical Research Institute, Institute of Computer Technology at the University of Colombo, Airport Quarantine Centre, and Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation.
The Government of Japan responded immediately to the needs of the tsunami affected people soon after the tsunami ravaged the country in December 2004. In order to meet the immediate relief needs, Japan provided relief items, dispatched medical teams, and provided emergency grant aid of US$ 1 million in cash and US$ 80 million under the Non-Project Grant Aid scheme to Sri Lanka. This was in addition to the annual provision of around 1 billion Yen under 2KR Counterpart Funds and 8 billion Yen under the Grassroots and Human Security Grant Aid, which focused mainly on tsunami rehabilitation related activities.
Japan expeditiously provided US$ 250 million out of US$ 500 million pledged as assistance to countries including Sri Lanka affected by the Tsunami disaster through various international organizations including the UN.
Japan also played a very significant role in the peace process in Sri Lanka. Japan hosted a round of peace talks between the government and the LTTE in 2003 and a major donor conference on Sri Lanka. Japan together with the European Union, United States and Norway co-chaired the Sri Lanka peace process. The Japanese government also appointed Mr. Yasushi Akashi as its Representative for Peace Building, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction in Sri Lanka.
Following the defeat of terrorism Japan as a longstanding and sincere friend of Sri Lanka, extend its fullest support for the post-conflict development activities in the country especially providing assistance for resettlement of the Internally Displaces Persons and demining activities. Since 2003, the Government of Japan has provided a sum of US$ 23 million (approximately Rs. 3 billion) for demining activities in the North and the East under its Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP).
Japan always holding the position that a government which has been elected by the people of the country holds the right to take forward initiatives and implement suitable action abstained from voting against Sri Lanka when the last Resolution on Sri Lanka was moved in UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
In 1997, Sri Lanka became a member of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) which also includes Bhutan, India, Nepal, Thailand and Myanmar. BIMSTEC is looking into a free trade agreement with Japan to boost trade.
Among the important Japanese VIPs visited Sri Lanka include Prince Takahito of Misaka who paid a visit to Sri Lanka in 1956 to attend Buddha Jayanthi celebrations. Prime Minister Kishi Shinsuke visited in 1957. Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess visited in 1981. Foreign Minister Kuranari Tadashi visited in 1987 and Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu visited in 1990. Prince and Princess Akishino visited in 1992.
Deputy Prime Minister of Japan Katsuya Okada visited Sri Lanka in 2012. Prince Tsuguko of Takamao, Senior Vice Minister of Finance Tarō Asō and Minister of Internal Trade and Communication Yoshitaka Shindō also visited Sri Lanka.
High profile Sri Lankan leaders had also visited Japan. Among them; visits of Minister Sir John Kotalawala in 1954; Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake in 1967; Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1976; President J. R. Jayawardene in 1979; Prime Minister R. Premadasa in 1980 and 1985 and President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge in 1996.
The upcoming visit by the Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe will further consolidate and enhance the existing cordial relations between the two countries.
Prime Minister Abe is visiting Sri Lanka on September 7 to 8 at the invitation of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. He is accompanied by a high level delegation, which also includes business leaders from several Japanese companies, notably small and medium sized enterprises, ranging from infrastructure to food industries.
President Rajapaksa paid an official visit to Japan in March 2013 to mark the 6oth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Sri Lanka and Japan.
In one of the most important outcomes of the President’s visit, the Japanese government committed to a total of Rs. 57.8 billion in development aid to Sri Lanka. Of this amount, Rs. 54.3 billion is being offered under the Official Development Assistance (ODA) program – it is the 43rd Yen loan package Sri Lanka is receiving from Japan. The remaining Rs. 3.5 billion will be provided in the form of grant aid.
During President Rajapaksa’s visit to Japan, Prime Minister Abe expressed Japan’s willingness to develop bilateral relations in the maritime sector with Sri Lanka noting that Sir Lanka is poised to become a maritime hub in the region due to its unique location along Indian Ocean sea lanes.
President Rajapaksa’s visit took place as Japan marked the second anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Sri Lanka maintained its diplomatic presence and continued its flights to Japan unlike many other nations who withdrew following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.